The GCSE grading system has completely changed and it's doing our head in

Good luck to everybody getting their results today!

gcse grading system
(Image credit: Lucy Young/REX/Shutterstock)

Good luck to everybody getting their results today!

All over the world, nervous secondary schools students are frantically refreshing websites and tearing into envelopes to find out what their GCSE results are. For those of us who’ve been round this block before however, all the results nowadays are going to look like complete gibberish as there’s been a major change this year. There’s a new GCSE grading system which has swapped the A*-U system to a set of numbers and TBH it’s kind of confusing.

Instead of the numbered classification system, students will now be scored between 1-9 with 1 at the lowest end of the scale and 9 at the highest. In order to pass your GCSEs, you now have to score a 4 or higher. According to The Student Room who broke it all down, apparently a 4 is now ‘roughly equivalent to a low C’ and would be the ‘minimum grade you need to progress to A-level and similar courses’.

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Basically Bs and Cs are broken down into 4s, 5s and 6s, while A*s and As are broken up into 7s, 8s and 9s. Anything formerly ranked D-G now fits into the 1-3 box, while an Unclassified remains a terrifying U.

According to EEF, the subjects affected by the grade change are ‘Art and design, biology, chemistry, citizenship studies, combined science, computer science, dance, drama, food preparation and nutrition, French, geography, German, classical Greek, history, Latin, music, physical education (including short course), physics, religious studies (including short course), and Spanish.’ So basically, most of them.

Many are nervous about whether the new grade changes mean that students are likely to score less, however the Joint Council for Qualifications revealed that pass rates actually rose 0.5% this year to 66.9%. It also turns out that more students actually scored top marks, as the number of those who scored a 7 or higher was up 0.5% from those who scored As-A*s last year.

gcse grading system

(Image credit: CALYX/REX/Shutterstock)

Not everybody’s happy about it though. Previously, the Association of School and College Leaders said to Metro Radio, ‘Our concern, however, is over those pupils at the other end of the scale who are taking exams which are harder than their predecessors and who have been told by the government that a grade 4 is a 'standard pass' and a grade 5 is a 'strong pass'. That is a very demoralising message to those who achieve grades 1, 2 and 3, and the new system does not work very well for them at all. These young people have completed demanding programmes of study and we need to find a better way to credit their achievements.’

A Levels thankfully are still subject to the old letter grade system and given that results day for that was just the other week, it’s been a pretty intense time for students of all ages. (And their nail-biting families.) If you or somebody you know didn’t happen to score as well as you’d hoped, you’re not alone - a lot of us at Marie Claire have been in the same boat and we’ve shared our stories of how our bad A Level results weren’t the end of the world. Even if they did feel like it at the time.

To be honest, we’re just glad our GCSEs are over and done with - we can barely wrap our heads around the new system. Congratulations to everybody who found out their results! We would say pop open a bottle of champagne, but that would technically be illegal as many of you are probably underage.

Megan C. Hills

Megan is a freelance journalist who covers entertainment and all things lifestyle, with a particular passion for fashion, beauty, travel and Keanu Reeves stories. She has previously worked on staff for titles including Marie Claire UK, CNN Style and The Evening Standard and has written for titles such as Bustle UK, Wallpaper*, Forbes and Hong Kong Tatler. She splits her time between London and her hometown Hong Kong, where she currently lives with the love of her life - an elderly dog named Poppy - and her husband.