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A-level trends: Farewell to general studies as drama dips and Spanish soars

UK News | Published:

There was good news for Spanish, but bad news for drama and music.

Students sitting an exam

From subjects that have bowed out to those on the way up, here are six trends in this year’s A-level results:

– Farewell general studies

There were zero entries for A-level general studies this year. Ten years ago there were 46,770. The subject had been in decline before it became formally unavailable as an A-level in 2017, though last year there were still 41 entries. Two other subjects have also bowed out: communication studies and critical thinking. Both had around 2,000 entries 10 years ago.

EDUCATION Alevels
(PA Graphics)

– Spanish on the up

Last year, Spanish overtook French to become the most popular language at A-level. This year the gap has widened, with Spanish entries up 0.9% while French dropped by 1.1%. German suffered an even bigger decline, falling 6.2% and dipping below 3,000 entries for the first time.

EDUCATION Alevels Trends
(PA Graphics)

– Drama and music on the way down

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Entries for music have fallen 43% since 2010, while drama is down 42%. Both have spent most of the past decade in decline. Drama dropped by 6% between 2019 and 2020, while music fell 3%.

EDUCATION Alevels Trends
(PA Graphics)

– Girls outnumber boys in science

For the second year in a row, there were more female entries than male entries in the sciences. When combining the figures for biology, chemistry and physics, girls accounted for 80,854 entries (50.9%) and boys 78,122 (49.1%). Though physics remains dominated by boys (77% of entries), girls make up the majority of entries for both biology (64%) and chemistry (54%).

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EDUCATION Alevels Trends
(PA Graphics)

– Computing has biggest gender imbalance

While most of the entries for physics were from boys, it was not the subject that recorded the biggest gender imbalance towards males. That was computing, where boys made up 86% of entries and girls 14%. The biggest imbalance towards females was in performing/expressive arts, where girls made up 90% of entries and boys just 10%.

EDUCATION Alevels
(PA Graphics)

– Psychology outranks biology

The most popular subject taken this year was maths (94,168 entries), as has been the case for the last few years. But there was a change in second place, with psychology (65,255 entries) overtaking biology (65,057 entries). Psychology has gone up by around 10,000 entries since 2014, and this – plus a year-on-year fall in biology entries this year of around 4,000 – allowed it to move into second spot.

EDUCATION Alevels
(PA Graphics)

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