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

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  • England
  • Wales (independent sector)
  • Northern Ireland (in some situations)

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.
Education context

Since their introduction in 1986, GCSEs graded A* – G were used across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In England, new GCSEs graded 9 – 1 started to be phased in for first teaching from September 2015. The GCSE subjects graded 9 – 1 introduced for first teaching from September 2015 were English language, English literature and mathematics. From first teaching in September 2018 all GCSE subjects in England will be graded 9 – 1.

Wales and Northern Ireland are retaining GCSEs graded A* – G

UCAS has published separate profiles for:

Awarding organisations
  • AQA
  • OCR
  • Pearson (Edexcel)
  • WJEC Eduqas

GCSEs graded 9 – 1 are available as GCSE qualifications, GCSE short course qualifications, GCSE double award qualifications.

The GCSE qualification is the most common form; it is the intention to develop very few short course GCSEs.

Each subject has prescribed content set out and published by the Department for Education

GCSEs graded 9 – 1 are linear qualifications, designed to be studied over two years and assessed at the end of the two years’ study.

Subject areas

From first teaching September 2015:

  • English language
  • English literature
  • Mathematics

From first teaching September 2016

  • Ancient languages (classical Greek and Latin)
  • Art and design
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Citizenship studies
  • Combined science
  • Computer science
  • Dance
  • Drama
  • Food preparation and nutrition
  • Geography
  • History
  • Modern foreign languages (French, German, Spanish)
  • Music
  • Physical education
  • Physics
  • Religious studies

From first teaching September 2017

  • Ancient history
  • Astronomy
  • Business
  • Classical civilisation
  • Design and technology
  • Economics
  • Electronics
  • Engineering
  • Film studies
  • Geology
  • Media studies
  • Modern Foreign Languages (Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, modern Greek, modern Hebrew, Polish, Panjabi, Russian, Urdu)
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Statistics

From first teaching September 2018

  • Ancient languages (biblical Hebrew)
  • Modern foreign languages (Gujarati, Persian, Portuguese, Turkish)

The full range of GCSE grades 9 – 1 spans Levels 2-1 of the Regulatory Qualifications Framework in England.

Grades 9 – 4 are Level 2, grades 3 – 1 are Level 1.


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.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

The contribution of assessment components to the overall grade is determined at subject level.

In English language, the component to assess speaking skills does not contribute to the overall grade. This is reported as a separate endorsement using distinction, credit, pass or unclassified, and assessed against criteria common to all awarding organisations.

In science, students will undertake a minimum of eight practical activities (16 in combined science). Science assessments will contain questions targeting the skills gained through these practical assessments.

Resit arrangements

There are no resit opportunities within any GCSE qualifications.

Full qualifications need to be retaken. For all subjects except English language and mathematics the first available opportunity is the following May or June.

November retakes are available in English language and mathematics, only for those students who are age 16 or above by 31 August of that year.

Guided/notional learning hours
Short course: 60 hours
GCSE qualification: 120 hours
Double award: 240 hours
Guided/notional learning hours notes

The actual amount of time allocated to a GCSE varies between schools and subjects. However, the deemed standard size as stated above.

UCAS size bands

Not yet available.

UCAS grade bands

Not yet available.

Key issues for UK HE admissions

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:

Timing of assessments/results for learners

Results for the full qualifications are communicated in August each year.

Qualification dates notes

This qualification is current.

  • First teaching from September 2015 for English language, English literature and mathematics.
  • First teaching 2016, 2017, and 2018 for all other subjects.
Reporting and certification information

Grade descriptions by subject and total entries by subject are published by the Joint Council for Qualifications

Progression information

Sufficient Level 2 achievement at GCSE is generally a requirement for Level 3 progression.

Sufficient Level 1 achievement at GCSE should lead to Level 2 progression.

Some universities, colleges and employers ask for specific achievement at GCSE for recruitment. This is generally in English language and mathematics, but may also be in science or subjects related to the progression opportunity.