A Levels and Apprenticeship statistics

How many students are moving onto further education?

After they finish their GCSEs, many teenagers choose to move onto further education such as A levels or take a more practical route through an apprenticeship. With further education being a massive life decision, we unpacked the latest statistics to see how many students are choosing to continue their education, what they are studying and how they got on in their exams.

Quick overview

  • 737,000 students took A levels in England in 2019 – 9,000 less than the year before.
  • Mathematics was the most popular subject, with 85,000 exam entries.
  • Further Mathematics had the highest percentage of students who achieved A or A* grades, with 53.1% of students doing so.
  • The most popular apprenticeship in 2017/18 was Business, Administration and Law – which makes up two thirds of all apprenticeships
  • 34% of apprenticeships are being done by 19-24 year olds in 2017/18

A levels

In 2019, 737,000 students in England took A levels, similar to 2018, when 746,000 students took them. The majority of students (68%) took 3 A levels, with a select few individuals (0.1%) taking 5 or more A levels.

Take a look at the graph below for the breakdown of the number of A levels taken in 2019, or check out the table for a more detailed breakdown of the last four years.

A levels taken 2016 2017 2018 2019
1 12.1% 11.3% 10.5% 10.6%
2 16.2% 16.8% 16.8% 17.0%
3 63.6% 65.4% 66.9% 68.0%
4 7.6% 6.2% 5.6% 4.3%
5+ 0.4% 0.3% 0.2% 0.1%

Which A level subject is the most popular?

The most popular subject studied at A level in 2019 was Mathematics, studied by 85,000 students. This was closely followed by Biology with 63,600 students and Psychology with 62,000 students.

The least popular subjects were Performing and Expressive Arts (1,100 students), German (2,900 students) and Classical Subjects (4,900 students).

Subject Number of entries
Mathematics 85,000
Biology 63,600
Psychology 62,000
Chemistry 54,900
History 47,100
Art and design 39,200
English literature 37,200
Physics 36,000
Sociology 35,800
Geography 31,800
Business studies 30,500
Economics 29,800
Media/film/TV studies 19,800
Political studies 18,200
Religious studies 16,200
Further mathematics 13,700
English language 13,700
Law 10,900
Computing 10,400
Physical education 9,800
Drama 9,300
Design & technology 9,200
Spanish 7,900
French 7,600
English lang. & lit. 7,500
Music 5,100
Classical subjects 4,900
German 2,900
Performing/expressive arts 1,100

How many students achieved A or A* grades?

In 2019, Further Mathematics was the subject where the most students (53.1%) achieved an A or A* grade. In second place was Mathematics, where 40.5% of students achieved an A or A* grade. And despite being only studied by 2,900 people, 40.4% of students who studied German achieved an A or A* grade.

Subject Number of entries Percentage who achieved A/A* (2019)
Mathematics 85,000 40.5%
Biology 63,600 23.5%
Psychology 62,000 16.5%
Chemistry 54,900 28.4%
History 47,100 22.5%
Art and design 39,200 27.7%
English literature 37,200 24.1%
Physics 36,000 27.5%
Sociology 35,800 18.1%
Geography 31,800 23.3%
Business studies 30,500 14.1%
Economics 29,800 28.7%
Media/film/TV studies 19,800 11%
Political studies 18,200 26%
Religious studies 16,200 21.5%
Further mathematics 13,700 53.1%
English language 13,700 11.3%
Law 10,900 16%
Computing 10,400 17.6%
Physical education 9,800 14.7%
Drama 9,300 18%
Design & technology 9,200 15.9%
Spanish 7,900 34.9%
French 7,600 36.4%
English lang. & lit. 7,500 12.1%
Music 5,100 19.3%
Classical subjects 4,900 34.4%
German 2,900 40.4%
Performing/expressive arts 1,100 24%


Apprenticeships offer an alternative to full-time education at university or college. Instead of learning the material, apprenticeships allow you to work on the job, so you’re getting paid while you learn about the industry.
The most popular apprenticeship to start in 2017/18 was Business, Administration and Law, which makes up exactly two thirds of all apprenticeships in that year.

19- to 24-year-olds

made up 34% of apprentices in 2017/18.
Sector subject Number of apprenticeships
Business, Administration and Law 111,000
Health, Public Services and Care 88,000
Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies 59,000
Retail and Commercial Enterprise 54,000
Construction, Planning and Built Environment 23,000
Information and Communication Technology 18,000
Leisure, Travel and Tourism 9,000
Agriculture, Horticulture and Animal Care 7,000
Education and Training 6,000
Arts, Media and Publishing 1,000

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
UK communications manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806

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