UCAS recently released an analytical report looking at the variance between predicted grades and achieved attainment levels. The main points are pulled out below but you can also read the full reports here.
Overall, the report finds that the proportion of applicants achieving their best three predicted grades has fallen over recent years. In 2015, just over half of all English 18 year old applicants missed their predicted attainment over three A levels by two or more grades; an increase of 34 per cent since 2010. Although there is an increase in the number of learners that do not achieve their predicted grades, over 70% of learners were accepted into their first choice institution in 2015 – a record high. Institutions are also increasingly viewing the academic profile of a learner in the context of their achievements as they strive to widen access.
The report finds a strong link between GCSE attainment and likelihood to achieve predicted grades. For all A level grade profiles the proportion of applicants who missed their grades was higher when prior GCSE attainment was lower. For applicants who averaged a B grade in their best eight GCSEs, 65 per cent of applicants missed their predicted attainment by two or more grades, falling to 32.1 per cent for applicants who averaged an A* in their best eight GCSEs.
Subject studied at A-level is also important when it comes to achieving predicted grades. A typical applicant is around two thirds more likely to miss their predictions by two grades or more if they are studying Biology, Chemistry and Maths than an otherwise similar applicant studying English, History and Art.
Applicants with a firm choice at universities that typically set more demanding conditions to be met seem to achieve grades closer to their predictions than applicants holding offers with a lower typical demand.
Applicants holding firm offers at lower tariff providers are more likely to miss their predicted attainment than applicants holding firm choices at medium tariff providers, who are in turn more likely to miss than applicants holding firm offers at higher tariff providers. This is the pattern we would expect under the assumptions that the offers made by higher tariff providers are higher (compared to offers from lower tariff providers), and that the effect of holding a higher firm offer in relation to a set of predicted grades is to increase the likelihood that predicted attainment is met or exceeded. However, this simple association does not take into account other ways that these groups of applicants could differ.
These applicants seem to do slightly less well than other similar applicants and are around 9 per cent more likely to be two grades or more below their predictions. These associations are very small in effect relative to other factors. For example the association with holding an unconditional offer is estimated to represent around 0.6 per cent of all applicants who are two or more grades below their predictions in 2015.
This analysis focuses on the group of applicants most likely to apply with a set of predicted grades – 18 year old English domiciled applicants who applied by the June deadline. It considers applicants with at least three predicted A levels with a total predicted point score of 12 (typical grade profile of BBB) or higher, who applied during the 2010 to 2015 application cycles.