News story

How the top grades will be awarded in new GCSEs

Ofqual has today (7 September) confirmed how GCSE grades, including 8 and 9, will be awarded.

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Awarding is the process of turning students’ exam marks into grades. Those grades are changing in 2017 from A* to G to 9 to 1 for English language, English literature and mathematics GCSEs. Other subjects will follow in the coming years.

The approach to awarding the top grades will be the same for all GCSE subjects. A formula will be used that means that about 20% of all grades at 7 or above will be a grade 9. This is a slight change on the position previously announced which was that the top 20% of grades at 7 or above in each subject would be a grade 9. The new 9 to 1 grading will more accurately reflect the differentiation of students’ abilities and achievements in each subject compared to the previous A* to G scale.

The grade 8 boundary will be equally spaced between grade 7 and 9 boundaries. To carry forward the current standard, the number of grades 7, 8 and 9 for a subject will be based on the proportion of the cohort who would have been expected to be awarded an A or A* had the qualification not been reformed.

Sally Collier, Chief Regulator, said:

The aim of the new formula for awarding grade 9 is to be as fair as possible. The proportion of students achieving A* varies from subject to subject, and it will be the same with the new grade 9. Those who rely on GCSEs will know that those students achieving the top grade have performed exceptionally.

Julie Swan, Executive Director for General Qualifications, added:

We know that relatively more A*s are now awarded in some subjects than others. If we had applied our original approach, some subjects would have had many more grade 9s than they currently have A*s and some would have had many fewer. This would have been particularly harsh on some subjects. The approach we are announcing today will allow for the natural variations that we currently see across subjects to continue, while providing clarity about the value of a grade 9.

The analysis of the consultation and the full decisions document are available on the main consultation page, Setting the grade standards of new GCSEs in England: 2017 & 2018.

Published 7 September 2016