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Is D in GCSE a pass?

In the GCSE grading system, a grade D is considered a pass. Students need to achieve a minimum of a D grade in order to pass a GCSE exam. While it is the lowest pass grade, a D is still a mark of achievement and allows students to move on to further studies.

What do GCSE grades mean?

GCSEs are graded from 9 to 1, with 9 being the highest grade and 1 being the lowest. The grades are grouped into broader categories:

  • Grades 9-4 are considered “standard pass” grades
  • Grades 3-1 are considered “below standard pass” grades

Here is how the GCSE grade scale breaks down:

Grade Category
9 Highest pass
8 Standard pass
7 Standard pass
6 Standard pass
5 Standard pass
4 Standard pass
3 Below standard pass
2 Below standard pass
1 Below standard pass

A grade D, therefore, is a 4 – which is considered a standard pass. Students who achieve a grade 4 or above have passed that GCSE.

Why is a D still a pass?

There are a few reasons why a D is still considered a passing grade:

  • It shows basic comprehension and skills in the subject. To achieve a grade 4, students need to demonstrate basic knowledge and abilities in the course material.
  • It allows progression to further studies. By passing GCSEs with a grade D or 4, students meet the minimum requirements to continue onto A-Levels, BTECs, apprenticeships, and more.
  • It reflects the minimum standards set by exam boards. The grade boundaries are set by exam boards based on the difficulty of the exam and the scores required to demonstrate sufficient understanding.
  • It enables students to move forward. Rather than being stuck repeating courses, a D allows students to progress to the next stage of their education.

While it represents only a basic grasp of the subject, a D grade does signify that a student has passed and met the minimum expectations to continue their studies.

Does a D grade limit further education options?

In some cases, achieving D grades can limit students’ options for further education, but there are still pathways open to them.


Many sixth forms require a grade 5 or 6 in the subject a student wishes to study at A-Level. This means if a student gets a grade D/4 in GCSE Maths, they may not meet the requirements to study Maths at A-Level.

However, sixth forms look at each student’s profile of grades across all their subjects. A student with mainly Bs and Cs who gets a D in one subject may still meet the overall requirements for sixth form entry.


Similarly, some apprenticeships specify certain GCSE grade requirements that may be higher than a D. But many look for a broader profile of passes at GCSE at grades 9-3, so a D would be acceptable.

There are also fewer academic requirements for intermediate apprenticeships (Level 2), where GCSE grade D/4 passes may be sufficient.


For many BTECs and other vocational courses, students only need a handful of GCSEs at grade D/4 or above to meet entry requirements. So D grades would not necessarily restrict access to these post-16 options.


In summary, while D grades can limit access to more academic routes like A-Levels in that specific subject, there are still progression options available in most cases. D grades alone would not prevent a student from accessing further education or training at 16.

What percentage of students achieve a D at GCSE?

According to 2021 GCSE results data from Ofqual, 7.2% of all GCSE entries were awarded a grade 4 or D. This chart shows the full breakdown of grades awarded:

Grade Percentage of Entries
9 9.0%
8 12.5%
7 15.8%
6 16.1%
5 15.5%
4 (D) 7.2%
3 9.9%
2 6.8%
1 7.3%

So while higher grades are more common, 7.2% of all GCSE entries still represent a substantial number of students attaining a D grade. It shows that getting a D is certainly not an unusual occurrence.

What subjects are easiest to get a D in?

No GCSE subject is inherently easy to get a D in. The difficulty depends on the individual student’s abilities and the exam content in a given year. However, here are some subjects where students tend to achieve higher grades on average:

Physical Education (PE)

PE sees very high GCSE pass rates, possibly because students take it out of interest and engage more fully. In 2021, 49.9% of PE entries were graded 7-9 compared to around 20% across all subjects.

Business Studies

Business Studies has high numbers of top grades, suggesting it is accessible for many. Over 35% of entries achieved 7-9 in 2021.


While not easy, Geography saw 26.4% of entries gain 7-9 in 2021, so a D grade may be achievable for many.

Design and Technology

The practical coursework element can help boost grades in DT subjects. Over 25% of entries got 7-9 in 2021.


However, grade boundaries vary year-on-year, so there are no guarantees. The key is for students to play to their strengths and opt for subjects they engage with.

How can you ensure a D grade in GCSEs?

There are no shortcuts to getting a D in GCSEs – it requires consistent work and preparation. But students can boost their chances of reaching this pass grade through:

  • Attending all lessons and completing homework – don’t miss content
  • Being organised – use planners and track assignment deadlines
  • Asking for help from teachers when stuck on topics
  • Creating study plans and revising little and often over time
  • Practicing past papers – test yourself under exam conditions
  • Learning required key terms, formulas, quotes, etc.
  • For science GCSEs, mastering required practical skills
  • Eating and sleeping well to stay focused

With consistent effort and avoiding gaps in knowledge, reaching a D grade is achievable for most. Advanced revision strategies, lots of practice, and support from teachers can help turn a D into a C or B as well.

Should I retake a GCSE I got a D in?

Whether to retake a D grade GCSE depends on your plans for further education and careers. Ask yourself:

  • Is achieving a higher grade essential for my sixth form, college or apprenticeship choices? Check their entry requirements.
  • Am I likely to significantly improve my grade if I retook it? Don’t retake for the sake of it.
  • Will retaking this subject stop me taking on valuable new courses?
  • Do I need this subject at GCSE for my future career ambitions?

Unless a D grade will actually exclude you from your preferred next steps, retaking may not be useful. An extra year of education in new subjects is often better for development.

Pros of retaking

  • Shows commitment to self-improvement
  • Opens up more competitive universities/careers
  • Boosts your overall profile if you improve multiple grades

Cons of retaking

  • Have to repeat a year of study in one subject
  • Risk of still not improving your grade
  • May miss out on studying new subjects

Weigh up these factors carefully before deciding whether to retake. Be realistic on your chances of improving before committing.


In summary, a D grade at GCSE represents a pass and enables students to progress to further education, even if it excludes top A-Level and apprenticeship options in that subject. With hard work and determination, getting a D is achievable for most. While retaking to improve your grade may benefit some students, it requires careful consideration of costs versus possible rewards.