The modern era of A-level grade deflation has continued this summer, results published this morning reveal, with the percentage of entries achieving an A grade or better falling for the fourth year running.
The proportion of A* and A grades dropped to 25.9 per cent from 26 per cent last year. This compares with 27 per cent in 2011, the year in which more than a decade of rising top grades came to an end, as official efforts to prevent “inflation” by pegging results to previous years took hold.
This summer, the proportion of A* grades remained at 8.2 per cent, exactly the same as in 2014. Passes at grade E or above rose slightly to 98.1 per cent, up from 98 per cent last year.
Michael Turner, director general of the Joint Council for Qualifications, said: “The overriding message from this year’s figures is one of stability. There have been no significant changes to the system, results are stable and entries follow expected patterns.”
The overall number of A-level papers taken rose by 2 per cent to 850,749, despite there being 1.1 per cent fewer 18-year-olds in the UK than there were last year.
The number of science papers taken has decreased, despite continued emphasis from the government on the importance of Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.
The number of chemistry papers sat fell by 1.6 per cent to 52,644, while biology entries fell 1.2 per cent to 63,275 and physics entries fell 1.1 per cent to 36,287.
Geography had the biggest rise in popularity, with almost 4,200 extra students sitting an A-level in the subject this year – an increase of 12.7 per cent. Maths entries were also up, with almost 3,900 extra students taking the subject – an increase of 4.4 per cent.
A long-term decline in modern foreign languages was countered in part by an increase in Spanish entries of more than 1,000, to 8,694. Entries to French and German fell slightly.
General studies had the largest fall in entries, with a 24.3 per cent drop to 18,092. This continues a decline that goes back at least a decade, in line with decisions by many universities not to accept the qualification.
This year, boys widened their lead over girls at A*. The proportion of boys gaining the top A-level grade rose to 8.7 per cent, whereas it fell to 7.8 per cent among girls. But once A grades were also taken into account, female candidates took the lead at 26.1 per cent compared with 25.7 per cent.
The overall pass rate at A*-E remained higher for girls, at 98.5 per cent, than for boys, at 97.5 per cent.
In Northern Ireland, 29.3 per cent of entries achieved an A grade or better, maintaining its lead over England, which had 25.9 per cent, and Wales, which had 23.1 per cent.