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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
A-level grades up again
This year's A-level students have outperformed their predecessors, with the pass rate going up again for the 18th year in a row.
The overall pass rate was 89.8% - with 18.6% of entries being awarded A grades.
The controversial new AS-levels are said to have been a great success - in spite of the row over their implementation.
In this first year of the new exam the pass rate was 86.6% with 17% of entries getting grade A.
Women do best
Women did even better than men in the new exam than they did in A-levels, now in their 50th year.
"We are very confident in saying that these qualifications have been a resounding success," said Paul Sokoloff, convenor of the Joint Council for General Qualifications, representing the five exam boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
England's School Standards Minister, Stephen Timms, said everyone should feel a real sense of achievement.
"This year I pay particular thanks to the teachers, lecturers and parents who have provided an outstanding level of support and encouragement to students, in particular to those in their first year of advanced study."
This year's results were broken down into England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the first time - revealing that students in Northern Ireland did best.
Nearly a quarter of students there got A grades, compared to 19.9% in Wales and 18.3% in England.
Click here for a results overview
These are the last set of results under the "old" A-level syllabus.
Under the Curriculum 2000 changes which brought in the Advanced Subsidiary-levels, the first "A2" exams - the second half of the new-style A-level - will be taken next year.
AS-levels were widely supported in principle but brought howls of protest from schools, colleges, students and their parents at the increased workload involved.
The Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, ordered an urgent review by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the quango responsible for the system.
As a result, she has promised to reduce the number of papers students have to sit next year. A second phase of the review is ongoing.
Last year's published results showed the separate achievements of male and female students for the first time, and prompted considerable debate about why women had done better.
But in the new AS-levels women outperformed men by 3.2 percentage points at grade A and 4.2 in all passes.
Mr Sokoloff said he was speculating but the gap had been attributed last year in large part to the fact that A-levels relied increasingly on course work as well as end-of-course exams, which seemed to favour women's more consistent approach to study.
"The major difference with the new ASs is that they are all unit-based and there is a higher proportion of course work," he said.
Ruth Lea, head of policy at the Institute of Directors, said: "I think exams are getting more girly. Girls are more conscientious than boys at doing coursework."
There was an 11.9% fall in the number of Advanced GNVQs taken - although more people took information technology.
In the new Vocational A-levels, with just 6,949 papers taken, the pass rate was 54.5%. The joint council says this is not bad - but it is concerned that only 1% of entries attracted a grade A.
There had been complaints from colleges - finding high numbers of failures among the candidates for the first exams - that the standard had been set too high.
Whereas the three units of an AS-level are assessed on the basis that students have had only one year of study, all six units of a Vocational A-level are assessed at the final standard.
This is being looked at as part of the government's review of the new exams. The Association of Colleges says the AS-levels have provided a good indication of how well students are doing after their first year of study, and it would "strongly support" a similar halfway stage in Vocational A-levels.
The provisional overview of the results published on Wednesday night includes all entries, not only those from 17 and 18 year olds, which had been collated by the joint council by last week.
Candidates were getting their individual results on Thursday.
Final school by school results, on which the league tables are based, are published towards the end of the year.
These will take account of any late results and any adjustments due to appeals. This year for the first time a candidate's marks can go down as well as up as a result of an appeal.
The GCSE results are due out in a week's time.
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The table below shows an overview of the results and the gender gap - how much women's results exceeded those of men:
There are full lists of subject-by-subject grades here:
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