Tanglin Leads Singapore's 2021 A Level Results

After a second year of disruption due to Covid-19, students in Singapore have received this year’s A Level results – some based solely on Teacher Assessed Grades, others based on written exam results.
Tanglin Leads Singapore's 2021 A Level Results
By Carli Allan
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Students at one of Singapore's oldest international schools have received their A Level results today in an unusual year with results based on a mix of Teacher Assessed Grades and written exam results.

In line with students worldwide, GCE/International A Levels awarded by Pearson EdExcel and AQA were cancelled due to the pandemic; Cambridge was the only A Level/IGCSE exam board to run its June 2021 exam series as planned, where it was permitted by national education authorities.

In Singapore, this meant that students sat written exams for some subjects and received Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs) for other subjects, based on mock exams, coursework, essays and in-class tests.

Tanglin Trust School is the only school in Singapore to offer students the choice of studying either the IBDP or A Levels – and one of only a very few international schools here to offer A Levels. In addition to celebrating a high average score in its 2021 IBDP results, Tanglin has scored highly in its A Level exams.

A very high 42% of all grades were an A*, more than double the average in England, where 19.1% of all grades were an A*. At Tanglin, 70% of all grades were an A* or A, compared to 44.8% in England. The pass rate was 100%.

Other achievements include:

  • 86% of all grades were in the A* to B range
  • 97% of all grades were in the A* to C range
  • 47% of students taking the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) achieved an A*, and 74% of EPQ grades were A* or A

Allan Forbes, Head of Senior School at Tanglin Trust School said:

“Following our impressive IB results released at the start of the summer, I am absolutely delighted with our A Level outcomes. It is well documented in the media that UK-based exam boards did not set formal exams this summer and hence, many of these results have been generated by the subject teachers using prior coursework, classwork, mock exams and other forms of assessment.

"Other A Level subjects at Tanglin follow the Cambridge International Examination (CIE) Board which did set exams for international schools, like Tanglin, who were able to accommodate them. As with the IB Diploma, all CIE exams were taken at Tanglin in May and June.

"I am not going to distinguish between the TAGs and the CIE grades as I firmly believe the students have achieved what they worked for and deserved whichever route was defined for their particular subject choices.”

The vast majority of Singapore’s 80-plus international and private schools follow the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at college level. Those that do offer GCE/International A Levels include the popular all-through Tanglin Trust School and the private secondary school, Insworld Institute.

Read more: Where Can I Study A Levels in Singapore?

Other schools offering A Levels follow a January to December academic year and receive their results in November. These include DPS International School, Ascensia International School, Dimensions High School, Furen International School (FIS), and SSTC International Academy (SSTC-IA).

A Level resits and appeals

A Level students who are unhappy with their Teacher Assessed Grades can appeal their grades or retake A Level exams in the same subject in autumn 2021.

Read more: GCSE, A Level Results Day 2021: Need to Know

Cambridge International A Levels

Exam board Cambridge International awarded A Level and AS Level grades to just under 170,000 students worldwide this year. Overall, there has been a slight rise in the overall grade achieved compared with 2019 (when normal exams last took place) and 2020 (when all exams were cancelled), which is between half and two-thirds of a grade.

Almost three-quarters of Cambridge students sat formal exams in countries including Singapore, Hong Kong, Mainland China, Malaysia and Egypt. Where exams could not take place safely, including in the UK, Cambridge offered a school assessment approach using students' work.

Cambridge released its IGCSE results on Thursday, August 12.

UK results: roundup

Figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland showed that A Level results have reached an all-time high, with nearly 45% of this year's entries being awarded an A* or A. This follows a second year of disruption due to Covid-19, where students have received A Level results awarded by teacher assessment rather than national exams.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

  • The number of A* and A grades has risen to a record-breaking high
  • More than two in five (44.8%) of entries were awarded an A* or A grade; this is an increase of 6.3% from 2020 when 38.5% achieved the top grades
  • The number of A* grades this year has surged to 19.1%, the highest figure since the top grade was first introduced in 2010
  • 88.2% entries were A*-C grades, a small rise compared with 87.5% in 2020
  • The pass rate was 99.5% (A*-E), slightly lower than 99.7% last year

Last year, almost two in five A Levels - 38.5% - were awarded an A* or A compared with 25.5% in 2019. Ahead of today’s A Level results being published, concerns were raised about grade inflation and the disparity of results between schools and their students. This puts pressure on the university admissions system, and universities and places of further education more generally.

