2022 GCSE Results Explained


We hope you find this feature on 2022 GCSE results and other 2022 GCSE pass mark related content useful. 

Our GCSE past exam papers

Summary of GCSE 2022 updates

  • 2022 GCSE grading is no harsher than previous GCSE year.
  • The 2021/22 GCSE curriculum was meant to have more content. 
    Whilst some GCSE questions in the 2022 GCSE exam papers are intended to be harder. This is needed to identify GCSE GRADE 9’s.
  • 2022 GCSE pupils were given more info by the key GCSE exam boards, namely: PearsonOCRAQA and Eduqas.

How will 2022 GCSE boundaries be set?

  • All these GCSE exam boards are being more lenient thiar when setting GCSE grade boundaries. A mid-point is being taken by GCSE exam boards between the last normal GCSE 2019 year and 2021 GCSE teacher assessments.

Student taking certain GCSEs have been given fewer topics to learn and will be allowed to use support materials. This provides a nudge up, hopefully, for those GCSE students who might miss out on a higher grade.


2023 GCSE pass marks

Some of these changes will be scrapped in 2023. The Department for Education has already confirmed it wants to return to normal as soon as possible.


What about Northern Ireland GCSEs 2022?

Northern Ireland GCSEs 2022 are following a very similar approach to those English GCSE 2022 adaptations already announced.  For the same reasons – the widespread Covid-19 disruptions to secondary school education in Northern Island secondary schools.

The aim is to help support Northern Ireland pupils and to increase their confidence about taking their 2022 GCSEs after two very challenging academic years.

Northern Ireland’s GCSE exams board CCEA has already published details of which GCSE, AS and A-level exams have been omitted from certain 2022 GCSE, 2022 AS and 2022 A-level exam papers.


What about long Covid students taking GCSEs in summer 2022?

Is long Covid would be counted as a special consideration reason?

Meaning that a 2022 GCSE student could miss the set GCSE exam(s). and would be entitled to receive alternative GCSE exam arrangements.

Firstly, a special consideration exemption is possible but only if that pupil’s long Covid condition worsens during the 2022 GCSE exam period.

Although long Covid will remain classed as an “ongoing condition”. In other words 2022 GCSE students who are diagnosed must still sit their scheduled GCSE exams. But only as long as their school has made suitable adjustments. These are known as access arrangements.

So, a Head can apply for special consideration?

The answer to this key question is yes. But only if a Long Covid-infected pupil’s condition worsens around the time that a 2022 exam is due to happen.

Access arrangements might include taking the exam in a different room, being able to take rest breaks, extra time or completing the examination from home.

 JCQ quidance overview

  • Special consideration is available for Long Covid students who are “having repeated difficulty maintaining concentration during examinations” despite having “previously approved” adjustments, such as supervised rest breaks.
  • However, it cannot apply to students with a long term illness or other difficulties during the course, “unless the illness or circumstances exacerbate what would otherwise be a minor issue at the time of the assessment”.
  • A doctor’s note would not be needed to support the application. Since whether a student is struggling would be “evident to the invigilation team”. 
  • Special considerations exist for exam candidates who have temporarily experienced illness, injury or some other event outside of their control at the time of the assessment. These apply when “the issue or event has had, or is reasonably likely to have had, a material effect on a candidate’s ability to take an assessment or demonstrate” their “normal level of attainment in an assessment”.

What are the new 2022 GCSE grade boudaries?


In the current grading system, a score of 9, 8 and 7 are equivalent to an A* and A. A 9 is for a student who has performed exceptionally well – usually in the top 5% of the cohort. The previous C grade has been replaced with two grades which are both considered a pass: Grade 5 is known as a strong pass; Grade 4 is a standard pass.

  • 9 = High A* 
  • 8 = Low A* or high A grade
  • 7 = Low A grade
  • 6 = High B grade
  • 5 = Low B or high C grade
  • 4 = Low C grade
  • 3 = D or high E grade
  • 2 = Low E or high F grade
  • 1 = Low F or G grade
  • U = U

In order to ensure continuity and fairness, the system has been designed so that the bottom of grade 1 aligns with the bottom of grade G, the bottom of grade 4 aligns with the bottom of grade C and the bottom of grade 7 aligns with the bottom of grade A.

This means that any student who would have achieved at least a grade C, for example, would now achieve at least a grade 4 and this makes it easier for educational establishments and employers to draw comparisons between the old and new grades. 

Prior to the system changing, a grade C was considered a pass at GCSE. This translates to a grade 4 in the new system, which is considered a ‘standard pass’. It is expected that, where a grade C has previously been accepted as an entry requirement into further education or employment, a grade 4 would now be accepted. 

