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GCSE & A level results 2018 (provisional)

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The 2018 provisional national results for GCSEs have been published by the Joint Council for Qualifications. This is the second year of reform for English language, English literature and mathematics with the 9-1 grading scale in England. Another 20 reformed subjects (taking the total to 23) have been assessed this year, including a new double award in science. GCSEs in Wales have also been reformed, but they have maintained the A*-G grading scale. In Northern Ireland, GCSEs also retain the A*-G grading and reformed GCSEs will be first awarded in 2019.

  • Overall, the proportion of A/7s awarded increased 0.5 percentage points to 20.5%, C/4 increased 0.5% percentage points to 66.9% and G/1 decreased 0.1 percentage points to 98.3%
    • There is greater stability for 16-year-olds at A/7 and C/4, with outcomes up 0.4 percentage points each to 21.5% and 69.3% respectively
    • Overall, 17.2% of males were awarded an A/7 grade or above – up 0.8 percentage points on last year's figure of 16.4% while the proportion of females achieving an A/7 remained constant at 23.7%. As a result, the gap between males and females narrowed from 7.3 percentage points in 2017 to 6.5 points this year
  • Outcomes in English literature for all candidates show a 0.7 percentage point rise at A/7 to 19.9%. At C/4, there is a 0.9 percentage point increase to 73.5%, and at G/1, a rise of 0.1 percentage points to 98.3% 
    • Outcomes for the reformed 9-1 English literature in England follow a similar pattern: a 0.8 percentage point increase at 7 or higher to 19.5%; a one percentage point increase at 4 or higher to 72.9%; and at grade one or higher, a 0.1 percentage point increase to 98.2%
  • Outcomes in English language for all candidates across the UK show a 0.5 percentage point increase at A/7 to 14.1, a 0.3 percentage point decline at C/4 to 61.8% and a 0.3 percentage point increase at G/1 to 98.9%
    • When comparing outcomes in the reformed 9-1 English language, all candidate results are down 0.6 percentage points at grade 7 (to 14%) and 2.9 percentage points at grade 4 (to 62%)
      • This decline is driven by the growing number of entries by 17-year-olds not performing as well year-on-year
  • Outcomes in mathematics for all candidates rose 0.3 percentage points at A/7 to 15.8%, remained unchanged at C/4 at 59.4% and increased 0.4 percentage points to 97.4% at G/1
  • Achievement rates among those aged 17 or older are much lower than for 16-year-old candidates when considering the achievement of a grade 4/C or higher. In English language, it is 34.2% versus 69.6%. In English literature, it is 72.8% vs. 74%, and for maths, 23.7% versus 70.1%
  • In England, a total of 732 students who took at least seven reformed GCSEs achieved grade 9 in all of them (62% of which were females and 38% were male)
  • In England, 4,700 students (16-year-olds) were awarded the new 'safety net' pass in the higher-tier reformed combined science award. For context, 35,000 were awarded this grade having taken the foundation tier.
  • There was a 0.2% increase in the number of GCSE entries in 2018, to 5,470,076
    • Entries for 16-year-olds were up 1.2% to 4,939,124 even though the 16-year-old population dropped by 2.7%
    • Entries for 17-year-olds remained static at 407,349 and are down 26.7% for 15-year-olds to 123,603
      • A new early entry policy in Wales is likely to be the main reason for this decrease in 15-year-old entries
  • However, there are substantial shifts within this, both across subject and age
  • Declines in 16-year-olds' entries in maths (-1.1%), English literature (-3.2%) and English language (-2.7%) are more or less in line with the drop in the 16-year-old population, which was 2.7%
  • Entries for 17-year-olds in maths (-4.3%), English literature (+1.2%) and English language (+8.5%) are more stable compared with significant increases seen last year (+ 3.6%, +18.7% and +15.4% respectively). Note, many mathematics resits will have been taken in the November series
  • Entries for 15-year-olds in maths (-53.4%), English literature (+39.1%) and English language (-69.6%) are much more variable; this is due to early entry policies in England and Wales
  • All three separate sciences had significant increases in entries: biology up 23%, chemistry up 18.6% and physics up 17.2%
  • Across all UK candidates, entries for modern foreign languages were up 0.4%; within this, German increased by 2%, French decreased by 2.9% and Spanish increased by 4.4%

AS level

  • This year, there was another large decline in total UK entries for AS qualifications (dropping by 52.5% when compared with last year). This follows a 39.1% drop in 2017
    • This fall is driven by entries in England, where the AS has been decoupled from the A level and is a standalone qualification. In Wales and Northern Ireland, where the AS remains coupled to the A level, AS entries remain relatively stable
  • Mathematics was the most popular subject, with 81,051 entries in 2018 (160,450 in 2017, which is a 49.5% decrease)
  • Note that the significant changes in entry patterns make it very challenging to draw reliable year-on-year comparisons.

A levels

    • Overall, the national A level results show very little change compared with last year. However, those achieving the top grade (A*) and those achieving a C or higher are slightly down:
      • 8% achieving A* compared with 8.3% in 2017
      • 26.4% achieving an A*-A compared with 26.3% in 2017
      • 77% achieving C or higher compared with 77.4% in 2017
  • The overall pass rate (grades A*-E) was 97.6% (down from 97.9% last year)
  • For the second year running, males were slightly more likely to achieve the top grades than females (prior to this, females outperformed males):
  • 8.5% of males achieved an A* in 2018 compared with 7.6% of females
  • 26.6% of males achieved an A or higher in 2018 compared with 26.2% of females
  • In 2018, there were 811,776 entries (a drop of 2% in comparison with 2017). However, the drop in the population of 18-year olds was 3.5%
  • Entries in modern foreign languages continued to decline, with an 8% drop in those doing French, a 4% drop in Spanish and a 16.5% decrease in students sitting German
  • Collectively, facilitating subjects (see footnote) continued to represent more than half of entries at A level, making up 52.5% of all entries compared with 50.2% in 2014. However, within this, there are fluctuations:
    • Entries to English literature dropped by 4.6% compared with last year
    • Entries to geography were down by 11.3% compared with last year
    • Maths entries went up by 2.5% compared with 2017
    • Entries for physics increased by 3.4% compared with 2017
  • STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) continued to rise in popularity. In 2018, 36.2% of all entries were in one of these subjects (an increase from 28% in 2009, 33.4% in 2014 and 34.5% in 2017).
    • Male students are more likely to study a STEM subject, with them making up 57% of all STEM entries
    • However, there are signs that the gap is beginning to close: female entries rose 3.1% for mathematics (compared with males rising by 2.1%) and 6.9% in physics (compared with males rising by 2.4%)
  • Maths continues to be the most popular subject (there was a 2.5% increase in entries in 2018 compared with 2017, with a total of 97,627 entries)


Some A level subjects are more frequently required for entry to degree courses than others. These subjects are commonly known as 'facilitating subjects' which are as follows: biology, chemistry, English literature, geography, history, maths and further maths, modern and classical languages, and physics.

First published 11 October 2018