Belfast Telegraph

Number of top A-level grades down

The proportion of A-level students achieving the highest grade in Northern Ireland has fallen.

Almost 33,000 pupils have received their results, and around 7.2% were awarded an A* - a decrease of half a percentage point on last year.

Particularly high numbers achieved good grades in mathematics, chemistry and modern languages, the organisation overseeing qualifications said, and an extra 1,373 entries earned grades A-E compared to five years ago.

Traditional subjects were most popular but an increased number taking science and technology subjects showed young people were thinking about their futures, a spokeswoman for the Joint Council for Qualifications said.

Qualifications director Anne Marie Duffy said: "It would appear to me that students are choosing traditional subjects which they feel will further their employment opportunities or their access to further and higher educations."

The proportion of A*-C grades was unchanged at almost 84% but there was a decrease in the percentage of entries achieving the top A*-A grades, dropping to just over 30% this year compared to almost 32% last year.

The number winning top marks remained roughly the same but more pupils entered and achieved lesser grades, pushing the overall percentage at the top down.

While girls outperformed boys overall, at the highest level the gap closed notably, with the performance of girls falling from 8% achieving an A* last year to 7% this year.

Biology, mathematics and religious studies were the most popular subjects. The number studying Spanish has risen consistently over the last five years.

The proportion achieving an A*-A fell from 36% in 2010 to 31% now.

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