Grade 5 has been labelled a ‘good pass’ and it is worth noting that schools will be held to account for the percentage of students achieving grade 5 or higher.

In terms of GCSE exam papers, the new foundation paper will cover the grading scale 1-5 and the new higher paper will cover the grading scale 3-9.

What happens if I am ill on the day of my GCSE exam?

If you are unwell and have a high temperature on the day of your exam, then the advice from the UK Health Security Agency is to stay at home.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you will be asked to fill out a form and your school or college will use this to request “special consideration” from your exam board.

As examinations have been spaced by at least 10 days this year, you will be able to receive grades based on the other components completed.

In Scotland, if you are ill, you can have an “exceptional circumstance” request submitted by your school, college or training provider.


What happens if I feel I messed up my exam?

Many people come out of the exam hall feeling they haven’t performed as well as they had hoped. If that’s you, then the NHS recommends having a chat to a friend, teacher or family member about what went well. Then try and focus on the next exam.

If you are unhappy when your grade is released, talk to your school or college. They can advise what your options are and can submit a request to the exam board on your behalf through the appeals process.

Why have they changed the GCSE grades?

GCSEs in England have been reformed. All courses are now linear, meaning that they are examined at the end of the course rather than in modules throughout the course. They also contain new and more demanding content, with the aim being to bring English standards up to match those in other high performing countries.

Changing the grading system is a clear way of indicating that the GCSE courses have changed. It is also hoped that the new system will give sixth forms, colleges, universities and employers a better idea of what level someone is working at. There is also the ability to micro-distinguish between the various grades, such as 7, 8 and 9.

What are the GCSE grade boundaries?

The GCSE grade boundaries tell us the number of raw marks that a student is required to achieve in order to receive a certain grade. The grade boundaries are different for each subject and vary slightly each year in order to ensure the system is fair for students.

Each year the grade boundaries are set by senior examiners and these grade boundaries will determine whether a student achieves a grade 1, 2, 3, … etc.

We hope our explanations of 2022 GCSE Results and 2022 GCSE grade boundaries are helfpul.

Exam boards strive to ensure that it is no easier or harder to achieve a particular grade from one year to the next. This means that if one year’s paper is harder than a previous year’s paper, the grade boundaries are lowered to reflect this, depending on maximum marks and minimum marks. This principle is called Comparable Outcomes.

Grade boundaries for a subject are decided after the exams have been sat and all of the marking has been completed.

Senior examiners take into account a number of factors when deciding on grade boundaries.

These include:

  • Feedback from examiners about the particular paper;
  • Question papers from previous years;
  • Data about the previous achievements of the cohort of students taking the exam;
  • Previous statistics. 

Examiners look especially carefully at the work of students around the grade boundaries to decide where the grade boundaries should be set. 

When are the GCSE grade boundaries released?

Grade boundaries are released on GCSE results day. Much like A Levels, they used to be released prior to results day, but this was changed to try and reduce stress amongst students who were trying to predict their grades. The grade boundaries from previous years can be found on the websites of each exam board.

We hope our explanations of 2022 GCSE Results and 2022 GCSE grade boundaries are helfpul.

What were the GCSE grade boundaries in 2019?

Grade boundaries are set by each exam board based on the papers they have set. We are going to look at the grade boundaries in maths for each exam board for 2019. This is currently our best reference year since students did not sit exams in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and GCSE grades were decided by exam centres.

Edexcel mathematics grade boundaries

  9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Higher 198 167 137 108 80 52 38    
Lower         184 149 111 73 36

AQA mathematics grade boundaries

  9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Higher 206 171 136 105 74 43 27    
Lower         157 122 89 57 25

We hope our explanations of 2022 GCSE Results and 2022 GCSE grade boundaries are helfpul.

OCR mathematics grade boundaries

  9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Higher 256
Lower         189

WJEC mathematics grade boundaries

  9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Higher 193 157 122 93 64 36 22    
Lower         146 115 84 53 23

All marks are out of 240, except OCR where the marks are out of 300. For comparison, the numbers in brackets for OCR represent the scaled grade boundary had it been out of 240.

We hope our explanations of 2022 GCSE Results and 2022 GCSE grade boundaries are helfpul.

Ofqual rules regarding design of exam papers

As part of the redesigned maths course, Ofqual set some rules regarding the design of exam papers to ensure exam boards are consistent in the way they are setting their papers.

These rules state that:

  • In a higher tier paper, half of the marks should be targeted at grades 9, 8 and 7 and the other half of the marks should be targeted at grades 6, 5 and 4.
  • In a foundation tier paper, half of the marks should be targeted at grades 5, 4 and the top of grade 3 and the other half of the marks should be targeted at the bottom of grade 3 and grades 2 and 1.

