A-level results 2021: Top grades touch record high

Top grades for A-level results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland have touched a record high – with 44.8% scoring A* or A grades.

A Level Results 2021
A Level Results 2021

This second year of replacement after exams were negated had witnessed even more remarkable results than last year when 38.5% attained top grades.

Heads’ leader Geoff Barton mentioned it was “comparing apples with oranges” to relate these results with other years.

It is more than 200,000 students are also getting vocational BTec results.

In Scotland, the pass rates for Highers and Nationals plunged slightly – however scores were still well above pre-pandemic levels.

The sharp upsurge in top grades at A-level implies that the fraction getting top A* and A grade has climbed by almost 75% since the last time conventional exams were taken in 2019. With more top grades and record numbers attempting for university, it will put weight on the most competitive universities and courses. On Tuesday morning, the admissions service Ucas stated a record 396,000 students had been established in their first choice course – up 8% on last year.

“We’ve always said outcomes from this year were likely to be different,” mentioned Simon Lebus, interim chairman of the exams watchdog, Ofqual. Still, he guaranteed students they had been “fairly treated” and grades, established on teachers’ judgements, could be trusted.

A-level results
A-level results
  • Girls achieved more top grades, 46.9%, than boys 42.1%
  • A* and A grades in Northern Ireland, 50.8%, Wales 48.3%, England 44.3%
  • Independent schools: 70.1% A* and A grades
  • Comprehensive schools: 39% A* and A grades
  • London 47.9% A* and A grades, northeast of England 39.2%

Exam board officials mentioned that the higher grades this year replicated that no one had a “bad day” in an exam and that students had “multiple chances” to demonstrate that they could do well.

Schools could utilize a range of evidence for grades, including “mini-exams”,, coursework and mock exams – with one in five schools having a sample of their grades tested by exam boards.

Exam boards enquired submitted grades in 15% of schools and colleges during the checking process, but only 1% were changed.

National Association of Head Teachers’ leader Paul Whiteman overruled warnings of “grade inflation”, saying: “The results in 2021 cannot be easily compared to any other year.”


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