A-level results: Girls defy predictions and close gender gap

Girls narrow the gap with boys at top A-level grades, despite suggestions they would suffer through a cut in coursework

Girls close gender gap

Girls have defied predictions that they would be hit by a cut in A-level coursework by closing the gap with boys at the top grades.

Today’s results show girls narrowing the gap with boys for entries receiving an A* and entries graded A*/A.

This year 8.5 per cent of male entries and 7.6 per cent of female entries received an A* grade. This represents a slight narrowing of last year’s gap, when 8.8 per cent of boys and 7.8 per cent of girls received the top grade.

The same proportion of male entries achieved the A*/A level as last year – 26.6 per cent – but the proportion of female entries hitting this level increased marginally from 26.1 per cent in 2017 to 26.2 per cent this year.

In terms of the overall A-level pass rate, the gap which girls had over boys remained the same size. In 2018, 98.1 per cent of female entries achieved an A*-E, compared with 97.1 per cent of male entries. Last year the figures were 98.3 per cent and 97.3 per cent respectively.

Less coursework in new A levels

This is the second summer that students have sat “linear” A-levels, after the qualifications were reformed to reduce the amount of coursework and replace modular structures with end-of-course exams. Twelve more reformed subjects were sat this year, following on from 13 new courses in 2017.

Some education commentators had predicted that the reduction of coursework in the new qualifications would favour boys.

Earlier this week, Professor Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, said he expected the impact of the reformed A-levels on the gender gap to be “even greater” because of the 12 new A levels coming on stream this year.

However, the exam regulator Ofqual has previously said that research shows that reduction or removal of coursework has little effect on results by gender.

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