Thursday 15th August 2019
Ofqual’s guide to results, standards and grade boundaries in the 2019 AS and A level results in England.
- The biggest reforms to general qualifications in a generation are almost complete with the majority of today’s results awarded for reformed A levels.
- Reformed A levels were awarded for the first time in 19 more subjects this summer (not counting A level maths), bringing the total number of reformed subjects to 44. The new A levels are linear qualifications, with refreshed content, but overall A levels have not been designed to be more demanding. Our focus has been to ensure that standards have been maintained for all qualifications awarded this summer.
- Overall results in England are slightly lower at grade A and above compared to last year (25.2% in 2019 compared with 26.2% in 2018). This is likely to reflect changes in the A level cohort and students’ subject choices.
- While the number of 18-year-olds taking A levels in England has decreased by around 0.3% this year, the overall 18-year-old cohort has decreased by just under 3%. This suggests that proportionally more 18-year-olds are taking A levels this year.
- Entries for reformed AS qualifications in England have dropped by over 50% compared to last summer. This makes it much more difficult to interpret any changes in year-on-year results. The variability in results within centres is generally similar to previous years. Even when there are no changes to qualifications, individual schools and colleges will see variation in their year-on-year results; this is normal.
Today (15 August 2019) we are publishing:
- a summary of this year’s results (below)
- an infographic about this year’s A level results
- a report on variability in school and college A level results, 2017 to 2019
- interactive analytics of variability in school and college A level results, A level outcomes in England and an interactive map of England showing A level results in different subjects by grade and county
You may also find it useful to read about how we regulate GCSEs, AS and A levels in England.
An historical perspective…
The exam boards use the principle of comparable outcomes when awarding, as a way of ensuring that standards are maintained.
The principle of comparable outcomes is not new. It has always been used by exam boards, particularly when qualifications change. It’s a principle that exam boards have followed for decades: that if the ability of the cohort of students is similar to previous years, they would expect results (outcomes) to be similar. This means that, in general, students who would have achieved a grade A in one year would achieve a grade A in another year.
Comparable outcomes is operationalised through a combination of statistical predictions and examiner judgement. Predictions give us a way to maintain standards and a mechanism to make sure exam boards’ standards are aligned, so that it is no easier to get a grade with one board than another. Predictions are not used in isolation though. Senior examiners review the work of students at the key grade boundaries to make sure it is appropriate for the grade. Where they judge that it is not, they can move the boundary to a mark where they are satisfied that the standard of work is appropriate. And, in smaller entry subjects, where the statistics are likely to be less reliable, exam boards rely more on examiner judgement.
Since 2010 we have required exam boards to report their results to us against predictions and to provide a rationale where they are not in line. Results in recent years have been relatively stable year-on-year.
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.
See also: Education