How do GCSE grades differ across the UK?

Teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving their GCSE grades on Thursday to help them progress to sixth form, college or training.

– What will grades look like?

Grading is different in England, compared with Wales and Northern Ireland.

In England, GCSEs are graded using a numerical system from 9 to 1 rather than from A* to G –  with 9 being the highest grade.

In general, a grade 7 and above is roughly equivalent to an A and above, while a grade 4 and above is roughly equivalent to a C and above.

Grade 4 and above is considered a “standard pass”.

But performance data released by the Government highlights the percentage of pupils in a school who achieved a 5 or above in English and maths GCSEs – which is roughly equivalent to a high grade C or low grade B.

In Northern Ireland, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment uses a nine-category grade scale A* – G – which includes a C*.

In Wales, the traditional eight-category grade scale A*- G has been retained.

– How do approaches to grading differ?

In England, the exams regulator has said this year’s GCSE results will be lower than last year, but they are expected to be similar to 2019 as part of its plan to return to pre-pandemic grading this summer.

But Ofqual has built protection into the grading process which should enable a pupil to get the grade they would have received before the pandemic even if their quality of work is a little weaker this year.

It comes after Covid-19 led to an increase in top GCSE grades in 2020 and 2021, with results based on teacher assessments instead of exams.

In Northern Ireland and Wales, exam regulators have said they do not expect to return to pre-pandemic grading levels until next year.

In Wales, results are expected to be “broadly midway” between those awarded in 2022 – the first year students sat exams following the pandemic – and 2019.

– What was done to support students taking exams?

In England, pupils were given formulae and equation sheets in GCSE mathematics, physics, and combined science exams to acknowledge pandemic disruption to learning.

GCSE students were also not expected to confront unfamiliar words in language exams.

Exam papers in the same subject were spaced out more in the GCSE timetable than they were prior to the pandemic to give students more time to revise.

Many GCSE students in Wales and Northern Ireland were given advance information about topics to expect in their exam papers this summer, but pupils in England were not given the same support.