What is the Average GCSE Grade in the UK?

In GCSE by Think Student Editor3 Comments

The current pandemic has greatly affected our education, with lockdown and online school taking up a large proportion of our learning, and it is natural that students may feel worried or confused about expected GCSE results this year. Even before the pandemic, GCSEs have been a root cause of the average year 11 student’s stress, with the last few months of revision rotating around practice papers under timed conditions and working towards scoring a higher grade each time. The uncertainty surrounding GCSEs has been more prevalent this year and the last, and therefore being able to place yourself on a ranking scale can provide some assurance. I am going to explain the ‘average’ GCSE grade and guide you through ways you can use this information to your advantage! 

To answer the question proposed, the ‘average’ GCSE grade lies between a grade 5 and a grade 6 when taking all subjects into account, however data provides specific figures for each subject, and these include 5.5 for Maths, 4.2 for Combined Science, 4.9 for History, 5 for English Language, 5 for English Literature, 6.5 for Biology, Chemistry and Physics, 4.8 for French, 5.2 for Drama, 5 for Art, 4.5 for Geography, and 5.1 for Religious Studies. Despite this, these figures are simply a guideline for students wondering how they would rank nationally, so don’t let them bog you down and instead focus on perfecting your classwork and making personal progress. 

The above states the exact numerical figures for the average GCSE grades for some core subjects as well as some GCSE options, however, keep reading this article to find out more on what to do with these averages in relation to your studies.  

What is the Average GCSE Grade Overall?

As a student, you will certainly know that the subjects you take at GCSE have an uncanny amount of crossover when it comes to applying skills- the Physics paper is 31% maths! Despite this, it is very clear that the assessment style and specification content are extremely varied. Nevertheless, the question arises: what is the average GCSE grade overall? To answer this question shortly, the average GCSE grade is roughly a 5.1, which is considered a ‘strong pass’ (whereas a grade 4 is considered a ‘pass’). This means that a large proportion of students across the nation are expected to pass most of their subjects; this is expected as the exam boards would not create exams that are so difficult that the majority of students are not able to pass.  

The government has declared a grade 5 to be a high C or a low B on the old grading system and is considered to be a great achievement. Passing exams with a grade 4 ensures that students are not required to re sit them again post-16, when it comes to job or university applications. The average GCSE grade may vary ever so slightly across exam boards, so if you wish to find out more, follow this link. 

What is the Average GCSE Grade for Maths?

As briefed above, the ‘average’ GCSE grade for Maths is placed at a grade 5.5, slightly above a ‘strong pass’. Many students claim that Maths sparks their natural interest, whilst 11% said that the prospect of a better college and career path is their main motivation for the subject. More on this can be found here. These career paths may include science or engineering-related careers, since Maths and Physics usually pair up in this case.  

A grade 5.5 is more than sufficient to apply to college and pursue your desired course. Despite this, recent data shows that students achievements have excelled from a 5.5, with a greater proportion of students achieving a grade 8 or grade 9 (7.2% and 3.7% respectively). The latter being equivalent to a grade even higher than the old A*. 

Whilst achieving such wonderful achievements may feel like a million miles away for some students, it is closer to your hands than you may think! By knowing the average of 5.5, you can spend these next few months perhaps setting some goals. Depending on where you are currently; these may be to work your way up to the average, reach the average or even exceed the average!

Whilst knowing that the average can be used as a good comparison factor, it is nothing compared to personal progress. Therefore, focusing on beating your previous grade is a much more useful way of improving and exceeding the average without even realising! 

What is the Average GCSE Grade for English Language?

According to recent data carried out, the average GCSE grade for English Language lies between a grade of 4.9 and 5.1, based off data from the previous two years. English language finds itself to be one of the most essential subjects to pass, out of all the GCSEs taken. Most UK university and college courses require a pass in English Language. It builds on the skill of reviewing, comprehending and analysing both non-fictional and fictional texts. Therefore, it is clear why many careers require a pass in this subject.  

Recent data from the Schools Week Reporter displays the fact that the amount of grade 7s achieved by students across the UK, has plummeted from 9.7% to 9.1%. However, this should not worry most students as there has been a rise in grades 8, 9 and 4 being achieved.

This means that students are more likely to score highly or pass sufficiently. With the grade 8 being given to 5.5% of students and grade 9s being awarded to 2.8% of students. This shows that more of the student population are scoring highly in the exams and are able to apply to courses which require a high grade in English Language.  

However, this is not only limited to the high-scoring portion; a 0.3% rise in students being awarded a grade 4 for GCSE English Language, means that they are also available to apply to a wide range of university and college courses. This is because they meet the ‘standard pass’ required to be accepted as part of those programmes.  

