What do the A-level grade boundaries mean?

Welcome to our A-Level trends guide and A-level grade boundaries explained.

 

How will A-Level grade boundaries work?

According to exam board OCR, a grade boundary is a minimum mark you need to get a grade and this is set at the qualification level. For example, if the grade boundary for a Grade A is 160 marks, you need to get at least 160 to achieve a Grade A. This would mean a mark of 159 would therefore be a Grade B.

 

Once all papers have been marked, exam boards use an awarding committee which consists of senior examiners who are experts in that subject to carry out the process . If a large percentage of students sitting an exam achieve high marks, the threshold you need to reach to achieve any grade is likely to be higher.

The opposite is true if large amounts of students struggle with an exam and achieve lower marks. Grade boundaries change every year and are modified according to the difficulty of the paper after it has been taken.

For example, one high performing London secondary school explained its overall 2022 A-Levels performance thus:

Our Year 13 students have excelled in their A-Level and BTEC exams. These were the first formal public exams in two years. We remain one of the most high-achieving comprehensive schools in West London.

 

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Trends in A-Level 2022 results

Of course Ofqual wanted to bring grades back down from the sharp rises in 2020 and 2021. As did, the Welsh and the Northern Irish education authorities.

A-Levels results day 2023 and 2023 A-level grade boundaries explained

Top 2022 A-Level grades fell

  • The percentage of top A-level results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland fell. Overall A-Level grades, 36.4% were A* or A.
  • This compares to 44.8% in 2021.
  • Although that’s still higher than 2019; the previous year when public A-Level exams were held.

Uni places was toughest for the most academically selective universities

  • Still, according to UCAS; 65.3% of students who applied to UK universities were accepted by their first choice destination.

A-Levels results day 2022 A-level grade boundaries explained

Regional Differences persisted

  • In London, 39% of A-levels were graded A* and A, compared with 30.8% of exam grades in the north east of England.
    Last year, it was 47.9% in London and 39.2% in the north east of England.
    Students receiving their results on Thursday were part-way through Year 11 when the pandemic hit and schools closed during national lockdowns.
  • Further school closures followed while they were in Year 12, and many pupils also experienced disruption due to Covid at the beginning of Year 13 as well.
  • But the disruption did not affect everyone equally. Their experience varied depending on how different regions were affected by the pandemic, and how far schools and families were able to cope during closures.

 

The gap between state and private schools narrowed

  • According to England’s exam regulator, Ofqual, 58% of private school candidates in England were awarded A* and A grades, compared with 30.7% of state school pupils.
  • Fee-paying schools did particularly well last year when teachers’ assessments were the basis for A-level grades.
  • In 2021, some 70.4% of private school pupils were given A grade or above, compared with just 39.4% of state schools.
  • While this year’s percentage-point gap is narrower, it’s still significant.
  • And it matters because those pupils with top grades will be the ones vying for places at the most competitive universities and on the most heavily contested courses.
  • Not all pupils received the same support – academic and emotional – when schools closed during lockdowns and students were forced to learn remotely.
  • Some schools were better able to provide laptops to pupils for remote learning. Their pupils may have had more access to computers and to the internet at home, or more physical space in which to learn.

 

Girls outperformed boys

  • Girls performed better than boys across the board in this year’s A-level results.
  • That includes the percentage of pupils achieving top grades. In total, 37.4% of girls’ entries were given A* and A grades, compared with 35.2% of boys’ entries.
  • The gap is smaller than it was in 2021, however, when grades were based on teachers’ assessments. That approach led to 46.9% of female candidates being given top grades compared to 42.1% of male candidates.
  • Nonetheless, the gap between the sexes remains bigger than in 2019, the last year public exams were held prior to the pandemic. Back then it was 25.5% for girls versus 25.4% for boys.
  • It’s important to remember that exams weren’t back to normal this year. Pupils had extra information, such as formulae sheets and advanced warning of topics, ahead of their exams.

The top 10 most popular A-level subjects are now:

1. Maths

2. Psychology

3. Biology

4. Chemistry

5. History

6. Sociology

7. Art and design subjects

8. Business studies

9. Physics

10. Geography

Psychology entries increased the most among the top 10 compared with last year, followed by Business Studies, and Sociology.

Political Studies entries also shot up by 11%.

The number of German A-level entries went up by 3.5%, but Spanish and French both fell.

Entries to English Literature, meanwhile, fell by 9.4% – a trend that has raised concern among head teachers.

