GCSE grade boundaries 2022: how AQA, Edexcel, OCR, WJEC, CCEA marks are graded results day - 2019 comparison

Thousands of students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are finding out their GCSE results today

Thousands of students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are getting their GCSE results today.

As with A-Level results last week, these exams have been the first in-person GCSE assessments since 2019 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During Covid, marks were based on teacher assessments, while grade boundaries were eased in last year’s exams to accommodate the disruption to learning students faced.

So what do we know about the GCSE grade boundaries in 2022?

GCSE results day 2022 is on Thursday 25 August (image: Getty Images)

What are grade boundaries?

According to exam board AQA, grade boundaries are the minimum number of marks you need in order to achieve each grade.

They are determined once all exam papers in a particular year have been marked so that they can take into account the difficulty of the paper and also provide a comparison to previous years.

In theory, it means a student who performs at a certain level should achieve the same grade they would have been awarded had they sat an exam in the same course but in a different year.

This system helps to maintain standards and provides a context to grading for universities and future employers.

GCSE grade boundaries will still be lower than in 2019 (image: Getty Images)

What are 2022 GCSE grade boundaries?

Grade boundaries for 2022 were released at 8am.

Ofqual says they were generally higher than 2019’s results (the last year when students sat exams in person), with 26% of students attaining a grade 7 or above (what used to be an A grade) compared to 20.6% of entrants three years ago.

The number of grade 4s and above (similar to a C grade) rose from 67% of results in 2019 to 73% this year.

No 2019 comparison for Wales has yet been released, but in Northern Ireland the number of students getting a C grade (grade 4) and above grew 7.8 percentage points against 2019 to 90%.

Those achieving an A grade (grade 7) or higher went up 6.5 percentage points to 37%.

These figures reflect what we were told to expect about grade boundaries by education regulator Ofqual.

Before the results were released, it said it wanted the education system to return to its pre-pandemic standards as soon as possible.

But in the “interests of fairness” to students who have struggled with Covid-related disruption, it said 2022 will be a transition year back towards those standards.

Ofqual said this meant this year’s cohort had a “safety net” if things went wrong.

So, while grade boundaries generally were tightened up, they were not as stringent as they were in 2019.

Numbered GCSE grades are being introduced this year (image: Getty Images)

To set them, examination boards used data from both 2019 and 2021 to determine a midpoint for where grades should be.

NationalWorld has found some examples for how grade boundaries have changed in 2022 compared to 2019.

For example, those taking the drama course set by AQA could get the equivalent of an A (grade 7) by getting 139/200 in 2022.

In 2019, they had to achieve 148/200 to get this grade.

English language students taking the OCR syllabus would have had to get 70/160 to achieve a C grade (grade 4) in 2019.

But this year, the boundary for this grade was 67/160.

If you want to find out what the grade boundaries are for your subject, please visit the following websites:

How have GCSE grades changed?

Here’s how GCSE grades compare to the previous ones for students in England (image: Ofqual)

GCSE grades will also look different in England this year.

The old lettered grade system of A to E will be scrapped in favour of a numerical one that will grade students from 9 - equivalent to more than what an A* used to be - down to 1.

Some of the new grade boundaries align with the old ones, including:

  • the low end of grade 7 is aligned with the bottom of what used to be grade A
  • the bottom of grade 4 is equivalent to a low grade C
  • grade 1’s lowest boundary is the same as the bottom of grade G
Students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are nervously awaiting their GCSE results (image: Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Ofqual says the 9 grade will help “to identify exceptional performance” given it sits above the old A* grade.

Students in Northern Ireland may receive numerical grades if their exams were set by an English exams board.

However, as with Wales, the country has retained lettered grades.