GCSE and A level statistics

In 2022, there were over 5.3 million entries into GCSE exams in England. We unpacked the statistics to find out how they got on.

You might think fondly of your time as a student, even if you didn’t have much in your student bank account, but we’re sure you haven’t forgotten about the stress before big exams. At the end of secondary school education, 16-year-olds in the UK take their GCSE exams. In 2022, over 5.3 million tests were made. We unpacked the statistics to get the lowdown on GCSE exams and results.

Quick overview

  • The total GCSE entries in 2022 was 5,349,250.
  • Overall GCSE results in 2021 were higher at grade 7 (28.5% in 2021) than 2020 (25.9%) and at grade 4 (76.9% in 2021) compared to 2020 (75.9%).
  • The UK GCSE pass rate was 77% in 2021.
  • The most popular subject studied at GCSE level in 2022 was combined sciences (854,450 students).
  • A level entries in 2021 (756,230) increased by 3% from 2020 (731,855).
  • Only 5% of A level students have taken 4 or more A levels in summer 2021.
  • The total number and percentage of students receiving an A* in all their subjects in 2021 is higher than in 2020.
  • The most popular subject studied at A level in 2022 was mathematics (89,605 students).

GCSE entries in 2022

The total entries for GCSEs in 2022 was 5,349,250, this is an increase of 0.9% compared to 2021 (5,301,075). This number has been steadily increasing for the past 5 years.

Year group 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Year 10 and below 123,350 127,245 124,310 95,580 107,400
Year 11 4,619,275 4,657,115 4,756,135 4,847,140 4,928,640
Year 12 and above 393,870 401,485 401,300 358,350 313,210
All year groups 5,136,495 5,185,845 5,281,745 5,301,075 5,349,250

GCSE English Baccalaureate subject entries in 2022

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is a performance measure for students who achieve good GCSE or accredited Certificate passes in English, mathematics, history or geography, 2 sciences and a language.

Entries have increased for subjects such as science, geography, other modern languages, English literature and Spanish. The largest percentage increases were for other modern languages (44%), Spanish (6.10%) and geography (4.10%). There were decreases in entries for mathematics, English language, German and ancient languages.

Subject grouping 2021 2022 % change
Combined science 840,955 854,450 1.60%
Mathematics 758,755 749,390 -1.20%
English language 729,605 719,790 -1.30%
English literature 572,765 582,680 1.70%
Geography 268,180 279,205 4.10%
History 278,880 278,750 0%
Biology 171,835 174,605 1.60%
Chemistry 165,710 167,190 0.90%
Physics 164,330 166,550 1.40%
French 125,655 126,185 0.40%
Spanish 109,655 116,355 6.10%
Computing 77,245 79,135 2.40%
Other modern languages 25,225 36,310 44%
German 37,035 36,000 -2.80%
Ancient languages 11,860 11,510 -3%
Total 4,337,685 4,378,110 0.90%

GCSE non-EBacc subject entries

The most popular non-EBacc subjects was religious studies (RS), with 243,875 students taking RS in 2022, 1.7% more than in 2021. Religious studies was followed by art and design (194,040 students) and business studies (100,990 students) as the most popular non-EBacc subjects.

The least popular subject at GCSE level was engineering, with only 2,305 students taking this subject in 2022. Other sciences (2,320 students) and classical subjects (3,595 students) followed as the 3 least popular subjects for GCSE students in 2022.

Subject grouping 2021 2022 % change
Religious studies 239,680 243,875 1.70%
Art and design subjects 197,595 194,040 -1.80%
Business studies 95,610 100,990 5.60%
Design and technology 82,505 78,405 -5%
Physical education 71,425 71,215 -0.30%
Drama 56,860 53,790 -5.40%
Food preparation and nutrition 49,965 51,940 4%
Social science subjects 39,395 42,385 7.60%
Music 35,400 34,130 -3.60%
Media/film/TV studies 32,705 31,635 -3.30%
Citizenship studies 20,750 22,850 10.10%
Statistics 17,950 22,615 26%
Performing/expressive arts 8,780 8,245 -6.10%
Economics 6,500 6,805 4.60%
Classical subjects 3,540 3,595 1.60%
Other sciences 2,220 2,320 4.40%
Engineering 2,515 2,305 -8.30%
Total 963,390 971,140 0.80%

GCSE results

The COVID-19 pandemic meant GCSE, AS and A level exams were not examined in the usual way. Instead, students got their grades based on assessments by their teachers – Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs). Therefore, the monitoring of exams was changed as well.

