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The BBC's James Westhead
"Results have improved yet again"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 16 August, 2000, 20:49 GMT 21:49 UK
Girls are the A-level stars
girls in classroom
Results suggest focusing on girls has paid off
For the first time girls are outperforming boys in the A-level exams.

In this year's results - which students get on Thursday - there has again been a general rise in achievement, continuing an 18-year improvement.

The Joint Council for General Qualifications, the umbrella body for exam boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, insists that standards are being maintained.

The number of exam entries also went up slightly, even though there has been a drop in the number of 18 year olds.

And there is evidence that the curriculum is already getting broader, with a marked increase in the numbers taking AS-levels but no corresponding decrease in those taking A-levels.

Click below for complete subject-by-subject tables of all the results at:

For the first time the joint council has published its breakdown of the results by gender, highlighting the girls' performance.

Most A-level entries were from female candidates - 54% against 46% from males.

The number of girls awarded A grades was 18.1%, up from 17.4%. The figure for boys was 17.5%, unchanged from last year.

Girls were also awarded more Bs and Cs - 19.9% and 21.8% respectively, compared to 18.2% and 20.6% of boys.

But boys got more of the lower passes, at D and E - 18.7% and 13.1% respectively, against 18.3% and 12% for females.

More opt for computing

The number of A grades rose from 17.5% to 17.8%. The proportion of all pass grades was up by just over half of one percentage point, to 89.1%.

The overall number of exams sat rose slightly - by 1,298 to 784,990. This total is larger than the total in the tables because they are broken down by gender and several thousand candidates did not give their gender on their papers.

The figures also confirm the rising popularity of subjects such as computing, information technology (IT), psychology and sociology.

At A-level, computing/IT entries were up 11.4%, at AS-level they were up by a quarter, and the Advanced GNVQ in IT had 8.4% more candidates.

There has been a continuing fall in the number of entries for modern languages and for sciences - although biology and chemistry are still in the "top five" most popular subjects, below general studies, English and maths.

Click here to see the "popularity" table.

Supplementary exams more popular

AS-levels, up in popularity this year by 9.6%, are set to become much more important in sixth forms from this September.

As part of the new curriculum, first year sixth formers will be expected to do four or five one-year AS-level subjects, narrowing their choice in the second year when they choose which courses to do for A-level.

But there was a drop of 11.8% in the numbers of entries for Advanced GNVQs, being made more rigorous and re-named Vocational A-levels from this year.

But it is believed students are taking other vocationally-oriented exams such as BTECs - being promoted heavily this summer by one of the main English exam boards, Edexcel.

This year's rise in the number of A grades continues an unbroken run of improvement stretching back to 1990.

Since then, the proportion of entries achieving A grades has risen from 11.6% to 17.8%.

SUBJECT ENTRIES %
General studies 89805 11.6
English 86428 11.2
Mathematics 67036 8.7
Biology 54814 7.1
Chemistry 40856 5.3
History 38779 5.0
Business studies 38226 5.0
Art and Design subjects 37609 4.9
Geography 37112 4.8
Physics 32059 4.2
Psychology 30187 3.9
Sociology 23901 3.1
Computing 19099 2.5
French 18221 2.4
Economics 17113 2.2
Sport/PE studies 16529 2.1
Media/Film/TV studies 15269 2.0
Technology subjects 14650 1.9
Expressive Arts 11401 1.5
Law 10325 1.3
Religious studies 9178 1.2
Political studies 9172 1.2
German 8692 1.1
Music 6815 0.9
Classical subjects 5654 0.7
Spanish 5632 0.7
Other Modern Languages 5296 0.7
Science 4654 0.6
Communication studies 3797 0.5
Home Economics 2019 0.3
Welsh 1020 0.1
All other subjects 10461 1.4

Science includes all science subjects except Biology, Chemistry and Physics
Other Modern Languages includes all languages except French, German, Spanish and Welsh
Welsh includes Welsh (First Language) and Welsh (Second Language)

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14 Aug 00 | Education
Male students top the class
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