A-level results: Number achieving top grades in Wales drops after first exams since Covid

The number of students achieving pass grades has dropped since 2021 but remains higher than 2019 Credit: Welsh Government

The number of pupils getting the highest grades at A-level in Wales has dropped since last year.

This year is the first time students have sat exams since before the coronavirus outbreak.

In 2021 and 2020, students didn't sit exams and grades were instead awarded at the discretion of schools and colleges.

This year has been described as a "transition year", aiming to bring grade inflation back to 2019 levels.

As expected, the number of people achieving passes and the highest grades have dropped since last year, however they remain higher than 2019 levels.

Education Minister Jeremy Miles said a "record number" of Welsh pupils will be going to university, but acknowledged what a "challenging couple of years" it had been for students and staff.

The results in brief:Grades | Percentage achieved in 2022 | 2021 | 2019

  • A* to E | 98% | 99.1% | 97.6%

  • A* to A | 40.9% | 48.3% | 26.5%

  • A* | 17.1% | 21.3 % | 8.9%

  • Boys A* to E | 97.6% | 98.8% | 96.9%

  • Girls A* - E | 98.3% | 99.3% | 98.1

What changed in the exams?

As in every other nation of the UK, the exams process here in Wales has been changed to take into account the disruption to learning caused by the pandemic.

Depending on the subject, some units were removed from examination early on to allow teachers and pupils to focus on their revision.

As a comparison, in England, all the units were retained but teachers and students were told in advance which would be included, also allowing them to focus their revision. 

Grading this year was described as "generous" but less so than in the previous two years. Credit: Welsh Government

What changed in grading?

For the last two years, grades were awarded by schools and colleges, resulting in significant grade inflation.

All UK regulators agreed to work together to treat this year as a transition year to return to normal results.

Wales decided to follow the same policy as England - aiming for a set of results which will be broadly midway between those of 2019 and those of 2021 - in order not to disadvantage students on this side of the border with those in England.

What changed post-exams?

The system has reverted to pre-pandemic normality, as reviews and monitoring return, as opposed to individual marking appeals. 

For the previous two years, students have been able to appeal grades because of the extraordinary way those grades were awarded. 

As was the case pre-pandemic, teachers and pupils can apply for "special consideration" if someone's circumstances have impacted on their learning. 

Admissions service UCAS has said it expects record or near-record numbers of students to get onto their first-choice courses, but warned the process will not be “pain-free” for all, as some students are left disappointed.

What has the Welsh Government said?

Education Minister Jeremy Miles said: "I want to wish a big congratulations to everyone receiving their results today. It’s a huge day for you, the culmination of years of hard work, and I hope you got the grades you’d hoped for.

“We know what a challenging couple of years it’s been for students and staff. For everyone involved in ensuring this year’s exams could take place, today is reward for all the hard work you have put in.

“A record number of young people from Wales will be going to university this year and have an exciting time ahead.

“For anyone who didn’t quite get the results you wanted, or you’re unsure of your next steps, my key message is – don’t be too disappointed and don’t be too hard on yourself. There are a wide range of options open to you, including university clearing, apprenticeships, even starting your own business. Careers Wales is a great place to start for advice and your school or college will be there to support you too.

“Our Young Person’s Guarantee provides everyone under the age of 25 with the opportunity to enrol in education or training, find work or become self-employed, so be assured you have lots of choices in pursuing the career you want.

“I hope that everyone receiving your results today takes time to congratulate yourself, enjoy the rest of the summer and look forward to the exciting opportunities you have ahead of you.”