A levels 2020: Languages see big leap in top grades

Spanish cements its status as the most popular MFL A level while French and German continue to decline

Catherine Lough

Ofqual's decision to realign GCSE grading for French and German doesn't go for enough, according to research

There has been a surge in the very top grades awarded in languages this year, as the proportion of A-level students securing an A* rose significantly in Spanish, French and German.

In German, over one-in-five candidates were awarded an A* grade – 20.7 per cent of students compared with 13 per cent the previous year. The proportion of A and A* grades also increased, with 53.8 per cent of candidates awarded one of the top two grades compared with 41.2 per cent last year.


A-level results 2019: Spanish overtakes French

A-level results 2020:


In French, 15.2 per cent of candidates received an A* grade compared with 10 per cent in 2019, while 45.9 per cent achieved an A grade or higher compared with 36.8 per cent the previous year.

And in Spanish, 15.7 per cent of candidates gained the top grade, compared with 10.1 per cent of candidates last year. In total, 43.8 per cent scored an A grade or higher this year, compared with 35.2 per cent of candidates in 2019.

Spanish overtook French last year to become the most popular modern foreign language A level, and it cemented its status as the favourite option for A-level linguists, with a 0.9 per cent rise in entries from last year to 8,705 candidates. 

French and German continue to decline – the number of French entries fell by 1.1 per cent this year, while in German entries fell by 6.2 per cent.

The Joint Council for Qualifications suggested that some of these falls could be attributed to the cancellation of exams this year, as private candidates aged over 19 would have been unable to secure a teacher-assessed grade or rank order. Equally, younger native speakers who might take A levels early would not have been assigned grades or a place in the ranking. 

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

Latest stories

Teaching primary pupils movie editing skills

5 ways to introduce primary pupils to movie editing

Learning to use video editing software on tablets and smartphones with young learners may sound tough – but follow these simple steps, and you'll have a class of cinematic auteurs in no time
Gregory Adam 29 Jul 2021