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Fewer top grades achieved in GCSE as results based on summer exams return

25 Aug 2022 4 minute read
Pupils getting their exam results. Picture by the Welsh Government.

Learners in Wales achieved fewer top grades in their GCSE exams compared to last year, as the first results based on summer exams since 2019 have been published.

Due to the Covid pandemic results over the previous two years had been determined by teachers’ assessment.

According to the qualifications watchdog, results this year were broadly midway between the results in 2019, when exams were last held, and last year’s results, when teachers determined grades.

Results for this year revealed showed 68.6% of learners achieved were A* to C grades, down from 73.6% last year, while 25.1% of grades were A and A* – down on last year but a 6.7 percentage point rise on 2019.

The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles,  congratulated students across Wales as they received their GCSE, Welsh Baccalaureate and vocational qualification results.


“Congratulations to everyone receiving their results today. You should all be proud of your hard work through the disruption of the last two years,” he said.

“I welcome these results as we transition back to exams this year – it’s great to see what our learners have achieved.

“Don’t be too disappointed and don’t be too hard on yourself if things didn’t quite go to plan today. There are a range of options available to you, whether you’re unsure what to do next, or perhaps you didn’t sit your exams. Get in touch with Careers Wales or your school for support.

“Everyone under 25 has the opportunity to enrol in education or training, find work or become self-employed through our Young Person’s Guarantee. Take a look at Working Wales online to find out how to get involved.

“I hope you are pleased with your achievements and pob lwc on your next steps.”

This year’s result also confirmed that girls outperformed boys at A* to A by 8.1 percentage points

Breaking down the results by individual subjects, 18% of grades in maths were at A* and A – a 5% increase on 2019 – while 56.8% got C or above, 22.1% of learners got A* and A at Welsh first language (up from 15.8% in 2019) and 22.9% at Welsh second language and 19.5% of English language grades were A* and A, up 10.7% in 2019.

Joint Council for Qualifications

Figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) – covering GCSE entries from students predominantly in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – showed top grades of 7/A have fallen from 28.9% in 2021 to 26.3% this year, a drop of 2.6 percentage points.

But this remains higher than the equivalent figure for 2019 of 20.8%.

The proportion of entries receiving a 4/C – considered a pass – dropped from 77.1% in 2021 to 73.2% this year, a fall of 3.9 percentage points, but higher than 67.3% in 2019.

The overall rate for grades 1/G or above is 98.4%, down from 99.0% in 2021 but slightly above 98.3% in 2019.

Girls continued their lead over boys this year, with 30.0% of entries achieving a 7/A, compared with 22.6% for males.

The gap has closed slightly from last year, when 33.4% of female entries were awarded 7/A or above compared with 24.4% for males, a lead of 9.0 percentage points.

The top 10 subjects at GCSE, which sees pupils having to take a number of compulsory subjects as well as some optional choices, remained the same this year.

Business studies, which is optional, saw the biggest percentage rise in entries of any major subject, jumping by 4.6% from 102,542 to 107,283.

While Spanish remains the second-most popular modern foreign language after French, its entries have fallen by 1.7% for the first time since 2018.

Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash.

Kath Thomas, interim chief executive officer of JCQ, congratulated students getting their results “after lots of hard work and all the challenges of the pandemic”.

She said: “We’re pleased that exams are back, as they’re the fairest way to assess students and give everyone the chance to show what they know.

“This is the first time in three years that results have been based on formal exams and coursework, so it’s a welcome step back towards normality.

“These results will help them progress to the next stage of their education and make some important decisions about their future.

“As planned – and as with last week’s A-level results, these results are higher than the last set of summer exams in 2019, but lower than last year’s teacher-assessed grades.”

Meanwhile, exam board Pearson warned this week that thousands of students could miss out on being issued BTec (Business and Technology Education Council) results on Thursday.

It said that changes this year, made in order to take into account disruption to teaching and learning during the pandemic, had “added more complexity to the process” and that without full information they are unable to award students their results.

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