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What GCSE grades are you hoping for?

It’s exam season and, if you have a year 11 teenager in the family and they’re at school in England, they’re probably slaving over revision for their GCSEs. But what grades are they hoping to get?

Last year they were aspiring to A grades or even an A*, (apart from English and Maths), but now the grading system has changed for the bulk of subjects and the ABC system has now become 1-9. 

If you have older members of the family they may remember the GCE grading system – which also used numbers – and is very confused because the top grade was a grade 1, but now the numbers have been turned on their head and the top grade is a 9.

The easiest way to remember it is that the higher the grade number the more marks the student have achieved.

The challenge for students is matching the current grades to those that last year’s students achieved.  In actuality, there isn’t a straight like-for-like match. 

There are now three grades (7, 8 & 9) that equate to the original A and A*.  to get a grade 9 the student will have to deliver an exceptional exam paper.  There will be fewer grade 9s awarded than former A*s.

Grades 4,5 and 6 cover former grades B and C, with 4 being a fairly average score and 5 being a good pass.

Anything under a 4 would come under the heading of ‘could do better’ and U (ungraded) is still U.

The whole point of the restructuring of the grades was to reflect the more challenging exams and the results are much more dependent on the actual exams than the old structure. 

Coursework doesn’t play such a big role either and there will no longer be a modular approach to learning in stages.

So the structure is now, effectively, ‘study for two years, then take an exam to demonstrate your learning’.

It’s happening in phases

Last year students’ exams were only graded using the new system in English Language, English Literature and Maths.  This year a whole list of subjects will also use the new grading system, including the sciences, the creative subjects and a range of others.

The only subjects still to move over to the new system are ancient languages and some modern foreign languages.

This means that, depending on the subjects they’re studying, your youngster may be getting graded by different systems.  So they may end up with four 8s, three 7s, a 6 and a B.

Wales have already restructured their GCSEs (2015) but still use the A-G grading system.  Scotland has its own system – Nationals and Highers.  Northern Ireland operates a hybrid system depending on the exam board, so students will have both letter and number grades.  Parents may be starting to think that they’ll need to take an exam in logical reasoning to keep up with it all!

Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that your teenager will still be under pressure to do well in the exams. Your job is still to support and encourage (and perhaps reassure after the exam is over and they’re still worried).

If the results letter lands and you’re trying to remember what the grades mean, come back here and check.