GCSE Grading System in UK 2021: Full Guide!

Share your love

The standard qualification which every student in the UK needs to obtain during the end of Year 11 schooling in the UK is GCSE. GCSE, General Certificate of Secondary Education, has laid down a unique and specific set of guidelines for the assessment of students. The GCSE grading system is valid for England, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

There is a specific GCSE qualification for each subject. But, at the end of 16 years, one has to acquire multiple such qualifications or their equivalents as their final result.

The student has to choose two subjects which he has to study during the two years of coursework. The students choose their subject option. However, there are some subjects known as “core subjects,” which are mandatory for everyone.

The studies start most probably from Year 9 or Year 10. After the end of two years, i.e., Year 11, GCSE is the final assessment for the coursework.

GCSE 9-1 Grades explained| Pearson UK Educators

Number Of GCSEs A Student Should Take

The exact number of GCSEs that a student needs to take varies from one school to another. But, the number generally falls in the range of 7-12. 

Besides the core subjects (i.e., compulsory subjects) such as English, science, and maths, the students have to choose their topics from the list of GCSE options. The student must select the option with care.  The chosen subjects at Year 9 will guide and lead them in their future and career.

What Is The GCSE Grading System In The UK?

Five boards of examination completely regulate the GCSE. In England, Ofqual regulates the GCSE. Whereas in Wales, DCELLS is the regulating board and in North Ireland, CCEA is the regulating body.

A few years back, the students were assigned grades from A* to G. While A* was the highest grade, G was the lowest grade. Below G, all steps were considered “ungraded.”

However, this grading system changed in 2017 to satisfy the search for the brightest student. Hence, the grading systems changed. 

According to the new grading system, the students were assigned grades ranging from 9 to 1. Now, 9 was the highest grade, and 1 was the lowest grade. This grading scheme is known as the 9-1 grading scheme. 

The new grading system would boost up the preparation of students aspiring to study abroad. It will help them cope up even with the most challenging education system.

Key Features Of The GCSE Grading System In The UK

20210901 194123 0000

According to the new GCSE Grading System in the UK,  a student requires a minimum of 4 grades to pass. Grades between 1-3 are considered as fail. The key features of this new GCSE Grading System include:

  1. The new GCSE is an initiative to bring out the most talented students.

• 7 Grade (The bottom region of Grade 7 is similar to that of Grade A)

• 1 Grade (The bottom region of Grade 1 is similar to that of Grade G)

• 4 Grade ( bottom region of Grade 4 is similar to that of Grade C)

  1. The new grading system is not a direct equivalent of the old one. However, they are eligible for some equivalent comparisons.
  1. The highest grade is 9, which is equivalent to the A* grade of North Ireland.
  1. Grade 4 is equivalent to the former C grade, the “standard pass” grade.
  1. Grade 5 is = “strong pass” grade.
  1. The GCSE is now graded as two levels. At Level 1,  grades ranging from G, F, E, D, 1, 2, or 3 are awarded. At Level 2, grades ranging from C, B, A, A*, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 are awarded.
  1. Grades Q, U, X are not eligible for any qualification.
                            GCSE Grading 
New grading structure     Old grading structure 
                      U                       U
UK Education System Explained | Learnin Gym

GCSE Grading System In England

The GCSE grading system in England follows the 9-1 grading system. The grades 9, 8, and 7 correspondings to the former grades of A* and A. They take All the exams after the completion of coursework (linear qualifications). In case the student wants to retake the qualification, he has to take all the exams again.

GCSE Grading System In Wales

The GCSE grading system in Wales has the same alphabetical grading system ranging from A* to G. While some exams will be taken after completing coursework (linear qualifications), some of them will be based on modules (modular capabilities). 

In the case of modular exams, the student can take the exams only once. In the case of linear exams, the student can take the exams more than once. If the student wants to retake the qualification, he has to take all the linear exams again. 

GCSE Grading System In North Ireland

The GCSE grading system in North Ireland has also undergone significant changes. The students with CCEA as their examining body have the same alphabetical grading system. There was an introduction of grade C*, which led to fewer students attaining A*.

The students with AQA, OCR, Pearson, or Eduqas as their examining body have the numeric grading system. So, in North Ireland, the examining body decides the grades of the results.

Grading System In Scotland

Scotland does not follow the GCSE grading system. It has its Scottish system, according to which the National 5 (N5) qualification is equivalent to GCSE. The grading system under N5 has four grades from A-D, which may be comparable to grades 4-9 of GCSE.


GCSEs are the crucial exams that decide the future of students in the UK. Colleges also accept students according to those grades. Mainly, colleges accept grades of or above 4 (grade C and above according to the former system). However, in some cases, colleges also demand grade 6 or above ( grade A and above according to the former system). Thus, GCSEs, as qualifying exams, are vital for the student’s career.


  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02671522.2011.580364
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00131880110051164
Share your love

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *