2022 A Level Results, UK

A Level grades are lower than the last two years but higher than pre-pandemic levels. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com UK reports on the results as they come in.
2022 A Level Results, UK
By Carli Allan
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A Level and BTEC students in the UK receive their grades today after a return to exams for the first time in three years. As expected, grades have fallen for the first time since lockdown and school closures, but remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.

This year's exams signify a return to normality for 16-18-year-olds across the country as it is the first time post-Covid that full national exams have taken place. In the past two years, exams were replaced with teacher assessed grades based on a student's performance in in-class tests, mock exams, and coursework.

  • The overall pass rate has fallen from 99.5% in 2021 to 98.4% this year - but is up from 97.6% in 2019 when students last sat exams.

  • The number of A* and A grades has fallen from the record-breaking high of last year (44.8%) to 36.4%; this is still up from 25.4% in 2019. 

  • Independent schools in England saw the biggest drop in the proportion of top grades compared to state schools; A and A*s at fee-paying schools fell by 12.4% to 58%.

  • Girls continue to outperform boys; 37.4% of female entries were awarded A or A*, compared to 35.2% of male entries. 

  • 82.6% of entries were A*-C grades, lower than compared to 88.2% in 2021 and 87.5% in 2020 but still higher than the 75.9% of 2019.

What do this year’s grades tell us?

As widely anticipated (the head of Ofqual had warned schools to prepare for lower grades than last year), grades are starting to return to pre-pandemic levels in UK and worldwide; there has been a small drop from the unusually high grades of 2020 and 2021 when coursework and final exams were disrupted by Covid-19. We saw a similar trend with the release of the IB results in June.  Exam regulators want to get grades back to 2019 levels; this will not be in one jump (as the A Level results reveal) but it will take place over two years or more.

Back in April, the Department for Education said:

"As we return to exams, we want to get back to the pre-pandemic standard, but in the interests of fairness, Ofqual (who take the decisions on grading) won’t do so in one jump.

"Instead, 2022 will be a transition year to reflect that we are in a pandemic recovery period and students’ education has been disrupted. In 2022 the aim, therefore, will be to move grading to a point close to midway between 2021 and pre-pandemic profiles."

No one should underestimate the impact of the Covid years on students' learning... and for this particular cohorttheir A Level and BTEC examinations are the first formal public examinations that they have taken, having missed out on I/GCSE and AS examinations in 2020 and 2021. 

The discussion around the grade inflation of the past two years – and the small drop in average scores this year – should not detract from the incredible efforts of students to learn and teachers to teach in incredibly challenging times. Students have worked hard during an extremely difficult time – and today is a day to celebrate their achievements.

Will 2022's students be awarded their predicted grades where they have already received university offers, and will students find places on courses that they want through the UCAS university clearing system, given the drop in confirmed offers this year and the shortfall that is likely in university places? You can find it more about what the Exam Regulator and UCAS have to say in our article here.  If you find you have not received the grades you had hoped for, find out what you can do here.

Roundup of 2022 results

The figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) cover a total of 848,910 A Level results across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Students studied over 40 different A/AS Level subjects, and the most popular A Level subjects are unchanged from 2021: maths, psychology, biology, history and chemistry. Maths remains the most popular A Level subject. Geography continues to rise in popularity and is now one of the 10 most popular A Level subjects, and there are has been an 11% rise in the number of students taking political studies.

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

Girls received more top grades than boys overall. 14.8% of girls were awarded A*, compared with 14.4% for boys, and the rate of A*-A grades was 37.4% for girls and 35.2% for boys. This continues to reverse 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 39% and 39.5% of entries being graded A*-A. The North East had the lowest number of A*-A grades with 30.8%.

T Levels

Around 1,000 students received T Level results for the first time, the new technical qualification which offers young people a pathway to skilled employment, university or apprenticeships.

T Levels combine study with a substantial industry placement so that students gain the skills and valuable workplace experience they need to progress into a job, further study or an apprenticeship.

From this September there will be 16 T Levels available in a range of in demand subjects including digital, construction, health, science, accounting and engineering, with over 175 schools and further education providers across England offering them. More courses will be rolled out in 2023 and 2024 including legal, media and agriculture, with plans to introduce a T Level for marketing in 2025 also in train.

University places

This year, 19% more 18 year olds in the UK have a confirmed place at their first-choice of full-time undergraduate course at a UK university compared to 2019, following the return to examinations

Just over 425,000 students are celebrating being accepted into university or college, the second highest on record – an increase of 16,870 compared to 2019 (the last year examinations were held). This is 2% lower than the highest level seen in 2021, where students were awarded places based on teacher assessed grades. 

Students from overseas account for 12.3% of the total full-time undergraduate applicants accepted via UCAS, down from a high of 14.7% in 2019. 2022 has seen continued growth from nations such as China (+35%), India (+27%), and Nigeria (+43%).

UCAS Chief Executive Clare Marchant said:

“Throughout this year, there has been much discussion about what the return to examinations would mean for progression to higher education. Today we have seen more students progress compared to the last time students sat exams.

“This year has seen a growth in the number of 18 year olds in the population, which will continue for the remainder of the decade, and creates a more competitive environment for students in the years to come.  

“Whilst many will be celebrating today, there will be some who are disappointed. My advice is to take advantage of the wide range of choices on offer, which includes over 27,000 courses in Clearing, along with a range of apprenticeship opportunities. UCAS is here to support you; go to ucas.com or speak to a UCAS adviser on the phone or social media.”

2022 A Level results: reaction

Education Secretary, James Cleverly said:

“Every single student collecting their results today should be proud of their achievements. Not only have they studied throughout the pandemic, but they are the first group in three years to sit exams. For that, I want to congratulate them and say a huge thank you to those who helped them get to this point.

“Today is also a really exciting time for our pioneering T Level students, as the first ever group to take this qualification will pick up their results. I have no doubt they will be the first of many and embark on successful careers.

“Despite the nerves that people will feel, I want to reassure anyone collecting their results that whatever your grades, there has never been a better range of opportunities available. Whether going on to one of our world-leading universities, a high-quality apprenticeship, or the world of work, students have exciting options as they prepare to take their next steps.”

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