Understanding your GCSE Results

The Grade Boundaries, remarks and how UMS actually works


The grade boundaries are a particular source of discussion in the follow up to the 2016 GCSE results day, with many arguing that the largest fall in numbers of passes since in the inception of GCSE’s in 1988, comes down to the fact that the grade boundaries are higher than in previous years. What are the reasons for higher grade boundaries? It is mainly down to the examiners and those who set the papers to judge the difficulty of the paper and therefore judge the mark scheme and grade boundaries accordingly, it is clear that they felt some exams were easier than previous years and so followed up by increasing the grade boundaries slightly. Furthermore, examiners will have in their head a percentage for the amount of A*s they want to give, say 15 for example, therefore once all the exams have been marked they will calculate sufficiently to work out what overall mark leads to around 15% of students getting A*s, the rest of the grade boundaries will be worked out from there. For example, if every student scored 150 in this year’s exam, not all students would receive and A* grade, the examiners will change the grade boundaries so that only students who score 170/175 would receive and A* and the other students would filter into the other grade boundaries.   


GCSE Grade boundaries


Above are the grade boundaries for the GCSE Mathematics exams on the AQA spectrum. These are the raw marks for which you will need to attain in order to get those particular grades. The raw mark required for an A* has risen by an extra 5 marks from the 2016 paper and the other grades will have also risen accordingly.




The UMS (Uniform Mark scale) allows examinations boards to come up with an overall mark for set papers allowing the statistics boards to work out the national results and average. The UMS works by multiplying the raw mark by a multiplier than either adding or subtracting a few marks to work out the UMS. For example, if the paper was out of 50 and the UMS for it was 100, your raw mark would be multiplied by 2. For instance, if you score 38 out of 50, the UMS score for the paper could range between 74-78% putting you firmly into a grade boundary set by the examiners. These UMS marks will play more of an important role when it comes to A-Levels where there are more separate units for each subject and the UMS is added up across both of the years.




If you have had the results and have noticed you are just a few marks away from a higher grade, there is an option to send it back to be remarked. There is a price for a remark, around £30, and should be considered if you feel that it could genuinely be changed. Some schools may pay for this however not all schools will offer to do so, therefore it will be coming out of your own pocket. However, should the remark be successful in changing your grade you will receive a full refund.  The interesting thing to point out is that if you are only a couple of UMS marks away from a higher grade it could be a little as a one raw mark which will see your grade being improved.


There are certain subjects in which the possibilities of a grade being increased are higher, subject such as History and English for example, where short essays are marked could be more likely to be changed rather than Maths, where the answers are certain and it is therefore right or wrong. One other thing to remember when attempting to change your grade with a remark, marks can go down as well as up so be sure to make sure you are fully aware of any potential repercussions.

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