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The new 9-1 GCSE grades – a brief guide

Rumel Rahman


9th August 2018


If you have children in year 11 taking GCSEs this year, many of their results will be reported on the new grade scale which runs from 9 (the highest grade) to 1 (the lowest grade). Here is a brief guide to what that means.



Why do we need a new grade scale for GCSEs?


The official line is that the latest GCSE reforms are necessary to keep pace with universities’ and employers’ demands. They are based on new and more demanding subject content but are still suitable for the same wide range of abilities. As well as catering for those who are simply aiming to pass a subject, the new level 9 grade is a step above the old A* and will allow sixth forms, colleges, universities and employers the opportunity to better distinguish between students aspiring for the very top.



Do all GCSE subjects use the new grade scale?


Not yet. The reform has been phased over a number of years and will be completed in the summer of 2020, by which time all GCSE subjects will have moved to the new grade scale. That said, most of the subjects taken by the vast majority of students will be graded from 9 to 1 this summer:


English language*, English literature*, mathematics*, biology, chemistry, physics, combined science, computer science, geography, history, art and design, French, German, Latin, Spanish, classical Greek, dance, drama, music, food preparation and nutrition, physical education, religious studies, citizenship studies.


*First awarded 9-1 in 2017



What is the equivalence between these new grades and the old ones?


Although a new system, there are some comparable points at key grades. Level 7 is equivalent to the old grade A, whilst the new level 4 is similar to the bottom of the old grade C. Employers and universities have been made aware that if they previously set entry requirements of at least a grade C, then the equivalent would now be at least level 4.


Sixth forms and colleges will usually want candidates to have achieved at least level 7 (and sometimes level 8) in order to continue studying a particular subject at A-level.


Looking further ahead, a typical student applying to the top universities in the land (think Oxbridge, UCL, Imperial etc) will have a string of level 8’s and 9’s, with possibly a smattering of level 7’s and, maybe, the very occasional level 6.



Will my child be disadvantaged taking these new exams?


In short, no. The powers-that-be know that it takes a few years for teachers and students to get used to new qualifications. Naturally, there are fewer past exam papers for students to practise from, fewer teaching resources available and, of course, teachers are not as familiar with the new qualifications as they were with the old ones.


However, much of the content is the same as it was before so it is still reasonable to utilise old examination material when practising. A good tutor will know which resources to use and how to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.


The statistical methods employed by exam boards to allocate marks are designed to award grades fairly. Despite clamours from certain sections of the Cabinet demanding increased academic rigour, it is not in the interests of, say, Edexcel to award low grades to its customers en masse.



What is combined science?


Students taking science at GCSE will take one or more separate sciences – biology, chemistry and physics – or combined science. The latter is really two GCSEs rolled into one qualification. Students will study all three sciences but will cover less content than those sitting separate sciences.


Combined science students will be awarded two adjacent grades from 9-1 (e.g. 9-9, 9-8, 8-8 through to 1-1) and they will count as two GCSEs when applying for jobs, sixth form or university.



More information


If you have any concerns or want any advice, please give our friendly team at Capstone a call on 02037192842 or send us an email at .

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