TOP GCSE students who choose science A-levels are likely to get better grades than high-flying classmates who study the arts.
But pupils of average or lower ability will get better grades if they choose arts A-levels, a new analysis of 1998's exam results has revealed.
However, the high-flyers came unstuck if they studied a combination of science and arts at A-level. They got up to half a grade less in each A-level than high-flyers who studied either all-sciences or all-arts subjects, according to government statisticians.
A student who achieved almost all A-grades at GCSE would be likely to do better with science at A-level. But for all other pupils this was the trickiest A-level choice.
Unless they were top-achievers at GCSE, all-science students got up to three-quarters of a grade less than all-arts students.
Those taking a mix of science and arts A-levels were awarded grades somewhere between the two extremes.
Boys out-performed girls at A-level - but only if they started their courses with at least a C grade per GCSE.
The report, which analysed the results of nearly 180,000 candidates who sat at least two A-levels in 1998, found that girls with above average GCSEs did less well at A-level than their male counterparts.
The annual report aims to give schools a measure of the "value-added" during A-level courses. It traced the GCSE results of each candidate and found a strong link between GCSE and A-level performance.
Sarah Cassidy "GCSE and GCE AAS-level performance of candidates attempting two or more GCE A-levels or AS equivalents in 199798" is available from the Department for Education and Employment, Stationery Office PO Box 276, London SW8 5DT. pound;5.95.