Using the average to help you understand where you are nationally can be helpful for GCSE English Language. However, with this subject focusing on improving exam technique and practicing under timed conditions can arguably be more beneficial than spending time obsessing over statistics.  

What is the Average Grade for GCSE English Literature?

When most students compare GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature, the latter may stand out more as the more prestigious. This could be because English Literature involves studying well-known texts such as Shakespeare’s plays and war/love poetry. Naturally, one would expect prestige to come with more work and greater difficulty to score highly. However, the average GCSE grade for English Literature was also between 4.9 and 5.1 

The GCSE English Literature exam typically involves analysis questions and a longer essay compared to English Language. There may also be a variation between exam boards. The exam is closed book, meaning that you are unable to bring any textual references into the exam with you. Some students find this to be difficult. This means you are not only required to analyse the question and write a well-thought-out answer, but you are also required to memorise quotations to gain evidence marks in your writing. 

Additionally, the time pressures of the exam can cause some students to lose marks. This is because they run out of time when jotting all their ideas down, losing time to analyse each one.  

Despite this, recent data shows that the results of GCSE English Literature from the past two years have significantly improved. There is a greater proportion of the national student population achieving higher grades, with 3.7% achieving grade 9’s, 6.4% achieving grade 8’s and 10.6% achieving grade 7’s. These are equivalent to the range between a high A* and an A.  

Whilst most college courses and university courses do not require more than a 4 (or sometimes even less). You shouldn’t limit yourself from achieving a high-end grade as it certainly can contribute to your studies in the future.  

If you would like to know more about English Language and Literature, then read this student article that debates which is more important. 

What is the Average Grade for GCSE Science?

The average grade for GCSE Combined Science ranges between 4.1 to 4.4. Which as mentioned before, is classed as a ‘good pass’ and the grade that most students will be satisfied with. The pass mark for Combined Science is a grade 3. GCSE Combined Science covers the same material as Triple Science. However, Combined Science has less material to cover compared with Triple, meaning that, when given the option, most students are likely to choose the former over the latter. This is despite the fact that Combined Science isn’t necessarily easier than Triple Science. Read this student article about whether you should take triple science. 

In the past year, the proportion of students who received high grades in Combined Science raised slightly. However, the rest of the grade proportions have remained static or fallen. More information on the specific statistics can be found here. 

Generally, GCSE Science mainly involves learning information. However, it is important that you understand the information instead of simply memorising it. This is because you are likely to be asked questions which require you to apply your current knowledge onto unknown scenarios. This is something which some students may find daunting but can easily be overcome with the right amount of practice.  

Does it Matter if You are Below the Average Grade for Any Subject?

As you know, averages are calculated by calculating the sum of the components and dividing by the number of components themselves. In this case, the grades of all the students in the UK are added together and divided by the number of students. Therefore, the average grade can be used as a means of comparing where you stand on a national ranking and give you an idea of how much work you need to put in to reach your desired position.

The average can also provide you with some idea of how to plan your commencing revision and pinpoint your weak points that require work. Being given an average can be a great way to know how well you’re doing relative to the exam and your classmates. In any class exam, an average grade is usually a reassurance (or a wakeup call!). It also highlights perhaps the difficulty of the exam and your place relative to that.  

Despite this, solely knowing the average grade should not benefit you greatly, as it is the revision, planning and practice which ultimately guarantees you your deserved grade, whether the results be via a summary of classwork or the actual exam. See the end of this article for some fantastic links that provide in depth revision tips. 

It is important not to get hung up on the average, and do not be discouraged if your predicted grade does not line up or exceed the average gradeRemember that the average will always change depending on the exam results on the whole- it is unlikely that you will face an unexpectedly terrible grade! If you spend your time focusing on improving your grade alone, then you will naturally reach and exceed the average without even realising.  

When it comes to improving your grade in the months of revision ahead, consider making a revision schedule if that’s something which appeals to you. Recognising your strengths and weaknesses are vital when it comes to allocating revision time. It can also be a great way to work efficiently whilst still having a healthy balance for free time activities. 

To reiterate, the average grade calculations fluctuate all the time. Don’t worry if you aren’t achieving average in a certain subject. Everybody’s strengths lie in different areas, you may be above average in another subject. Instead use these averages as a lever to improve your learning experience and revision techniques leading up to the exam. 

I recommend you check out these student articles below to help with your revision: 

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4 months ago

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4 months ago


4 months ago

Studying for my GCSEs with an average predicted grade of around 7, my highest is an 8 in maths and a 9 in religion, but i think that might be a fluke as I’m an atheist 😉