About O levels | Pearson qualifications
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About O levels

The General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (O level) was a qualification offered from 1951 until the introduction of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in 1986. You can find out more information about O levels below.

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O level qualifications- What are they?

The O level qualification was developed to accompany the A level qualification, and allowed students to demonstrate their academic ability, as well as prepare themselves for an advanced level of learning.

O levels were exam based, and available in academic subjects. 

The grading system for O level qualifications changed several times during the time that they were offered.

From 1951 until January 1975, O levels were pass/fail qualifications. This means that only passes were recorded on certificates, although unofficial grades may have been given.

You can see the unofficial grading systems that were used below:


Jun 1951 -

Jan 1959

Jun 1959 -

Jan 1960

Jun 1960 -

Jan 1963

Jun 1963 -

Jan 1968

Jun 1968 -

Jan 1975

Pass 47% or above 45% or above  1-6* A-E and O grades* A, C or E grades*
Fail 46% or below 44% or below 7-9* F-H grades*  F or H grades*

* Letter/number grades were not featured on certificates, and were therefore used as a guideline, rather than for certification purposes.

From June 1975 onwards until their withdrawal, O levels were graded on a 5-point scale of A-E, with A being the highest grade and E the lowest.

Please see below for the grading system for O levels from June 1975:

  From June 1975 Standard




The candidate has reached the standard of the former 'pass' at O level awarded before June 1975.


The candidate attained a lower level of the qualification, below that of the 'pass' standard.
E The candidate achieved the minimum requirement to be certified for the qualification.
U The candidate has not met the minimum requirement, and the subject will not be included on the O level certificate.

O level exams were conducted by regional exam boards. These regional exam boards have since been merged, and O level records are now held by four exam boards: Pearson, AQA, OCR, and WJEC.

If you are needing to find out whether we hold the record of your O level qualifications, you can consult the table below to see which regions and regional exam boards that our records will cover.

Regional Exam Board Regions Covered
London and East Anglian Boards

Counties: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Norfolk and Suffolk.


London Boroughs: Berking, Barnet, Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kingston, Merton, Newham, Richmond, Sutton, Redbridge and Waltham Forest.

London Regional/Metropolitan Boards
Middlesex Exam Boards

Although our records may cover these regions, we cannot 100% guarantee that your school used these regional boards for your O level examinations, as there is always a possibility that they used another exam board.

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