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A-level results 2017: Top A* grades reach record high - but drop in reformed subjects

Outcomes across 13 subjects with reformed "linear" A-levels are down on 2016

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Outcomes across 13 subjects with reformed "linear" A-levels are down on 2016

The proportion of entries receiving the top A* grade at A level has reached a new record level, results released this morning show.

An A* was awarded to 8.3 per cent of entries in the UK  – the highest proportion since the elite grade was introduced in 2010 - and a rise of 0.2 percentage points on last year.  

And the proportion of entries with an A or A* also rose, by 0.5 percentage points - to 26.3 per cent this year.

Claims in the press this week warned that Ofqual’s usual approach to grading would see results in the 13 subjects with new reformed "linear" A-levels in England, being sat the for the first time, “dumbed down”.

But the proportion of 18-year-old entries receiving A*, A/A*, and A*-E grades across these subjects - art and design, biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, English language, English language and literature, English literature, history, physics, psychology, sociology - all fell compared to last year. 

At A* the fall was from 7.7 to 7.2 per cent.

Unlike the new GCSEs, there was no explicit intention that these new A-levels should be tougher than before, despite their linear structure. Exam boards believe the drop occurred because the cohort is slightly weaker, Tes understands. 

Meanwhile, predictions that the gender gap would narrow under the new reformed A-levels – which have much less coursework and have replaced modular structures with end of course exams  – have come true.



When looking across the 13 reformed A-levels in England, there is no longer any gender gap at A and A*, whereas last year girls led by 0.9 percentage points.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, suggested last week that the reforms to the qualifications could benefit boys just as the modular reforms to A levels in 2000 had favoured girls.

He said: "I think what happened when A levels changed from end-of-course examinations to modular – which led to a big gap opening in favour of girls – suggests that the reversion to end-of-course examinations will lead to a narrowing of the gap."

And it is not just the reformed qualifications in England that have seen the gender gap close. Boys across the UK have received a larger share than girls of A and A* grades combined for the first time this year.

This summer’s results show that 26.6 per cent of UK boys’ A-level entries scored at least an A, compared with 26.1 per cent of UK girls’ entries.

But Michael Turner, the director general of the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents exam boards, has said“it is too early to draw any firm conclusions” from the data.

He added: “However, it will be interesting to see if the pattern continues as we progress through the reform timetable."

For all the latest news and views on A-level results day, please visit our specialist A-level results hub. 

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