What are the new GCSEs like?

In September 2015 new GCSEs were introduced in the following subjects: 

English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Combined Science, Geography, History, Modern Languages, Religious Studies, Design & Technology, Art and Design, Drama, Dance, Music, Physical Education, Computer Science, Citizenship Studies, Cooking and Nutrition. (More subjects will be added to this list in 2016)

These new GCSEs were first examined in the summer of 2017. They are more demanding and require higher levels of literacy and numeracy to access the top grades.

Other changes include:

  • a new grading scale that uses the numbers 1 to 9 to identify levels of performance, with 9 being the top grade.
  • a structure where all assessment happens at the end of the course and content is not divided into modules
  • exams as the default method of assessment, except where they cannot provide valid assessment of the skills required (e.g. Art)

4 things to know about the new GCSE grades

  1. English language, English literature and Maths were the first to be graded from 9 to 1 in 2017.
  2. Another 20 subjects will have 9 to 1 grading in 2018, with most others following in 2019. During this transition, students will receive a mixture of letter and number grades.
  3. The new grades are being brought in to signal that GCSEs have been reformed and to better differentiate between students of different abilities.
  4. In the first year each new GCSE subject is introduced, broadly the same proportion of students will get a grade 4 or above as would have got a grade C or above in the old system.

How does the 9 to 1 grading compare to A* to G grading?

The chart to the left shows that the new grade 2 is equivalent to the old grade E, the new grade 4 is equivalent to the bottom end of the old grade C and the new grade 7 is equivalent to the old grade A. It also shows that the new national benchmark for a ‘good’ GCSE pass is a grade 5 which is approximately half a grade more challenging than the old grade C. Approximately 60% of students in the country currently achieve a grade C or above in GCSE English and Maths, with approximately 40% currently achieving a grade B.

For further information on any of these areas click on the cover image to the left to view our full Parent Guide for Assessment in Key Stage 3.