Old GCSE Grades vs New: Understanding the Grading System

New vs Old GCSE Grades

If you’re one of the many dads out there finding it hard to wrap your head around the changes made to the GCSE grading system, you’re not alone.

Many parents have found themselves in a similar situation, and this article aims to demystify the new grading system and help you understand how it compares to the old one.

We’ll explore the reasons for the changes, what the new grades mean, and how they might impact your child’s future.

What is the GCSE Grading System?

The GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) grading system is an essential component of the UK’s education system. It serves as an evaluation tool for students’ knowledge, understanding, and skills across various subjects.

The grading system underwent a significant change in 2017, shifting from the old alphabetical scale (A*-G) to a new numerical scale (9-1).

This new grading scheme ranges from 9 (highest grade) to 1 (lowest grade), with a grade 4 or above considered as a pass. A grade of 9 signifies exceptional performance, akin to the old A* grade.

Grade Boundaries

The new GCSE grade boundaries refer to the minimum marks needed for each grade. These boundaries are determined by examination boards and ensure consistency across subjects and boards.

Rather unhelpfully, the exact boundaries can vary depending on the board and the subject under consideration.

For instance, a grade 7 boundary might be set at 80 marks. Thus, any student scoring 80 or above would receive a 7, while those scoring below would receive a lower grade.

Old vs New Grading System

New GCSE Grades

The old GCSE grading system used letters from A* (highest) to G (lowest), while the new system employs a numerical scale of 9 to 1.

The former system had a wider range of marks attributed to a single grade, leading to some ambiguity about the actual level of student performance. The new system aims to address this issue by providing more grades to differentiate between students performing at similar levels.

The transition from letters to numbers also helps to indicate whether a student has taken a new and more challenging GCSE or an old, reformed one. This is particularly useful for further education institutions and employers.

To illustrate the difference between the old and new grading systems, consider the following table:

Old GCSE Grades New GCSE Grades
A* 9, 8
A 7
B 6, 5
C 4
D 3
E 2
F 2
G 1
U (Ungraded) U (Ungraded)

Why Change the System?

The transition to the 9-1 grading system was primarily driven by a desire for improved precision and clarity. The new scale allows for a more accurate reflection of student performance by offering more grades to differentiate between similarly performing students.

Moreover, the numerical system aligns closer with international grading systems, facilitating easier comparison between UK students and their international counterparts.

The new system also sets higher standards, with grades 9 to 7 equivalent to the old A* and A grades, challenging the most able students to perform at their very best.

What is a Good Grade Point?

GCSE Exam Hall

A ‘good’ GCSE grade point can vary depending on individual goals and subject difficulty.

However, in the new grading system, a grade of 4 or above is generally considered a pass, with a grade of 7 or above seen as a ‘strong’ pass. A grade 9 signifies exceptional performance and is awarded to the highest-performing students.

Impact of the Change

The new grading system has several implications for students, schools, and universities.

It has raised the bar for what is considered a ‘passing’ grade and increased competition among students.

Moreover, it provides a more accurate reflection of a student’s performance, helping to ensure consistency across subjects and examination boards.

For universities and employers, the new grading system can impact admission or employment opportunities, as some institutions may require a certain minimum grade in specific subjects.


  1. What Do GCSE Grades 1 To 9 Mean? The grading system uses a numerical scale ranging from 9 to 1. A grade 9 signifies exceptional performance, while grades 8 and 7 show very strong and strong performance, respectively. Grade 6 indicates good performance, and grade 5 signifies a moderate performance. A grade 4 is the minimum pass, while grades 3, 2, and 1 indicate low to extremely low performance.
  2. What is the Highest GCSE Grade? In the new grading system, the highest possible grade is a 9, representing exceptional performance.
  3. What GCSE Grade is 70%? The GCSE grade corresponding to a score of 70% can vary, as each examination board and subject may have different grade boundaries.


The transition from the old GCSE grading system to the new 9-1 scale represents a significant shift in how student performance is evaluated in the UK.

While it may take some time to fully understand and adapt to the new system, it promises to provide a more accurate reflection of student performance and set higher academic standards.

As a dad, it’s crucial to understand these changes to support your child effectively throughout their GCSE journey.