Progression from GCSE to AS and A level, 2010

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1 Progression from GCSE to AS and A level, 2010 Statistics Report Series No. 69 Tom Sutch December 2013 Research Division Assessment, Research and Development Cambridge Assessment 1 Regent Street, Cambridge, CB2 1GG

2 1 Introduction This report considers the progression of students from GCSE to AS and A level; that is, the proportion of students that go on to take an AS or A level in the same subject. Progression rates are presented by GCSE grade, as well as student gender and school type. In addition, the report looks at the relationship between GCSE grades and A level grades. A student s decision to study a GCSE subject further may depend on a variety of factors (see Vidal Rodeiro, 2007), including enjoyment of the subject, ability, and usefulness for career plans. In addition there may be further constraints based on the school or college, such as whether the subject is actually offered, and whether the school restricts entry onto AS/A level courses based on GCSE attainment. This report does not attempt to explain the reasons for the differences observed. The Department for Education [DfE] (2012) examined progression from GCSEs in This statistical report forms an update using similar methods, and concerning students who were in Year 11 in Data and methods The data for these analyses were taken from the National Pupil Database (NPD), maintained by the DfE. The Key Stage 4 (KS4) database for 2010 was used to obtain the GCSE results for all students in Year 11 in 2010 (regardless of when they had been taken). GCSEs graded X were excluded from the dataset. Records for these pupils were then extracted from the Key Stage 5 (KS5) database in 2011 and 2012, which contains results from any AS and A levels they went on to take. A student was deemed to have progressed to A level from GCSE if an A level result for them in the same subject was present in the KS5 database. Progression to AS level was recorded if the student had results for either AS or A levels in the KS5 database (because not all students have their cashed-in AS results reported separately). The highest grade obtained by each student in each A level subject was retained for analysis in Section 4, but AS grades were not used: the possibility of resitting AS units during Year 13 would make these difficult to interpret, especially for students subsequently progressing to the full A level. Some common subjects at GCSE are not offered in the same form at AS and A level, therefore specific matching had to be used. The two most prominent examples are the English and Science suites. Progression from GCSE English Language & Literature was recorded if the student went on to take AS or A levels in English Language, English Literature or English Language & Literature. For science, most students take the Core and Additional Science qualifications rather than separate sciences (Gill, 2012), while only separate sciences are offered at AS and A level. Progression for the following subject pairings has therefore been recorded: GCSE Science (either or both of Core Science or Additional Science, with the average grade being recorded) to any of AS/A level Biology, Chemistry and Physics; GCSE Additional Science to any of AS/A level Biology, Chemistry and Physics; GCSE Core Science only (excluding candidates who had taken Additional Science) to any of AS/A level Biology, Chemistry and Physics. In addition, Section examines which of the three AS level sciences those students went on to take. Progression was also reported from Mathematics GCSE to Further Mathematics A level. 2

3 Where progression from a combination of GCSE subjects was recorded, the average grade in these subjects was calculated (treating grades as successive points on a linear scale and rounding the average down to the nearest whole grade). Data on the students centre type at GCSE was also recorded, using information from the National Centre Number (NCN) database 2009, augmented by information on academy conversions from the DfE. The centre type relates to where the student was entered for the exam and could therefore vary by subject. 1 Most of the analyses are restricted to the most popular GCSE subjects, with entries of over students. The analyses in Section 4 use the grade at A level. Where progression to a range of A levels was considered (for example, Additional Science to any of the three separate science A levels) and students achieved more than one relevant A level, the highest A level grade was taken. The correlation between grades at GCSE and A level was calculated for all pairings of common subjects (not just for the same subject, so the relationship was considered between GCSE grade in History and A level grade in Mathematics, for example, as well as A level History). Each grade was converted to a numerical value (A*=8, A=7, B=6 and so on) and the Pearson correlation coefficient was calculated for the students that took the pairings of subjects. These are reported in Section For students taking Core and Additional Science, centre type for Additional Science was used in preference. 3

