New maths 9-1 GCSE

January 11, 2017 by Esme
Image Tutor Adam S, a qualified teacher and specialist in GCSE mathematics, explains all you need to know about the new maths 9-1 GCSE providing sample papers as well as insight into the exam and grade boundaries.


May 2017 is the first year that the new maths 9-1 GCSE will be examined. A common question I have been asked by students and parents is ‘where can I find past papers to practice?’ and ‘what will the grade boundaries be?’

The aim of this post is to examine the syllabus and answer both questions.

The papers

Currently there is a limited set of papers available for the new maths 9-1 GCSE. Just click on the appropriate link below to find a pdf of the exam you would like to complete.

Edexcel:                 OCR                              AQA

S1 S2 S3                 S1 S2 S3 S4              Papers,  Answers

The Tiers

Grade 9 is now the highest that you can achieve, grade 8 the next highest and so on. The higher tier runs from grade 9-4, and the foundation tier runs from grade 5-1. It is important for your child to know if they are taking the higher or foundation tier paper as the content is different for both. They can ask their school teacher which tier they are entered for if they don’t know already.

Since there are no past papers for this exam, I am advising all my students to complete all the sample paper sets for each of the exam boards to help prepare.

The mathematical content in each exam board is broadly the same as are the style of questions despite small differences. It’s all maths! There are 3 exams in each sample set; 2 calculator and 1 non-calculator. This is the same structure that your child’s Maths GCSE will be.

It is so important to focus on these sample papers instead of the past papers for the old GCSE because there is new content in the 2017 GCSE that is not in the old papers.

The style of questions is also very different. Instead of practicing from past papers, I would advice a combination of the sample papers (linked above), and the 9-1 GCSE Edexcel textbook which can be found with a simple google or amazon search.

Many schools have not adopted this book yet and I cannot attest enough to the usefulness of a book rammed with questions of the new style for every single topic and answers at the back. In my opinion it is best used in combination with a tutor / teacher / knowledgeable parent and a revision guide that has clear explanations and is specific to your exam board (CGP for example).

Grade boundaries

What percentage do you need to achieve a grade 9 in maths GCSE? How about a grade 5? These questions are difficult to answer and school teachers giving vague non-committal answers to this question are doing so because we can only really guess at this point.

No one knows exactly what the grade boundaries are - it will depend on how difficult the papers are that are given in the summer. Having said this, we do have some clues from the government as to how many students will receive each grade, which means anyone can predict what grade they are currently working at and what grade they are likely to achieve on the 9 to 1 scale.

Using past papers, we can calculate what grade you are currently at.


To predict accurately what grade your child is currently at, they can complete 3 past papers from their exam board and work out their grade from the grade boundaries for that paper.

You can find grade boundaries for the specific papers you have completed on the exam board website.

Once you have the grades for those 3 papers, you can match them to the number grade by using the image above. Bear in mind that if your child gets a C, that will equate to a high 4 or a low 5. A high C will be a grade 5, and a low C will be a grade 4 (the bottom 66% to be exact according to ofqual and Edexcel board). So most students achieving a C on the old paper will achieve a grade 4 on the new paper.

In addition to using past papers to see where your child is at, I have brought together analysis from maths teachers from different schools to come up with predicted grade boundaries for the Edexcel 9-1 sample papers:

Higher Tier

Level, %                (marks out of 80)

9            91%                       (73)
8            79%                       (63)
7            64%                       (52)
6            53%                       (43)
5            41%                       (33)
4            30%                       (24)

Foundation Tier

Level      %           (marks out of 80)
5             78%                       (63)
4            67%                       (54)
3            56%                       (45

Although I had a lot of fun making these grade boundaries and would love for you to use them to grade your own sample papers, take the results with a pinch of salt as they are predictions based on sample sizes of individual schools which is small compared to the number of students there are in the UK.

Good luck and happy exam preparations!


If you have any questions for Adam S or would like him as a tutor for your child, please send him a message through his profile.


Alternatively, on the Tutorfair website enter your postcode and Tutorfair will show you GCSE Maths tutors in your area, with the top rated tutors!

Checkout out more Tutorfair blogs here:

  1. Five Strategies to improve Academic Performance

  2. Dyslexia Resources: a Guide for Parents

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