Hundreds of thousands of students across England have now found out what they achieved in their A level, AS level, T Level, and level 3 vocational and technical qualifications.
Here, we answer some of your questions.
What does the data show about A level and T Level results?
In line with the grading approach taken this year, A level results are broadly similar to 2019, the last year that summer exams were sat before the pandemic.
In the UK 27.2 percent of A level entries achieved a grade A and above – this is slightly higher than 2019, when it was 25.4 percent. However, as expected, it is lower than in 2022, which was a transition year back to normal, when 36.4 percent of entries achieved a grade A and above.
Almost the same proportion of A level entries achieved a grade C and above this year compared to 2019 – 76.0 percent this year compared to 75.9 percent in 2019.
Meanwhile, 90.5 percent of students passed their T Levels, 69.2 percent with Merit or above.
Why are exam grades lower this year and is it really the ‘biggest fall in a decade’?
Between 2019 and 2021, we saw a significant increase in the proportion of entries at grades A and above as a result of exams not taking place. Ofqual announced last September a return to pre-pandemic grading standards this summer. This has meant, as expected, A level results are lower this year compared to 2022.
This return to pre-pandemic grading is important for students – it means that universities and employers understand their performance, have confidence in their qualifications, and are able to use them to help them progress into the right opportunities.
Recognising the disruption of recent years, senior examiners made allowances where national performance was slightly lower than before the pandemic, to create a level of protection for students. In practice, this meant that students were just as likely to achieve a particular grade this year as they would have done before the pandemic. That’s why it’s fairer to compare grades this year to those achieved by students in 2019.
In fact, the A level pass rate has stayed broadly the same, not including the pandemic years. This year, 97.3 percent of A level entries in the UK passed, compared to 97.6 percent in 2019.
Why is grading different for students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?
Education is a devolved power, meaning it's up to the devolved governments to decide on grading arrangements. Results in Wales and Northern Ireland tend to look slightly different to those in England every year given they all have slightly different qualifications with different content, assessment and structures.
Wales and Northern Ireland have taken different approaches to returning to pre pandemic standards. In Wales and Northern Ireland, students sit AS levels the year before their A levels. These count towards their final A level grades and were sat when marking was more lenient last year. For example, in Wales 40% of the marks from each A level are from 2022 when grading was higher.
We therefore expected results in Wales and Northern Ireland to be higher than in England. Universities will have reflected these long-term and short-term differences in their offers to students to ensure they are fair, as they do every year.
What do this year’s results mean for university places?
The number of top grades awarded has no bearing on the number of university places available.
On results day, 91% of UK 18 year olds were accepted into their firm or insurance choice university and almost 80% got their first choice. These figures are higher than in 2019, when 88% were accepted with 74% getting their first choice,
Universities are independent from government and decide their own business models. This means they set the number of spaces available, entry requirements, staff recruitment and pay.
We have been working with the exams regulator Ofqual, to communicate with schools, colleges and universities as part of this year’s grading plans. Universities reflected the likely lower grades in the way they set entry requirements and made offers to students this year.
Students can be assured that the options available to them are the best they have ever been. 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are far more likely to be accepted to university than a decade ago and there’s a range high-quality apprenticeships and vocational courses on offer that enable students to develop their skills and train for a successful career.
Does it mean there are fewer university places in Clearing?
Every year UCAS supports thousands of students to use Clearing and this year is no different. There are plenty of choices available for students who have not yet secured a place at university or for those who want to explore alternative options.
Of course, Clearing is a dynamic process and the number and types of courses available will change on a daily basis. On results day, there were nearly 29,000 courses available including many at some of the most selective universities.
There are many excellent opportunities out there for all students, including through Clearing but also outside of a traditional undergraduate degree, such as an apprenticeship or a Higher Technical Qualification. On results day there were 8000 apprenticeship opportunities available via UCAS.
How have we supported students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the return to pre-pandemic grading?
It is fairer for all pupils to return to normal exams and normal grading. We can see this from some of the data - for example the gap between independent schools and academies narrowed last year and this year as we returned back to exams and back to normal.
16,530 students who received free school meals (FSM) have gained a place at university this year – this is a 60% increase from 2019. On top of this, disadvantaged students are now 73% more likely to go to university than at the same point in 2010.
But we know there’s still more to do to make sure pupils across the country have the same opportunities as their peers.
We have made £5 billion available to help pupils to recover from the impact of the pandemic, including over £1.5 billion for the National Tutoring Programme and 16-19 Tuition Fund, which have supported millions of students in need of extra support.
Schools also receive extra funding through the pupil premium to help disadvantaged children of all abilities achieve their full potential.
We’ve increased pupil premium rates by 5% for 2023-24, taking total pupil premium funding to almost £2.9 billion in that year.
We have also committed funding to 55 local authority areas of England where education outcomes are the weakest. These are called Education Investment Areas (EIAs).
We are also supporting recruitment and retention of specialist teachers in areas where they are most needed through the Levelling Up Premium. It’s worth up to £3,000 tax-free annually for maths, physics, chemistry and computing teachers in the first five years of their careers who choose to work in disadvantaged schools, including in EIAs.
What are we doing to close the attainment gap between students in the north and south?
We know there’s still more to be done to make sure children from all over the country have the same opportunities to succeed to the highest levels. That’s why we’re investing in EIAs, as explained above, with around half located in the north – this includes a package of measures to drive school improvement and improve pupil outcomes.
Our £5 billion education recovery programme, including the Recovery Premium, National Tutoring Programme and the 16-19 Tuition Fund will also help level the playing field for children all over England.
We've asked universities to work more closely with schools and colleges in their area to support pupils and tackle disadvantage earlier on.
For example, in November 2021, we issued guidance to the Office for Students, asking it to refocus the access and participation regime to create a system that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds throughout their education.
Where can students get support following their results?
The first port of call should be teachers at school or college.
You can also speak to a professional careers adviser for free and get judgment-free, confidential information and advice via the National Careers Service Exam Results helpline, via phone or by webchat.