4 3 Results - progression 3.1 Overall results by subject Table 1 shows the overall progression rates from GCSEs in all subjects with at least 1000 entries, and for which relevant AS levels exist. Table 1: Overall progression, by subject Subject Number taking GCSE % A*-C at GCSE % progressing to AS level All students of those with A*-C at GCSE % progressing to A level All students of those with A*-C at GCSE Biology Chemistry Physics All combined science Core Science only Additional Science Environmental Science Mathematics progr to Further Maths Additional Maths progr to Further Maths Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Business Studies Business Studies & Economics Home Economics: Food Art & Design all Art & Design Art & Design (Graphics) Art & Design (Photography) Art & Design (Textiles) Art & Design (3D Studies) Art & Design (Fine Art) Geography History Economics Humanities Religious Studies Law Psychology Sociology Progression to Mathematics A level 3 Progression from any Art & Design GCSE to any Art & Design A level 4 Progression to any of History, Geography or Religious Studies A levels 4

5 Table 1 (continued): Overall progression, by subject Subject English Language & Literature Number taking GCSE % A*-C at GCSE % progressing to AS level All students of those with A*-C at GCSE % progressing to A level All students of those with A*-C at GCSE English Literature Drama & Theatre Studies Expressive Arts & Performance Studies Media/Film/TV Studies Film Studies French German Italian Portuguese Spanish Arabic Bengali Chinese Japanese Polish Russian Turkish Urdu Classical Civilisation Classical Greek Latin Music Physical Education (PE)/ Sports Studies Dance General Studies Design & Technology (D&T) all 5 D&T (Food Technology) D&T (Textiles Technology) D&T (Systems & Control) D&T (Product Design) For the remainder of this report, progression is reported for the most common subjects only: those with a GCSE entry of over (although individual Art & Design and Design & Technology subjects have been grouped). 5 Progression from any Design & Technology GCSE to any Design & Technology A level 5

6 Figure 1 shows the progression rates to AS and A level, for students awarded each GCSE grade, with the overall GCSE grade distribution as a background. The highest achieving candidates were generally most likely to progress to AS and A level, although there was less of a difference in some subjects (for example Geography, Media/Film/TV Studies and Design & Technology). Unusually, candidates awarded A or B in GCSE Business Studies were more likely to study the subject further than those achieving an A*. There was hardly any progression to AS and A levels from GCSE grades D and below. The proportion of Mathematics GCSE students going on to take Further Mathematics AS or A level was very low for all grades except A*. The composition of the AS and A level cohorts for each subject depends on the proportion of GCSE candidates awarded each grade as well as grade-based progression rates. In A level English Language & Literature, for example, more of the cohort obtained a B at GCSE than an A*, whereas for A level Mathematics, the cohort consisted almost entirely of those awarded A* and A at GCSE. Full figures are given in Table A1 in the Appendix. 6

7 Figure 1: Percentage of students progressing from GCSE to AS and A level, by subject and grade 3.2 Progression from GCSE to AS level By subject Table 2 shows progression rates from GCSE to AS level by GCSE grade. An average for A* C is reported, along with the difference in percentage points between the rate for A* and C pupils (which indicates the sensitivity to grade). 7

8 Among the subjects considered, average progression rates were highest for Biology, Chemistry and History, and lowest for languages, ICT, Design & Technology, Religious Studies, and students taking Core but not Additional Science. The largest differences between progression at A* and C were found in Mathematics and science subjects, while the subjects with least variation in progression were ICT, Business Studies and Design & Technology. In the sciences (except Physics), Mathematics, Art & Design and History, over half of students achieving an A* at GCSE went on to take an AS level in the same subject. Table 2: Progression to AS level, by subject and GCSE grade Subject A* A B C D E F G U Average A* C Difference between A* and C rate (percentage points) Number of GCSE entries Biology Chemistry Physics All combined science Core Science Additional Science Mathematics Progression to Further Maths Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Business Studies Art & Design all Geography History Religious Studies English Language & Literature English Literature Drama & Theatre Studies Media/Film/TV Studies French German Spanish Music Physical Education (PE)/ Sports Studies Design & Technology (D&T) all

