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GCSE Grades and What They Mean!

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Published on 12/08/2021

Today, teenagers across the country will be receiving their GCSE grades, a nerve-wracking time for parents and children alike.

After another year of school disruption, teenagers across the country are receiving their GCSE grades which have yet again been based on teacher assessments a second year running.

This year thirty per cent of students received a 7 or above, which is equivalent to an A and A*. This is an increase from last year where 27.5 % achieved these levels, and 22% in 2019 which was the last year with seated exams before the pandemic.

So you have your grades in your hand, and what do they mean? Well we are here to get you through the new numerical system, and what you can do with them now!

Understanding the new 9-1 GCSE grading system

Back in 2017 Michael Gove decided to introduce a numerical grading system for English Literature, English Language and Maths, with 9 being the highest grade, and 1 as the lowest. This has now phased into all of the subjects on the curriculum.

Northern Ireland and Wales are still using the alphabetical system with A/A* at the top and U at the bottom. Ofqual has assured parents that this will not affect children and place them at a disadvantage when it comes to higher education.

Here’s how the numbers work and what their equivalents would be…

  • 9 = A*
  • 8 = low A* / high A
  • 7 = A
  • 6 = B
  • 5 = low B / high C (strong pass)
  • 4 = C (standard pass)
  • 3 = between grades D and E
  • 2 = between grades E and F
  • 1 = between grades F and G
  • U = U (fail)

The benefit of thee numbers is that you can now add them together to see how well one did overall.

How were my grades decided this year?

Now you have your slip of paper in hand, you might be wondering how these numbers came about.

After the exams were cancelled, it was decided that all GCSE results would be decided by your child’s subject teacher. These are known as Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) and its up to these teachers to try and determine how the student would have sat the exam.

These have been based entirely on school assignments, with teachers taking into account class effort, essays, mock exams and coursework.

The grades were then signed off by the head of department or even the principal before its final submission to an exam board.

This was all done to try and stop what happened last year when an algorithm was used to determine grades and awarded stufents lower grades than the schools had predicted.

You will have been assessed only on what you have been taught this year.

It is important to note that if you aren’t happy with your grades, that you can appeal them, or resit your exam in the autumn if you feel that you know more than you were graded.

When do I get my certificate?

The certificate will be sent to the school in about three months after results day. Your school may hold onto the results so that everyone can have a formal photograph at the end of the year.

Try to make sure you collect it or have it posted to you as soon as possible as you might need to show it to future employers, or to further education establishments.

If there are any mistakes on the form, make sure your exam officers know as soon as possible as changes are only free for the first three months after they have been issued.

What next?

Now you have your grades, assess what you have and where you want to go. You are more likely to be able to get into further education, or get a good job if you have five or more GCSE’s at grade 4 and above.

Most colleges and schools are looking for students to have achieved at least level 4 grades, but it might be worth calling them up to see whether they might accept a lower grade.

There is plenty of time for your teenager to decide what to do, so don’t rush anything. Times Higher Education has said’

‘The first thing to remember is that you have plenty of options depending on how results day went. Try not to worry if things didn’t quite go the way you had planned.’

I am not happy with my results, what can I do?

The government has stated that every student has the right to appeal their grade should they be unhappy. The first stage of the appeal is to approach your school expressing your wish to appeal.

This gives the school the ability to undertake an “initial process review to check all processes were followed correctly and no errors were made.” If the school does find an error, then they can submit a revised grade to the exam board.

If the school doesn’t find any errors, then students themselves can ask the school or college to submit a formal appeal to the exam board for them. You will be able to see your work and confirm that it is indeed yours, and whether you do wish to go ahead with the appeal.

The government website states;

“The exam board will check the centre followed its own processes and exam board requirements as well as reviewing the evidence used to form their judgement and providing a view as to whether the grade awarded was a reasonable exercise of academic judgement,”

If the exam board does find that the grade is incorrect, they will decide the new grade and inform your school of any changes. If you are still dissatisfied with the appeal then you can seek a referral to Ofqual’s Exams Procedure Review Service (EPRS).

Grades can go up an down when reassessing, so you might come away with less than you bargained for.

Can I retake my GCSE exams?

Yes! Students will be allowed to sit your exams if you are not happy with your GCSE results.

The government confirmed that resits will take place between Monday 1 November and Friday 3 December 2021. These will take place in your school, college or exam centre where you would have sat the origional exam. It is thought that much like last years A level or GCSE retakes, you will be able to keep your highest grade.

How did you do today? Tell us about it down below!

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