General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) graded A* – G (incl. grade C*). CCEA Northern Ireland accredited

Last updated
Last verified
First teaching 2017.

These meet the Northern Ireland GCSE Qualifications Criteria and the Northern Ireland GCSE Design Principles

  • Northern Ireland

GCSEs were introduced to mark student achievement at the end of compulsory education at age 16.

They are also used as an indicator of the most appropriate post-16 progression route for a student.

GCSEs are sometimes used as an entry requirement for post-16 study.

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 2015.

Wales and Northern Ireland retain GCSEs graded A* – G.

First teaching of revised GCSEs in Northern Ireland began in 2017. See below list of subject areas for further information.

UCAS has published separate profiles for:

Awarding organisation
  • CCEA

GCSEs graded A* – G will be available as short-course, single and double award qualifications.

GCSEs graded A* – G are either unitised or linear, depending on the subject.

Subject areas
  • Art and design
  • Biology
  • Business studies
  • Chemistry
  • Digital technology
  • Drama
  • Economics
  • English language
  • English literature
  • French
  • Further mathematics
  • Geography
  • German
  • Government and politics
  • Health and social care
  • History
  • Hospitality
  • Irish
  • Journalism
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Physical education
  • Physics
  • Religious studies
  • Spanish
  • Statistics
  • Agriculture and land use
  • Business communications systems
  • Construction
  • Contemporary crafts
  • Engineering and manufacturing
  • Gaeilge
  • Home economics: child development
  • Home economics: food and nutrition
  • Learning for life and work
  • Leisure, travel and tourism
  • Motor vehicle and road user studies
  • Science (double award)
  • Science (single award)
  • Technology and design

CCEA introduced revised GCSEs for first teaching in September 2017. These GCSEs will be graded on a 9 point A* – G scale, which will include a C* grade. The subjects are listed above.


The full range of GCSE grades A* – G spans Levels 1 and 2 of the Regulated Qualifications Framework: Grades A* – C are Level 2; grades D – G are Level 1.


Single award and short-courses are graded A*, A, B, C*, C, D, E, F, G.

Double award qualifications are graded A*A*, A*A, AA, AB, BB, BC*, C*C*, C*C, CC, CD, DD, DE, EE, EF, FF, FG, GG.

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


GCSEs which meet the Northern Ireland GCSE Qualifications Criteria and GCSE Design Principles may use question papers which are targeted at either a single tier covering grades A* – G or two tiers of grades A* – D and C* – G.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

Unitised qualifications must allocate a weighting of at least 20% to each assessment unit.

Unitised qualifications must require that at least 40% of the assessment is terminal.

Linear qualifications must require that all components are assessed at the end of the course.

Resit arrangements

In unitised specifications units may be re-taken once only before aggregation for the subject award.

In linear qualifications all units must be re-taken at the same time before aggregation for the subject award.

Guided/notional learning hours
Short course: 60 hours
Single award: 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 is as stated above.

UCAS size bands

Not yet available.

UCAS grade bands

Not yet available.

Key issues for UK HE admissions

Five grades at A* – C, generally including English Language and Mathematics, is regarded as an appropriate benchmark for Level 3 study.

The vast majority of applicants from Northern Ireland will present with GCSEs graded A* – G.

Universities and colleges with applicants across the UK that use GCSE grades in admissions will need to consider the differences between a 9 – 1 (9-point scale) an A* – G (9 point scale) and the legacy A* – G (8 point scale).

Timing of assessments/results for learners

All Northern Ireland GCSE linear assessments must be taken in May or June.

All assessments for unitised GCSEs will be available in May/June.

Some assessments for unitised GCSEs will be available in January, February and November.

GCSE subject level results are available in the latter part of August, one week after A level results.

Qualification dates notes

CCEA’s revised GCSEs will be graded using the 9 point A* – G scale from summer 2019.

See the subject areas field for the list of revised GCSEs.

Reporting and certification information

Grade outcomes 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.

Further information

Website address for further information: