Candidates' best GCSE grades

Candidates' best GCSE grades

December 2016

Summary

A forthcoming Statistics Report looks at the GCSE subjects in which candidates achieve their best grades. This Data Byte extends this idea slightly by looking at the set of subjects that occurs together in a candidate’s best three GCSE grades. The results show that many candidates perform well in clusters of highly-related subjects, as well as in English and Mathematics.

What does the chart show?

The network diagram shows all pairs of subjects that appeared in the top three grades of at least 5000 candidates. There were 238,752 candidates included in the data set. We use data from the National Pupil Database, relating to candidates who took GCSEs in 2013 and went on to take A levels.

Each node represents a subject and its size corresponds to the number of candidates who had the subject in their top three grades. Subjects that frequently occur together in candidates’ top three grades are joined by a line. Thicker lines represent more candidates with this pair of subjects.

Why is the chart interesting?

The largest nodes are Mathematics and English Language/Literature. This is unsurprising because these are the subjects with the highest uptake. Mathematics is also connected together with all of the other subjects shown.

Related subjects commonly occur together in candidates’ best subjects and we have coloured groups of subjects that frequently appear together. There are three main subject clusters: the separate sciences, the two combined sciences, and a cluster consisting of humanities subjects (English Language, English Literature, History and Religious Studies). The pair of subjects that appeared together most commonly was English Language and English Literature (27,718 candidates).

The chart supports the intuition that students who are good at one subject are likely to be good at a related subject. The results are also significant as good performance in a GCSE subject is likely to have an influence on the subjects that young people go on to study at A level.

Research Matters 23 cover

Research Matters

Research Matters is our free biannual publication which allows us to share our assessment research, in a range of fields, with the wider assessment community.