GCSE Top Grades Fall by 4.3% with 203,000 Fewer 7-9 Grades Awarded


The percentage of top grades awarded in GCSE exams has decreased compared to last year, with England experiencing the sharpest drop.

In total, 22.0% of UK GCSE entries received grades of at least 7 or an A, marking a 4.3 percentage point decline from the previous year’s 26.3%. Despite this decrease, the current percentage remains higher than the 20.8% recorded in 2019 prior to the pandemic.

Approximately 203,000 fewer top grades were awarded this year compared to the previous year, although there were 142,000 more top grades compared to 2019.

The proportion of entries achieving at least a 4 or C grade also fell from 73.2% in 2022 to 68.2% in 2023, though this figure is higher than the 67.3% recorded in 2019.

Regional Variations in Grading

GCSE grading varied across different parts of the UK.


In England, the percentage of entries achieving grades 7/A or above was 21.6%, a decline of 4.4 percentage points from the previous year.

In Wales, the figure was 21.7%, a decrease of 3.4 points, while Northern Ireland saw a 2.5-point drop to 34.5%.

Exam regulators in Wales and Northern Ireland anticipate returning to pre-pandemic levels by the next year.

The disparity in grading methods across the UK regions has prompted discussions about potential impacts on students’ opportunities.

Gender and Subject Trends

The gender gap in top GCSE grades has narrowed, with 24.9% of female entries receiving grades of 7/A or above, compared to 19.1% of male entries.


This gap is the narrowest since 2009.

Notably, business studies saw a significant increase in entries, rising by 14.8%, while music experienced a decline of 12.5% in entries.

Impact of the Pandemic and Teacher Shortages

The COVID-19 pandemic led to disruptions in education, impacting GCSE results.

The Liberal Democrats in England raised concerns about non-specialist teachers teaching a substantial portion of lessons over the past two years, potentially affecting the quality of education.

Efforts to address these concerns include proposals for teacher development programs and pay reforms.


Future Prospects and Conclusion

While this year’s GCSE results reflect a decrease in top grades awarded, educators and policymakers emphasize the importance of getting grading back to normal to maintain the value of the qualifications.

The variations in grading across different UK regions have sparked discussions about fairness and continuity for students.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, students are encouraged to pursue various pathways for their future education and careers, such as vocational qualifications, A-levels, and apprenticeships.

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