General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) graded 9 – 1. Ofqual accredited


GCSEs graded 9 – 1 are designed primarily for students at age 16 in England for the following purposes.

  • To provide evidence of students’ achievement against demanding and fulfilling content.
  • To provide a strong foundation for further academic and vocational study and for employment.
  • To provide (if required) a basis for schools and colleges to be held accountable for the performance of all their students.

The new GCSEs in England are graded 9 – 1, with 9 being the top grade.

Attainment that is insufficient to lead to the award of a certificate is reported as unclassified – U.

For the transition period the approach will draw heavily on statistical evidence to ensure that there are clear anchor points between the A* – G and 9 – 1 grading systems.

The following statistical evidence will be used.

  • Broadly the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 4 and above as achieved a grade C and above.
  • Broadly the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 7 and above as currently achieve a grade A.
  • Across all subjects (when all GCSEs are graded 9 – 1), close to 20% of those awarded a grade 7 or above will get a grade 9. The proportion of grade 9 in individual subjects will vary depending on the proportion awarded grade 7 or above. Grade 9 will comprise about 5% of all GCSE grades.
  • The bottom of grade 1 is aligned with the bottom of grade G.
  • Grade 5 will be positioned in the top third of the marks for a grade C and the bottom third of the marks for a grade B.

With the exception of a small number of subjects e.g. mathematics and modern foreign languages, where tiering is permitted by the subject level conditions, assessments must ensure that all levels of achievement grades  9 – 1 can be reached by a student who has attained the required knowledge, skills and understanding.

The first tiered subject available from first teaching 2015 (i.e. mathematics) allows grades 4 and 5 to be available through both tiers.

An awarding body must ensure that every assessment for a GCSE qualification graded 9 – 1 is by examination, except where that is excluded by the subject regulations.

In designing and setting the assessments for a GCSE qualification, awarding bodies must ensure that the assessments include questions or tasks which allow students to:

  • provide extended responses
  • demonstrate their ability to draw together different areas of knowledge, skills and /or understanding from across a full course of study for that qualification

Awarding organisations must ensure that students are appropriately rewarded for providing such responses and demonstrating such ability.

Further information

For GCSEs examined in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, students in England will have a mixture of GCSEs graded 9 – 1 and graded A* – G, depending on subject. Further information 

From examinations held in 2020 and onwards, all GCSEs in England will be graded 9 – 1.

Applicants with GCSEs from Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to have their GCSEs graded A* – G.

Universities and colleges with applicants from across the UK that use GCSE results in admissions will need to consider the differences between qualifications graded 9 – 1 (a nine point scale) and those graded A* – G (an eight point model). For further information on grading:

Further information is available from UCAS at:

Further information is available from awarding bodies’ specifications at: