It’s that time of year when 16-year-olds up and down the country are either delighted or dismayed. Why? Because they now know how well they did in their exams – 2017’s GCSE results have been released.
This year was different because, in English, English Literature and Maths, a new system of grading has been introduced for GCSEs (other subjects will follow suit next year). There are now 10 possible grades where, in the past, there were only 9. This change was brought in to differentiate between the very highest performing children and, as a result, some of the questions are a bit more challenging.
So, how exactly does the new grading system work? Here’s how it compares to the old one:
Firstly, there are three ‘top grades’:
Grade 9 – The top mark is even higher than the old A*
Grade 8 – Below an A* but above an A
Grade 7 – Slightly below an A but only just
Next come the three ‘pass marks’:
Grade 6 – Slightly better than a B
Grade 5 – Below a B but above a C. Also called a ‘strong pass’
Grade 4 – Equivalent of a C. Also called a ‘standard pass’
Next come the three lower marks:
Grade 3 – Below a D but above an E
Grade 2 – Between an E and an F
Grade 1 – Between an F and a G
Finally there is the lowest mark possible, U for ‘ungraded’. This is the same as in the old system and denotes a fail.
So, how have the first students to take the new exams fared? Well, it’s a mixed bag. Overall the pass rate (scores of Grade 4 or above) stayed roughly the same – 66.3% of students achieved them compared to 66.9% last year. In English Literature the pass rate fell 2.5% from 74.5% to 72% – still a high proportion. In Maths things were even better – 68.9% achieved Grade 4 or above where last year only 61.5% managed a C.
So what about the highest performers? How many achieved the sought-after Grade 9? More than you might expect – 3.5% of maths students, 3.2% in English Literature and 2.2% in English Language.
This year’s GCSEs are said to be the hardest since the late 1980s. That strikes a chord with me because I was one of those who sat their exams in 1988 – the very year that GCSEs began. Sadly, I only managed to score C or above in four subjects, coming close in two others with Ds, and far behind in one more with an F. I wonder how I would fare in today’s tests? Perhaps I’d do better – or then again, perhaps not!
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