In 2021, 1.2 million students received grades for GCSE, AS and A levels. In total there were 5.7 million grades given out. Here is the breakdown:

    • 4.9 million GCSE teacher assessed grades
    • 57,360 AS teacher assessed grades
    • 754,520 A level teacher assessed grades

Overall GCSE results were higher at grade 7 (equivalent to an A) at 28.5% in 2021 than 2020 (25.9%) and at grade 4 (equivalent to a C) at 76.9% in 2021 compared to 2020 (75.9%).

In Wales: Grade A or 7 and above was 28.7% in 2021 compared with 25.5% in 2020 and at grade C or 4 and above was 73.6% in 2021 compared with 73.8% in 2020.

In Northern Ireland: Grade A or 7 and above was 39.9% in 2021 compared with 36.3% in 2020 and at grade C or 4 and above was 89.6% in 2021 compared with 89.8%.

GCSE pass rate

GCSE students in the UK had a GCSE pass rate of 77.1%, last summer in 2021, this is the highest pass rate in the past 20 years.

Grades A/7s and above rose to 28.9% from 26.2% in 2020, while grades C/4s and above rose to 77.1% up from 76.3%.

Year GCSE pass rate C/4 grade and above (%)
2001 57.10%
2002 57.90%
2003 58.10%
2004 59.20%
2005 61.20%
2006 62.40%
2007 63.30%
2008 65.70%
2009 67.10%
2010 69.10%
2011 69.80%
2012 69.40%
2013 68.10%
2014 68.80%
2015 69%
2016 66.90%
2017 66.40%
2018 66.90%
2019 67.30%
2020 76.30%
2021 77.10%

A levels

Which A level subject is the most popular?

The most popular subject studied at A level in 2022 was mathematics, studied by 89,605 students. This was closely followed by psychology with 76,265 students and biology with 66,220 students. The least popular subjects were classical subjects (4,875 students) and German (2,675 students).

Subject grouping 2021 2022 % change in entries
Mathematics 90,290.00 89,605.00 -0.80%
Psychology 68,315.00 76,265.00 11.60%
Biology 63,765.00 66,220.00 3.90%
Chemistry 55,485.00 54,865.00 -1.10%
Sociology 39,825.00 43,590.00 9.50%
History 41,585.00 42,885.00 3.10%
Art and design subjects 39,370.00 42,100.00 6.90%
Business studies 35,285.00 38,980.00 10.50%
Physics 37,560.00 36,770.00 -2.10%
Economics 32,700.00 35,760.00 9.30%
Geography 31,810.00 34,245.00 7.70%
English literature 36,135.00 32,910.00 -8.90%
Media/film/TV studies 19,025.00 20,050.00 5.40%
Political studies 17,065.00 19,145.00 12.20%
Religious studies 15,685.00 15,520.00 -1%
Computing 12,930.00 15,210.00 17.60%
Mathematics (further) 14,850.00 14,520.00 -2.20%
English 14,230.00 14,260.00 0.20%
Law 12,825.00 13,995.00 9.10%
Physical education 10,755.00 12,000.00 11.60%
Design and technology 8,340.00 9,725.00 16.60%
Other subjects 8,890.00 9,400.00 5.70%
Drama 8,670.00 8,985.00 3.60%
Spanish 8,465.00 8,640.00 2%
French 7,725.00 7,440.00 -3.70%
English language and literature 7,155.00 6,795.00 -5%
Other modern languages 5,315.00 5,385.00 1.30%
Music 5,045.00 5,305.00 5.20%
Classical subjects 4,600.00 4,875.00 6%
German 2,525.00 2,675.00 5.90%
Total 756,230.00 788,125.00 4.20%

Sources

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Matt Mckenna
UK communications manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806
matt.mckenna@finder.com@MichHutchison/in/matthewmckenna2
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