Thursday 16 August 2012

A-Level Results Day. Top Grades Down.

It's that time of year again. A-Level results came out this morning, with many students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland able to find out their grades online from 7 a.m.

The headline from today's set of results is that the percentage of students being awarded the top grades (A and A*) is down, for the first time in 20 years. Today, 26.6% of A-level entries achieved the top two grades, compared with 27% last year. The overall pass rate, meanwhile, continues to rise, for a 30th consecutive year.

The drop in the percentage of top grades was particularly pronounced in Northern Ireland, although overall the performance there is still better than average, with 31.9% of entrants being awarded top grades, down from last year's figure of 34.5%, according to figures from the Northern Irish exam board CCEA.

Since 2010, the exam watchdog Ofqual has been telling exam boards they must be able to account for any upward movement in grades, to show that it was a result of a real improvement in performance.

Girls continue to gain slightly better grades than boys, but this year boys obtained more A* grades, with 8% of entries gaining the top grade, compared with 7.9% for girls.

Once again, maths and science subjects proved popular, with increases in the number of entrants, while the trend for modern languages is still downwards.

For many of the 330,000 students getting their results today, A-Level results will determine whether they can go to their chosen university.

The number of applications for university places is about 7% down this year, following the rise in tuition fees to a maximum of £9000 in England. Students in other parts of the UK may not have to pay so much. Northern Irish students staying in Northern Ireland will face no rise in fees. The Welsh government has agreed to subsidise students facing higher fees in other parts of the UK. Scottish students, who do not sit A-Levels, pay no fees at all if they choose to attend Scottish universities.

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