A Level Results 2023

You will, no doubt, have heard in the media that 2023 has marked a return to sanity in regard to A Levels, reversing the preposterous grade inflation in 2020, 2021 and 2022 which came about due to basing awards on teachers’ assessments, unmoderated. Last year, 2022, the policy to take a “half-way position” was adopted (because, apparently, being only 50% nonsense is OK). Peak-nonsense was attained in 2021. I refer you to my previous posts A Level Awards 2022, A Level Awards 2021 and Their Obfuscation, State Education Dying, Dying….Dead? and A Levels 2020: The Year of Utter Nonsense.

So, is it true that sanity has been restored? Broadly, yes it is.

Data has been taken from Brian Stubbs’ site.

Table 1 below shows the results for the top A* and A grades (wherein the inflation occurred) comparing this year with 2021 and with the pre-Covid years 2019 and 2010. The percentage of pupils, of either sex, gaining A* or A grades this year (2023) is larger than in 2019, but only to a reasonable degree. Admittedly, the percentage being awarded A* is larger than in any previous year (barring 2020-22), for both sexes.

A larger percentage of boys than girls were awarded the top A* grade, as they were in 2019, though this has varied over the years.

However, substantially more girls than boys take A Levels and this has been the case for several decades. Consequently, in terms of actual numbers, there are considerably more girls being awarded A* and A grades in all years.

Table 2 illustrates the gender-bias effect of the nonsense years, showing the excess of A* and A awards to girls over those to boys. In “sensible” years this has been around 20,000 to 26,000, whereas in peak-nonsense (2021) it reached 57,504. This implies that, in 2021, perhaps around 34,000 excess A* or A awards were made to girls over those to boys purely as a result of the bias introduced by using teachers’ assessments. Similar but smaller excess awards of top grades to girls would have occurred in 2020 and 2022.

YearSexpercentage of same sexnumber
Table 1: Top A* and A grades awarded by sex, various years compared
Table 2: Excess of girls over boys awarded A* and A grades

6 thoughts on “A Level Results 2023

  1. Nigel

    I’ve just had the latest report from the Childrens Society https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/good-childhood. Though the CS is far less rampantly feminist than the NSPCC the report, and its summary with recommendations, is a subtle lesson in changing the story. A good example of the sort of “how to lie with statistics” is a graph repeated a few times in the reports “Proportion of children (aged 10 to 17) unhappy with multiple aspects of life” A bar chart that looks rather frightening as the first bar towers over the others ag 70%. But in fact it means 70% of respondents were not unhappy on any of the 8 measures. And this is reflected by the rest of the report, where in fact overall their respondents (aged between 10-17) were pretty ok with relatively few really unhappy (unlike the media portray) Perhaps unsurprisingly “my appearance” was one of the highest with 15% of girls and 8% of boys unhappy about their appearance. Again not the picture in the media and not really supporting the recommendation in the summary report where government has to “take responsibility for girls’ happiness” . Other strange spins are put on family relationships. Again children generally are happy with family with the “quality of relationship” being the key variable after regression analysis. And rather than money it seems that single parent or step parent families are generally happy but more likely to have poor quality relationships . Again somehow the apparently greater likelihood of two parent families having children happy with the quality of relationship gets lost in the recommendations in favour of stuff about poverty, despite the fact their own analysis showed income levels were not relevant! Other throw away lines such as “understandably” girls are less likely to feel safe outside their area than boys, which isn’t understandable at all given that boys are far more likely to be victims of crime including violent crime. Though in fact the differences are not great girls are more likely to be happy with school than boys and in fact the overall actual data shows generally 80% of children are pretty contented. They are worried about the future, of course no one recommends we stop teaching them about climate armageddon or wildly exaggerated risks of crime, and anyway having just experienced the pandemic they are probably the first generation for decades to worry about infectious diseases. Needless to say boys are of no concern because their ard just a bit more likely to be happy and in particular seem a bit less likely to be obsessed with their appearance. But the good news that only 15% of girls are unhappy is lost in this recommendation huge efforts are made to make girls happy. As often the case thd boring main report and its data says some different things than the two summary reports.

    1. William Collins Post author

      It’s remarkable how often Exec summaries – or even Conclusions or Abstract in a paper – conflict with what you find within the work. They rely on people not reading it, and mostly it works. It makes it extremely easy to ‘prove’ whatever you want – just ignore the actual results.

  2. Nigel

    As I recall there were, pre covid, two large scale international studies and one purely UK that found that there was a very clear “grade inflation” in teacher assessments and examinations for females. All the studies showed that compared to “blind marking” or assments made on work where the sex of the student is concealed, girls received inflated marks of assessments. Interestingly the assessments for boys tended to be in line with the “blind marking”, so in fact teachers seem to be more accurate in assessing boys work. They are also more likely therefore to more accurately predict grades. The process is very definitely about being more generous to girls, benign sexism to use an old fashioned term. The hypotheses for this benign sexism didn’t of course include the feminist ideology in our education system, as the authors of all the studies had set out with a feminist hypothesis. However as this benign sexism seems to affect many countries it may give more credence to suggestions either of “presentation” girls work is better or more attractively presented or it is a reward for actual or perceived better behaviour in class or it’s a reward for compliance. All in all I’m sure it’s a combination of these with, in more “woke” cultures the added influence of feminist notions of encouragement for girls to counter “oppression”.

    1. AJ

      I think knowledge that girls receive preferential marking compared to boys massively predates the studies you refer to.
      I was at secondary school in the 70s and I remember there was much public discussion of movement away from exams towards continuous assessment because girls did not do well in exams compared to boys when compared to teachers assessments.
      This was against a context in which boys performed better than girls which was considered an issue and indeed continual assessment was widely introduced as an element in the awarding of qualifications.
      I was a boy at the time so took this more or less at face value but surely some at the time must have wondered about a discrepancy in the result of appraising attainment between an standardised anonymous method and a subjective non standard measure by those familiar with the subjects. The only reasonable conclusion would be that there was a systematic bias in teacher assessments. Even then I imagine it would take some bravery to suggest this as an explanation however obvious and compelling. Educational ‘experts’ however must have been aware of it.it

        1. AJ

          If that’s how they refer to it then that is an issue because it presupposes the cause of the discrepancy.
          I have a similar issue with the term dark matter but at least in that case it is just a label with a healthy debate and collection of evidence to understand the cause of the observed phenomena. In the case of education it seems there is no interest in the root cause of the differences.


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