In advance of Thursday’s GCSE results, Carfax Tutors would like to wish heaps of luck to all our pupils – almost of whom worked incredibly hard in the run-up to their exams, and some of whom discovered that their interests might lie beyond the narrow confines of the national curriculum – and to explain briefly the new 9-1, GCSE grading system.
The new grades are definitely tougher. There is no longer a foundation level, so all students will be studying the same curriculum. And there is less coursework, with the examiners having decided to give (or take) the majority of marks on the timed exams in Year 11.
The grades run from 1-9. 9 is the highest, higher than the current system’s A*. They are designed to increase the accuracy of the marking, and to inject a new level of possible achievement into a system which, many believe, has become too simple over the years.
Only three subjects are affected this year – English literature, English language and Maths. Science and other subjects will be marked this way in 2018. Over the next two years, all remaining subjects will transition to the new grading system.
Universities have assured schools that they are ready for the new system. Of the nine grades available, a 7 will mark the lower end of an A grade, an 8 the higher end of an A and lower end of an A*, and a 9 will be higher than the current system allows. A 4 is equivalent to the lower end of a C grade.
So a 4 will be the basic requirement for these core subjects, English and Maths. A 5 will be a ‘strong pass’. Pupils shouldn’t worry too much about this. We can’t be sure what effect two levels of ‘pass’ will have, but the government is insisting that universities will accept the 4, just as they currently accept the C. The subtleties of the grading may be more consequential to Ofsted, and school leagues tables, rather than pupils.
We can’t deny that there is uncertainty around the new system, and it is not totally clear what range of grades will be required at, for example, Oxbridge entrance. Where before it was easier for bright students to achieve 11 A* grades, they will now have to work harder. But competition for the best universities has always been tricky, and the most academically capable will continue to score excellent results.