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2017 GCSE Maths Grade Boundaries (Edexcel)

tutor2u Maths

24th August 2017

The results are in, so what's the verdict on the grade boundaries for the new GCSE maths examinations? Well, here are the boundaries for Edexcel alongside the grade boundaries for the previous three years:

Edexcel Higher Tier Grade Boundaries (%)

At Higher tier, the percentage required to achieve the top grade 9 is lower than what's been required in recent years to achieve the top grade A*, with one exception (Summer 2015). The average for a grade A* in the last three years has been 83%.  The grade 9 boundary in this year's examinations was 79%. 

The grade 9 has been designed to distinguish the very strongest mathematicians, but to achieve grade 9 students needed 4% less than they would have done to achieve a grade A* previously (on average).  This might be surprising. However, as intended under the new reformed GCSE, the examinations were much harder this year. 

For this year's exams, the exam boards agreed that a grade 7 was equivalent to the old grade A.  The grade boundary for a grade 7 this year was 52%.  Previously for a grade A you needed around 67% (the average for recent years).  So, comparing old with new as far as the benchmark grade A (now grade 7), students needed 15% less than they would have done previously.

The grade 4 pass at 17% is down on what was previously required for a pass: grade C, for which 31% was needed before (on average over the last three years).

Edexcel Foundation Tier Grade Boundaries (%)

The pass grade under the new GCSE 9-1 this year is a grade 4.  Previously, grade C was a pass.  Students needed 51% for a grade 4 this year compared to 60% for a grade C previously (60% was the average for grade C in recent years). That's 9% less for a pass. Considering how much harder the exams were this year (the added content at foundation tier, the increased level of difficulty due to problem solving and reasoning), this might seem challenging.  

At the lower end of the spectrum, to avoid the grade U, 11% was needed. This is much lower than what was previously required for a grade G.  The average for grade G in recent years was 25%.  Again, considering the increased level of difficulty, it is no surprise that this grade boundary is lower. 

Firstly, all the grade boundaries are lower.  This was expected.  The exam boards agreed that the same proportion of students achieving a grade 4 (pass) and a grade 7 should be the same as those achieving grade C and A before.  Assuming the ability of students has remained the same, the grade boundaries had to be lower this year for these proportions to be achievable under the harder exams. 

There is a notable difference between the grade boundaries for the higher and foundation tiers.  Other than grades 7 and A, and grades 4 and C, it's not really possible to compare old with new grades.  However, the grade boundaries for the higher tier under this new GCSE appear to have been lowered further than those at foundation tier.  Why?  Perhaps fewer students were entered for the higher tier which needed the grade boundaries to be lowered further.  Perhaps those foundation tier students who would have previously sat higher tier raised the boundaries at foundation tier.  We'll have to wait for the exam boards to publish the numbers of entries.

Making comparisons between the old and new GCSE maths is not an exact science.  Comparing old with new is difficult.  Two things are certain.  This year's GCSE maths was much harder, and students faced a lot of uncertainty.  Well done to the Class of 2017!

tutor2u Maths

​The tutor2u Maths team comprise experienced GCSE and A Level Maths teachers and examiners with wide experience of all the main exam boards.

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