UK universities, who received the results last week from the Examination Boards, anticipated that this year's grades will, on average, be one grade higher than last year by comparison.

UK results: facts and figures

Students studied 40 different A/AS Level subjects, and the most popular A Level subjects this year were maths, psychology, biology and chemistry. The largest number of entries was for A Level maths and further maths, taken by a total of 104,858 students, compared with 101,390 in 2020 and 98,695 in 2019.

There has been a sizeable increase in the number of students taking geography (16.8%), law (15.4%), computing (11.3%) and psychology (9.2%). There has been a slight decrease in the number of students taking design and technology (5.8%), German (4.9%), English literature (4.6%), media studies (3.5%) and English language (3.4%).

Spanish continues to be the most popular A Level in modern foreign languages, with 8,433 entries, followed by French and German.

Across the UK, 39,734 results were issued for the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), an independent research project.

Girls received more top grades than boys overall. 19.7% of girls were awarded A*, compared with 18.4% for boys, and the rate of A*-A grades was 46.4% for girls and 41.7% for boys. This reverses the gender gap of 2019 when more boys were outperforming girls. Girls also overtook boys for the first time in maths, with 29.1% achieving A* grades compared to 28.5% of male students.

In England, London and the South East were the top performing regions, with 47% of entries being  graded A*-A. The North East had the lowest number of A*-A grades with 39% (up from 35.6% in 2020).

As well as A Level results being released earlier this year, today is the first time that all AS and A Level, some vocational qualifications, Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers, and Welsh Baccalaureate grades have been released on the same day; GCSE results were published on Thursday (August 12).

University places

Just under 400,000 students have a confirmed place at their first-choice of full-time undergraduate course at a UK university.

The GCE Advanced Level or International A Level is a secondary school leaving qualification in the UK and an international school qualification worldwide. Students normally sit three A Levels, but some sit four, and others as few as two.

Used by University and College admissions services around the world, A Levels remain one of the most widely recognised pre-university and college entry examinations. More universities are already considering setting their own entrance exams in the coming years due to the ongoing concerns about the accuracy of A Level results.

Leading universities could be forced to set their own tests to help them distinguish between the many prospective students awarded straight As, given the lack of an objective measure by which to judge the academic ability of school-leavers.

The government has said that all UK universities can now return to full face-to-face teaching after two years of disruption and campus closures. While universities are autonomous, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has suggested that universities that do not go back to in-person lectures and seminars should not charge full tuition fees.

Speaking on Sky News today (August 10), Mr Williamson said:

"I think if universities are not delivering what students expect, then actually they shouldn't be charging the full fees."

2021 IB results

This year, the IB Diploma Programme's dual route option of exam or non-examined assessments saw a rise in pass rates, average scores, and top scorers. The average IBDP score for the May 2021 session was 32.99 points, up from 31.34 in May 2020 and 29.62 in 2019. While this year’s A Level results are based solely on Teacher Assessed Grades, the IB results are based partially on assessments that were marked by IB Examiners.

Read more: Singapore's May 2021 IB Results

A Level league tables

For the second year running, the UK’s Department for Education (DfE) will not be publishing league tables for secondary qualifications. The most recent league tables for all UK state and independent schools are based on 2019 results.

However, the DfE has already announced that results from GCSE and A Level qualifications in 2021-22 will be published in school and college performance tables. This is because “after two years without publication of performance data, it is important that this information is publicly available to parents and students to support them when choosing schools and post-16 institutions, given the importance of qualification outcomes to student progression”.

A Level resits and appeals

A Level students who are unhappy with their Teacher Assessed Grades can appeal their grades or retake A Level exams in the same subject in autumn 2021.

Read more: GCSE, A Level Results Day 2021: Need to Know

UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that students getting their A Level results today 'deserve' the grades they get.

"Students have worked very hard in what has been an extraordinary and challenging year, and each and every one of them should feel incredibly proud of their achievements. We should all celebrate their resilience and ability to overcome adversity.

Teachers and staff have ensured that, despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, all students are able to get grades this year and so can take their next steps and make their choices about further study or entering the workplace."

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