9 3.2.2 Progression from Core and Additional Science As explained in Section 2, progression from the GCSE combined science qualifications has been reported if a student takes any of Biology, Chemistry or Physics at AS or A level. This section investigates progression from the GCSE sciences to each of the sciences separately at AS level. Figure 2 shows the progression rate to each of Biology, Chemistry and Physics AS levels from various GCSE science qualifications, by the GCSE grade obtained. A similar trend is evident for all types of GCSE science, although progression from separate sciences had a higher rate generally. Progression to Chemistry was the highest for those getting A* at GCSE, while progression to Biology was more popular after obtaining A, B or C. Progression to Physics was consistently lowest for all grades and from all GCSE science qualifications. Figure 2: Progression rates to AS science from GCSE science Figure 3 presents the data the other way round; that is, for each of the AS level science subjects, what is the progression rate to that subject from each of the GCSE science qualifications? A similar trend is evident for combined science and separate sciences, although the progression rate was consistently higher from separate sciences. Progression from combined science and Core Science only, given a particular grade, was very similar (although, as Figure 1 shows, the grade distributions were markedly different). 9

10 Figure 3: Progression rates from GCSE science to AS science 10

11 3.2.3 By gender Figure 4 shows the progression rate to AS level by GCSE grade and gender of the candidate (Table A2 in the Appendix gives the full results). In most subjects, progression by males and females was roughly similar, given a particular GCSE grade. However, female candidates were markedly less likely to take an AS level in Physics than male candidates given a certain grade. There were also small differences in Mathematics, with more male candidates progressing to AS level. Female candidates were slightly more likely than males to continue studies after GCSE in English Language & Literature, English Literature, Biology or French. Figure 4: Progression from GCSE to AS level, by gender 11

12 3.2.4 By centre type Figure 5 shows the progression rate to AS level by GCSE grade, and the type of school the student attended at Key Stage 4 (Table A3 in the Appendix gives full results). Academies and comprehensive schools have been amalgamated for simplicity, and centres of other or unknown type have been excluded. In most subjects, progression rates for a given grade were similar across centre types, but slightly higher in comprehensives, academies and secondary moderns than in grammar and independent schools; however, the differing grade distributions for these centre types have the effect that the average progression across all students gaining A* C was highest in grammar and independent schools. Figure 5: Progression from GCSE to AS level, by KS4 centre type 12

13 3.3 Progression from GCSE to A level By subject Table 3 shows progression rates from GCSE to the full A level by GCSE grade, along with an average for A* C, and difference between progression rates at A* and at C. Patterns were similar to those observed for progression to AS level in Table 2 although with lower rates, reflecting the fact that many students drop a subject after achieving an AS level. The largest differences in progression rates were mainly between students who achieved a grade A and those who achieved a grade B at GCSE. In Mathematics, 54.0% of students with an A at GCSE went on to study the subject at AS level, but only 32.1% took a full A level. The only subjects where over half of students awarded an A* at GCSE progressed to an A level in the same subject were Chemistry, combined science and Mathematics. 13

14 Table 3: Progression from GCSE to A level, by subject and grade Subject A* A B C D E F G U Average A* C Difference between A* and C rate (percentage points) Number of GCSE entries Biology Chemistry Physics All combined science Core Science Additional Science Mathematics Progression to Further Maths Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Business Studies Art & Design all Geography History Religious Studies English Language & Literature English Literature Drama & Theatre Studies Media/Film/TV Studies French German Spanish Music Physical Education (PE)/ Sports Studies Design & Technology (D&T) all

15 3.3.2 By gender Figure 6 shows progression from GCSE to the full A level by students gender (Table A2 gives the full results). The patterns are similar to those observed in Section although the rates are slightly lower. Figure 6: Progression from GCSE to A level, by gender By centre type Figure 7 shows progression from GCSE to the full A level by the type of centre attended by students in Key Stage 4 (Table A3 gives the full results). Note that centre type attended at Key Stage 5, which might also be expected to have an effect on whether students progress from AS to A level in a given subject, is not considered here. Results are similar to those observed for progression to AS level, although the rates are slightly lower. 15

16 Figure 7: Progression from GCSE to A level, by KS4 centre type 16

17 4 Results A level grade 4.1 Graphs Figure 8 shows the distribution of grades at A level, by subject and the GCSE grade obtained. As Table A1 shows, only one student progressed to Further Mathematics A level having gained a C at Mathematics GCSE, and hence the corresponding bar in Figure 8 is not shown. In general there is a correspondence between GCSE and A level grade in the same subject on average, students with the higher grades at GCSE went on to get higher grades in their A levels. The chance of attaining an A* at A level was much lower for students who had not achieved one at GCSE. The relationship with Maths GCSE grade was similar for the cohorts going on to take A levels in Mathematics and Further Mathematics, although the cohorts had markedly different ability levels (as shown in Table 3). For most subjects and grades, the grade most frequently received at A level was one below that received at GCSE. For example, students receiving an A at GCSE were most likely to get a B at A level. However, Physics is an exception: students receiving an A or below at GCSE were most likely to get an A level grade that was two below their GCSE grade. 17

