GCSE pupils are finally receiving their results today, ending an anxious wait to discover how they fared in their exams this summer.
The number of top grades awarded to A-level students fell significantly, after exam boards returned to pre-pandemic grading standards – and a similar situation is expected from GCSEs.
It means that thousands of pupils are likely to be left disappointed after missing out on predicted grades.
The number of results marked grade 7 or above, the equivalent of an A or A*, could fall by a record 230,000 this year, according to analysis by Professor Alan Smithers, head of the Centre for Education and Employment Research, while the number of overall passes is also set to fall.
What is a pass grade at GCSE?
Ahead of the 2017 GCSEs, the Government changed the GCSE grading system from A* to G to a numerical system of 9 to 1 (9 being the top grade and 1 being the lowest).
As per the guide below, issued by the exams regulator Ofqual, the numerical system essentially boils down to the following:
- 9 = high A* grade
- 8 = lower A* or high A
- 7 = lower A grade
- 6 = high B grade
- 5 = lower B or high C
- 4 = lower C grade
- 3 = D or high E
- 2 = lower E or high F
- 1 = lower F or G
- U = U, remains the same
The numerical system means that, while a pass used to be a simple C grade, there are now two marks considered a “pass” for GCSE students.
Schools are judged by the proportion of its pupils that achieve a “standard” pass and above, which is denoted by a grade 4, though they are also held to account for the proportion of pupils that gain a “strong” pass or above, which is a grade 5.
Only a grade 4 pass is required in English and maths to allow pupils to stop studying the subjects, if they wish.
What happens if you fail English or maths?
There is no obligation to resit any GCSEs that you have failed, with the exception of English and maths.
If you didn’t get a grade 4 or above in either of these subjects you will need to keep trying them until you turn 18.
The type of qualification you’ll be required to study is dependent on your grade:
- If you got a grade 3 and will be studying full-time (540+ hours) next year, you will need to resit the GCSE.
- If you got a grade 3 and will be studying part-time (150-539 hours), you can take a functional skills qualification instead of GCSE.
- If you got a grade 2 or below, you can take a functional skills qualification instead of GCSE.
- If you are going on to an apprenticeship, studying maths and English will be part of your programme.
When can you resit GCSEs?
You can resit GCSE English and maths in the autumn or winter, normally November or January. The availability of these exams will vary depending on which awarding body you’re sitting your exams with.
For all other subjects, you will need to take them next year during the usual exam period in May and June.
Where can you resit your GCSEs?
You can either resit your GCSEs at school or college, or you can study for your resit with an online GCSE course and resit the exam at a private centre. If you are resitting English or maths you must do so at school or college – you cannot do an online course.
If you enrol at a school or college – either your current one or somewhere new – you will have a timetable and attend classes with other GCSE students. Most schools and colleges will let you study your GCSEs alongside A-levels for other subjects.
Evening classes at colleges can also be an option. You will sit the exam alongside your fellow students.
If you choose to study privately you will need to arrange your exam yourself. ICS Learn advises: “About six months before you want to sit your exam, you should contact your local schools and colleges to see if they’ll allow you to sit the exam there as a private candidate.
“You should be aware that there’s a fee to sit the exam which you’ll pay directly to the exam centre. The exact cost of this will vary depending on which centre you chose.”
How much does it cost?
Students may be required to pay course fees and exam fees to retake their exams. Exams often cost over £100 each to retake. Colleges will often charge upwards of £1,000 per subject.
However, some learning centres provide the course for free if a person is over 16 and doesn’t have the required 4 grade in English or maths. Contact centres directly to discover if you could be eligible for free tuition, or how much course might cost.
Online services are typically significantly cheaper than enrolling at a college, but you do not get the benefit of in-person teaching.