New GCSE grades explained for parents 2022 edition

gcse grades 1-9 guide for parents gcse physics

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What are the new GCSE Grades?

New GCSE Grades Explained

In summer 2020, all GCSE’s were updated to be marked using the new GCSE grade 1 - 9 system, with the old A*s consigned to history. So how do the new GCSE grades compare to the old GCSE grades? Here are the new GCSE grades explained in our 2022 guide for parents. 

The traditional G to A* marking system has been replaced with a numerical grades of 1-9, with 9 being the highest GCSE grade awarded. 

Table comparing new GCSE grades to old GCSE grades

Key Facts to Explain the New GCSE Grades

The new GCSE grading scale is not directly equivalent to the old one but the Department of Education have made the following comparisons:

  • Grade 9 is the highest grade and will be awarded to fewer students than the old A*.
  • In marking, the bottom of grade 7 is aligned with the bottom of grade A;
  • The bottom of grade 4 is aligned with the bottom of grade C; 
  • The bottom of grade 1 is aligned with the bottom of grade G;
  • Grade 4 and above as a ‘standard pass’ in all subjects - a grade 4 or above marks a similar achievement to the old grade C or above. It is a really good achievement for a young person that should be valued as a passport to future study and employment! and
  • A grade 4 is the minimum level that students need to reach in English and/or maths, otherwise they need to continue to study these subjects as part of their post-16 education. This requirement does not apply to other subjects.

How are the new GCSE Grades awarded?

The approach to awarding the top grades is the same for all GCSE subjects. A formula is used that means that around 20% of all grades at 7 or above will be a grade 9.

The grade 8 boundary will be equally spaced between the grade 7 and grade 9 boundaries. To carry forward the current standard, the number of grades 7, 8 and 9 awarded for an individual subject will be based on the proportion of the cohort who would have been expected to get an A or A*, had the qualification not been reformed.

Are the new 1-9 GCSEs harder than before?

The short answer is yes, that’s the intention. The new syllabuses for all GCSEs, including physics, which is the specification set by the Department of Education of what needs to be covered by all exam boards have been updated and include more content than the old GCSE syllabuses. However, as we say above, the number of people being awarded 7 or above, the equivalent on A or above, will remain consistent, so although it is harder to get a particular grade, the number of students getting that grade each year will remain largely the same as before. Got it? Good!

Are there marks for coursework?

No - there are no longer marks for any coursework in any GCSE - all exams are taken at the end of Year 11 - this is called the “linear” system.

That said, in GCSE Physics, there are marks awarded for being able to explain practical exams - as students would have been used to doing under the old system. About 15% of the AQA course is based on the description of practical exams.

How many students achieved all Grade 9s in 2019?

In 2019, 818 students in England achieved a grade 9 in all of their subjects out of a total population of students in England taking GCSEs of 4.6m. So that’s approximately 0.02% of students. 

  • 78 pupils achieved seven grade 9s;
  • 114 pupils achieved eight;
  • 290 pupils achieved nine;
  • 250 pupils achieved 10;
  • 81 pupils achieved 11;
  • five pupils achieved 12

Why was the GCSE grade system changed?

The system was changed with the aim of bringing England and Wales closer in line with the top performing education jurisdictions around the world. The numerical grades allow for greater differentiation of students at the top end of the scale, with the grades 7, 8 and 9 all considered an “old” grade A or above.

What percentage of students achieved a Grade 9 in GCSE Physics in 2019?

Despite its fierce reputation, GCSE Physics is one of the GCSE subjects in which students score the highest marks! Across all the exam boards, approximately 12.5% of GCSE Physics students achieved a Grade 9 in 2019 and over 44% achieved a Grade 7 (the “old” Grade A) and we can help your child be one of them! 

Who does Foundation and Higher Tier papers?

In every subject, teachers decide whether your child does foundation or higher level. Most do higher level, and so you should assume your child will too. A student can achieve up to a GCSE Grade 5 by sitting the foundation tier, and up to the maximum GCSE Grade 9 by doing the higher tier. The syllabus for both the foundation and higher tier is the same, it is just the papers that students sit that differs. Both levels will learn the same syllabus throughout the two years of studying GCSE.

Foundation tier

Low demand questions targeted at students working at grades 1 – 3. Standard demand questions are targeted at students working at grades 4-5.

Higher tier

Standard demand questions are targeted at students working at grades 4‒5. 

Standard/high demand questions are targeted at students working at grades 6‒7. 

High demand questions are targeted at students working at grades 8‒9. 

What marks do you need to get a Grade 9 in GCSE Physics?

For AQA GCSE Physics papers in 2019, the grade boundaries (i.e. what marks you had to get to achieve any of the Grades) is set out below. 

Foundation level

Higher level

How are GCSE Physics Exams marked?

For AQA GCSE Physics, which is sat by over 80% of students, the exams are marked as follows:

  • 40% for demonstrating knowledge
  • 40% for knowledge of and understanding of scientific ideas, scientific enquiry, techniques and procedures
  • 20% for analysing information and ideas to: interpret and evaluate, make judgements and draw conclusions, develop and improve experimental procedures

We hope you found our new GCSE grades explained for parents 2022 edition useful - any questions - get in touch at [email protected]

Hope this helps

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