A-level entries: English down and sciences up

Biology, chemistry, physics, psychology and sociology have become more popular at A level, while English subjects have declined, new data shows

A-level results: English A-level uptake is in decline, figures suggest

The number of English A-level exam entries has dropped this year, but the uptake of single science subjects is on the rise, Ofqual has revealed.

A-level entries have increased over time in biology, chemistry and physics, along with those in psychology and sociology, the exams watchdog said today.

Large declines have been seen this summer in subjects that were only available this year, as final resits, such as general studies, science and ICT.


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English A-level entries have fallen across the board.

The number sitting English language dropped from 17,875 last year to 13,815 this summer.

In the English language and literature A level, the number fell from 9,000 to 7,580 and the total sitting English literature dropped from 40,990 to 37,475.

The Ofqual data for the 2019 exams series reveals the uptake of subjects with large entry numbers and those known as 'facilitating subjects' – those identified until recently by some universities as offering the best chance of entry into higher education. 

The data shows that entries for the modern foreign languages of French, German and Spanish were stable, while those for the single sciences of biology, chemistry and physics all increased in 2019.

Entries between 2016 and 2019 remained relatively stable in all other subjects.

A-level maths take-up declined slightly this year, after increasing from 2016 to 2018.

Overall, the number of A-level entries declined slightly, by almost 2 per cent, from 759,670 in 2018 to 745,585 in 2019. 

The new figures have been published as the Russell Group of universities revealed that it was no longer publishing a facilitating list of A-level subjects to study.

Instead, it has created the Informed Choices website.

A statement on its website said: “The Russell Group previously published a list of subjects which can be particularly useful for pupils who aren’t sure what to study at university. These subjects are considered essential for many degrees and so can open lots of doors.

"Now that we have created our new Informed Choices website, it is no longer necessary to publish such a list. Here you can explore the various degrees and subject areas you’re interested in – as many as you like – to build up a more personalised picture of the subject combinations which suit your talents and ambitions.  

“We have sometimes heard other people suggest that facilitating subjects are the only subjects pupils should consider to get into a Russell Group university, or that you must take them for any degree. This has never been the case.”

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