GCSE Grade Boundaries

March 22, 2022 The Spark Tutoring Team

As you’re working towards getting the best AQA grades, you should know the standards that you will be measured against to determine the universities or courses you can take at university. These standards in the UK are known as the GCSE grade boundaries.

Many students and parents aren’t aware of the GCSE AQA grade boundaries, which are critical in determining your future. If this is the first time you’re hearing about GCSE grade boundaries or know very little about them, then you’re at the right place.

What are GCSE Grade Boundaries?

GCSE grade boundaries are grade limits set by the exam board. The boundaries are set annually by the board across the country, depending on how the students performed. The grade boundaries are used to standardise results year after year and prevent students from being unfairly penalised for scoring low on papers.

Before 2017, students would receive the GCSE grade boundaries before receiving their results. This allowed students to predict their exam marks before the results were announced. Understandably, this caused a lot of anxiety and stress as the students waited for the exam results. The system was modified to have the GCSE AQA grade boundaries released on the same day as the results for everyone.

The GCSE boundaries grading system received another change to its grading scheme called the 9-1 grading system. In this new system, the highest grade is a 9, and the lowest is a 1. In the previous AQA grading system, the A* and A grades are now represented by three numbers grades; 9, 8 and 7.

Why Have the GCSE Grade Boundaries Changed?

GCSEs across England have been reformed. The courses are now linear, which means students sit for exams at the end of the course instead of in modules throughout the course. GCSE has also become tougher with more demanding content. The aim is to bring English standards up to match those in other high-performing countries.

The change in the grading system is a clear indication that the GCSE courses have changed. The new system will hopefully give sixth forms, universities, colleges and employers a better idea of the level that someone is working at. The new system also allows for micro-distinguishing between the various grades like 7, 8 and 9.

How are GCSE Grade Boundaries Worked Out?

Exam boards work hard to ensure that it takes the same effort to score a particular grade year to year. If the paper is harder than the previous year’s paper in one year, the grade boundaries are lowered to reflect this, depending on the maximum and minimum marks. This principle is called Comparable Outcomes.

The examiners also take into account a variety of factors when deciding on grade boundaries which include;

  • Feedback from examiners about particular papers
  • Data about the previous achievement of a cohort of students taking the exam
  • Question papers from previous years
  • Previous statistics

How to Read the GCSE number Grades?

Parents and students should know how to read and understand the GCSE grade boundaries. Luckily, the system is not that complicated, and the table below should help you understand how the new GCSE grade boundaries work.

GCSE Grading System
9High A* grade
8Lower A* or high A
7Lower A grade
6High B grade
5Lower B or high C
4Lower C grade
3D or high E
2Lower E or high F
1Lower F or G
UU remains the same

What GCSE Grade is 70%?

The new grading system is somewhat confusing, like most new things. In the old system scoring 70 meant acquiring a lower grade A. from the table above, 70% is equivalent to a GCSE grade 7.

What Percentage is a 7 in GCSE?

A grade 7 in the old system meant scoring a lower grade A. Students who get a grade 7 (lower A) must have scored about 70-82% in their exams. According to the 9-1 grading system, scoring a 7 is a pretty decent score.

What is an 8 in GCSE?

An 8 would have been a lower A* or high A in the previous GCSE grade boundaries system. Students with an 8 must have scored between 85% or higher. Securing a grade 8 also represents the student’s aptitude skills which are useful when solving complex and tricky questions.

What Grades Do Students Need to Pass Exams?

Here is a breakdown of the scores you need to pass the exams;

  • A 4 is required for a basic pass, and a 5 is necessary for a strong pass.
  • A candidate who receives nine grade 4s has passed all the theory tests.
  • Most sixth forms will require students to have a number of grade 5s or 6s as a condition for admission.
  • Government school league tables are based on the percentage of students who received a 5 or higher in English and Maths GCSEs.

Final Thoughts

What you score in your GCSE grade boundaries determines a lot about your future. Understanding the grading system will go a long way in helping you plan your future about the university you will go to and the course you will take.