GCSE grade combinations
The graphs below show the relationships between grade distributions for students taking different combinations of GCSE subjects.
You can select either an individual subject or a combination of two or three subjects. Selecting a grade range of the first and/or second subject will filter the candidates shown in the remaining graphs.
For example, selecting 'grade 6 or above' in the first subject results in only the candidates who were awarded a grade 6 or higher in the first subject appearing in the graphs for the second and third subject.
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The table below shows the most frequent combinations of GCSE subjects.
You can select to look at the most frequent combinations in general, or filter the list by particular combinations of subjects. You can also choose whether you want to see the most frequent combinations of three or two subjects, or the most frequent subjects in general.
For example, when selecting that you want to see 'two subject' combinations and filter by 'Sociology', you will see the most frequent combinations of subject with Sociology.
1. What do the interactive graphs in the “Grade distributions” tab show?
These graphs allow you to see grade distributions for combinations of up to three full course GCSE subjects for students in schools and colleges in England in a given year. You can select a combination of up to three subjects, which shows how students’ grades in one GCSE subject relates to their grade(s) in other GCSE subjects. You can also filter the data to only include 16-year-old students (the age students are typically when taking A levels).
Some examples of information you can find out:
- how many students achieved a grade 9 in mathematics, English language and English literature
- for students who attained a grade 7 and above in geography, how many also attained a grade 7 and above in history
The number of grades has been rounded to the nearest 5. Values between 1 to 4 are represented as 0~. A 0 represents zero grades being awarded. In some instances the total number of students reported may be slightly different to the sum of these individual rounded values because it has been calculated using the original unrounded values.
The percentage of grades have been rounded to the nearest 0.1%.
When a student receives a ‘U’ (unclassified), they have received a result that is below the standard required for a passing grade of 1 or above.
If there are grades not present in the tables it is because no student achieved that particular grade for your combination of grades and subjects.
2. What is the “Listen to this chart” button?
The “Listen to this chart” button enables an audible version of the graph, indicating the relative number of students that have been awarded a certain grade by the pitch of the played tone. The higher the played tone, the more students have received a particular grade, starting with A*.
A special tone is played for the grade that has been achieved by the most number of students.
3. What do the tables in the “Frequent combinations” tab show?
The tables in the “Frequent combinations” tab allow you to see the most frequent combinations of subjects that students have been awarded grades in a particular summer series.
You can choose to see the most frequent combinations of two or three subjects, as well as a general overview of which subject had the most awarded grades in total. You can also choose to filter these by subjects that the students must have taken to see subjects taken together with the selected subjects.
For example, you could see:
- how many people taking french also took economics
- the most frequent combinations of three subjects in a particular summer series
- the most frequent subject taken together with physics and computing
The number of grades have been rounded to the nearest 5. No grade combinations that have been taken by less than a rounded 25 students will be shown. Each row displays the subjects taken by students in alphabetical order, unless a filter has been set, in which case only the unfiltered subjects will be alphabetically sorted by row.
4. Which students’ grades are included in these graphs?
The data used by these graphs is based upon the grades of students of all ages from schools and colleges in England who took at least one full course GCSE exam which has been graded on the scale of 9 to 1. It is possible to filter for students aged 16 only.
For each selection of subjects, only students who took all of the selected subjects are shown.
When students of all ages are included, English language and mathematics will include a higher proportion of older students compared to other subjects.
5. What subjects are included?
The subjects presented are GCSE subjects which were taken by at least 2,500 students during a particular summer.
Furthermore, GCSEs were reformed in stages. If a subject is not present in a certain year, it may not have been examined in its reformed version in that year.
6. How were grades awarded in summer 2023?
The aim of awarding in summer 2023 was to return to pre-pandemic grading. As in any year, grade boundaries were set based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative evidence. The return to pre-pandemic grading means that national results will be lower than summer 2022 and it will be most meaningful to compare this year’s results with 2019, the last year that summer exams were taken before the pandemic. Further information is available on the Ofqual website, in the Ofqual student guide 2023, and in our blog 10 things to know about GCSE, AS and A level grades.
In 2020 and 2021, when GCSE, AS and A level grades were determined by teachers, national outcomes were higher than prior to the pandemic. Outcomes were also higher than pre-pandemic in 2022 when grading was at a midway point between summer 2019 and summer 2021 (see also 7. How were grades awarded in summer 2022, summer 2021 and summer 2020?).
7. How were grades awarded in summer 2022, summer 2021 and summer 2020?
Awarding in summer 2022 was at a midway point between summer 2019 and summer 2021. As in any year, grade boundaries were set based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative evidence. Further information is available on the Ofqual website, in the student guide to exams and formal assessments in 2021 to 2022, and in our blog post from 2022.
Ahead of summer 2021, the government determined that many exams and assessments could not be held fairly as a result of the disruption students had faced due to the pandemic. Teachers were asked instead to submit grades to the exam boards, based on their assessment of what students have shown they know and can do, enabling progression to the next stage of education, training, or employment. The student guide to awarding in summer 2021 gives further information.
The summer 2020 exam series was cancelled due to the measures put in place in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Students were awarded either their centre assessment grade or the calculated grade, whichever was the higher. Further information about the alternative arrangements for awarding in summer 2020 is available on the Ofqual website.
8. Where does the data come from?
Data are supplied to Ofqual by examination boards near to results day. At the point in time Ofqual receive the data, all certificates and entries may not have been fully processed. Additionally, the data does not reflect changes to grades that may occur after results.
9. Why are we publishing this data?
We are publishing this data in the interests of openness and transparency and so that students, schools, policy makers and other stakeholders can access this data in an interactive manner and explore the grade distributions in GCSE subjects.
For any feedback on these graphs or tables, please contact [email protected].
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