Data Bytes

Data Bytes

A regular series of graphics from our research team, highlighting the latest research findings and trends in education and assessment.

Popularity of A level subjects among university students

Graph of popularity of A level subjects among university students

The process of application and admission to universities in the UK places a relatively strong weight on the type of A level subjects taken by students. As a result, A level choice is a key factor influencing progression from secondary education to higher education (HE). This Data Byte uses data from a recently published Cambridge Assessment research report to explore this issue.

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Students' favourite subjects around the world

Graph of students' favourite subjects around the world

The 2018 Cambridge International Global Education Census provides a snapshot into the lives of almost 20,000 teachers and students across the world. In this Data Byte we explore one question from the student survey, favourite subjects.

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Summarising parliamentary questions

Chart of MPs parliamentary questions related to assessment

Parliamentary questions are a tool available to members of many legislatures, including the British House of Commons. They allow MPs to ask government ministers for information on the minister's area of responsibility. In this Data Byte we use text mining techniques to summarise assessment related questions asked of the Secretary of State for Education.

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Progression from GCSE

Graph of progression from GCSE by subject and grade

This Data Byte shows recent changes in progression from GCSE to AS and A level: the proportion of students taking a GCSE in a subject who went on to study this subject further.

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Geography assessment over time

UCLES Junior Certificate December 1858 Geography Question Paper

Cambridge Assessment’s 160th anniversary was last year. In the years that Cambridge Assessment has been in existence there has been a great deal of change, both in education and the way we live. In this Data Byte we look at how one subject, Geography, has been examined over this time.

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Parents' views on education around the world

graph of Cambridge Assessment's exam shipping worldwide

The Varkey Foundation launched the Global Parents' Survey between December 2017 and January 2018. 27,500 parents in 29 countries were asked a series of questions about the hopes, fears and aspirations they had for their children's education. In this Data Byte, we explore response patterns for selected questions to determine clusters of countries providing similar answers.

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Tweets on A level results day

Graph of tweets on A level results day

A level results were released to students in England, Northern Ireland and Wales on Thursday 16 August this year. As over 90% of university offers are conditional on results from A levels or other qualifications, this also marks the date when many university applicants find out whether they have a place on their chosen course. This Data Byte looks at the discussions on Twitter during the release of A level results in August 2018.

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Top GCSE news stories

Graph of top GCSE news stories

More than half a million students in England and Wales will receive their GCSE results this month. The release of results, as well as the exams themselves, are well established in the media calendar and are widely reported upon. In this Data Byte we use data taken from the GDELT Project to look at the volume and tone of articles which mentioned GCSEs over the past year and highlight the stories that received the most attention.

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Cambridge Assessment exam papers shipping

graph of Cambridge Assessment's exam shipping worldwide

The 2018 summer session is underway and we are thinking about the millions of students taking our exams this year. Cambridge Assessment aims to impact positively on people’s lives around the world, helping learners demonstrate and fulfil their potential, opening up opportunities for employment and further education. Our globally recognised qualifications are not just taken by students in the UK, so we thought now is a good time to look at our reach worldwide. In this Data Byte, we explore how many paper exams we ship across countries.

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Preparing students for university

Graph of probability of obtaining a good degree given different qualifications

Here we examine the effect of taking the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and Applied A levels on the probability of being awarded at least an upper second class degree. We show that these qualifications appear to provide good preparation for university study, slightly increasing the probability that students that study them obtain at least an upper second class degree.

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KS2 Levels and GCSE tier entry

Graph of Influence of KS2 National Curriculum Levels on GCSE tier entry

Since 2014, the primary school curriculum no longer uses the notion of ‘levels’ to measure pupils’ progress. 

In this Data Byte, we explore how levels given at the end of Key Stage 2 influenced pupil’s likelihood to be entered for the higher tier at their GCSEs.

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Provision of reformed AS levels

In this Data Byte, we look at how A/AS level reform has been felt in individual schools and colleges by considering provision of AS levels: the number of subjects each school/college offered at AS level.

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Progress towards universal primary education

Graph showing progress towards universal primary education

In the year 2000, world leaders adopted a series of eight Millennium Development Goals to tackle extreme poverty. The second of these was to achieve universal primary education, and in this Data Byte we look at the progress that has been made towards this goal.

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European participation in employer-sponsored vocational training

Graph of European participation in employer-sponsored vocational training

As another summer exam season draws to a close, many teenagers will now be enjoying a well-deserved rest.  For many adults, however, learning does not stop with GCSEs and A Levels but continues throughout their professional and personal lives. In this Data Byte, we look at participation rates in one example of lifelong learning – employer-sponsored vocational training – and the variations that exist between European countries.

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The most popular non-compulsory GCSE subjects in the period 2005-2014

Graph of the most popular non-compulsory GCSE subjects in the period 2005-2014

In Year 9, students choose the GCSE subjects that they will pursue for further study over the next two years. English, Maths, and Science are compulsory and some schools may require students to take certain additional subjects. However children have the freedom to choose the remainder of the subjects they study. In this Data Byte, we look at the popularity of these non-compulsory GCSE subjects from 2005 to 2014.

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Do grades in one GCSE subject predict results in another?

Graph of conditional dependencies between GCSE grades (excerpt)

Next month, more than half a million students will sit down to write their GCSEs. In a previous Data Byte we showed how candidates often achieve their top three GCSE grades within clusters of related subjects, e.g. the sciences or the humanities. This month we look at this question in more detail, demonstrating how a candidate's grade in one subject affects their probability of a given grade in another subject.

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Popularity of Level 3 vocational subjects

Graph of popularity of Level 3 vocational subjects in England by centre type

Currently, there are a variety of vocational qualifications offered to post-16 learners as an alternative to academic qualifications (such as A levels) or other training options (such as apprenticeships). In this Data Byte, we show the most popular vocational subjects taken at Level 3 by 16–19 year olds in England.

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The international popularity of STEM subjects

STEM subjects are diverse and uptake varies widely by country, subject, and gender. In this Data Byte we present the uptake of STEM subjects in nine of the world’s largest economies, and highlight the differences between the sexes in students choosing to pursue these subjects at tertiary level.

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Re-sit rates for A Level subjects

A Level qualifications are an important requirement for university entry and other post-secondary destinations. If a candidate fails to achieve the required grade, then they may wish to re-sit the qualification. Recent reforms to the structure of A Levels, such as the removal of the January examination session and the move to linear A Levels, may increase the proportion of candidates choosing to re-sit an entire qualification. In this Data Byte we look at the re-sitting of A Level qualifications prior to the introduction of these reforms.

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Candidates' best GCSE grades

Our recent 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.

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Student destinations from Key Stage 5

Graph showing student destinations from Key Stage 5

For students finishing Key Stage 5, a variety of options are available including further or higher education, employment, and other activities. This Data Byte examines the destinations of students who completed Key Stage 5 in the 2012-13 academic year.

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What GCSE and A Level subject combinations are offered by examination centres in England?

Graph showing what GCSE and A Level subject combinations are offered by examination centres in England

With the start of the 2016-2017 academic year, a new cohort of students is beginning to study their GCSEs and A Levels. A student’s choice of subjects will depend on their personal interests, their aspirations for the future, and, of course, the subjects offered by their school. This Data Byte presents an interactive look at the combinations of subjects offered by examination centres in England.

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Tweeting about exams

A graph showing exam-related tweets during Summer 2016

Whereas previously candidates would have conducted their "exam postmortems" in private conversation, these discussions are now often shared on Twitter, Facebook, and other public online forums. This summer we undertook to measure this phenomenon to record exam-related tweets in real time.

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The average age of teachers in secondary schools

Graph showing the average age of teachers in secondary schools

The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) is an international survey that gathers information on teachers in secondary schools. In this Data Byte we look at how the age profile of teachers in England compares to other jurisdictions in the 2013 TALIS survey.

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Key statistics on the Extended Project Qualification

In recent years the EPQ has seen substantial increases in entries, perhaps partly because it is seen as good preparation for university study and is now included in offers by some higher education institutions. This Data Byte presents some key statistics on the EPQ since the 2007/08 academic year.

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Teacher mobility within the EU

A recently published article in the peer-reviewed journal Educational Research Review found that teachers are highly mobile professionals and that international teacher mobility and migration are increasing. As one example of this phenomenon, over 27,000 teachers working in Australia in 2010-11 were born in the UK according to OECD data.

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The role of teaching styles in Mathematics achievement

Mathematics achievement is widely seen as an indicator of the quality of a country’s education system and the subject features prominently in international comparative assessments. However Mathematics can be taught in many ways and here we investigate how national teaching styles shape the performance of students in two international comparisons of Mathematics achievement.

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Most popular A level subjects since 2000

It is likely that reform of A Levels, combined with funding changes for educational institutions for 16–19 year olds, will affect subject uptake, with students each taking fewer subjects. Here we look at how the uptake of popular subjects has evolved since 2000, when the previous system of linear A Levels was in place.

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The changing gender gap

Graph of the changing gender gap

The latest graph from our Assessment Research and Development team explores the changing gender gap in English, maths and science from KS2 to GCSE.

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Gender gap in attainment at GCSE

Graph of the Gender Gap in attainment at GCSE
The gender divide in education is never far from the headlines - but just how significant is it? This graph by our research team illustrates the GCSE attainment divide, raising some interesting questions.

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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.