Academic Year 2020/21

A level and other 16 to 18 results

This is the latest dataNational Statistics
UK statistics authority quality mark

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer exam series was cancelled in both 2020 and 2021, and alternative processes were set up to award grades.

In both 2019/20 and 2020/21 attainment shows increases compared to 2018/19, higher than would be expected in a typical year. This likely reflects the changes to the way GCSE and A/AS and VTQ grades were awarded rather than improvements in student performance. This means the 2019/20 and 2020/21 data should not be directly compared to attainment data from previous years for the purposes of measuring change in student performance.

Headline facts and figures - 2020/21

  • All level 3 exam cohorts showed increases in Average Point Score (APS) per entry compared to 2018/19  (extending increases seen in 2019/20, the first year of the alternative processes to award grades; an increase of 10 points is equivalent to an increase of one full grade):

                    A level  (+7.8ppts) >>  applied general (+4.4ppts)  >> tech level (+3.3ppts)

      A/AS levels in 2020/21 are predominately based on teacher-assessed grades (TAGs). Similarly, VTQ grades were decided using teacher-assessed grades, but also using normal assessment routes, and some through adapted assessment such as remote invigilation.


  • All institution types have seen large increases in average A level points since 2018/19. The largest increase has been for ‘other FE sector’ colleges (8.8 points). For all independent schools the average point score increased by 8.4, compared to 8.0 for all state-funded schools and 5.9 for sixth form colleges.


  • At A level the gap in attainment between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students has narrowed slightly since 2018/19, but remains approaching half a grade. However, the disadvantage gap for applied general and tech level qualifications has widened slightly year-on-year from 2018/19 to 2020/21.


  • Overall, in 2020/21 both males and females were more likely to be awarded the higher A level grades (A*/A/B) than in 2018/19 and in 2019/20.  Increases were larger for females, and this continues the trend observed in 2019/20, where a higher  proportion of females were awarded the top A* and A*-A grades. This is also a reversal of the gender gap in achievement at these grades seen in 2017/18 and 2018/19.


  • Females continue to make up 44% of all STEM entries at A level. Female attainment at top A* and A*-A grades has increased more than for males across all STEM subjects between 2018/19 and 2020/21. In 2020/21 chemistry is the only STEM subject where males remain more likely to achieve grade A* (and females are more likely to achieve A*-A and A*-B across every STEM subject).


  • Broadly speaking, for other student characteristic breakdowns (ethnicity, SEN provision, first language and more) changes in assessment have increased average results, but have not led to notable changes in attainment gaps.

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