October 23, 2021

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The Education Specialists

Girls outsmart boys in A-level and GCSE maths with record breaking grades

Top grades achieved by students were at its highest ever this year, and figures show that the girls overtook the boys

Ofqual said that on average girls were a fifth of a grade higher than boys across their A-levels

There’s always a bit of healthy competition between girls and boys at school, especially when it comes to bagging the top grades in their exams. Throughout time, many studies have shown mixed results when it comes to which gender is better with numbers.

This year, as reported by The Times, figures show that girls have achieved a higher level of top grades than boys.

Ofqual said: “The gap between female and male pupils achieving at least an A grade grew from 3.3 percentage points last year to 4.8 percentage points. Girls received on average a fifth of a grade higher than boys across their A-levels.

“They overtook boys at the top end of maths for the first time, with 29.1 per cent achieving an A or A*, compared with 28.5 per cent of boys. In A-level maths, girls overtook their male counterparts for the first time in terms of A* grades achieved.”

Does that mean that girls are generally more clever than boys, though? Well, the short answer is no.




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Speaking to The Guardian, Jake Anders deputy director of University College London’s centre for education policy and equalising opportunity says that it takes way more than just ‘being smart’ to do well in school.

He said: “But we know there are a bunch of societal expectations around gender and so on, and we are very susceptible to those, we internalise them and behave differently because of them.

“So it’s an important part of the story – what’s internalised by boys and girls and why they behave in the ways they are expected to behave.”

The 2021 results table show that 44.3 per cent of A-level entries were awarded one of the top grades, A or A*, this marks a 6.2 per cent rise on last year’s results.

The gender gap is said to be the ‘highest in a decade’ with girls getting higher A*/A grades in every subject apart from German, Spanish and performing arts this year. In the lower grade category (which is C grade or above) female students outperformed males in every subject also.

Jennie Golding of UCL’s institute for education said that the “improved performance among the top grades by girls this year was due to the replacement of formal exams with teacher assessments owing to the pandemic, with girls likely to benefit more than boys.”

The idea of who is better academically has sparked a lot of debate on the popular internet forum Reddit, with one user saying:

“Although gender differences follow essentially stereotypical patterns on achievement tests in which boys typically score higher on math and science, females have the advantage on school grades regardless of the material.

“So, females have better grades than males in math and science but don’t perform as well on math and science achievement tests.

“In my experience, I found that women took homework more seriously than most men, but that’s just my experience.”

Another user replied to the thread saying: “As a teacher, girls are encouraged (generally) to be more diligent and consistent.”

Regardless of the mixed debate and opinion, figures by Ofqual show that this year as a whole, girls achieved higher grades in mathematics GCSEs and A-levels.