News, Culture & Society

A-Level results: Just 55% needed to get A grade in Edexcel’s maths exam

A-Level students who answered 55% of the questions correctly in Edexcel’s maths exam will get an A grade, leaked documents reveal

  • Just 165 out of 300 marks (55 per cent) were needed to achieve the top grade
  • Documents revealing grade boundaries leaked online just a day before results 
  • Candidates needed 56 per cent for A in biology and 59 per cent for A in physics

A-level maths students had to score just 55 per cent to get an A grade in this year’s paper, according to leaked documents.  

Grade boundaries set by exam board Edexcel show that just 165 out of 300 marks were needed to achieve an A grade compared to 184 marks (61 per cent) last year.  

Documents revealing the grade boundaries leaked on social media one day before sixth formers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their A-level results.

They also show biology A-level candidates needed 56 per cent (167 marks out of 300) to get an A, while physics students needed 59 per cent (176 out of 300).

A-level maths students had to score just 55 per cent to get an A grade in this year’s paper, according to leaked documents

In English, candidates needed 69 per cent (208 marks out of 300) to get A and 67 per cent (202 out of 300) for an A in chemistry.

It was also revealed that just 43 marks (14.3 per cent) would result in an E grade in Maths – considered a pass.

In a statement, Pearson, which is responsible for Edexcel, said that grade boundary information is shared with schools a day in advance to help teachers prepare and that the information was shared via a password-protected, secure website.

The leaked boundaries also show that 72 per cent of marks were needed overall for an A* in the subject this summer, along with just over a third of marks (34 per cent) for a C grade.


A grade boundary is the minimum mark at which a letter grade can be achieved. 

Once exams have been marked over a 12-week period, Edexcel sets the grade boundaries for each individual exam.

The process for deciding grade boundaries is called awarding. 

Senior examiners adjust the threshold depending on the difficulty of the paper.

Exam boards say it would be unfair for students to get a lower grade just because they sat a tougher paper.  

Examiners compare the newest paper to older exams to decide how demanding it was.

They then lower the minimum mark if students achieved lower-than-expected grades. 

The grade boundary is then applied to the marks each student achieved to produce their grade for the exam. 

A Pearson spokeswoman said: ‘Per JCQ guidelines, all boards share grade boundary info with schools a day in advance to help teachers prepare and support their students better on results day.

‘Our systems are working as they should and the information was shared today via a password-protected, secure website.

‘Boards do ask schools not to share this widely to avoid unnecessary stress for students awaiting their results.

‘Schools are trusted to treat the info confidentially on behalf of their students and the vast majority do.’

There were reports earlier this year of students complaining that one of the A-level maths papers was too hard.

In a separate statement, Pearson addressed these concerns, saying it was aware that some had found Paper 2 ‘more difficult than they were expecting’.

The board said it wanted to reassure students that independent experts had analysed the paper and confirmed it was a ‘fair and valid exam testing across the ability range and the course curriculum’.



Biology: 167 marks out of 300 (56 per cent)

Chemistry:  202 marks out of 300 (67 per cent)

English: 208 marks out of 300 (69 per cent) 

Maths: 165 out of 300 marks (55 per cent) 

Physics: 176 marks out of 300 (59 per cent)


Biology: 170 marks out of 300 (57 per cent)

Chemistry: 214 marks out of 300 (71 per cent)

English: 208 marks out of 300 (69 per cent)

Maths: 184 marks out of 300 (61 per cent)

Physics: 174 marks out of 300 (58 per cent)

It comes after questions from one paper of Edexcel’s A-level maths qualification were leaked ahead of student’s sitting the exam this summer.

In an update on its investigation last week, Pearson confirmed that questions from the whole paper had been circulated by some students on ‘closed social media networks’ ahead of the exam.

In a video statement, Derek Richardson, Pearson’s responsible officer, said that 78 pupils have had their results withheld while malpractice procedures are carried out.

When the security breach was first revealed in June, it was thought that two questions had been circulated on Twitter in advance of pupils sitting the paper.

Edexcel is one of England’s biggest exam boards.

This summer is the first time that grades for reformed A-level maths are being awarded to all students.

Last year, just a small number of students took the reformed qualification – those who sat the exam after completing the course in just one year, rather than the usual two.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘We are extremely disappointed if grade boundaries have been leaked ahead of results day.

‘The problem is that anxious students will pore over this information trying to work out what this means for their results.

‘This is a pointless exercise because grade boundaries are set to allow for differences in the difficulty of papers so that students are not disadvantaged from one year to the next.

‘We would urge students against losing sleep over grade boundaries and to wait for their results tomorrow.’