Success at GCSE is key to university applicants achieving their predicted A Level grades, a new study from UCAS shows.
In the study, the A Level predictions of half a million university applicants were compared to the A Level grades they actually achieved in 2015.
The report found a strong link between GCSE attainment and likelihood to achieve predicted grades.
The mix of A Level subjects studied is also relevant to achieving predicted grades. For instance, 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 a university that set more demanding grades achieve results closer to their predictions than applicants holding offers with a lower demand. The few applicants holding unconditional offers do slightly less well than other similar applicants.
The report found that over half of English 18 year olds applying to university in 2015 missed their A Level predictions by two or more grades last year – an increase of 34% on 2010.
Despite this increase, over 70% of learners were accepted into their first choice higher education institution in 2015 – a record high; HE institutions understand that predicted grades are estimated around six months before exams are taken.
Similar research by Cambridge Assessment (2015) also shows how hard it is for teachers to predict how students will do in exams.