//A-Level results day 2017: The key trends in three charts

A-Level results day 2017: The key trends in three charts

By |2017-12-20T13:17:24+00:0017th August 2017|Exams and assessment, Post-16 provision|

Overall, A-Level pass rates have edged up slightly

A*-A passes were up slightly (26.3% of all awards v 25.8% last year), though the overall A*-E pass rate was down slightly (97.9% v 98.1%).

The proportion of A*s awarded was also up – to 8.3% of all awards, versus 8.1% last year.

However, in England the percentage of 18-year-olds achieving A*-A grades in reformed subjects fell from 25.0% to 24.3%, whilst the equivalent percentage in non-reformed subjects rose from 29.6% to 30.6%. This suggests that the cohort of students entered for reformed subjects in 2017 may have had lower prior attainment than the cohort who entered those subjects last year.

A-Level entry numbers are fairly stable

Overall A-Level entry numbers were down from 837,000 to 828,000 this year, a reduction of 1.0%. But there was a 1.7% reduction in the size of the population of 18-year-olds, so the fall may be smaller than expected.


And while we think that students are now starting to take three, rather than four, A-Level courses for a number of reasons including post-16 funding, it looks like this may not filter through into A-Level entry numbers until next year.

Entry numbers for AS-Levels are down much more sharply

The big story is really the drop in the number of AS-Levels.

Overall, the number of AS-Level entries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland decreased by around 468,000, or 39.1%, from 1,196,000 to 728,000  – on top of a 13.7% decline we’d seen last year.

The drop is driven by what is going on in England – with the decoupling of AS- and A-Levels leading to AS-Levels being abandoned en masse.

In geography, AS-Level entries were down 50%; in biology they were down 55%; while in psychology down 56%, to look at just three examples.

The impact of this decoupling is something that we will consider in a post to follow shortly – to make sure you don’t miss it, sign up to our blogpost mailing list using the link below.

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About the Author:

Philip is FFT Education Datalab’s external affairs manager, and a researcher on inspection, the academy system and other subjects. He leads on Datalab’s public profile, including the team’s use of visualisation. His research interests include multi-academy trusts, free schools, school finance, and Ofsted.


  1. Catherine Winder 20 August, 2017 at 11:21 am - Reply

    Interested to know if students (doing reformed subjects) performed better, worse or similar if they did the AS level in 2016. At a school level we feel that doing AS may have led to stronger A level performance in reformed subjects. Is this a national trend?

    • Philip Nye 20 August, 2017 at 9:01 pm - Reply

      Hi Catherine – that’s a really interesting question; thanks. And very interesting to hear what you think the impact has been at your school. From the national data we got on Thursday it’s not one we can get to grips with at all – but it’s something that we intend to look into in the coming six months, once more granular data is available.


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