General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) graded A* – G. Qualifications Wales approved

Last updated
Last verified
From first teaching 2015 – 17
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland (in some situations)

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. From first teaching 2017 all GCSE subjects in England were graded 9 – 1.

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

First teaching of reformed GCSEs in Wales will begin from 2015. See subject areas for further information.

These qualifications have to meet qualification and subject criteria set by the regulator.

For further information on relative grading see:

UCAS has published separate profiles for:

Awarding organisation
  • WJEC

To view approved and designated qualifications for Wales with their unique ID you can visit QiW.Wales:

Qualifications Wales GCSEs graded A* – G can be available as shortcourse, single and double award qualifications; the single award qualification is the most common form.

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

Further information on the structure of Welsh GCSEs can be found here:…

Subject areas

September 2015, new GCSE specifications were introduced in the following subjects:

  • English language
  • English literature
  • Welsh language
  • Welsh literature
  • Mathematics – numeracy
  • Mathematics

September 2016, new GCSE specifications were introduced in the following subjects:

  • Art and design
  • Drama
  • Food and nutrition
  • Geography
  • French
  • German 
  • Spanish
  • Music
  • Physical education
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Science (double award)
  • Applied Science (double award)
  • Applied Science (single award)

September 2017, new GCSE specifications were introduced in the following subjects:

  • History
  • Religious studies (full and short course)
  • Computer science
  • Media studies
  • Design technology
  • Welsh second language
  • Business studies
  • PE (short course)

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


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

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

Double award qualifications are graded A*A*, A*A, AA, AB, BB, BC, 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.


Qualifications Wales approved GCSEs 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. This varies from subject to subject.

In GCSE Mathematics and GCSE Mathematics (numeracy), there are three tiers:

  • Higher A* – C
  • Intermediate B – E
  • Foundation D – G
Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

English language and Welsh language GCSEs contain an oracy element, with a weighting of 20% towards the final GCSE grade for the qualification.

Welsh Government approved science GCSEs have a 10% practical component included in the final grade.

Resit arrangements

In unitised specifications units may be retaken once only before aggregation for the subject award.

In November there are resit opportunities for English language and Welsh language.

Mathematics and mathematics (numeracy) can be taken in November as an early entry or resit.

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 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 National Welsh Baccalaureate will be taken by all students in state schools aged 14 – 16 from September 2016. It will include a Skills Challenge Certificate which is equivalent to a GCSE.

The vast majority of applicants from Wales will present with GCSEs graded A* – G. However, there will be a small number who present with some GCSEs graded 9 – 1.

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) and A* – G (8-point scale) model.

Timing of assessments/results for learners

All Welsh Government approved GCSE linear assessments must be taken in May or June. Additionally, mathematics and mathematics (numeracy) can be assessed in November.

Assessments for unitised GCSEs will be available in May or June with certain subjects available in January.

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

Qualification dates notes

GCSEs graded A* – G will continue to be current in Wales.

See above list of subject areas of reformed GCSEs and the timetable for phasing in.

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

Further information can be found at Qualifications Wales website:…