National A-level grades down on last year but remain higher than pre-pandemic
Hundreds of thousands of pupils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland received results today (Thursday 18), having sat exams for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak.
Grades had been expected to drop back from 2021 levels – when pupils were assessed by their teachers – as part of a transition year which saw marks aiming to reflect A midway point between last year and 2019.
The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) said the overall pass rate – the proportion of entries graded A* to E – fell by 1.1 percentage points from 99.5% in 2021 to 98.4% this year.
But this is up by 0.8 points from 97.6% in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
Entries receiving the top grades of A* and A are down 8.4 points from 44.8% last year to 36.4% – but up 11.0 points from 2019.
The figure for the highest grade, A*, is down year-on-year from 19.1% to 14.6%, but remains higher than in 2019 when it stood at 7.7%.
And the proportion of entries graded A* to C dropped from 88.5% in 2021 to 82.6% this year, though it is up from 75.9% in 2019.
The JCQ said there were a total of 848,910 A-level entries, up year-on-year by 2.9%, compared with an increase of 2.4% in the 18-year-old population.
Girls continued to outperform boys overall, with A* to E grades at 98.7% for the former, compared with 98.1% for the latter.
The number of A-level students in England who took three A-levels and achieved all A* grades is nearly three times what it was in 2019, rising to 8,570 compared with 2,785.
Kath Thomas, interim chief executive of the JCQ, said the results “represent a huge milestone” in the country’s recovery from the pandemic.
Congratulating students, she said: “Not only is it the culmination of two years of hard work, but these students are the first to have taken formal summer exams in three years, so we should all celebrate this achievement.
“Exams are the fairest way to assess students, as they give everyone the chance to show what they know.
“Today’s results therefore represent a huge milestone in our recovery from the pandemic and are testament to the diligence and resilience of young people and school staff across the country.
“As intended, these results are higher than the last set of summer exams in 2019, but lower than last year’s teacher-assessed grades.
“This reflects the special arrangements that were put in place to support students, schools and colleges through another challenging year due to Covid.”
Dr Jo Saxton, chief regulator of Ofqual, the exams regulator in England, said: “I felt strongly that it would not have been right to go straight back to pre-pandemic grading in one go but accept that we do need to continue to take steps back to normality.
“These results overall, coming as they do broadly midway between 2021 and 2019, represent a staging post on that journey.”
Pupils in Scotland received the results of their Higher examinations last week, with a similar trend in that the pass rate was down on last year but above pre-pandemic levels from 2019