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The new GCSE grading system explained

By aspiration | 21 Aug 2019 | Category: Blog
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With GCSE results being received around the country thousands of young people will be jumping for joy while others may feel disappointed and worried for the future. With the new grading system, it can be difficult for parents and employers and in some cases, even students to understand what the 9-point grade scale means and which grades are now considered ‘good’.

GCSE grades A* to G in England have been replaced by a new grade scale numbered from 9 to 1, with 9 being the highest grade.

English Language, English Literature and Mathematics were the first qualifications in 2017 to get the new grading system –this has now been extended to all subjects.

According to The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual), the government department that regulates qualifications and exams, the new grades were brought in to signal that GCSEs have been reformed and to better differentiate between students of different abilities.

Ofqual says that new GCSE content will be more challenging, with fewer grade 9s expected to be awarded than A*s.


When compared with the more familiar grading system, A* to G, the three top number grades, 9, 8 and 7, are equivalent to the old style of A* and A’s.  However, there is no direct read across from the old to the new grades.

Here is a breakdown of the 9 to 1 grades compared with A* – G:


  • Grade 9 is the equivalent of above an A*
  • Grade 8 is the equivalent of in between grades A* and A
  • Grade 7 is the equivalent of a grade A
  • Grade 6 is the equivalent of just above a grade B
  • Grade 5 is the equivalent of in between grades B and C
  • Grade 4 is the equivalent of a grade C
  • Grade 3 is the equivalent of in between grades D and E
  • Grade 2 is the equivalent of in between grades E and F
  • Grade 1 is the equivalent of in between grades F and G


As an employer, looking at a grade 4 for the first time may seem like a low grade initially; however, this is seen as the equivalent of a passing grade (C). This means a student who achieves nine grade 4’s on their exams technically, has passed them all.

It would also be understandable to confuse the grading system with that of the school examination board, OFSTED, who rank a grade 1 as the highest possible grade when inspecting schools, training providers, colleges and Universities. It can be confusing to understand the new grading system but is a much easier way to see performance in exams.

If you are a student and you’ve recently picked up your GSCE results and want to jump into a fun and interesting career, why not consider an apprenticeship? It is a great way to gain knowledge and experience without the hassle of student debts. The best thing is that you are paid whilst you learn! Discover apprenticeships opportunities

Didn’t get the grades you wanted? An apprenticeship could still be for you! Have a look at our vacancies to see whether any are of interest. Or if you want to gain some experience in the short term, we have amazing opportunities in traineeships if you are in the Birmingham area. A traineeship will help you to upskill in practical things such as CV writing and interview techniques. Discover amazing career paths with our placement options and start to realise your potential. Find out more about traineeships


Unsure where to go from here? If you’re an employer or a learner looking to get into training and don’t know the best steps to take, feel free to reach out to us for more information, advice and guidance.

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