Find out more about the way exams are graded using the 9-to-1 grading scales and how attainment and progress 8 aims to ensure that students are offered a well-balanced curriculum.

9 to 1 grading

The way GCSEs are graded changed in 2017. They're graded using 9 to 1, rather than A* to G. Grade 9 is the highest grade.

Ofqual's GCSE grading diagrams outline the changes and also provide some useful guide for parents.

Grade descriptors for 9 to 1 GCSEs

Ofqual's grade descriptors for the reformed GCSEs graded 9 to 1 are designed to help teachers by indicating the likely average level of performance at the mid-points of grades 2, 5 and 8.

Equivalent GCSE grades

The Government has said that grade 4 is a 'standard pass'. Grade 5 is a 'strong pass' and equivalent to a high C and low B on the old grading system. Grade 4 remains the level that students must achieve without needing to resit English and Maths post-16.

Setting grade standards for GCSEs

The approach to awarding the top grades will be the same for all GCSE subjects. A formula is used which means that around 20% of all grades at 7 or above will be a grade 9.

The grade 8 boundary will be equally spaced between the grade 7 and grade 9 boundaries. To carry forward the current standard, the number of grades 7, 8 and 9 awarded for an individual subject will be based on the proportion of the cohort who would have been expected to get an A or A*, had the qualification not been reformed.

GCSE Combined Science

GCSE Combined Science students will receive a double grade on a 17-point scale, from 9-9 to 1-1.

This double award is worth two GCSEs and is made up of two equal or adjacent grades. There are 17 possible grade combinations, for example, (9-9), (9-8), (8-8), (8-7) – through to (1-1).

Grade boundaries

Generally, a student who would have got an average grade A across science and additional science in 2017 would get grade 7-7 in GCSE Combined Science from 2018 onwards.

For additional guidance, see our GCSE Science tiering guide (99.1 KB) and our 9 to 1 grading scale guide (96.1 KB).

Attainment 8 and Progress 8

Attainment 8 and Progress 8 aims to show how students perform across the whole curriculum and to what extent they’ve improved during their time at secondary school.

The Attainment 8 score measures the achievement of a pupil across eight different subjects.

The Progress 8 score shows how they have improved during secondary school, compared to other pupils who were at the same level when they finished primary school.

This measure is designed to encourage schools to offer a broad, well-balanced curriculum.

Find out more about these measures and how they’re calculated in the DfE Secondary accountability measures guidance.