What can we expect from the 2019 A level results?

Ahead of the 2019 A level results day on Thursday 15th August, we look at some of the trends and predictions for this year's graduates.

Ahead of the 2019 A level results day on Thursday 15th August, we look at some of the trends and predictions for this year's graduates.
Boys will yet again beat girls in the number of A* and A grades obtained for the third year running, predicts the latest A-Levels 2019 Trends and Forecast report by Buckingham University.While girls have historically gained higher A level grades for nearly two decades, in both 2017 and 2018 it was boys who got the most top grades. In 2018, 26.4 per cent of boys gained A* and A grades compared to 26 per cent of girls.The report suggests that girls will continue to outperform boys in gaining grades A* to C, but the gap is closing. Reasons for the recent change in gender trends could be because boys are thought to be better at subjects such as maths and sciences, in which more A grades are awarded. Whereas girls tend to be better at coursework and this has been scrapped in the new A levels.Leading education expert Alan Smithers of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, who wrote the report, said that the overall number of top grades will increase for both boys and girls, despite the fact that this is the first exam cycle that students will be sitting more difficult A level exams.

Spanish bucks trend of modern languages decline

The Buckingham University report found that entries for students taking A level French have dropped considerably, while Spanish has increased. Earlier this year, academics accused exam boards of killing off modern languages due to the difficulty of GCSE and A level exams that put unnecessary pressure on students.According to the British Council’s 2019 Language Trends Survey, “A level French and German have seen substantial ongoing declines in take-up since the mid-1990s, while numbers for Spanish have risen practically every year. All three subjects shed candidates between 2017 and 2018, with French down 7%, German down 16% and Spanish down just 3% in what was the first year in which the new A level courses were examined. Provisional entry figures for 2019 show French rallying with a 4% increase and Spanish increasing by 10%, but German down by 2.5%.” 

Maths exam hits the headlines for the wrong reasons

The number of pupils taking the Maths A level has drastically decreased over the past few years. This may have been further reduced by the new tougher maths GCSE exam, which has put lower-ability candidates off taking the subject at A level. However, a smaller, higher-ability cohort will likely result in more students achieving A* grades, explains the Buckingham University report.The new Maths A-level exam has been under intense scrutiny. Earlier this month, UK exam board Edexcel announced that 78 students will have their A-level maths exam results withheld following a leak of the exam paper on social media. Sharon Hague, senior vice president of schools at Pearson Edexcel, said: “The UK exam system has strict controls in place including security requirements on exam boards, logistics companies, schools, colleges, and their personnel. However, it is also built on a foundation of trust, that those given responsibility for the security of papers, honour that trust. We are sorry that the actions of a small number of individuals have resulted in such a breach.”

Widespread concerns were also addressed after students complained that the second Edexcel A level Maths paper was too difficult. This was the first set of exams for the full cohort of the reformed A level Maths qualifications, which has seen changes to the content, structure and design of the assessments.Following a review by the exam board, it admitted that the first two questions were more challenging than might be typically expected at the beginning of an exam paper, but that overall the level of difficulty was fair. Ms Hague said: “Grade boundaries are set on every paper each year in order to allow for any differences in the level of difficulty of an exam paper from one year to the next and to ensure students are not unfairly disadvantaged from sitting a potentially slightly more difficult set of papers in one year in comparison to another or by being part of the first full cohort of students sitting reformed exams.”A further issue with the maths examination was highlighted in the national press following a research conducted by Ofqual. The Sunday Times reported that 48% of A level entrants will have been awarded the “wrong” grade due to inconsistent marking. Ofqual has released a statement in response that said, “Our report that is cited is not a commentary about whether grades awarded to students are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Rather, it considers the implications of there not being a single, right mark for every answer given in every subject, particularly those involving essay writing.”The 2019 A level results will be released on Thursday 15th August. For more information on qualifications, UK schools and education, download our Guide to Education & Schools in the UK.Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory