O-level Explanation of results

GCE O-level (Ordinary level) subjects

  • From 1951 to 1962 students were recorded as having reached the Ordinary standard in subjects in which they were judged to have been successful. The required Pass mark was generally 45/100.
  • From 1963 to 1974 most exam boards used numbered grades 1-9, of which grade 1 was the highest and grade 9 the lowest, but these grades were not issued to students. Results which met the Ordinary standard (grades 1-6) were recorded as Pass.
  • From 1975 to 1987 attainment in an O-level subject was indicated by a grade A, B, C, D or E, of which grade A was the highest and grade E the lowest. Grades A, B and C represented the former O-level Pass. Grades D and E indicated a lower standard of attainment, but were still judged sufficient to be recorded on the certificate. Grades below E were ungraded and not recorded on the certificate.

Alternative Ordinary level subjects (AO)

  • The specification (syllabus) and exam in these subjects were designed for students of greater maturity than was normally expected at O-level. Attainment in AO subjects was indicated by a grade A, B, C, D or E, as for O-level. AO subjects were examined for the last time in 1988.

Grade comparison

GCSE grades A*-C maintained the standard of the former O-level grades A-C and CSE grade 1. Where the certificate for a pre-1975 O-level shows ‘Pass’ or ‘reached the Ordinary standard’ the result is equivalent to GCSE grades A*-C.

In the reformed GCSE examinations graded 9-1, of which grade 9 is the highest and grade 1 is the lowest, the lower thresholds for grades 7, 4 and 1 are equivalent to the lower thresholds for GCSE grades A, C and G respectively.