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A-level results: Eight key points

As schools receive their A-level results, here are the main lessons we can learn from the national statistics

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As schools receive their A-level results, here are the main lessons we can learn from the national statistics

A* grades are down

The proportion of A-level entries receiving an A* has fallen to its lowest level in five years.

Gender gap for top grades narrows

The gap which boys had over girls for entries graded A* and A*/A narrowed slightly, despite predictions that the reduction of coursework in the reformed A levels would result in boys pulling away.

Number of A-level entries falls

The total number of A-level entries has fallen this year. In 2018, there were 811,776 entries across the UK, compared with 828,355 last year – a drop of 2 per cent. However, this is less than the 3.5 per cent drop in the 18-year-old population over the same period.

But entries in facilitating subjects are up

Entries in subjects considered to be “facilitating” subjects – which are more frequently required for entry to university degree courses than others – have continued to rise.

They accounted for 52.5 per cent of all entries this year, compared with 50.2 per cent back in 2014.

The Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents the exam boards, considers the following to be facilitating subjects: biology, chemistry, English literature, geography, history, maths and further maths, modern and classical languages, physics.

Languages are down – though Chinese bucks the trend

Although entries to facilitating subjects have continued to rise, this masks considerable variation between subjects. Entries for humanities subjects like geography have fallen by 11 per cent, and modern foreign languages have seen a big drop. Collectively French, Spanish and German fell by 7.9 per cent.

However, some language subjects have bucked the trend, such as Chinese, which experienced an 8.6 per cent rise and now has more entries than German.  

Stem subjects on the rise

The government’s emphasis on Stem (science, technology and maths) appears to be bearing fruit, with entries for these subjects up. This year 36.2 per cent of all A-level entries were in Stem subjects, compared with 34.5 per cent last year.

JCQ classes the following A-level subjects as Stem: biology, chemistry, physics, design and technology, maths, further maths, computing and "other sciences".

Fewer students achieving the top grade in maths

Maths remains the most popular A-level, attracting 97,627 entries in 2018 – a 2.5 per cent increase on last year. However, the proportion of students achieving an A* dropped by 2 per cent, from 17.9 per cent in 2017 to 15.9 per cent this year.

JCQ said this reflected a less able cohort at the top end this year, based on analysis of their prior attainment.

AS-level entries continue to plummet

AS-level entries have continued their precipitous decline following the government’s decision to decouple them from A-levels in England. There were 260,710 AS-level entries in England this year, compared with 635,175 last year. Entries in England stood at 1,286,125 just three years ago.



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