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GCSE results day: what to expect

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A levels and GCSEs

GCSE results will be published on Thursday. This is the second year of results for reformed GCSEs in England and this year around 90% of the results issued will be for reformed 9 to 1 GCSEs. That means many students will have all 9 to 1 grades on their certificates, but others will still have a mix of 9 to 1 and A* to G.

As in previous years, and just as we did for AS and A levels, we have closely monitored the awarding in these qualifications. We have reviewed the results (outcomes) of over 200 GCSE awards. Our aim in this work is to make sure that grade standards have been maintained over time and between exam boards, and that students who are the first to sit these new GCSEs are treated fairly.

Here are a few things to remember when you’re looking at results:

  • Reformed GCSEs contain more challenging content but they are still designed for the same range of students as in previous years.
  • Reformed GCSEs are linear, so students will have taken all their exams this summer.
  • GCSE 9 to 1 grades have ‘anchor points’ to the old A* to G grade scale, at A/7, C/4 and G/1. This means that schools, colleges and employers can compare the percentage of students at grade 7 and above with grade A and above in previous years, and similarly they can compare 4 and above with C and above, and 1 and above with G and above.
  • There will be fewer grade 9s than A*s in previous years. That is deliberate. There are now three grades (9, 8 and 7) where previously there were only two (A* and A), to differentiate between the most able students. The new grade 8 straddles the top of the old A and the bottom of the old A*, so there is no direct comparison with A*.

Combined science double award

GCSE science and GCSE additional science have been replaced with a double award GCSE in combined science. The content is the same size as two GCSEs and so students will get a double grade, from 9-9, 9-8, 8-8 through to 1-1. There is more detail on the grade scale here.

All of the reformed science GCSEs, including combined science, are tiered. In combined science, schools will have had to choose whether to enter students for the higher tier (targeted at grades 9-9 to 4-4) or the foundation tier (targeted at grades 5-5 to 1-1). When deciding which tier to enter students for, schools should choose the one which will give a student scope to reach their full potential but avoid the risk of their result being unclassified (U) if they enter higher tier and fall below 4-4. To minimise this risk, we allow a ‘safety net’ grade for those students who fall just below the 4-4 boundary. Even with that safety net, we know that schools find decisions about tier entry difficult for some students, and the structural changes to the sciences – including the removal of untiered controlled assessment, and moving to a double award GCSE – has made it more complex this year.

The safety net grade for combined science in 2018 was intended to be 4-3. During the awarding period exam boards reported to us that, while they were confident in standards set at 4-4, there were more students than expected getting an unclassified result on higher tier combined science. When judging results against expectations, exam boards believed that in some cases students should have been entered for the foundation tier. For some students, if they had taken the foundation tier papers, they would have achieved a grade. Receiving an unclassified result because they had been entered for higher tier would have misrepresented their ability.

Therefore, we decided to allow exam boards to use grade 3-3 on the higher tier for this summer, matching grade 3-3 on the foundation tier. Senior examiners in each of the exam boards have reviewed the work of students at this grade and confirmed that it is of an appropriate standard. The exam boards are contacting schools and colleges this week to explain the use of this grade and will be providing further support to them before they make tier entry choices in 2019.

What information will be available on results day?

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) will publish aggregated data for all students in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and for the whole of the UK at 9.30am 23 August.

At about the same time, we will publish some summary information, similar to the information we published last year. We’ll also be publishing some interactive analytics. And exam boards will publish information about grade boundaries and statistics relating to their own results.

Who should I contact if I have questions about my results?

Students and parents with questions about particular results should contact their school or college in the first instance. Teachers should speak to their Exams Officer and, if necessary, the exam board. There is also information on our website – a guide for schools which explains exam board processes in more detail, and information about the timetable for reform.

What if I think a result is wrong?

If you think there is an error in the marking of a student’s work, you can apply for a review of marking. If there is a marking error, the exam board will correct it. They will not change marks where the reviewing examiner might have given it a slightly different (higher or lower) but equally legitimate mark. To do that would be unfair for all those students who do not request a review.

And finally…

There is lots more information about the 9 to 1 grade scale on our website and our Facebook page. And to all those teachers and students waiting for results on Thursday, I wish you all the best.


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  1. Comment by M. Ginever posted on

    What about Modern Languages? Will the same apply?

  2. Comment by Sylvia Sinclair posted on

    In 1980's they Fixed exams then also
    Geography was a favourite of mine but failed as we had been learning the wrong lessons all year so they did not match exam questions
    All graded a unfair

  3. Comment by Moore posted on

    ''Therefore, we decided to allow exam boards to use grade 3-3 on the higher tier for this summer, matching grade 3-3 on the foundation tier.'' was this done? Did you use equivalent percentage?

  4. Comment by Dan posted on

    Can’t understand the need for tiers. Same in mfl. If it’s a good idea, why aren’t all subjects tiered?
    You’ve made entry decisions very difficult

    • Replies to Dan>

      Comment by katekeating posted on

      Tiering is used in a small number of subjects, to ensure that the questions students face are accessible. In subjects like maths, languages and sciences, the very able students need enough questions to stretch and challenge them. But there will also be many students who find the subjects difficult (for example, struggling with the vocabulary in modern languages) and they need papers that they can do, rather than being faced with questions that they can’t answer.

    • Replies to Dan>

      Comment by Hannah Bradley posted on

      Our Executive Director Michelle Meadows explained it well in her BBC Breakfast appearance earlier this week, you may wish to take a look at the video here.

  5. Comment by Fix yourself GOV! posted on

    Your destroying your country by making it tougher and the you lower grade boundaries whats the point! You people are a disgrace for your nation and why don’t you who created this nonsense resit your exams and your A’s will now be a f or C, “the best system in the world” more like the worst and bad results, fix yourself before you even think about changing the lives of the future generations.