How Many Marks Was it to Pass GCSE Maths? – for 2017, 2018 and 2019

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Passing your GCSEs and being able to move forward with A-Levels or an apprenticeship is a concern for many students. Over the years, the pass marks for these grades have fluctuated. The higher tier has always had a lower pass mark than the foundation tier, as the questions on the higher paper are more challenging, therefore making it harder for student to access higher grades. A grade 5 is what is considered to be a good pass; however, a grade 4 is the technical pass grade for all GCSE subjects. As GCSEs haven’t occurred in 2020 and wont occur properly this year, it has drawn attention to previous years GCSEs – this article seeks to alert you of the pass grade for GCSE maths in 2017,2018,2019 and to give you further details about these assessments. 

Ultimately, for every exam board the pass mark is different, as the topics for each exam board and the types of questions do vary; however, all exam boards have similar marks for the same grades, so they don’t differ widely when distributing marks. The most commonly used exam board for maths in the UK is Edexcel Pearson. For this particular exam board to obtain a pass grade in (a grade 4) in 2017 you would need (122/240 marks on a foundation paper and 41/240 on a higher paper) in 2018 you would need (136/240 marks on a foundation paper and 50/240 on a higher paper) and in 2019 you would need (149/240 on a foundation paper and 52/240 on a higher paper). 

The above provides you with an initial understanding of the marks you needed to pass mathematics in these years; however, to gain a greater understanding of mark distributions please read on. 

You may also find the following article helpful: How Do Foundation and Higher Tier GCSE Exam Papers Compare? 

How Many Marks Was a Pass Mark in 2019?

In 2019, for the mathematics Pearson, foundation GCSE qualification, you needed to obtain 149/240 marks to achieve a grade 4. However, to obtain a grade 5 on the Pearson foundation GCSE exam board you needed 184/240 marks. 

In 2019 for the mathematics Pearson, higher GCSE qualification, you needed to obtain 52/240 marks to achieve a grade 4. However, to achieve a grade 5 on the Pearson higher GCSE exam board you needed to obtain 80/240 marks. 

In 2019, for the AQA foundation mathematics GCSE qualification you needed to obtain 122/240 marks to achieve a grade 4. However, to achieve a grade 5 on the AQA GCSE exam board you needed to obtain 153/240. 

In 2019, for the AQA higher mathematics GCSE qualification you needed to obtain a 43/240 to achieve a grade 4. However, to achieve a grade 5 on the AQA GCSE qualification you needed to obtain 73/240. 

How Many Marks Was a Pass Mark in 2018?

In 2018, for the mathematics Pearson, foundation GCSE qualification, you needed to obtain 136/240 marks to achieve a grade 4. However, to obtain a grade 5 on the Pearson foundation GCSE exam board you needed 169/240 marks. 

In 2018, for the mathematics Pearson, higher GCSE qualification, you needed to obtain 50/240 marks to achieve a grade 4. However, to achieve a grade 5 on the Pearson higher GCSE exam board you needed 79/240 marks. 

In 2018, for the AQA foundation mathematics GCSE qualification you needed to obtain 125/240 marks to achieve a grade 4. However, to obtain a grade 5 on the AQA foundation mathematics exam board you need 161/240 marks. 

In 2018, for the AQA higher mathematics GCSE qualification you needed to obtain 125/240 marks to achieve a grade 4. However, to obtain a grade 5 on the AQA higher GCSE exam board you needed 161/240 marks. 

So, in 2018 for both higher and foundation papers for the Pearson Edexcel exam board, you required a higher mark to achieve a pass grade than for AQA. This illustrates that even if certain exam boards usually require a higher mark, this can and does change year on year. 

How Many Marks Was a Pass Mark in 2017?

In 2017 for the mathematics Pearson foundation GCSE qualification, you needed to obtain 122/240 marks to achieve a grade 4. However, to obtain a grade 5 on the Pearson foundation GCSE exam board you needed 158/240 marks.  

