It’s all about the grades.

Now that is something you won’t hear me say very often!

Tutor In A Box subscription boxes are designed to be fun, engaging and interactive. They are a no pressure, non-competitive activity where grades are not important. HOWEVER, since starting the box (and tutoring – you can see more about that on my tutoring website) we’ve had quite a few questions about grading – and in particular what it means.

So this blog is dedicated to informing you about what the current grading system is for Maths (and soon to be all) GCSE’s – and what the standard pass is…

A bit of history…

The grading used to be marked by letters. It was rated on A* – G, with an A* being the best possible grade, and a G being the not so best grade. The grade C was deemed as a ‘pass’ and this was someones ticket to get a job, go to college or similar! Most places (either workplaces or places of further study) require a grade C in Maths, English and Science as part of the entry criteria.Now, a few years ago they changed it! 

They wanted to mix things up and keep us on our toes – so low and behold we now use numbers instead of letters. This new scheme introduced numbers – starting a 9 (which was the best) and going all the way down to 1 (the not so best). This means that your 1 is roughly the equivalent of a ‘G’ and 9 is roughly the same as an A*. Now, for those that are really interested, I use the word ‘roughly’ because they don’t match exactly. The government (or someone else in charge) decided an A* was apparently too easy, so they created a grade 9 which is the actual equivalent of an A** – so even harder than previously!

tutor in a box maths subscription box

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Right, so they’ve swapped to numbers rather than letters. After that, they needed to figure out what a ‘pass’ would be. Since a pass opens up so many opportunities (whether that be an interview for college or an interview for an apprenticeship) people needed to know what a pass was – so what number they should be looking out for and bench marking people against.

Now, you can read all about the in’s and out’s of it elsewhere, but the brief version (and the important part) is that they have created two levels of passes. There is a ‘pass’ and then a ‘good pass.’

  • A pass is a grade 4, and a good pass (or strong pass as they call it) is grade 5.  Side note – as a maths person, I don’t really like the idea of this; a pass is supposed to be binary – yes or no, good or bad, 1 or 0 – it shouldn’t be a good or standard pass it should just be a pass or fail (but then I’m not in charge so I don’t make the rules)!
  • This means that colleges usually ask for a 4, however they look more favourably at those with a 5.
  • Whilst technically with a 4 you have passed (and so you’re likely to be accepted into most places), a 5 gives you that extra bit. That extra step up that says you can do maths, and you can do maths well.
  • With a grade 4 you won’t be made to re-take maths at college or similar (because you’ve passed) but you may not be able to access all courses.
Looking UPWARDS, this means that:

  • 6 is roughly a high B
  • 7 or 8 are roughly an A
  • The new grade 9 is supposed to be the equivalent of A* or A**
  • Looking DOWNWARDS, this means that:

  • 3 is the equivalent of a D (so just missing that pass grade)
  • 2 the equivalent of about an E or F
  • 1 being a low F or G.
  • So, why is this important?

    Well, it’s important for two reasons – the first is that it’s useful to know – if someone comes along for a job as an accountant and they have a grade 1, you should question them on their skill level! However if someone comes along with a grade 9, you know they’re good with numbers! Secondly everyone in education is expected to pass Maths as it’s a core curriculum subject. This means teenagers have to keep studying Maths (and English) until they pass it – and remember a standard pass is now a grade 4 (although I think everyone is capable of at least a 5!).


    Got questions about this? Or wondering where your child is at?

    Feel free to comment below or drop me an email on

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