How Many Marks is it to Pass GCSE Maths?

In GCSE by Think Student Editor2 Comments

Everybody knows how important it is to pass GCSE Maths. Most jobs require you to have passed this subject in order for you to be employed. In fact, it is compulsory to keep taking GCSE Maths until you do pass before you turn 18. As a result, it can be useful to know how many marks you need to actually pass the subject. The exact number of marks you need depends on each exam board and whether you are sitting a higher or foundation paper. However, it can be useful to know how many marks you really need, so that the task doesn’t seem impossible!

In short, students will need to achieve at least a grade 4 in order to pass GCSE Maths. The exact marks needed for this change depending on the year, exam board and tier (foundation or higher). For example, this table shows the data from 2022:

Exam board Total marks Pass mark Percentage
AQA (Higher) 240 51 21%
AQA (Foundation) 240 135 56%
Pearson Edexcel (Higher) 240 38 16%
Pearson Edexcel (Foundation) 240 135 56%
OCR (Higher) 300 45 15%
OCR(Foundation) 300 119 40%

If you want to find out more about the pass marks for GCSE Maths and how this differs between different exam boards and tiers, carry on reading!

How many marks is it to pass GCSE Maths?

In order to pass any GCSE, students will need to get a grade 4 or above. This is equivalent to the old grade C. To learn more about this, check out this article by the BBC.

The exact pass mark for GCSE Maths will depend on several factors. This is because the pass mark is calculated from grade boundaries, which will be based on how well students have performed in the paper itself.  As a result, the grade boundaries differ between different years.

First of all, it will depend on which exam board the GCSE Maths course is with. This is because each exam board has different papers and may also differ in the total marks on each as well as in the difficulty of questions.

Also, the pass mark will be different on the foundation tier and higher tier papers. To learn more about why these factors will influence the pass mark as well as what they actually mean, check out the following sections.

Bear in mind that in 2020 and 2021, national GCSE exams were cancelled due to the pandemic. The information included in these sections is from November resit exams from those two years, which did take place. However, this data may not be as reliable due to the unique nature of exams in those couple of years.

How many marks is it to pass GCSE Maths with AQA?

For AQA, the overall mark for all of the GCSE Maths papers you will sit is 240 marks. This is true for the foundation paper’s combined marks and for the higher paper’s combined marks. Check out this table to see what the pass mark for GCSE Maths was in the last five years:

Year Higher paper pass mark Percentage to pass Foundation paper pass mark Percentage to pass
2018 47 20% 125 52%
2019 43 18% 122 51%
2020 39 16% 116 48%
2021 34 14% 108 45%
2022 51 21% 135 56%

This data can be found on the AQA website, if you click here.

How many marks is it to pass GCSE Maths with OCR?

For OCR, the combined marks for the GCSE Maths papers you will sit is 300 marks. The foundation and higher papers are each out of the same marks.

To see what the pass mark was for the last five years, check out this table:

Year Higher paper pass mark Percentage to pass Foundation paper pass mark Percentage to pass
2018 60 20% 146 49%
2019 68 23% 144 48%
2020 52 17% 123 41%
2021 51 17% 121 40%
2022 45 15% 119 40%

All of this data can be found on the grade boundary archive on the OCR website, if you click here.

How many marks is it to pass GCSE Maths with Pearson Edexcel?

Similarly to AQA, the combined marks for all of the papers you will sit for GCSE Maths is 240 marks for Pearson Edexcel. This is the same for both higher and foundation papers.

To find out how many marks you needed to pass GCSE Maths for the past five years for this exam board, check out this table:

Year Higher paper pass mark Percentage to pass Foundation paper pass mark Percentage to pass
2018 50 21% 136 57%
2019 52 22% 149 62%
2020 37 15% 136 57%
2021 37 15% 135 56%
2022 38 16% 135 56%

If you want to discover even more grade boundaries, all of this data and more can be found on the Pearson Edexcel website, if you click here.

GCSE Maths: foundation vs higher

When you sit your GCSE Maths papers, you will be selected by your teachers to complete the higher or foundation papers. The foundation papers are much easier than the higher papers, as they normally contain more simplistic questions. As a result, a higher mark is needed to get a pass, as shown throughout this article.

However, the highest grade you are able to get in a foundation paper is a grade 5. In comparison, higher papers allow students to get the top grades and as a result, are much harder.

The topics assessed between the two papers differ greatly too. For example, the OCR exam board has 50% of the questions in the foundation paper specific to AO1. The learning objective AO1 refers to the skill of being able to apply and use standard techniques.

In comparison, the higher papers assess less of this learning objective. Instead, the papers are more focused on reasoning and solving problems in other contexts. You can find out more about this in this article from OCR.

If you want to discover the different topic weightings for between foundation and higher papers for GCSE Maths from AQA, check out this page from the AQA website. Alternatively, check out this page from Pearson Edexcel to discover the differences between the papers for the two tiers.