18 Figure 8: A level grade attainment given GCSE grade 18

19 Figure 8 (continued): A level grade attainment given GCSE grade 19

20 4.2 Correlation Table 4 shows correlations between grades in combinations of the 25 most common subjects in each of GCSE and A level. In contrast to its treatment earlier in this report, the grade in Core Science has been reported for all students taking the qualification, including those also taking Additional Science. Correlations between the same subject at GCSE and A level (for example GCSE Biology and A level Biology) are shown in bold. The number of students taking the subject combinations varies substantially; correlation coefficients based on fewer than 500 students are shown in italics. All coefficients are positive, indicating that candidates with higher grades in GCSEs tend to receive higher grades at A level. In general, same-subject pairings have among the highest correlations, but certain GCSE subjects, notably the three separate sciences, Geography and History, are highly correlated with several A levels. There is an asymmetry in the relationship, in general: for example, Mathematics GCSE is better correlated with English Literature A level (r=0.531) than English Literature GCSE with Mathematics A level (r=0.390). Some A levels are not correlated highly with any of the most popular GCSEs: these include Art & Design (Photography), Law, Sociology, Media/Film/TV Studies, and Further Mathematics. The comparatively low correlation between Mathematics GCSE and Further Mathematics A level (r=0.360) is due to the nature of the cohort: as shown in Figure 1 and Table A1, the majority of those studying Further Mathematics A level had received an A* at GCSE, so most of the variation in A level grade cannot be explained by variation in GCSE grade. 20

21 Table 4: Pearson correlations between GCSE and A level grades in popular subjects A level subject Biology Physics Science (Core) Chemistry Additional Science GCSE subject Mathematics Statistics Business Studies Art & Design Art & Design (Fine Art) Biology Chemistry Physics Mathematics Mathematics (Further) Business Studies Art & Design (Photography) Art & Design (Fine Art) Geography History Economics Religious Studies Law Government & Politics Psychology Sociology English Language & Literature English Language English Literature Drama & Theatre Studies Media/Film/TV Studies French Physical Education/Sports Studies General Studies D&T Product Design Geography History Religious Studies 21

22 Table 4 (continued): Pearson correlations between GCSE and A level grades in popular subjects A level subject English Language & Literature English Literature Drama & Theatre Studies GCSE subject Media/ Film/ TV Studies French German Spanish Music Physical Education Sports Studies D&T Food Technology D&T Graphic Products D&T Resistant Materials Biology Chemistry Physics Mathematics Mathematics (Further) Business Studies Art & Design (Photography) Art & Design (Fine Art) Geography History Economics Religious Studies Law Government & Politics Psychology Sociology English Language & Literature English Language English Literature Drama & Theatre Studies Media/Film/TV Studies French Physical Education/Sports Studies General Studies D&T Product Design

23 5 References Department for Education (2012). Subject progression from GCSE to AS level and continuation to A level. Research Report DFE-RR195. Available from Gill, T. (2012). Uptake of GCSE subjects Statistics Report Series No. 35. Cambridge: Cambridge Assessment. Vidal Rodeiro, C. L. (2007). A level subject choice in England: patterns of uptake and factors affecting subject preferences. Cambridge: Cambridge Assessment. Available from 23

24 Appendix Table A1: Progression by grade Subject GCSE grade Progressed to full A level Progressed to AS level only Did not progress beyond GCSE Biology A* A B C D E F G U Chemistry A* A B C D E F G U.. 49 Physics A* A B C D E F G.. 95 U.. 44 All combined science A* A B C D E F G U Core Science A* A B C D E F G U

25 Subject GCSE grade Progressed to full A level Progressed to AS level only Did not progress beyond GCSE Additional Science A* A B C D E F G U Mathematics A* A B C D E F G U Maths-Further Maths A* A B C D E F G U Information & Communications Technology A* A B C D E F G U Business Studies A* A B C D E F G U Art & Design all A* A B C D E F G U

