The best A-level results are down nearly 10% as the overall pass rate hits its lowest level in 15 years.
The Ucas website crashed as hundreds of thousands of students across the country received their grades on Thursday, causing chaos among those hoping to get into college.
The 19,000 students who were not accepted were struggling to make room after the latest figures showed the number of students admitted to UK courses fell by 2.6% from a year earlier.
Ministers and Examination Inspectors in England were aiming for a return to similar grades to 2019, with the Education Secretary insisting the latest UCAS figures showed the UK government was “right to bring the grade system back to normal”.
National figures show that the proportion of A-Level students with top grades fell by 9.2 percentage points compared to the previous year. Just over a quarter (27.2%) of UK entries achieved an A or A* grade that year, compared to 36.4% in 2022.
However, that was still higher than in 2019 – the last year summer exams were held before the pandemic – when 25.4% of submissions received an A or A* grade.
However, the proportion of entries rated A* to E has fallen to 97.3% this year, which is lower than both 2022 (98.4%) and the year before the pandemic, 2019 (97.6%). – and even the lowest overall success rate since 2008 when it was 97.2%.
Figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) refer to the enrollment of students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), described a “sharp decline” in the highest A Level results. He said: “The proportion of students getting the best A Level marks has fallen sharply this year, not because of poor performance but because the grading system has been adjusted in the wake of the pandemic, so the distribution of grades in England has been adjusted. “ is similar to 2019.”
He added, “Whatever the rationale, it will feel like a painful experience for many students, as well as for schools and colleges, which have seen a sharp drop in top grades compared to the past three years.”
It was also suspected that school leavers could face more competition for university places this year, given warnings from the examination board Ofqual that this year’s A-level results in England would be lower than last year, as the number of 18-year-olds in England increased England is increasing in population and international demand.
Adding to fears of disappointment, this group of students may have higher expectations, having not taken GCSE exams and instead received teacher-assessed grades amid the pandemic, leading to record-high GCSE scores in 2021.
Beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday, when the organization released its first numbers, students received their A-Level results and logged on to the UCAS website to see the status of their university applications.
Compared to last year, the number of UK students securing their first choice of university or college has fallen by 2.6%. Of those who have decided on their application so far, 79% have won a place in the first election, up from 81% in 2022 when exams were reintroduced. In 2019, when the scoring rules were last the same as this year, the result day score was 74%.
A total of 414,940 applicants received a place – a decrease from 425,830 in the previous year (-2.6%), but an increase from 408,960 in 2019 (+1.5%). Of 18-year-olds in the UK, 230,600 were admitted, down from 238,090 in 2022 (-3.1%) but up from 199,370 in 2019 (+15.7%).
In response, Gillian Keegan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “79% of the students receiving their results today have chosen their first choice university.” And that’s up from 74% in 2019… Hopefully this will lead to everyone understanding that we were right to put the rating system back to normal.”
She also said that this year’s high school seniors had “a lot to take care of” and had shown “incredible resilience” as she congratulated them on their grades.
Covid-19 led to a spike in top A-level grades in 2020 and 2021, with results based on teacher assessments rather than exams.
Overall, the proportion of UK submissions that received a top A* rating this year has fallen by 5.7 percentage points to 8.9%, compared with 14.6% in 2022, but is higher than in 2019 when it was 7.7%.
The boys came out ahead of the girls in the top grade this year, after the female applicants had come out on top in the last three years. The A* grades were 9.1% for the former, compared to 8.8% for the latter.
Girls continued to outperform boys in A* and A grades, but the gender gap narrowed again this year.
According to separate figures from Ofqual, a total of 3,820 students achieved three A* grades in England alone.
This is down from 8,570 last year, but up from 2,785 in 2019.
In Wales, the results are expected to be “about halfway” between the results of 2022 – the first year students took exams after the pandemic – and 2019.
Results in Northern Ireland are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels next year.
Many high school seniors in Wales and Northern Ireland have been given advance notice of the subjects they will face on their papers this summer, but pupils in England have not received the same support.
Ofqual said it built a safeguard into the grading process in England this year to reflect the disruptions students were facing. This should have allowed a student to get the grade they would have gotten before the pandemic, even if the quality of their work was a bit poor due to weaker disruptions.
The group of students receiving their A-level results have not taken GCSE exams during the pandemic and have received teacher-assessed grades.