New 9-1 GCSEs Factfile

Joe M

August 22, 2017

Struggling to work out the new 9-1 grading system? Check out our GCSE Results Day FAQ.

With the first results of the new GCSEs coming out, many parents will be concerned about the new 9 to 1 system and how it will affect their child’s grades. This guide may help answer any questions you might have on GCSE results day.

Which one is better: 9 or 1?
Just remember: nine is fine! For further information about how the grades match up, please see the table based on information from Ofqual, the independent exams regulator. As grade boundaries are always subject to change depending on the performance of a particular cohort, the table may not be 100% accurate but it gives a good idea as to how the new GCSE marking system will match with the previous one.

How will I know if my child has passed?
As you can see from the table above, to pass in English or Maths your child would need to get a 4, which is equivalent to a low-middle C. Back in February, Education Secretary Justine Greening outlined the difference between a ‘standard’ pass, a 4, and a ‘strong’ pass, a 5. If your child, achieved a 3 or lower then they will have to retake their exams next year if they decide to continue in further education. If this happens, then an English or Maths tutor will be able to help prepare your child for the rigours of the new exams, teaching them sound exam techniques and give them access to high-quality revision resources.

However, it is still unclear as to how further education institutions will react to the changes with many setting a 4 in core subjects as their minimum requirement for entry while others are insisting on a 5. As many as twenty percent of HR professionals are reported as still being unsure as to whether a 1 is good or bad. (hopefully, they’ll read this blog and find out!)

Which subjects will be affected by the changes?
The only subjects that will have a number grade this year will be core subjects Maths, English Language and English Literature. Other subjects including Ancient languages (Greek, Latin), Art and Design, Drama, Food Preparation and Nutrition, Music, Physical Education, Science, Biology, Chemistry, History, Geography, Modern Foreign Languages, Citizenship, Computer Science and Religious Studies will switch from letters to numbers in 2018. Ancient History, Business, Classical Civilisation, Design and Technology, Media Studies and Psychology will follow suit in 2019. This means that up to 2019, students will receive a mixture of letter and number grades with letter grades being phased out within the next two years.

What’s the difference between a 9 and an 8?
The idea was that introducing a 9 at the top would allow employers and universities to be able to identify the academic elite among high-achieving A* students. This was originally envisaged as the best 5%, however, according to Ofqual’s latest predictions, this could turn out to be very different on results day. The top 3% are predicted to achieve a 9 in Maths as opposed to 7% achieving an A* in 2016 while the best 2% will get the top grade in 2017 for English Language with the top 4% getting an A* last year. The bottom line is it is much harder to get a top grade with only a ‘few hundred’ predicted to get 9s across the board in the three qualifications.

Will A levels change as well?
Some A levels have been reformed recently with changes made to syllabus and grading criteria, but the letter system of A*-E remains intact and there are currently no plans to change that.

How has the new Maths GCSE changed?
According to expert tutor and qualified Maths teacher, Beth, the questions in the new GCSE rely much more on the mathematical intuition of the pupil, are more open-ended, and generally more demanding. There is a greater emphasis on problem solving, meaning that teaching to the test is no longer a viable option. Finding the right Maths tutor will ensure that your child has the requisite skills and knowledge to approach the new exams with confidence.

There are still Foundation (1-5) and Higher (4-9) tier papers with some topics from the old AS level being included in the Higher exam and many Higher topics now filtering down into the Foundation paper. Overall, it is a more challenging paper.

How have the new English GCSEs changed?
There is no longer a Foundation or Higher tier paper, but one paper for all where students are expected to be able to understand, analyse, compare and evaluate unseen nineteenth-century fiction and twentieth-century nonfiction extracts. However, many pupils have found it challenging to complete the exam in the time allowed.

In English Literature, there is not only a greater emphasis on critical writing style and spelling, punctuation and grammar but there is also much more content to revise including closed book exams on a nineteenth century text, fifteen poems, a modern play/novel and a Shakespeare text. Some pupils might need an expert English tutor to be able to make sense of all of that content and to be able to formulate coherent and convincing essays.

Coursework and controlled assessments will not feature in the new qualification as the grades are based purely on how pupils perform in their Summer exams. Students’ speaking and listening ability is still evaluated by their teacher but students merely need to pass the test and the results no longer contribute towards the final grade. Essentially, the main changes are less teacher intervention in the evaluation of grades and higher demands on pupil literacy.

What’s Progress 8?
This is a new measure being introduced by the government this year to measure the progress pupils make across a range of subjects in individual schools. It has nothing to do with your child’s results this year but it is a good indicator of the effectiveness of teaching at a particular institution for those looking to change their child’s school.

Why the new 9-1 system?
These are the brainchild of former Education Secretary Michael Gove with the idea being that exams would be more rigorous and that the new 9 grade would help differentiate the top-performing students. However, as to why it had to change from letters to numbers remains a mystery.

How can a tutor help?
If your child has not gained the qualification they need to get into the college of their choice, then it may be worth contracting the services of an expert tutor who knows the exam system inside-out. An expert tutor in English and Maths would be able to help your child with past papers, difficult concepts and time management, so that they are successful the second time around.