GCSE results 2018 – How did boys and girls do in English and maths?

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In this year’s GCSEs, only the results in English and maths are directly comparable with 2017, as these two reformed subjects were the only 9 to 1 GCSEs introduced last year.

Schools Week took a look at how girls and boys performed in these reformed core subjects, in their second year of exams.

There were just over 2 million boys taking GCSEs this year and just over 2.1 million girls. Of these, around 269,000 boys and just over 263,000 girls took maths this year.

For English language there were around 266,000 boys and 259,000 girls, and English literature saw entries from around 260,000 boys and roughly the same number of girls.

Across all subjects, girls came out on top, with 5.2 per cent gaining grade 9s, compared with 3.8 per cent of boys. Girls held the lead for grade 7 and above across all subjects too, with 24.6 per cent gaining these grades, the equivalent of an A or above, compared with 18.5 per cent of boys.

But the subject breakdown for English and maths tells a more complicated story. Speaking at a Joint Council for Qualifications briefing this morning, Alex Scharaschkin, director of research and compliance at the exam board AQA, said that the overall picture was “mixed”, but in some areas there had been ” a closing of the gap” between boys’ and girls’ performance this year.

English – girls hang onto pole position

Girls outdid boys in English again this year – but in English language the gap is narrowing.

At the top end, 4.9 per cent of girls received a grade 9 in English literature compared with 2.1 per cent of boys. For both genders this was a slight increase on last year.

In English language 3.5 per cent of girls and 1.7 per cent of boys received grade 9. This was an increase of 0.2 percentage points for boys, but a decrease of 0.3 percentage points for girls, meaning the gap narrowed this year.

For grade 7 and above in English literature the figure was was an impressive 25.8 per cent for girls and 14.1 per cent for boys. Again this was a slight increase for both genders compared with last year.

In English language 22.5 per cent of girls and 12.6 per cent of boys achieved a grade 7 or above this year. This was an increase of just 0.2 percentage points for girls, but a 1.2 percentage point jump for boys – again narrowing the gap on last year.

In literature at grade 4, the equivalent to the former grade C and the government’s ‘standard pass’ mark, 81.0 per cent of girls gained this grade or above. This was up 0.4 percentage points on last year. For boys the figure was 65.9 per cent, up 0.5 percentage points on 2017.

The percentage of girls achieving grade 4 and above in English language fell this year, from 78.2 per cent to 77.8 per cent. But for boys it rose, with 62.7 per cent gaining grade 4 or above this year compared with 61.6 on 2017.

Maths – boys still in the lead

Boys were still out in front of girls in maths this year. For grade 9, 4.2 per cent of boys achieved the top results compared with 3.0 per cent of girls. This was almost the same as in 2017.

For grade 7 and above, the gap was similar, with 20.9 per cent of boys and 19.1 per cent of girls gaining these grades. This was a slight increase of 0.3 percentage points for boys compared with 2017, but a decrease of 0.2 percentage points for girls.

At grade 4 and above though, girls improved their position on last year. The proportion of girls gaining these grades went from 71.0 per cent in 2017 to 71.6 per cent this year, while boys declined slightly, from 70.5 per cent last year to 70.3 per cent this year.


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