Pupils receiving exam resultsImage source, Getty Images

GCSE students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their results on Thursday.

In England, GCSEs are now graded using a numerical system from 9 to 1, rather than from A to E, as was previously the case.

They are graded differently in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scotland has a separate qualifications system to the rest of the UK, with no GCSEs.

What are the 2023 GCSE grade boundaries for Pearson, OCR, AQA, CCEA and WJEC?

Senior examiners decide the minimum marks needed for each grade.

In England, the 2023 grade boundaries are being released at 08:00 on Thursday and will be available via the following links for the different exam boards:

What are the 9-1 GCSE grades?

The 9-1 grading scheme was brought in alongside an overhaul of the curriculum in England in 2014.

The rollout began in 2017 with three subjects – English language, English literature and maths – being the first to be graded in numbers. By 2020, all subjects were using the new grading system.

The highest grade is now 9, while 1 is the lowest. The U grade, meaning “ungraded”, remains the same.

The number scale is not directly equivalent to the old letter one. However, the two scales do meet in certain places:

  • the bottom of grade 7 is aligned with the bottom of grade A
  • the bottom of grade 4 is aligned with the bottom of grade C
  • the bottom of grade 1 is aligned with the bottom of grade G
  • three number grades – 9, 8 and 7 – correspond to the two previous top grades of A* and A

Exams watchdog Ofqual has said fewer grade 9s will have been awarded than A*s “to identify exceptional performance”.

What grade do pupils need to pass their GCSEs?

Pupils will have needed a 4 for a “standard pass” and 5 for a “strong pass”.

This means that a candidate who gets nine grade-4s has, technically, passed all their exams.

However, the government’s school league tables are based on the percentage of pupils who achieve a 5 or above in English and maths GCSEs.

Many sixth forms insist on a minimum number of 5s or 6s as a condition of entry for further study.

Image source, Getty Images

Why were GCSE grades changed in England?

The numerical grading scheme was introduced as part of a 2014 curriculum overhaul by then-education secretary, Michael Gove.

It put less emphasis on GCSE coursework than before, with grades in almost all subjects decided in final exams.

The qualifications were designed to be more challenging, with exams taken after two years of study. Previously pupils covered the syllabus through a series of modules with regular assessments throughout the course.

At the time of the changes, the government argued that the new scale “recognises more clearly the achievements of high-attaining students, as the additional grades allow for greater differentiation”.

It also said that the move from letters to numbers would make it clear – for example to an employer – “whether a student has taken a new, more challenging GCSE, or an old reformed GCSE”.

How are GCSEs graded in Northern Ireland?

Grades have changed in Northern Ireland too.

In summer 2019, the CCEA introduced a new nine-category grade scale – A* to G, including a C*.

Students may also get results with grades 9-1 if they take exams set by English boards.

How are GCSEs graded in Wales?

The Welsh government introduced new and revised GCSE courses in September 2015.

The most significant changes were in English language, Welsh language and mathematics.

Wales retained the letter-based grading structure A*- G.

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