When setting these rules, it was Ofqual’s aim to ensure that there is sufficient challenge across the ability range. It does mean that higher papers now contain more demanding questions and that only around 20% of the questions on the paper are designed for grade 4. This helps to explain the low grade boundaries for a grade 4 on higher papers.

We hope our explanations of 2022 GCSE Results and 2022 GCSE grade boundaries are helfpul.

What proportion of students achieve each GCSE grade?

This will vary between different year groups and different subjects. The grade boundaries are not decided so that a certain proportion achieve each grade but by the difficulty of the paper and the prior data of the cohort taking the paper.

We can, however, look at data from previous years to give us an idea of the proportion who achieve each grade.

In 2019, for example, the following percentages of students achieved each grade:

2019 U 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 9-4
Maths 2.3% 6.9% 12.6% 18.6% 19.9% 14.8% 9% 7.4% 5.6% 2.9% 59.6%
Total 1.7% 4.5% 9.5% 17.3% 16.4% 16.6% 13.4% 9.4% 6.7% 4.5% 67%

2022 GCSE Results explained

You can see from the table that in 2019, 59.6% of those who sat GCSE maths received a grade 9-4. You can also see that overall, 67% of the GCSE grades awarded across all subjects were grade 9-4s. The percentage of students achieving grades 9-4 in maths is lower than the percentage receiving grades 9-4 across all subjects.

The results for GCSE English language are similar to those for maths, and one factor in this could be that every student has to take maths and English, whereas other subjects are chosen by the student.

Centre assessed grades in 2020 and 2021

It is interesting to compare the results in 2018 and 2019 to those in 2020 and 2021 when results were decided by teacher assessment.

The following chart shows the proportion of students achieving each grade in maths over the years 2018-2021:

gcse grade boundaries, Third Space Learning

We hope our explanations of 2022 GCSE Results and 2022 GCSE grade boundaries are helfpul.

We can see that in 2020 and 2021 the percentages achieving the lower grades noticeably decreased whilst the percentages achieving the higher grades increased. This is particularly noticeable in the percentage achieving grades 9-4.

2022 GCSE grade boundaries explained

Examining previous data, we can see that this is an anomaly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is one that does not just affect the maths results.

The following table shows the percentages gaining 9-4, or the equivalent A*-C, over the past 8 years:

  Maths A*-C or 9-4 Total A*-C or 9-4
2021 69.2% 76.9%
2020 66.4% 75.9%
2019 59.6% 67%
2018 59.4% 66.9%
2017 59.4% 65.3%
2016 61% 66.9%
2015 63.3% 69%
2014 62.4% 68.8%

The percentages remained fairly consistent, even during the crossover to the new grading system, until 2020.

In fact, maths was one of the subjects that was affected least. If we look at computer science, for example, the percentage achieving 9-4 jumped from 62.6% in 2018 to 80.1% in 2020.

What about other GCSE subjects?

In general, the proportions achieving each grade in each subject does vary. Let’s have a look at the proportion achieving 9-4 in 2019 across a few subjects:

Maths 59.6%
English language 61.8%
Physical education 71.8%
Religious studies 72.3%
German 75.8%
Double award science 55.4%
Physics 90.8%

We hope our explanations of 2022 GCSE Results and 2022 GCSE grade boundaries are helfpul.

Maths and English both sit at around 60%, with other subjects coming in at just above 70%. It is worth considering the situation with science. In general, higher ability students are entered for separate sciences, whilst lower ability students are entered for double or single award science. This could explain the differences between the grades awarded in these subjects.

Some of the subjects with the highest grade boundaries are modern foreign languages such as Urdu, Punjabi and Polish. This is likely because those taking these GCSEs are native speakers of the languages in question. 89.9% of those taking modern foreign languages in 2019 received a grade 9-4. 

Grading in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland

The grading system is different in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Wales reformed their GCSEs in 2015 but still use the A*-G grading system. Northern Ireland has introduced a new grade, C*, and so now also has a 9 point grading system. Students taking exams under English exam boards will receive grades 9-1. Scotland has a separate exam system, Scottish Highers. Scottish National 5 certificates grade A to C are equivalent to GCSEs grade 4 to 9.

Further reading:

What 2022 GCSE pass mark is most likely?

  • A few years ago now, a GCSE pass was graded C’.
  • The current GCSE grading scheme has…
    • Both a standard pass (GCSE grade ‘4’) and
    • A strong pass (GCSE grade ‘5’).

Good luck with our GCSE exam papers!