Attempting to grade 1 to 9

WARNING: I am fully aware that the following is statistical hell. There is no sure fire way of doing the below. It is one method and it won’t be perfect but I thought some people might find it useful.


Have you got the foggiest what a grade 5 looks like? Do you know a grade 9 when you see it?

I certainly don’t and nor do my team. Yet.

Since the start of September all my team have been asking how we are going to grade 1 to 9 on the new reformed GCSE. In all honesty there is no real way of working it out precisely. BUT the kids are asking, the staff are asking and pretty soon the parents will be too. So below is a method I used to work out some rough percentages of what I think it could look like for the OCR SHP History GCSE.

Here is how I worked out this beast:

1. Work out the average grade boundaries

On the OCR website I pulled out the raw scores to achieve each grade over the last 3 years, so in our case what was needed to get an A* on the Medicine / Germany paper, the public health paper and the controlled assessment. I did this for each paper over the three years and then did an average of all the averages. In our case it looked like this:


2. Use this to work out 7, 4 and 1

The government have said that the percentage of students achieving 7 will be broadly in line with those achieving A grade and above now. They’ve also said that those students achieving 4 and above will be broadly in line with those getting C grade and above. And finally they’ve said that those students achieving 1 and above will be broadly in line with G and above.

Well if we know the average grade boundary for an A grade we can assume this will be the grade boundary for a 7. Same for a 4 and a 1. Bob’s your uncle that’s three of the pesky grades done.

3. Calculate 5,6,2 and 3

The government have said that grades 2,3,5 and 6 will be arithmetically calculated. 5 and 6 will be equal points away from 4 and 7. Therefore if you know 4 and 7 you can work out the difference in between them. 5 is just 4 plus one third of the difference and 5 is 4 plus two thirds of the difference. You can do the same with 2 and 3. Now you’ve got grade boundaries for 7 grades.

4. Wave your wand over 8 and 9

This is where it gets a bit fishy. 8 sounds to me in all the guidance like our current A*, so I just put in the grade boundary for the A*. Then to make 9 I worked out the difference between 7 and 8 and added it to 8 to give 9. This is the least exact bit of the bunch but I needed something. You now have 9 grade boundaries.

All in all the one for OCR SHP History GCSE for us looks like this:



Now you can take this further and we will. We also need to work out whether we are ‘on track’ or not and this is going to be difficult, but it’s not impossible. This is how we are going to do it.

1. Work out the average percentages per grade at your school

I took the last five years results and calculated the average percentage per grade achieved at the end of Year 11. Then I created a cumulative percentage, so the average percentage that achieved A and above etc. etc.

2. Follow the government guidance

Again (and I repeat) the government have said that the % of students achieving a 7 or more will be broadly in line with those achieving A or more and that those achieving 4 or more will be broadly in line with those achieving C or more. Therefore if we know the average % of our students that achieve A grade or more normally and those that achieve C grade or more normally we have two benchmarks to judge ourselves against. Lovely stuff. For us (we are a high achieving school) this looks like this:




One thought on “Attempting to grade 1 to 9

  1. Thanks for sharing! We’re with AQA and I’ve used a very similar approach to you based on previous AQA boundaries, but with a couple of concerns/differences – I wonder what people think about:
    1) whether to include previous boundaries for controlled assessment in the calculations or not-I have not as I think it skews the boundaries as the future is just exam-based.
    2) the % of cohort getting a 4 = % of cohort getting a c does not mean that the grade boundaries will be the same or even similar – I’m trying to think ‘what will legacy spec c grade kids be able to do on the new mark schemes?’ and the same for a/a*… i.e. On the new AQA spec I think it is harder to get the top marks than it used to be on most questions, but not necessarily harder to get the middle marks? Although I think timing issues are harder so that will affect things…so many factors to weigh up! Finding it really tough to know where to draw the line.

    However, based on the above, the %s we’re using have a 9 at a bit higher, and the 6,5,4 at slightly lower than you.
    All of this is lower than what a lot of departments seem to be using, based on online comments…it’s a mug’s game this!

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