First fall recorded in A-level passes

The number of pupils gaining straight As in their A-levels has fallen for the first time on record, it emerged yesterday, following the introduction of more challenging questions this year.

An analysis of this summer's results showed a surprise drop in the number of young people achieving three or more straight A* or A-grade passes. Only 12.4 per cent received at least three top grade passes, compared with 12.7 per cent last year.

Teachers' leaders said this was the first fall since an analysis of individual students' achievements was first recorded more than a decade ago. For the past 28 years, the A-level pass rate has risen relentlessly.

The figures also showed a fall in the number of candidates receiving two A-level passes – from 95.1 per cent to 93.6 per cent. It was suggested that this had been prompted by the decision to ask more searching questions in this year's examinations. In their final exam papers, candidates were given more open-ended questions in an attempt to uncover their critical thinking skills.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "The exams were definitely more difficult this year. The figures show they were still getting A grades in the subjects they were most confident in, but it was possibly that more demanding final exam where they were affected."

He added: "People always talk about [the exams] getting easier but I think this proves this isn't the case."

The fall coincides with a rise in the overall number of A-grade passes, showing that many more young people are achieving one or two A grades. Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment at the University of Buckingham, described the development as "extremely interesting".

"We have all tended to think that – as the percentage of A grades goes up – so does the percentage getting three A-grade passes," he said. "It is good news, because it shows many more people are achieving at the highest level in their best subjects."

The results will also make the task of university admissions staff slightly easier as they sift through applications for popular courses such as law and medicine.

Yesterday's analysis showed a rise in the percentage of pupils receiving five A* to C-grade passes including maths and English to 53.1 per cent – the first time the figure has broken the 50 per cent mark.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Senior Textiles / Fashion Technician

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...

Recruitment Genius: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy