A Guide to Changes in GCSE Grading


From the summer of 2017, the grading of GCSE will begin to change.

This website explains the changes that are happening to GCSE grading.

There are no changes to A-level (GCE) grading.

Why the Change?

Each of the UK jurisdictions has devolved powers in regards to Education policy.

In 2013, the English government announced a reform to GCSEs and a new grading system comprising of numbers (9-1) rather than the letters (A*-G). As a result, the Northern Ireland and Welsh governments reviewed their policy on grading.

In June 2016, the then Minister for Education, Peter Weir MLA, requested the following changes to the grading of GCSEs offered by CCEA:

"the A* grade will be realigned to reflect the level of achievement on the English 9-1 scale, and;

A new grade C* will be introduced to align with the level of achievement consistent with the grade 5 on the English 9-1 scale."

To meet the Minister's requirements, CCEA will introduce a nine lettered scale (A*-G, including C*) and this will apply to qualifications taught from September 2017 and awarded in 2019.

The Welsh government chose to remain with the current eight letter grade (A*-G) model. Allowing 9-1 graded qualifications where an A*-G qualification was not available.

What is the Change?

Changes to GCSE grading in Northern Ireland will happen from the summer of 2017 to the summer of 2019.

Learners in Northern Ireland can access Letter (A*-G) and Number (9-1) graded GCSEs. Learners can access 9-1 graded qualifications from AQA, OCR, Pearson or Eduqas (a part of WJEC).

WJEC qualifications will continue to use the original A*-G grading model and will no longer be available to learners in Northern Ireland. WJEC will offer 9-1 graded qualifications through its subsidiary company, Eduqas.

Summer 2017

In summer 2017, almost all learners will receive A*-G qualifications, and will see no change in the way their GCSEs are graded.

There will be a few learners receiving 9-1 grades. These learners will have taken one of a small number of 9-1 graded GCSEs available.

Summer 2018

In summer 2018, the majority of learners will receive A*-G qualifications, and will see no change in the way their GCSEs are graded.

More 9-1 graded subjects will be introduced and more learners will receive 9-1 grades.

Summer 2019

In summer 2019, the grading will change for all CCEA GCSE qualifications. The vast majority of leaners will notice a change in the way that GCSEs are graded. The C* will appear in the grading for the first time and there will be a decrease in the number of learners achieving an A* overall.

Almost all other GCSEs will be graded 9-1. By summer 2020, the remaining 9-1 graded subjects will be introduced.

How do you compare GCSE Grades?

New A*-G Structure
(summer 2019)

9-1 Structure (awarding phased in from 2017)

Old A*-G Structure (phased out from 2019)





























Grades 7, 4 and 1 will be linked to the current (A*-G) grade scale. This means that, broadly, the same proportion of candidates achieving grades 7, 4 and 1 would have achieved grades A, C and G in the current system.

When the new A*-G grading is introduced, in summer 2019, the Grade A* will be aligned with the Grade 9. In addition a Grade C* will be introduced and this will align with the Grade 5. The Grade B will align with the Grade 6.

What is the Effect?

The Grade 9 will be awarded to approximately 20% of the learners who achieve a Grade 7 or above. This will result in fewer learners achieving the new Grade 9 than the number who currently achieve an A*.

In summer 2019, when the new letter grades are awarded, the A* will be adjusted to reflect the Grade 9. This will mean that proportionally fewer learners will achieved an A* from 2019.

The introduction of the Grade C* will reduce the number of leaners achieving a Grade B. The Grade B will align with the Grade 6 in the numeric scale.

The new Letter and Numeric scales will introduce more grades at the higher end of the grading scale. This allows for greater differentiation among higher achieving students.

There will be no direct equivalent in the new Letter scale and the Grade 8. A Grade 8 falls between a grade A and A*.

The new grading scale will not affect application to University. Universities are aware of the changes being made to grading systems across the UK. They will manage these changes as they manage applications from Scotland, ROI and further afield, which all have different qualifications and grading systems.

There will be no advantage or disadvantage to taking qualifications with Letter or Number grades.