In 2017 for the mathematics Pearson higher GCSE qualification, you needed to obtain 41/240 marks to achieve a grade 4. However, to achieve a grade 5 on the Pearson higher GCSE exam board you needed to get 68/240 marks. 

In 2017 for the AQA foundation mathematics GCSE qualification, you needed to obtain 124/240 marks to achieve a grade 4. However, to obtain a grade 5 on the AQA foundation mathematics exam board you need 156/240 marks. 

So, in 2017 for both higher and foundation papers for the AQA exam board you required a higher mark to achieve a pass than for Pearson Edexcel. For all exam boards these marks do differ slightly but not to a large extent. 

There was a 36-mark, difference between a grade 4 and a grade 5 for the Pearson foundation GCSE qualification. This illustrates that there is a considerable difference between a grade 4 and a grade 5 thus allowing us to recognise that although a grade 4 Is a pass, there is a substantial difference between the marks, conveying the palpable desirability of obtaining a grade 5. 

For the higher paper, the difference in marks is smaller, therefore highlighting how much more difficult it is to achieve the higher grades as the questions are harder. 

Is It Easier to Achieve a Pass on a GCSE Foundation Paper than a GCSE Higher Paper?

Some people argue that obtaining a grade 4 on the GCSE foundation paper is easier because the questions are easier; whereas, on the higher paper the questions are harder, therefore it can be argued that it is harder to achieve the pass grade. However, other people argue that it is easier to obtain a grade 4 on the GCSE higher paper because you require substantially less marks that you would require when completing a GCSE foundation paper. 

My judgement on this is that it is easier to achieve a pass grade on the foundation paper because the questions are easier, so whilst you need more marks, they are easier to obtain. Whereas, if you do the higher paper you may struggle to get any marks due to the difficulty in the questions and therefore you are more likely to fail. Obviously, with every exam you should aim to get the highest grade possible, on the higher paper as more grades are accessible for you. However, if all you really want is a grade 4, with everything considered, sitting a foundation maths paper is something I believe is the best way for you to achieve it. Check out this link to read more about the foundation and higher tier papers.

Which Exam Boards Are Used in the UK for GCSE Examinations?

In the UK the 5 exam boards that are used are: AQA, CCEA, OCR, Edexcel Pearson and WJEC. Although, out of these exam boards, most schools use either AQA or Edexcel Pearson for the mathematics GCSE qualification – so these are the 2 exam boards that will be focused on in this article. 

Schools use different exam boards for different subjects – For instance, AQA is most commonly used for the English GCSEs. This is because schools select certain exam boards because their syllabus is more appealing and perhaps their marking system is favoured over other exam boards. 

What is Considered a Pass Grade at GCSE?

As I have stated above a 5 is considered a good pass and a 4 is the technical pass. This means that most sixth forms and apprenticeships will prefer you to have a grade 5 in most subjects, especially core subjects like maths because it illustrates that you at least have a strong foundation in a subject and are able to implement basic skills successfully.  

This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to partake in sixth form or apprenticeships as some sixth forms do accept a grade 4 pass in maths and don’t necessarily require you to achieve a higher grade; however, for some students who do achieve a grade 4, resit so they are able to obtain a grade 5 or higher, which is more desirable. 

Also, even if you no longer want to pursue maths (so only need a grade 4 which means you don’t have to re-sit the subject), you may need to achieve a higher grade to do certain A-Levels. For instance, if you have a grade 4 in maths and want to do a psychology A-Level, you aren’t likely to be able to do it as most sixth forms require you to have a grade 6 in maths to do psychology – so ensure that you are aware of the grades you need to do the subjects/courses that interest you. 

In this article I will make apparent the pass marks for a grade 4 and a grade 5, for higher and foundation paper. I will do this for the most commonly used exam boards for mathematics – AQA and Pearson Edexcel.

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