GCSE results day 2017: overall pass rates drop after major exams shake-up

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Overall GCSE pass rates have fallen this year across the UK after the biggest shake-up of exams in a generation.

Figures were released this morning, as students across the country woke up to learn their grades under the ‘9-1’ exam system which replaces the traditional alphabetical rating.

The results revealed that across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the proportion of entries scoring at least an A grade – or a 7 under the new system – has fallen by 0.5 percentage points to 20% compared to last summer.

The percentage gaining a C or above – or a 4 under the new system – is also down 0.6 percentage points to 66.3%.

Among 16-year-olds in England, around 18,600 maths entries scored a 9 – the new highest grade, while almost 31,000 achieved the top mark in the two English GCSEs combined.

Under the overhaul, traditional A* to G grades are being gradually replaced in England with a 9 to 1 system.

English and maths – key GCSEs for all teenagers – are the first to move across, with other subjects following over the next two years.

The statistics, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), show that among 16-year-olds in England:

  • In maths, 3.5% of entries – around 18,617 in total – scored a 9
  • In English, 2.6% of entries – around 13, 754 in total – scored a 9
  • In English literature, 3.3% – around 17,187 in total – scored a 9
  • Girls outperformed boys in 9 grades in both English GCSEs, while boys did better in maths at the highest result

Fewer candidates have achieved a 9 compared to the proportion that gained an A* under the traditional A*-G grading system, following the deliberate move to change the system to allow more differentiation, particularly between the brightest candidates.

Last year, 4% of 16-year-olds in England scored an A* in English language, along with 7% in maths.

The grading switch is part of wider reforms designed to make GCSEs more rigorous and challenging.

There are now three top grades – 7, 8 and 9 – compared to two under the old system – A* and A – with A* results now split into 8s and 9s.

This story is being updated

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