GCSE results and grades explained: Is a 3 or a 4 a pass? | The Sun

THE GCSE grading system was overhauled in England back in 2017, switching from a letter system to numbers.

The new practise replaced the traditional A*-G grades and there can still sometimes be confusion over the numbered exam results, and what actually counts as a pass.

How do GCSE grades work?

Every August students in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland eagerly await the results of their GCSEs.

The exams used to be marked from A*-G grades but now work on a 9-1 system, which was introduced in England alongside a new GCSE curriculum in 2017.

The highest grade is marked at a 9, while 1 is the lowest a student can receive.

A grade 4 is broadly equivalent to a C grade, and a grade 7 broadly equivalent to an A.

The new system came into place in an attempt to make GCSEs tougher.

There is now less emphasis on coursework than in the past, and grades for almost all subjects are decided by final exams.

The higher grades now have more distinction than the old system, and it's believed that this will help students appear more attractive to future potential employers.

Although the system was introduced in England 2017, it wasn't until 2020 that all students received their grades with the new system, as it was phased in over a series of subjects.

Wales initially stuck with the letter system but has now switched to numbers, while students in Northern Ireland still receive letter grades.

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The number scale is not directly equivalent to the old letter one but there are rough parallels.

How new grades GCSE's roughly compare to the old ones:

  • A* – 9
  • A – 8
  • Lower grade A – 7
  • B – 6
  • Lower grade B – 5
  • C – 4
  • E – 3
  • F – 2
  • G– 1
  • U – U

What is a pass and what is a fail? 

There is more differentiation across the results range thanks to the extra grade allocation in the number system.

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The traditional boundary for a pass used to be a C grade but pupils now need either 4, for a standard pass, or 5, for a "strong pass."

A grade of 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 is a pass, and exams watchdog Ofqual has said that anyone who achieves the highest grade of a 9 has "performed exceptionally".

The lowest grade is a one and, if a student does not pass, it will show on their results sheet as "Not Classified" or similar.

Who decides the grade for each pupil?

GCSES are developed, marked and awarded by exam boards.

In 2022, exam boards decided the grades that each pupil received for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic.

In previous years, teachers had been asked to give a grade they thought each pupil would have got had they sat the exams, based on various pieces of coursework and mock exams.

What happens if I fail an exam?

There are options and solutions if you fail an exam so try not to panic if you don't do as well as you hoped come results time.

Talk to a teacher you trust for some advice first.

Students in England can appeal their grades and opt to retake their GCSE exams in November – providing the opportunity to improve on the grade they receive.

While it's still possible to reach college or sixth form with a failed grade, you will likely be asked to resit a failed English or Maths exam as a condition of your offer while pursuing A-Levels or BTecs.

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Alternatively, students have the option to enter again for the following year.

A failed grade is not the end of the world and can just be a bump in the road for those looking to go further in education or get their first job.

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