What to do if you don't get the grades you wanted this Results Day

Amy O'Neill

With Results Day less than a week away it's important to remember that, regardless of what grades you get, there'll be options for you to explore going forward. 

A-level results day is on Tuesday, 10 August, 2021. In Scotland, SQA results are also due to be released to students that same day. The results are being released two weeks earlier than planned - with the original date being slated for 24 August.

The date's been brought forward to give students more time to appeal against any results that may have affected their university application. Earlier this year, A-level exams were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with results instead being based on teacher-assessed grades. 

While you might not have had to deal with any exam-stress this year, Results Day still causes anxiety for many students. Here's what to do if you don't get the results you want on Tuesday.


1. Go in with a plan of action

The best way to fight off any Results Day anxieties is to get prepared. You should be able to see your results from 8am onward, or just whenever UCAS Track updates on the day. The online system can get very busy in those first few minutes, so you might need to be patient to find out whether you've been successful.

The day will hopefully go your way, but if you end up with a lower grade than you expected, then you don't want to be stuck in the position of trying to come up with a battle plan when you're surprised, upset, or worried. Remember the old adage: "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst."


2. Stay calm and consider your options

If you don't get the grades you need on the day, then the first thing to do is stay calm and take stock of what you've already achieved. Try to remember that this year has been incredibly stressful for everyone and students, especially, have had to deal with unprecedented disruptions in their learning. 

Because of this, universities are a lot more understanding if you narrowly miss out on your required grades. Even if you no longer meet the conditions of your original offer, you some universities might offer you a place on a different course that they feel is more suited to you. 

If your university rescinds your offer due to your grades, then there are two options that you can pursue: either accept this and find a place on another course through Clearing or appeal your results.


3. Option #1: Finding a new course through Clearing

If you still want to go to university this year, then you'll be able to find a new course through Clearing. This is a feature of UCAS that allows you to apply for university places that haven’t been filled in the first round of applications. 

You'll only become eligible for Clearing after you've been rejected by both your first and insurance choices. Once this happens, you'll be given a UCAS Clearing number and can begin searching through Clearing for any places that haven't been filled yet.

If you already have an idea of the universities you'd like to apply to as your Plan B, then it's also a good idea to contact them directly. Most universities have a separate phone number for Clearing that you should be able to find on their website. If you're calling, make sure you have your personal statement to hand - as this will help direct your conversation, and help keep your mind focused and clear.


4. Option #2: Appealing your results

If you decide you're not happy with your results and would like to appeal, then there are a few things to be aware of: due to the pandemic, the normal arrangements for appeals will not apply, since centre-assessed grades have been replaced with teacher-assessed ones.

This means that your A-levels grades are based on your teacher's judgment rather than that of the exam board. If you feel like you've been graded unfairly, then your teacher should be able to provide you with evidence which supports their assessment, such as your completed coursework, mock exams, or other projects and assessments that you've submitted throughout the year. 

If you're still unhappy after reviewing this evidence, then you will still have the option to appeal your grades by submitting a formal appeal to your school or college. 


5. Look for a new path

If you're not looking to appeal your results, and not sure what to do next. Then there are still lots of options out there for you to explore. Check out our list below to find the path that's right for you:

  • Resitting your exams: Every student has the option to sit their exams once social distancing restrictions permit it. This will likely be in the Autumn season or during the summer of 2022. If you do this, both your centre-based and teacher-based assessments will stand and you'll be able to use the higher mark for your future applications.
  • Taking some time out: If you've missed out on your course this year and can't find anything that appeals to you in Clearing, taking a gap year could be a great option to help you clear your head and regroup. You can pursue work experience, volunteering, or search for an internship during this time.
  • Studying for a professional qualification: Lots of industries are happy to accept professional qualifications in place of (or in addition to) academic degrees. This could be a great options for those who have missed out on their first-choice course, but still want to move towards their professional career. The Qualifications and Credit Framework can help you compare these qualifications to their degree-level equivalents.

  • Looking for a full or part-time job: You might decide that, rather than taking a year out, you'd prefer to work for a year and build up your professional experience. Jobs boards like ours will have a range of entry-level jobs that you can apply for - meaning you can re-apply to university with more experience under your belt.