Grade boundaries and the Uniform Mark Scale (UMS)

Grade boundaries show the minimum number of marks you need for each grade.

We always aim to make sure exam papers have the same level of difficulty from year to year. But in practice, papers do vary slightly. Setting grade boundaries to allow for this makes sure that students who perform at the same level get the same grade, no matter when they do the exam.

See our Student support pages to find out what to expect on results days, and what documents you'll receive and when.

How we set grade boundaries

Our panels of teachers and assessment experts set grade boundaries after the exam papers have been marked. This is so we can take student performance into account. This process is called awarding.

For more information, watch our video on Making the grade: a guide to awarding.

Getting the right result also has more about this.

UMS converter – for modular qualifications

For qualifications that use uniform marks, we convert your exam mark to a UMS mark, which then determines the grade. The UMS converter (grade boundary calculator) shows where your exam mark sits on the uniform mark scale. For a detailed explanation of how the UMS works, see our UMS guide.

Or you can download PDF tables for all qualifications:

You can't use this tool for the reformed, linear qualifications. In 2017, you can convert your marks to a UMS mark for the following qualifications:

  • all GCSEs except English Language, English Literature and Maths
  • AS specifications
  • A-level specifications
  • AQA Certificates except AQA Certificate Level 2 Further Mathematics.

You might also find our Quick guide to A-level A* grades useful.

Linear qualifications don’t use uniform marks

Uniform marks won’t be used for the new GCSE, AS and A-level specifications for first teaching from September 2015. This means you won’t need to convert your marks to the uniform mark scale (UMS). In 2017, this applies to the following qualifications:

  • GCSE English Language
  • GCSE English Literature
  • GCSE Maths.

Linear qualifications are assessed at the end of the course, so all students take the exam at the same time. This means that, unlike in modular qualifications, there’s no need to combine marks from different series, so we don’t need to use the UMS for linear exams.

As the new qualifications are being introduced gradually, we'll be offering unitised and linear qualifications at the same time for an interim period. For details of which GCSEs, AS and A-levels are changing and when, see the timelines on our Changes to GCSEs, AS and A-levels page.

Grade boundaries for linear qualifications

It can be useful to see how the overall subject grade was achieved. However, it’s important to note that the grade boundaries given for each component in linear qualifications are purely notional, and do not always add up to the equivalent subject grade.

Our Guide to notional component grade boundaries has more information on this.