To learn more about the differences between foundation and higher papers at GCSE, check out this Think Student article. For more on how they relate to the GCSE Maths pass rates, check out the sections below.

How many marks is it to pass GCSE Maths foundation?

To study for the foundation papers, students will learn less content and so will generally also avoid learning more difficult topics. Due to this, the highest grade that you can get on the foundation paper is grade 5. To learn more about this, check out this Think Student article.

For GCSE Maths, this is clear, particularly in the topics students are taught. For example, for the Pearson Edexcel specification, foundation students won’t learn about topics such as the sine rule and the cosine rule. You can learn more about this by clicking here to see the Pearson Edexcel GCSE Maths specification.

In 2022, you would have needed to get at least 135 out of 240 marks to pass the AQA GCSE Maths foundation paper. To learn more about this, check out this guide by AQA.

For Pearson Edexcel, in the same year, you also needed at least 135 marks to pass the foundation paper. To learn more about this, check out this guide by Pearson Edexcel.

For OCR, the exact pass mark was slightly lower than the others as you only needed 119 marks to pass their 2022 GCSE Maths foundation paper. To learn more about this, check out this guide by OCR.

To see this information more clearly, check out the table below:

GCSE Maths exam board Maximum mark Pass mark Percentage
AQA 240 135 56%
Pearson Edexcel 240 135 56%
OCR 300 119 40%

How many marks is it to pass GCSE Maths higher?

As mentioned above, if studying the higher tier course, students will have more content to learn, that will generally also be more difficult. For GCSE Maths, this is particularly apparent due to these extra topics.

This is especially as it reflects on the set up of the exams themselves. For example, for the OCR GCSE Maths paper, the foundation paper focuses more on the number topics with it being 25% of the paper, as opposed to being 15% of the higher paper.

The difference between the higher and foundation tier papers also reflects on the pass marks. This is because the higher paper pass mark is much lower than that of the foundation paper.

For AQA, students needed to get at least 51 out of 240 marks to pass the higher paper in 2022. For more on this, check out this guide by AQA.

For Pearson Edexcel, the exact pass mark for the 2022 GCSE Maths higher paper was 38 marks out of 240. To learn more about this, check out this guide by Pearson Edexcel.

For OCR, to pass the 2022 GCSE Maths higher paper, students needed to get at least 45 out of 300 marks. For more about this, check out this guide by OCR.

To see this information more clearly, check out this table:

GCSE Maths exam board Maximum mark Pass mark Percentage
AQA 240 51 21%
Pearson Edexcel 240 38 16%
OCR 300 45 15%

What grades do students get in GCSE Maths?

Above, it was mentioned how in order to pass GCSE Maths, students will need to achieve at least a grade 4. This is equivalent to the old grade C.  The number of marks students need to get on the exam to pass depends on the exam board, whether it was a higher or foundation paper and how all students taking that exam have performed.

In order to put this information into perspective, it can be useful to see what grades students actually receive in GCSE Maths. When looking at the distribution of grades, it is important to consider how many students pass with a grade of C/4 or above, how many students fail by getting less than this and how many students get very high grades of A/7 or above.

To learn about these distributions, check out the following sections.

How many students pass GCSE Maths?

From my own experiences, I know that schools can often pile on the pressure in their hopes to make you pass your exams. However, sometimes this pressure can have a negative effect and lead to students not being able to pass!

In 2022, 64.9% of GCSE Maths students passed, by getting at least a grade C/4. This is a middling percentage, between the levels pre-pandemic and during the pandemic.

For example, in both 2018 and 2019, 59.6% of students achieved at least a grade C/4 and so were able to pass GCSE Maths. However, in 2020, this was slightly more, with 66.4% of students passing GCSE Maths and an even higher number of 69.2% of students passing GCSE Maths in 2021.

The 2020 and 2021 grades are likely to be so high due to the fact that the exams were cancelled and so the grades were assigned by teachers. This has sparked claims of “grade inflation”, simply meaning that the grades are higher than they should be. To learn more about this, check out this guide by the House of Commons Library.

To see this information more clearly, please refer to the table below:

Year of exams Percentage of students with passing grades
2022 64.9%
2021 69.2%
2020 66.4%
2019 59.6%
2018 59.6%

To learn more about this data, check out this page of the Ofqual website.

How many students fail GCSE Maths?

Sometimes, students do not get the grades they want. This may simply be because it doesn’t fit into their idea of a “good” grade, which will be covered in more detail later on in this article. However, it may also be due to them failing their GCSE Maths paper.

As mentioned above, in 2022, 64.9% of GCSE Maths students were able to pass their exams with a grade C/4 or above. This also means that 35.1% of students weren’t able to pass.

