A Levels in Religious Studies

On 19 August the Joint Council for Qualifications (an umbrella body for the seven largest providers of qualifications in the UK) released the summer 2010 results for A Levels and seven other advanced qualifications. They will be found at:


The statistics cover all UK candidates, but are predominantly for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (there is a separate Scottish Qualifications Authority). In addition to the UK tables, there are disaggregations for each of these three home nations.

The media debate on the figures has revolved around further evidence of ‘grade inflation’ (reflected in yet another increase in the pass rate and the introduction of the new A* grade) and the excess of demand from successful candidates over the supply of university places.

Our principal interest in the A Level results is naturally in those for Religious Studies (RS). Here are some of the headlines for 2010:

  • There were 21,233 candidates in RS, equivalent to 2.5% of all candidates, a proportion exceeded by 14 subjects (English being the highest, 10.5%) but larger than for 21 others
  • 32.0% of RS candidates were males and 68.0% females, compared with a 46.1/53.9 gender split for all subjects, although RS was less ‘feminized’ than Art and Design (72.8%), Psychology (73.1%) and Sociology (75.3%)
  • The number of RS candidates was just 154 (or 0.7%) more than in 2009, in line with the modest 0.8% rise for all subjects
  • 98.3% of RS candidates gained A*-E passes, 97.6% of males and 98.6% of females, whereas the average pass rate for all subjects was 97.6%
  • The pass rate for RS was slightly lower than for most other Arts subjects, the highest being Communication Studies (99.3%), but generally better than for non-Arts subjects
  • 27.5% of RS candidates obtained A* or A grades, slightly above the average for all subjects (27.0%), albeit only half the number in Further Mathematics and some foreign languages
  • 0.8% more RS candidates obtained the top grade in 2010 than in 2009, greater than the 0.3% improvement across all subjects

Of the non-A Level qualifications reported, numerically the most important are AS Levels. There were 27,742 candidates in RS this summer, representing 2.3% of all candidates. Of these, 92.5% obtained A-E grades, better than the pass rate for all subjects of 88.2%, the figures for RS being 90.7% for males and 93.4% for females.

RS A level results for 1993-2009 are available on the BRIN website at:


The chart there shows that the number of RS candidates has more than doubled since the early 1990s, especially among females. It is likely that this trend owes much to the growth of non-Christian faiths in Britain during these years, particularly Islam (whose adherents are so preponderantly youthful).

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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