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A-level results: proportion of As and A*s falls sharply | A-levels

The proportion of A’s and A*’s awarded at A level has fallen this year after a return to exams, leaving students with a bump on the ground two years in a row after record grades.

Results awarded in England, Wales and Northern Ireland showed the top scores were 8.4 percentage points lower than last year’s record results, while the A*s have fallen 4.5 points alone, in line with plans government to gradually bring results back to pre-pandemic levels.

In the UK, just under 36% of A-level submissions achieved A and A* grades this year, compared to 44.3% of last year’s submissions. The number of high flyers with three A*s at A level has also fallen, from 12,865 last year to 8,570.

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The English exam regulator, Ofqual, has urged students not to compare their results with 2021, when grades were awarded based on teacher assessments, and emphasized that a comparison with 2019 when the exams were last taken is more appropriate.

In that regard, results are generally above pre-pandemic levels, with the proportion of A*s rising from 25.4% in 2019 to 36.4%, and in the three years since the last exams decreased, the share of A*s decreased by almost seven percentage points, from 7.7% to 14.6%.

Meanwhile, more than 20,300 students who applied for university are without a place after the number of admissions to UK courses fell by 2%, according to figures published by the university’s admissions office Ucas.

A total of 425,830 people have been confirmed so far, the second highest ever, an increase of 16,870 compared to 2019, when the exams were last held, but many students will be disappointed as they have been caught doing what a lot of more competitive admission was cycle, amid uncertainty over grades with the reintroduction of exams.

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Ucas CEO Clare Marchant said: “While many will be celebrating today, there will be some who will be disappointed. My advice is to take advantage of the wide range of choices on offer, including over 27,000 courses in clearing, along with a range of internship opportunities.

University admissions teams have reported a strong interest in clearing, a process that matches unplaced students with unfilled courses

dr. Jo Saxton, Ofqual’s chief regulator, said this year’s results were presented largely in mid-2021 and 2019 and set a stage for a return to pre-pandemic levels next summer.

“The class of 2022 can be so proud of what they have accomplished. Today’s results are higher than 2019 and – as we always said – lower than 2021, when there was a different way of judging.

“I felt strongly that it would not have been right to go straight back to pre-pandemic assessment at once, but accept that we must continue to take steps to return to normalcy.”

Compared to last year, however, both male and female students may be disappointed, with top grades dropping significantly. Female students fared worse in deflation, although they still outperformed their male counterparts. While 44.3% of English students achieved an A grade in 2021, that fell to 35.9% this year, a decrease of 8.4 percentage points. But the numbers of female students fell more, down 9.5 percentage points compared to seven points among men.

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Teacher-rated grades, which replaced exams in the UK last year, resulted in a huge rise in grades across the board, but disproportionately benefited those in independent schools, where the share of the highest grades rose by nine percentage points up to 70%, compared to six percentage points in total.

This year they still have the highest percentage of top marks, with 58% achieving an A* or A – 12.4 percentage points lower than in 2021, but still above pre-pandemic levels, and widening the gap between high schools and private , fee-paying schools remains large.

There was a difference of 27 percentage points in students with an A or higher between independent schools and secondary schools this year, slightly smaller than in 2021, when the difference between the two schools was 31 percentage points.

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The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) said the overall pass rate — the proportion of entries rated A* to E — fell 1.1 percentage points from 99.5% in 2021 to 98.4% this year. But this is 0.8 points higher than 97.6% in the pre-pandemic year 2019. The share of entries with an A* to C rating decreased from 88.5% in 2021 to 82.6% this year, although it has increased from 75.9% in 2019.

Mathematics remains the most popular A level, while the number of psychology and business students has increased by more than 10% this year. However, English submissions continue to fall. Only 53,323 students took one of the three English subjects available to them (English Language, English Literature or the combined English Language and Literature A levels), up from 75,000 in 2017.

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The decline in this year’s numbers was expected after the government outlined plans to curb inflation that had accumulated over the past two years, promoting a gradual approach to pre-pandemic numbers. A number of adjustments have been made to the exams to recognize the nuisance students have faced, including preliminary information about certain content.

In Scotland, results published last week showed a similar pattern, as pass rates for Scottish learners dropped significantly with the return of exams for the first time since 2019. The overall pass rate for Highers, which is widely used for students aspiring to university , fell from 89.3% in 2020 to 78.9%.

In addition to A levels, about 200,000 students received BTEC results. This year was also a milestone year with 1,000 students receiving results for the first time for the new T-level technical qualifications, for which they began studying in September 2020.

Kath Thomas, the JCQ’s interim CEO, said: “Congratulations to all the students who received their results today. Not only is it the culmination of two years of hard work, but these students are the first to take official summer exams in three years, so we should all celebrate this achievement.

“As intended, these results are higher than the last set of summer exams in 2019, but lower than last year’s teacher-reviewed grades. This reflects the special arrangements made to help students, schools and colleges through another challenging year due to Covid.”

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