A-level results: A mixed picture for Stem subjects

The Campaign for Science and Engineering gives its take on what was a day of ups and downs for Stem subjects

Martin Turner

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A-level results are out today and the stats reveal all three core sciences have seen fewer students enter exams in 2015 despite overall entries rising compared to 2014. Maths however continues to extend its lead as the most popular subject.

Maths grows in popularity as other sciences lose favour

Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects are more popular than ever before, accounting for 39 per cent of all exams entered in 2015. Stem has been increasing its market share of A-levels for some time now.

However, for the first time since 2009, the number of students taking exams in the core sciences of biology, chemistry, and physics has dropped. Biology – the most popular of the three – saw its share of total exams entered fall to 7.4 per cent from 7.7 per cent in 2014. Chemistry fell from 6.4 per cent to 6.2 per cent and physics fell from 4.4 per cent to 4.3 per cent. Maths accounted for 10.9 per cent of all exams entered, up from 10.7 per cent in 2014. There were also slight rises in psychology, further maths, ICT, and computing.


More students are taking exams in Stem subjects than ever before, with over 33,000 Stem exams entered in 2015, up from 32,500 in 2014. The rise is largely due to more students taking maths (up 4 per cent) but psychology and computing also saw modest increases. Fewer students entered exams for the core sciences than in 2014.

In particular it is encouraging to see the rise in the number of students now taking computing A-level – up 30 per cent on last year following recent changes to the course.


Most Stem subjects becoming more gender-balanced

Of the Stem A-level exams, only chemistry has a near-50:50 boy/girl balance for entrants. Biology and psychology both continued to become more unbalanced in favour of girls but physics and computing have increased the proportion of girls taking exams in these subjects, although they are still some way off being gender balanced. Only ICT and further maths have become more male-dominated in recent years.



Martin Turner is a policy adviser at the Campaign for Science and Engineering. 

This article orginally featured as a blog on the Case website.  

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Martin Turner

Martin Turner is a policy adviser at the Campaign for Science and Engineering

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