 

Summary of other key points for 2022 A-Levels system

  • The 20,360 total is up 46 per cent on the 13,930 students left without a place on results morning last year, though down from 24,260 in 2019 when exams were last sat before Covid.
  • Today’s A-level results have seen the number of top A* and A top grades plunge as exams regulator Ofqual began to tackle two years of panemic grade inflation.
  • In total, 425,830 students have been accepted on to degree courses, according to Ucas; down 2 per cent on the same point last year.
  • There are more than 27,000 university courses available in clearing, as well as apprenticeships, the admissions service said.
  • Despite the higher numbers of students left without a place in higher education, this year is still the second highest year for university admissions ever.
  • Last year broke the record for degree course acceptance, with 435,430 people confirming places. This year’s total is up 16,870 on 2019, when exams were last held.
  • According to Ucas, the number of 18-year-olds in the UK who got their first or insurance choice increased this year, up 19 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.
  • It also said that the number of students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds had nearly doubled when measured against pre-pandemic years, from 3,770 in 2019 to 6,850 in 2022.
  • Around 12.3 per cent of the full-time undergraduate places – which make up the bulk of the offers – were held by international students, down from a high of 14.7 per cent in 2019.
  • 2022 admissions have seen “continued growth” in the number of students from nations including Nigeria, which is up 42 per cent, China, up 35 per cent, India, up 27 per cent.

Didn’t get the grades you wanted on results day 2022?

If you did not get the grades to attend your preferred university or college, do not worry, you still have plenty of options

You should still contact your chosen institution of you missed your grades. Universities are often able to take students who miss their offers.

Here are other roads you can take.

Can I resit my A-levels?

Yes, if you missed out on your grades and decide you want to resit your A-levels, you can.

This can be a good option if, for example, you are set on a specific career choice that requires certain grades.

You cannot just resit certain modules, you must resit all of your exams for a subject. However, coursework grades can be retained.

You can choose to resit your exams at a school or college, or online.

If you wish to retake your exams at your current school or college, speak to your teacher. Alternatively, you can enrol at a different college or sixth-form.

You’ll still attend classes and have a set timetable like at school and when it comes time for the exam, you’ll sit it at the college with your other classmates.

If you take the online route you can find private online tutors, and work more independently.

Online study also has a lot more flexibility as you’re not tied to a timetable, and don’t have to be in a physical classroom.

You will sit the in-person exams at the same time as all the other A-level students, but you are responsible for booking a place to sit them. You can do this by contacting your local school or college to ask if they accept private candidates.

When you retake your A-levels, you will have two types of fees to pay; course fees and exam fees.

Your course fees will cover your tuition and/or course materials and will vary depending on where and how you choose to study your A-levels.

The cost of taking the exams themselves also vary. For A-level exams, prices usually start at about ÂŁ175 per subject, but at some centres you can expect to pay upwards of ÂŁ400 per exam.

 

Can I appeal my A-Level 2023 grades?

  • If you think there has been a mistake in the marking of your exams, talk to your school or college, who can ask the exam board to review how your A-Level exam was marked.
  • Although an A-Level exam board cannot give you extra marks just because your mark was close to a grade boundary or because you did not get the grade your centre predicted.
  • All A-Level 2022 exam boards will publish details of the deadlines for seeking reviews of marking or moderation, and appeals, on their websites.
  • A-Level Exam boards may charge fees for reviews of marking or moderation if your grade does not change.
  • You can request a priority review of your A-Level exam marking if you are depending on the outcome of a review to secure a higher education place.
  • All A-Level Exam boards will aim to complete priority reviews by 7 September. This is Ucas’ advisory deadline for higher education providers to hold places open for students.
  • If you and your A-Level exam board centre still have concerns after a review of marking or moderation, the review decision may be challenged through the exam board’s appeals process.
    Whilst any decisions about reasonable adjustments, special consideration and malpractice can also be taken into account.

 

A-Level 2022 exam results reduced the independent vs state school disparities

Research conducted by the Sutton Trust revealed that students are also worried that the mitigations to exams won’t be enough to secure them the grades they need to progress.

Only 52 per cent of Year 13 students felt the arrangements for exams this year had fairly taken into account the impact the pandemic had on their learning.

 

2023 A-levels grade marking

Typically the embargo starts from 6.00am on A-Level results day itself.

The A-level grades 2023 will be published separately by A-level individual exam boards.

In past years students were able to see the grade boundaries the day before they received their results, when exam boards shared their marking systems with schools and colleges.

So, what are the A-Level equivalents in Scotland?

Scottish

1) Highers

Attainment of A to C grades was 78.9%, which is down from

  • 87.3% in 2021
  • 89.33% in 2021

However, it is slightly up from 2019 – the last time there was a full exam timetable – when it was 74.8%.

2) Advanced Higher results 2022

There were 81.3% A to C grades for the 2022 Scottish Advanced Higher results.

This means that the 2022 Scottish Advanced Higher results were lower than

  • 2021’s 90.2% A to C grades.
  • 2020’s 93.1% A to C grades.

Although in 2019, the total % who passed was 79.4.

Our top passing A-Levels tips

Passing your A-Level exams relies upon using good A-Level revision strategies. For example:

  • Focus your revision on timed A-Level past paper sessions.
  • The best approach is to make revision notes on cards. Then to go over what you’ve written on your revision cards.
  • Being confident of your A-Level capabilities is one of the most effective A-Level exam tips. Confidence tells your brain know that with focused concentration you can excel and achieve your true A-Level,potential.
  • Always stay open to the advice and revision tips of your most A-Level experienced teachers. They will have your best interests at heart, plus go through the A-level exam season each year.

We hope that our A-Levels guidance and past A-Level exam papers help you achieve your best A-Level grades.

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