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This is an article about the grading used below degree level in most of the United Kingdom. The entire United Kingdom does not use the same grading scheme (grades are referred to as marks (points) in the UK). For a degree level, see British undergraduate degree classification.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland

England, Wales and Northern Ireland use a unified system for grading secondary school qualifications. Generally, the English and Welsh secondary school grading follows in line with the GCSE grades.

National Curriculum Assessment

Main article: National Curriculum assessment

In the compulsory state education system up to the age of 14, assessment is usually carried out at periodic intervals against National Curriculum levels. This is especially the case at the end of each Key Stage, at the ages of 7, 11 and 14, where students are statutorily assessed against these levels. The levels are applied to each of the compulsory subjects, and range from Level 1 to Level 8, with an additional band for 'Exceptional Performance'.[1] The Department for Education states that students should be expected to reach a standard level at the end of each Key Stage. These are stated as being Level 2 at age seven, Level 4 at age eleven, and then Level 5 at age twelve, and level 6c level 8a at age fourteen. Children are expected to make two sub levels of progress per year, e.g.: average=4c in year 6, whilst average in year 7=4b, year 8=5c and finally, year 9=5a.[2]

General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)

Main article: General Certificate of Secondary Education § Grades and tiering

GCSEs are commonly studied from the age of 13/14 until the age of 16, and are the second to last portion of mandatory qualifications.

There are two concurrent GCSE grading systems. In England, GCSEs are graded numerically from 1 (lowest) to 9 (highest), with a 4 being considered a passing grade. For the GCSE English Language Spoken Language component students receive either a Pass, Merit, Distinction or Unclassified. In Wales and Northern Ireland, a letter grade scale is used, with grades of A* (highest), A, B, C, D, E, F and G (lowest). In Northern Ireland, a new grade C* was introduced in 2019 to line up with the English grade 5.

In both systems, work below the grade G or 1 standard is denoted as 'Unclassified' (U). For comparison purposes, a grade C is considered equivalent to a 4, and an A is equivalent to a 7, and an 8 is equivalent roughly to an A*.

Here is a comparison of the current and former GCSE grading systems, as well as the old O-Level and CSE grading systems:

Approximate equivalences for GCSE, O-Level and CSE grades
GCSE Grade O-Level Grade CSE Grade
from 2017 a
Northern Ireland
from 2019 b
Wales from 1994
England, NI 1994–2019 c
1988–1993 1975–1987 d 1965–1987
9 A* A* A A 1
8 A
6 B B B B
5 C*
4 C
3 D D D D 2
E E E E 3
F F F U 4
G G G 5

GCE Advanced Level (A-Level)

Main article: GCE Advanced Level (United Kingdom) § Grading

GCE Advanced Levels are post-16 qualifications in the United Kingdom, and are graded on a letter grade scale, from highest to lowest: A*, A, B, C, D, E. As in GCSE, there is an 'Unclassified' (U) grade below the minimum standard required for a grade E. The A* grade was introduced in 2010. Previously an intermediate N (Nearly passed) grade was awarded for papers below grade E by a very small margin (not used since 2008).

Advanced Subsidiary Levels (AS-Levels), considered to be worth 40% of an A-Level (50% of an A-Level before 2017), are graded on a similar scale, but do not have an A* grade.

International Foundation Year

International Foundation Year (2015+) is graded on a 7-point scale of A, A−, B+, B−, C+, C−, D, F. (F meaning Failed or not acceptable).[4]

2014–2015 grades:


See also: Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework and Scottish Qualifications Certificate

Scotland's education system uses the following structure:

Some children take National 4 or National 5 in their 4th year/S4 at high school (aged about 15/16). In some schools, if children are in top set in S3 (aged 15/16) they will study the Nat 5 course but they do not take the exams. National 4/5 are thought to be preparation for the Highers & Advanced Highers. If you are taking your national 4 you most likely will take the national 5 exams next year.

Standard Grade

Standard Grade, Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2 courses are no longer available in Scottish schools and have been replaced by National 4 and National 5 awards.

National qualifications

Advanced Highers


National 5

National 4

The National 4 award is not graded and is only pass or fail.

Each grade is further sub-divided into 'bands'. The A grade comprises bands 1 and 2, the B grade has bands 3 and 4, and so on. These bands are not shown on certificates issued by the SQA and do not need to be stated on CVs.

The National 4 Grading is equivalent to Standard Grade General, while national 5 Grading is equivalent to Standard Grade Credit. Highers remain at the same level as the previous grading under the same name, and Advanced Highers are equivalent to the old CSYS (Certificate of Sixth Year Studies).

Percentage pass marks for each grade change from year to year depending on performance levels.

National courses


  1. ^ "The national curriculum - GOV.UK". 2016-10-25. Retrieved 2016-12-16.
  2. ^ "The National Curriculum". Archived from the original on 2011-12-14. Retrieved 2011-12-23.
  3. ^ CCEA (2017-07-31). "A Guide to Changes in GCSE Grading". Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  4. ^ "King's College London - Grading Information". 2014-09-12. Archived from the original on 2014-09-12. Retrieved 2016-12-16.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)