Academic grading in the United Kingdom

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 in the UK). For 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

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)

A General Certificate of Secondary Education is, as of September 2015, graded on a 1 - 9 scale, with a 9 being the highest possible achievement and 1 being the lowest.

A 9 is considered exceptional and, statistically, only awarded to the top 3% of the population.

However, "9-1" exams are to be taken from 2017 for English Literature, English Language and Mathematics and from 2018 for all other subjects. Those who will be taking exams in 2016, and subjects other than English and Maths in 2017, will be graded A*-G.

GCSE's are taken between Year 9 and Year 11, and are the last portion of mandatory education.

Advanced Level

The General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level ('A'-level), is graded on a scale of A-E, (sometimes called a 5 tier grading skale or 5 tiered grading system),[3] and previously an intermediate N (Nearly passed) which was awarded for papers missing grade E by a very small margin (not used since 2008). The marks in each paper are converted to a “Unified Mark Scheme” (UMS) according to the difficulty and weighting of the paper, and the individual UMS for each paper is added to give an overall score (out of 600 for a full 'A'-Level).[4] It is important to note that UMS marks for a paper are not the raw marks. The UMS marks for each grade, and maximum obtainable, are as follows:

Grade A2 UMS points AS UMS points Module UMS points, percentage

International Foundation Year

International Foundation Year is graded on a 7-point scale of A-A-B+-B-C+-C-D-F, with F as Failed (not acceptable).

Current 2014 - 2015 grades, A - Pass B - Pass C - Pass D - Pass F - Fail


Scotland's education system uses the following structure:

National Assessments 5-14

In these tests, there aren't Grades, but students are given tests for each level, when it's thought that they should be able to achieve them. Normally if they get over 2/3 they pass the test; and are "working towards" the next level.

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


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