As I am sure most of you will have seen, GCSEs in England have been reformed, with a new 9 to 1 grading scale replacing the old A* to G scale. As 9 to 1 GCSE grades will be appearing on applicants’ CVs, it’s important that businesses know what has changed.
GCSEs in England have been reformed to better prepare students for work and for further study. Reformed GCSEs are based on new, more-demanding subject content that stretches the most able, and remains accessible to students who have a wide range of abilities. The new 9 to 1 grading scale makes it clear that students have studied the reformed GCSEs.
9 is the top grade and the new scale has more higher grades than the old A* to G. This allows you to better distinguish between students of different abilities.
At Ofqual, we’re responsible for maintaining the standards of the qualifications we regulate, including GCSEs. Our postcard shows how the new 9 to 1 scale relates to the old A* to G scale:
- The bottom of the new grade 7 is comparable to the bottom of the old grade A.
- The bottom of the new grade 4 is comparable to the bottom of the old grade C.
- The bottom of the new grade 1 is comparable to the bottom of the old grade G.
So, if you previously required a grade C or above, the equivalent now would be a grade 4 or above. And grade 9 is not the same as A* – it’s a new grade, designed to recognise the very highest-performing students – so expect to see fewer grade 9s than A*s.
GCSE reform has been phased in over a number of years. The first subjects were awarded in 2017, so students in that first cohort are finishing their post-16 education, with many of them now applying for jobs with 9 to 1 grades on their CV.
A student who took their GCSEs in 2017 or 2018 is likely to have a mixture of number and letter grades on their CV. This summer, 99.9% of GCSEs awarded will be graded 9 to 1. And from 2020, all GCSE grades awarded will be 9 to 1.
The new 9 to 1 scale is only being introduced in England. Wales and Northern Ireland are not introducing 9 to 1 grades, although a few students in Wales and Northern Ireland might take the GCSEs designed for students in England. Scotland has its own qualifications.
Since the changes were first introduced in 2015, we’ve been raising awareness of the changes, including working with employers. Our research tells us that awareness of 9 to 1 GCSEs among employers is increasing over time.
To help you understand the changes, we’ve produced a range of materials. Please share these with your colleagues to help them understand the changes. We have made a short video to explain the 9 to 1 grading scale. We’ve also produced a handy pdf for employers about the 9 to 1 grading scale, which includes links to further information on the range of qualifications taken by students in England.