If you would like to see the rates of not passing for 2022 and the previous years, check out the table below:

Year of exams Percentage of students that didn’t pass
2022 35.1%
2021 30.8%
2020 33.6%
2019 40.4%
2018 40.4%

For more on this data, check out the Ofqual website, linked above.

In 2022, 13.6% of students received a grade 3, which means that they were close to passing. In situations like this, it may be worth having your GCSE Maths papers remarked. This is because it could allow you to gain a grade 4, if you’re able to bank a few extra marks.

If not, failing GCSE Maths isn’t the end of the world (even if it feels like it). There are still a wide range of options for you, and you can even talk to your future-sixth form or college about these.

To learn more about what you should do if you do end up failing your GCSE Maths exams, check out this Think Student article.

How many students get a grade 7 or above in GCSE Maths?

In other times, students will find that they’ve done really well on their GCSE Maths exams. This may come as a surprise to them, or it may simply be a reflection of all the hard work that they’ve put in.

Regardless of how expected it was, it may make you wonder how common getting great grades, such As/7s, are particularly for a subject like GCSE Maths. In 2022, only 19.9% of students achieved a grade 7/A or above.

This is very similar to 2021, where 20.7% of students achieved grade 7 or above. Both of these figures are higher than the 18.9% of students who achieved a grade 7 in GCSE Maths in 2020.

However, all of these post-pandemic figures are much higher than the pre-pandemic ones. In 2019, only 15.9% of students achieved a grade 7 or higher for GCSE Maths. This is very similar to 2018, where it was only 15.8% of students. This is likely due to the “grade inflation” as mentioned above.

If you want to compare these figures, check out the following table:

Year of exams Percentage of students that got a grade 7/ A or above
2022 19.9%
2021 20.7%
2020 18.9%
2019 15.9%
2018 15.8%

Once again, these figures are from the Ofqual website, which is linked above.

What is a good grade for GCSE Maths?

Defining what a good grade is for any GCSE subject can be difficult. This is because it entirely depends on you, your situation and what you plan to do with these grades.

Particularly as GCSE Maths is a compulsory subject, a C or a grade 4 or 5 may be what is considered a good grade. This is because a grade 4 is considered a “standard pass” and a grade 5 is considered a “strong pass”.

However, this may not be seen as a good grade to some students. This is because if you want to continue studying a mathematical, scientific or otherwise technical subject, you could be required to get a higher grade than just a pass.

For example, for the sixth form I went to, students would need at least a grade 7 in GCSE Maths in order to study either A-Level Maths, A-Level Further Maths or A-Level Physics. To get more information about what requirements you will need to meet, it’s best to directly contact the sixth form or college that you’ve applied to.

Others may only feel that they’ve got a “good” grade in GCSE Maths if they fit into the top bracket of students who’ve got a grade 7 (equivalent to an A) or above. As the top grades, getting any of these is an incredible achievement and is good to aim for if you have the mathematical ability.

If you would like to learn more about which GCSE grades are considered “good”, you can check out this Think Student article.

What are the exam boards for GCSE Maths?

As mentioned above, the exact pass mark for GCSE Maths is calculated based on how students perform. However, the pass marks will be different for each exam board as the papers are not the same and so students will perform differently on each.

For GCSE subjects, there are 5 exam boards that students can take their exams with. These are AQA, Pearson Edexcel, OCR, WJEC/ Eduqas and CCEA. While all of these offer GCSE Maths, the main ones are AQA, Pearson Edexcel and OCR, so these are the ones that were focused on in this article.

What is AQA GCSE Maths like?

AQA is the largest exam board in England, making it one of the most important when considering GCSE Maths. To learn more about it, check out this page on their website.

For AQA GCSE Maths, students take 3 papers – one of these will be a non-calculator paper and the other 2 are calculator papers. Each one of these papers are 80 marks each and so students can get a maximum of 240 marks in total. To learn more about this, look at this page on the AQA website.

What is Pearson Edexcel GCSE Maths like?

For GCSE Maths, the Pearson Edexcel exam set up is very similar to that of AQA. In fact, the formatting is the same with any differences being in the actual exam content.

Students will once again do 3 papers, with two being calculator papers and one being a non-calculator paper. These also amount to a total of 240 marks, with each paper being worth 80. For more on this, check out this guide by Pearson Edexcel.

What is OCR GCSE Maths like?

The exam set up for OCR GCSE Maths is slightly different. This is clear as it differs from the 240 mark maximum of the other two exam boards.

Students will still have to take 3 papers, 2 of which are calculator and one that is non-calculator.  However, each of these papers is worth 100 marks, rather than 80, so students can get a maximum of 300 marks between them. To learn more about this, check out this page of the OCR website.

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char
char
2 years ago

how many marks do have to get out of 80 for foundation maths for a grade 4 please?

Sis
Sis
Reply to  char
1 year ago

I want to know too