26 Subject GCSE grade Progressed to full A level Progressed to AS level only Did not progress beyond GCSE Geography A* A B C D E F G U History A* A B C D E F G U Religious Studies A* A B C D E F G U English Language & Literature A* A B C D E F G U English Literature A* A B C D E F G U Drama & Theatre Studies A* A B C D E F G U

27 Subject Media/Film/TV Studies GCSE grade Progressed to full A level Progressed to AS level only Did not progress beyond GCSE A* A B C D E F G U French A* A B C D E F G U German A* A B C D E F G U Spanish A* A B C D E F G U Music A* A B C D E F G U Physical Education/Sports Studies A* A B C D E F G U

28 Subject Design & Technology all GCSE grade Progressed to full A level Progressed to AS level only Did not progress beyond GCSE A* A B C D E F G U

29 Table A2: Progression by GCSE grade and gender Subject GCSE grade AS A Gender Gender Female Male Female Male Biology A* A B C Avg A*-C Chemistry A* A B C Avg A*-C Physics A* A B C Avg A*-C All combined science A* A B C Avg A*-C Core Science A* A B C Avg A*-C Additional Science A* A B C Avg A*-C Mathematics A* Mathematics Further Maths Information & Communications Technology A B C Avg A*-C A* A B C Avg A*-C A* A B C Avg A*-C

30 Subject GCSE grade AS A Gender Gender Female Male Female Male Business Studies A* A B C Avg A*-C Art & Design all A* A B C Avg A*-C Geography A* A B C Avg A*-C History A* A B C Avg A*-C Religious Studies A* English Language & Literature A B C Avg A*-C A* A B C Avg A*-C English Literature A* A B C Avg A*-C Drama & Theatre Studies A* A B C Avg A*-C Media/Film/TV Studies A* A B C Avg A*-C

31 Subject GCSE grade AS A Gender Gender Female Male Female Male French A* A B C Avg A*-C German A* A B C Avg A*-C Spanish A* A B C Avg A*-C Music A* Physical Education/Sports Studies A B C Avg A*-C A* A B C Avg A*-C Design & Technology all A* A B C Avg A*-C

32 Table A3: Progression to AS and A levels by GCSE grade and centre type Subject GCSE grade AS Centre type Comp/ Academy Grammar Independent Secondary Modern A Centre type Comp/ Academy Grammar Independent Secondary Modern Biology A* A B C Avg A*-C Chemistry A* A B C Avg A*-C Physics A* A B C Avg A*-C All combined science A* A B C Avg A*-C Core Science A* A B C Avg A*-C

33 Subject GCSE grade AS Centre type Comp/ Academy Grammar Independent Secondary Modern A Centre type Comp/ Academy Grammar Independent Secondary Modern Additional Science A* A B C Avg A*-C Mathematics A* A B C Avg A*-C Mathematics Further Maths A* A B C Avg A*-C Information & Communications Technology A* A B C Avg A*-C Business Studies A* A B C Avg A*-C

34 Subject GCSE grade AS Centre type Comp/ Academy Grammar Independent Secondary Modern A Centre type Comp/ Academy Grammar Independent Secondary Modern Art & Design all A* A B C Avg A*-C Geography A* A B C Avg A*-C History A* A B C Avg A*-C Religious Studies A* A B C Avg A*-C English Language & Literature A* A B C Avg A*-C

35 Subject GCSE grade AS Centre type Comp/ Academy Grammar Independent Secondary Modern A Centre type Comp/ Academy Grammar Independent Secondary Modern English Literature A* A B C Avg A*-C Drama & Theatre Studies A* A B C Avg A*-C Media/Film/TV Studies A* A B C Avg A*-C French A* A B C Avg A*-C German A* A B C Avg A*-C

36 Subject GCSE grade AS Centre type Comp/ Academy Grammar Independent Secondary Modern A Centre type Comp/ Academy Grammar Independent Secondary Modern Spanish A* A B C Avg A*-C Music A* A B C Avg A*-C Physical Education/Sports Studies A* A B C Avg A*-C Design & Technology all A* A B C Avg A*-C

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