A-levels: Anxious wait over for thousands of pupils

Students get their results

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More than 300,000 18-year-olds are ending the anxious wait for their A-level results this morning.

Six weeks after the last of 800,000 A-level exam papers were sat in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the results are being released.

University and college admissions services use the results to confirm and withdraw offers of places to students.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson wished candidates good luck, urging them to be proud of their achievements.

He said: “Of course, the minds of thousands of young people getting their results will soon turn to the next chapter in their lives, whether that’s a place at one of our world-class universities, earning on an apprenticeship or entering the world of work.

“I hope every one of them is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for them and I wish them the very best of luck for their results today.”

Hopes of success

Students were told not to worry on Wednesday after the marks for each grade boundary for all subjects of the two major exam boards, Pearson/Edexcel and OCR, were leaked online.

The documents revealed that to achieve an A grade, candidates for most maths A-level papers had to score only just over half marks.

Thousands of students who have done better or worse than expected will be seeking places on courses at universities through the clearing system run by the University and College Admissions Service.

Clearing is expected to be very busy again this year, with a record 638,000 18-year-olds having already applied in the UK.

Ucas anticipates the number securing a university place through this system this year will top 70,000.

As candidates receive their results, the exam boards publish details of the national picture.

Overall, A-level pass rates and the percentages reaching each grade are unlikely to change very much, as exam boards and regulators seek to maintain standards over time.

They do this by making minor adjustments to grade boundaries, formulated by marrying the difficulty of papers with the predicted ability of the group of students sitting the qualifications.

Students in Scotland received their results earlier this month, with the pass rate for Highers falling to 74.8%, compared with 76.8% last year.

The Advanced Higher pass rate also fell slightly, to 79.4% from 80.5%.

New maths

In England, over the past few years, A-levels have moved away from coursework and returned to students being graded on final exams.

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This was part of efforts to upgrade exams to keep up with the highest performing nations.

A mix of old-style and new exams are still being taken in Wales and Northern Ireland.

But in England, results for maths, the final subject to be fully updated in line with what universities said was necessary for candidates going on to further study, will be watched closely.

There were also concerns after two questions from one Pearson paper were shared on social media days before the June exam.

An investigation by the exam board concluded they had not been widely circulated – and the exam went ahead without changes.

Are your A-level results better or worse than expected? If you’re not sure what to do next, Eddie Playfair, a senior manager with the Association of Colleges and Helena Poole, editor of Which? University are ready to advise on the best options. Email your questions to

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