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Guide to AS and A level results for England, summer 2023

Students receiving their results today have shown incredible resilience and they should be proud of what they have achieved. This summer, there has been a return to pre-pandemic grading in England, with protection in place to recognise the disruption that students have faced. This means that allowances have been made where national performance is weaker than before the pandemic. It’s important that we get back to normal so that grades prepare students for college, university or employment in the best possible way, and help them to make the right choices about their next steps.

Dr Jo Saxton, Chief Regulator, said:

Today we celebrate the success of the class of 2023 and students should be proud of their achievements. They have shown resilience and determination despite the disruption caused by the pandemic during the crucial years of their education.

Two years ago we set out a clear plan to return to pre-pandemic grading – a system that schools, colleges, universities and employers are all familiar with. As we said then, we expected overall A level results would be similar to 2019, and lower than in 2022. However, recognising the disruption that students have experienced, we put in place important grading protection to make sure that a student who would have secured a particular grade in 2019, would be just as likely to achieve that same grade this year. It is therefore more meaningful to compare this year’s results with those of 2019, the last summer exam series before the pandemic.

We have been clear about this approach with universities and other higher education providers, and I want to thank them for showing understanding and awareness of the national picture when confirming places with students.

Key points

  1. There has been a return to pre-pandemic grading this summer in England with protection in place for students. It is most meaningful to compare results to 2019, the last summer exam series before the pandemic.
  2. Overall A level results in England are similar to 2019. Outcomes at grade A and above are 26.5% compared with 25.2% in 2019, and outcomes at grade B and above are 52.7% compared with 51.1% in 2019.
  3. Overall AS results in England are similar to 2019. Outcomes at grade A are 21.8% compared to 20.1% in 2019. Entries for AS have fluctuated in recent years, making it much more difficult to interpret any changes.

Today (17 August 2023) we are publishing:

As in a typical year, the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has published results in England for AS and A level, overall and by subject. These results are also shown in our interactive visualisation.

Centre type results

Ofqual has updated its interactive visualisation to show A level results for different types of school and college compared to previous years, overall and by subject. The centre type categories are based on the national centre number (NCN) register and are self-reported by centres.

Overall results for all types of schools and colleges are broadly similar to 2019 at grade A and above. When students take exams the same assessment arrangements apply to everyone, so any differences in outcomes compared to 2019 are likely to reflect differences in the impact of the pandemic, as well as longstanding differences in the pattern of results for different centre types.

Cumulative percentage outcomes by centre type – grade A and above

Percentage of candidates awarded grade A and above in all subjects combined by centre type, 2019, 2022 and 2023

Centre type 2019 2022 2023
Academies 24.0 34.8 25.4
Free schools 34.3 44.0 34.8
FE establishment 16.5 21.8 14.2
Independent 44.8 58.0 47.4
Other 22.7 26.9 23.4
Secondary comprehensive 20.1 30.4 22.0
Secondary modern 18.3 27.6 19.1
Secondary selective 37.0 51.0 39.0
Sixth form college 22.0 31.9 22.6

Centre variability

Ofqual’s interactive visualisation shows the level of variation in schools’ and colleges’ A level results compared to 2019. We know that, in any year, individual schools and colleges may see variation in the proportion of students achieving particular grades compared to previous years. This can be due to many different factors, including differences in the mix of students entered for particular qualifications, different teaching approaches, changes in teaching staff or teaching time, and changes to qualifications.

In general, there is more variation in centres’ results. This is not surprising, given that comparisons are being made over a longer time period (4 years). Our interactive visualisation allows users to explore variation in centres’ results for different age groups and sizes of centres.

Equalities analyses

As well as the results breakdowns published today, Ofqual will be repeating the equalities analyses we published in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Ofqual makes this information available so that the whole sector can understand qualification results and use this to inform policy making and practice. It is not possible for us to complete these more detailed equalities analyses ahead of results being issued, because final data from exams is only available very close to results days. We will publish this as soon as we can, in the autumn.

Our analyses consider whether the gaps between results for different groups of students have changed compared to previous years. When students take exams, the same assessment arrangements apply to everyone – students’ grades are solely determined by the number of marks they achieve in the assessments, and the same rules apply to everyone taking the same qualification. Any changes in the gaps between results for different groups of students are therefore likely to reflect long-standing differences in attainment, as well as any differential impact of the pandemic or other disruption. Qualifications are one part of the education system and they do not create these differences. Exams and other formal assessments are not the cause of attainment gaps, nor can they be the solution.

Grade boundaries

Exam boards have set grade boundaries this summer based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative evidence. As in previous years when exams took place, there has been an important role for examiner judgement in reviewing the quality of students’ work.

Grade boundaries typically change each exam series to reflect any differences in the difficulty of the assessments. This means that some grade boundaries are lower than 2019, while others are higher. The approach to grading this summer has protection built into the grading process so, irrespective of the grade boundaries, students can be confident that the disruption they have faced has been taken into account.

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