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Analysis shows boys still far behind girls at school (Summary of A-Level and GCSE results)

There has been much attention (‘hype’) about the recent 2018 A Level and GCSE results suggesting boys are doing better at girls at the higher grades. However, this has masked the true and worrying picture that boys are far behind girls by some way. The following is top line analysis from the 2018 results published in August 20187

(1) A Levels

On the A Level results, there was much focus (BBC, Evening Standard etc.) on the fact that for the second year running, boys have outperformed girls at the top grades. Last year, this happened for the first time in 17 years, amid the move to the new-style exams. This year 26.6% of exam entries for boys were awarded an A or A*, compared with 26.2% of girls. This compares with 26.6% and 26.1% respectively last year.

However, this is based on percentages – the true focus should be on the numbers as this tells the actual story. Analysis shows that:

  • Males took 80,986 fewer A Levels than females in 2018 (45% compared to 55%) – a 10% percentage point gap or women took 22% more A Levels than males.
  • Whilst more males as a percentage than females received A*(8.5% compared to 7.6%), 2,867 fewer A* grades were actually awarded to males than females (due to the fact that more women took A Levels in the first place). Women received 9% more A* than males.
  • Whilst more men as a percentage than women received A* and A grades (26.6% compared to 26.2%), 19,758 fewer A* to A grades were actually received by men. Women received 20.3% more A* to A grades than men.
  • More A*-C grades were received by females (78.7% grades compared to 75.1%), which meant that females received 76,891 more A*-C grades in total than men. Women received 27.4% more. A*-C grades than men.

A-Level Results – June 2018 (UK)

2018 numbersAbsolute Percentages2018 gender percentage point difference (ratio) 2018 gender difference number2018 gender percentage differences (numbers)
Male Total
365,395
45%(10%)(80,986)(22%)
A*31,0588.5%(5.6%)(2,867)(9%)
A66,13618.1%(11.2%)(16,891)(25.5%)
A*-A97,19426.6%(9.2%)(19,758)(20.3%)
B91,34825%(15.6%)(33,639)(36.8%)
C85,86723.5%(12%)(23,946)(27.36%)
Cumulative (A*-C)274,41075.1%(12.3%)(76,891)(28%)
Female Total446,38155%
A*33,9257.6%
A83,02718.6%
A*-A116,95226.2%
B124,98728.0%
C109,36324.5%
Cumulative (A*-C)351,30178.7%

Source: JCQ (https://www.jcq.org.uk/examination-results/a-levels/2018/main-results-tables/a-level-and-as-results-summer-2018) – Page 7

An additional key issue, is that if less boys/men take A Levels and then actually do less well overall (A*-C grades) then it can be no surprise that less then go on to university.

The last figures published for UCAS (2017 acceptances for UK domiciles) showed that 65,000 fewer UK males went to university than UK females.

(2) GCSEs

A similar narrative to A Levels emerged with GCSE results, with the narrative suggesting that the exams were now more male-friendly.

Boys appear to have been the major beneficiary of the new GCSE examinations taken in England for the first time this summer, as results showed across-the-board improvements in boys gaining top marks while girls saw their share of top grades dip – Guardian.

The new “tougher” GCSE exams appear to play to boys’ strengths, as the gender gap is now at its narrowest in seven years, figures show – Telegraph.

The facts show that boys remain well behind girls when it comes to GCSE results as well.

  • Only 62.3% of males received A*-C grades whilst 71.4% of women received the same results – the equivalent of 261,522 more A-C grades.
  • Women received 181,643 more A grades than men, 38.7% more.
2018 numbersAbsolute Percentages2018 gender percentage point difference (ratio) 2018 gender difference number2018 gender percentage differences (numbers)
Male Total
2,725,594
49.8%(0.2%) 
A468,80217.2%(16.1%)(181,643)(38.7%)
C1,229,24245.1%(3.2%)(79,881)(6.5%)
A-C1,698,04562.3%(7.1%)(261,522)(15.4%)
Female Total2,744,49250.2%
A650,44523.7%
C1,309,12347.7%
A-C1,959,56771.4%

Source: https://www.jcq.org.uk/Download/examination-results/gcses/2018/main-results-tables/gcse-full-course-results-summer-2018