The government has introduced new, more rigorous GCSEs in England to ensure young people have the knowledge and skills they need for work and further study in  21st Century Britain. 

The reforms are intended to ensure that GCSEs are qualifications in which pupils, employers and further and higher education institutions can have confidence.

The new qualifications are the result of a reform that began in 2011 with the national curriculum review in England, involving extensive consultation with schools and employers on the principles of reform and subject content.

The new GCSEs are more challenging and graded from 9 to 1 (with 9 being the highest grade) rather than A* to G. The new GCSEs are linear in structure rather than modular, with all exams at the end of a two-year course.

The new 9 to 1 grading scale will enable future employers to better differentiate between the highest and lowest performing pupils and give them confidence in their ability.

The first exams for the reformed GCSEs in English language, English literature and maths were held in summer 2017, with results in August 2017. Teaching of these new subjects started in September 2015.

The first exams for most other new GCSE subjects will take place in 2018 and 2019 (with courses taught from September 2016 or September 2017).

Finally, all GCSE subjects will be revised by 2018 and examined by 2020 with the aim of all exam certificates containing only number grades.

Employers, universities and colleges will continue to set the GCSE grades they require for employment or further study. We are saying to them that if a grade C is their current minimum requirement, then the nearest equivalent is grade 4. A* to G grades will remain valid for future employment or study.