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Northern Ireland A-level students outperform rest of UK

Northern Ireland's A-level students continue to outperform counterparts in England and Wales, with girls doing slightly better than boys.

But the high proportion of students passing dipped by a fraction.

There was strong uptake of science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.

Around 12,000 students were expected to receive results today, with many checking their grades online.

Director of qualifications at the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) Anne Marie Duffy said performance was outstanding.

"That is a tribute to the teaching force expertise and also to the attitudes towards teaching and learning, and the excellence of teaching and learning, and the fact that there is a lot more information available in the system to drive performance upwards and investment to do so," she said.

This was the first year of the A* grade and it accounted for 9.3% of grades awarded.

Other highlights included:

  • At the top A*/A-grades, there was an increase of 1.2% compared to the previous year;
  • The overall pass rate remains high, with 98.1% achieving grades A*-E. This compares to a rate of 98.4% last year;
  • A-level entry levels remained consistent with previous years, with 31,741 grades awarded this year, an increase of 1.2% since last year. This is in line with a 0.8% increase across Northern Ireland, England and Wales;
  • A total of 35.7% achieved grades A*-A, compared to 34.5% last year. When English and Welsh performance are added to Northern Ireland, the percentage achieving the top grades fell to 27%;
  • The most popular subjects were biology and mathematics, each responsible for around 10% of entries;
  • 8.8% of boys were awarded A* grades compared to 9.7% of girls;
  • 40% of candidates accessed their results online.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane and Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey congratulated students.

"Your results reflect the hard work you have put into your studies over your school years," they said.

"They also highlight the dedication, help and support of teachers and parents who go above and beyond to encourage young people to achieve their full potential."

Popular Subjects

The most popular subjects this year were Biology, Mathematics and English followed closely by History and Religious Studies. This trend is consistent with previous years and indicates the continued popularity of traditional subjects.

All languages saw an increase in entry levels this year with Spanish rising by 10.8% and Irish also seeing a rise in entries of 3.8%.

Entry levels for STEM subjects remain healthy with significant increases seen in ICT (20.8%), Technology (11.2%) and Physics (9.8%).

Gender Differences

Females continue to perform slightly better than males. The performance gap between males and females achieving grades A* – E is 0.7 percent.

At the top A* grade females continue to perform better than males. Of the grades awarded to males 8.8% were at A*. Of the grades awarded to females 9.7% were at A*.

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