Gender and Subject Choice – Section 2

Russell Haggar

Site Owner

Section Two:

Section Two: Preliminary summaries of recent trends in subject entries in the UK at GCSE and GCE Advanced Level subdivided by Gender

  • UK GCSE Examinations, Gender, and Subjects Choice 2012-23 [These GCSE data are presented in some detail here.]
  1. In relation to most of the 10 highest entry GCSE subjects gender differences in subject entry are small.
  2. These differences are negligible for the compulsory National Curriculum subjects [Mathematics, Science and English]
  3. Differences are small also for History, Religious Studies, and Geography
  4. However, there were substantial differences in entry for Art and Design and Design and Technology.
  5. Gender differences in subject entry for individual Science subjects are small: Biology, Chemistry and Physics.
  6. Gender differences in subject entry were substantial in French and Spanish but not in German There have been ongoing concerns about the decline nm Modern Language entries.
  7. However, in some other subjects’ gender differences in entry are much larger and to some extent reflect gender differences in career aspirations or and/or expectations. Thus, Males are significantly more likely than females to opt for Economics, PE, Business Studies, ICT, Construction, Technology [excluding Design and Technology] and Engineering while females are much more to opt for Social Science, Drama, Health and Social Care, Home Economics and Performing Arts. At the extremes 90%+of Construction entrants were male and 90%+ of Health and Social Care entrants were female


  • UK GCE Advanced Level Examinations, Gender, and Subject Choice 2012-2023  [These  GCE Advanced Level data are presented in some detail here.]
  1. Gender differences in subject choice for the 10 most popular GCE Advanced Level subjects were greater than was the case at GCSE Level
  2.  In 2017 English Language and English Literature were tabulated separately which caused English Literature to fall in the overall rankings to 9th place by 2021 and by 2022 English Literature fell out of the top 10 most popular A Level subjects.
  3. In the following list of subjects relating to 2023 there are 7 subjects which appeared in the top 10 most popular subjects for females and for males,3 subjects which appeared only in the female Top 10 and 3 subjects which appeared only in the male top 10. Can you decide which subjects appeared in which of these three categories? Mathematics, Physics, English Literature, Chemistry. Biology, Economics, Business Studies, Sociology, History, Geography, Psychology, Geography, Computing,  Art and Design,
  4. Traditionally Males have been proportionately more likely than females to opt for A level Mathematics and Sciences, other than Biology. However, from 2018 females have been proportionately more likely than males to opt for A Level Chemistry and this has continued 2019-2022.
  5.  Male entries are proportionately greater than Female entries in Mathematics, Physics, Economics, Business Studies and slightly higher in Geography.
  6. Meanwhile Female entries are proportionately higher than Male entries in Psychology, Sociology, English Literature, Art and Design and History.
  7. As with the GCSE examinations some less popular Advanced Level subjects exhibit more significant gender differences in subject choice. Thus in 2013-22 Performing and Expressive Arts, Welsh, Communication Studies, Drama and French all have considerably larger percentages of female entrants while Computing, Other Sciences, Further Mathematics, PE, ICT and Music all have larger percentages of male entrants.  These percentages changed little between 2012 and 2022.
  8. Click here for a very useful Guardian article from 2019 focussing on the increased take up of A Level Science subjects by females such that by 2019 total female entrants exceeded total male entrants in A Level, Biology, Chemistry and Physics combined. The Guardian data were for England rather than UK. Also, the UK in 2021 and 2022, Total female entries in A Level Biology, Chemistry and Physics combined were 86,814 and 87,861 respectively whereas Male entries were 83,960 and 82,752 respectively.
  9. Male entrants far exceed female entrants in A Level Computing but in 2022 Female entries increased considerably albeit from a low level. Level

In Section Three there is some more detailed statistical information on Gender and Subject Choice, and this is followed by an introductory essay in Section Four

  Click here For Section 3 - 3a