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How do GCSE grades work?

Confused about how GCSE grades work? We unpack the GCSE grading system and how students will be assessed.

Jamie Dobbs
by Jamie Dobbs
Last Updated:
22 Aug 2023

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What's the GCSE grading system?

The GCSE grading system in England runs on a scale from 9 to 1. The highest grade you can get is a 9, with 1 being the lowest. This system was introduced in 2017, replacing the old GCSE grading system that awarded students letter grades from A* to G.

In the current grading system, a score of 9, 8 and 7 are equivalent to an A* and A. A 9 is for a student who has performed exceptionally well. A grade of 4 is the equivalent of a C grade, known as a standard pass. A grade of 5 is also a C grade but is known as a strong pass.

Below is a table that outlines how the new GCSE grading system of numbers corresponds with the old system of letter grades:

GCSE Grading System

Old Grades New Grades









5 (Strong Pass)

4 (Standard Pass)









What's a GCSE strong pass?

This is a grade of 5, which is a pass mark. It sits between a grade B and a grade C in the old number grading system.

What's a GCSE standard pass?

This refers to a grade of 4, which is also a pass. It’s directly equivalent to a grade C in the old number grading system. Most university courses require that you have at least a grade C/4 in your GCSEs.

How are GCSE students assessed?

You’ll be assessed at the end of most courses with a final exam. You’ll receive a final number grade based on how you perform in this assessment. This is different to getting a grade for each component within the course, as there’s less coursework than when the old grading system was in place.

GCSE grades in Wales

You’ll follow a letter grading system if you’re a Welsh GCSE student. Grades can range from A*  to G. For some courses, you’ll be awarded grades throughout the year. For others, you’ll only be assessed with a final exam.

GCSE grades in Northern Ireland

You’ll also have a numbered grading system of A* to G if you’re a GCSE student in Northern Ireland unless your exams are set by an English exam board. If so, you’ll be under England’s numbered grading system.

You may receive both number and letter grades depending on your examining body. Some courses will grade your modules throughout the year, while others will only grade your end-of-year exam.

Do universities care about GCSE grades?

While A-levels and BTEC grades will often be listen in university entry requirements, many courses will also GCSE grades in entry requirements too – so don't go losing your GCSE certificates after you get them! If you want to start doing some early research on what grades universities are looking for, use our handy course search or university search tools, which can show you entry requirements for your subject, alongside loads of other useful bits of information.


How to revise for GCSEs

How to make a revision timetable

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