A-Level Results: Advice and Perspective

Waiting for important news is a stressful time for anyone, and the wait for exam results is one we experience several times throughout our education. For a lot of students, there is no bigger stress, nor more important set of results than your A-levels. So no matter what your results are today ; the wait is at least finally over!

Depending on your results, and your pre-exam choices, you will now have several options in front of you. Some of these will be obvious, but there are also some misconceptions about the options available, especially to those who didn’t quite get the grades they were looking for, or on the other side of the spectrum, those who far exceeded their expectations. We’ve outlined below some of the options available to you depending on your situation.

“285/365 Relief” (CC BY 2.0) by thebarrowboy

So you got the results you were hoping for:

Congratulations! You’ve done it. All the hard work has paid off and you can finally breathe a massive sigh of relief, as you’ve got exactly what you needed for your universities of choice or next step. For the most part, your situation is straightforward: You now get to select which course/university you want to go for. However it might not necessarily be plain-sailing from here. If you are left with several universities and subjects to choose from, it can be quite daunting to commit to a choice that you will have to stick to for at least three years. Some friends will probably be encouraging you to go the same university as them, there will no doubt be some nudging towards certain choices from your parents/family, and you might also have conflicting interests and talents to weigh up. The most important thing to keep in mind at this time is to make sure you do what YOU want to do. Friends and family always want the best for us, but you should commit to a choice because it feels right to you rather than to appease others. Your time at university can shape who you are as a person; This is your time to be selfish, and to pick the subject you enjoy the most. If you can enjoy your degree, that really is half the battle. Take it from someone who has seen plenty friends and peers drop out after a year or so because they weren’t doing their degree for the right reasons.

So you didn’t get the results wanted…

First and foremost, don’t panic! The important thing to remember is you’re not alone, there are thousands of other students in the exact same situation. It’s understandable to be disappointed you didn’t do as well as you hoped, but all hope is not lost and you still have many options ahead of you.


Marking and grading mistakes are more common that you would imagine. We think of exam markers pondering over each individual essay and earnestly weighing up what grade it should receive. The reality for markers is that you’re hired for speed and paid per script marked, leading to a lot of inconsistencies and mis-graded papers every year. Requests for re-marking have been booming in recent years with 8% of state school students, and 13% of private school students appealing every year. If you do truly feel there is something amiss with your grade, it might be worth exploring the option of re-marking. You should consider a “priority re-mark” which means the exam board do it really quickly, sometimes even within days. Re-marking should be an option available to most students, however there is a cost involved. It costs roughly £40 per appeal. Some schools have budget set aside for this every year, they will evaluate your request for re-marking on a case by case basis and therefore only have a limited amount of appeals per year. Some other schools (mostly private) will invoice students’ parents for each appeal, which gives the choice and cost to the families. As soon as you’ve made the decision to appeal a result, you must immediately contact your university. Some universities will hold your place on the course, pending appeal, whereas others will offer you a place on a similar course, or the same course next year. The way each university deals with this varies on a case-by-case basis, so the best thing you can do is explain your situation to your potential universities, emphasise your commitment to the course, and keep in touch with them as the situation develops.


Ucas Clearing is available between July and September each year. If you already have your exam results, but have no offers, you’re able to use Clearing from July. London South Bank University (LSBU) found in a survey that the vast majority (77%) of students associate failing exams as the only reason people use clearing. This is far from the case though, as only about half of clearing applications are from students who didn’t meet their grades, the next most common reason being people looking for a complete change of subject or university from those that they applied/were accepted at. In the same survey, LSBU found that about half of students wouldn’t tell their peers they got a place on a course via clearing, out of fear of being perceived as ‘inferior’ or ‘stupid’. This is something you should immediately banish from your thinking. There is no shame in using clearing, just like the other 60,000 students that use it every year, it’s a great way to find a course. In fact; 70% of recent LSBU graduates who applied through Clearing are in employment or further study six months after graduation, compared to 69% of LSBU graduates who did not apply through clearing — a difference of just one per cent in favour of Clearing applicants.


If you are dissatisfied with your results and/or clearing offers, you have your heart set on one particular course/university you didn’t get into, or you feel you could have given some of your courses a better attempt, re-sitting might be something to look at. Have a look at the grades of your individual modules; it might be the case that you can just resit a couple of modules that pulled your grade down. If you approach your sixth form or a local college this shouldn’t be a problem. The other option is resitting whole courses to get a better grade. If there was a particular problem affecting your circumstances during the previous academic year, this could be a good option. Obviously both of the above options would leave you having to apply through UCAS again next year. Speaking from personal experience, a year like this will pass quickly and you’ll be back on schedule before you know it. It can also be a great opportunity to get a bit of related work experience or further study that will benefit you when you eventually start your course.

So you did even better than you expected:

Well done! You’ve smashed your target and done even better than your expected. I’ll bet you’re feeling pretty smug right now. Enjoy it, bask in your eternal glory. Because university will be a lot more difficult! If you’re happy with your choices, you can now accept your favoured offer and start preparing for your first year at university. However you might now be looking at your grades and choices and thinking you would have chosen a ‘better’ university, or a different course, had you known you would do so well. If so, you have some options to do just that. But whatever your final decision, you can be massively encouraged by your final A-level grades. Having proved yourself in your A-levels, you can look forward to doing very well at university too. Make sure you enjoy the moment.


UCAS provide the option of clearing for students that haven’t performed as well as they’d hoped during their exams, as well as the other reasons we touched on above. However it also provides the option of ‘adjustment’ which allows overachievers to reconsider their options and perhaps enrol on a different course at a different university.The quicker you can register for adjustment the better: adjustment runs from results day up until the 31st of August, however you’re actually only given five days to find a course or university from the time you first register in Track. Five days isn’t a lot of time to make a life-changing decision, so make sure to think things through properly and don’t make any rash decisions. It’s worth noting that, unlike with clearing, you won’t be given a list of universities that have adjustment places available. This means you have to call round universities yourself to find out who has places left. Remember, adjustment is not mandatory and it won’t be necessary for everyone who exceeded their expectations, so only undertake this if you really do want a more prestigious uni, or a better course.


This might not be an option that a lot of people would consider at first, but for certain people it can be a great idea. Instead of going through adjustment, you could take a year out and apply again next year with your results, allowing you to take a gap-year. Taking a gap-year can be easily dismissed as a good excuse to go abroad for an extended holiday, but it can be such a valuable life experience. You can immerse yourself in the subject you will be studying, you can achieve a lot of personal development, you can get a job and build up a decent drinking fund for university (you’ll need it!) or you can just have a relaxing year out and maybe get a tan — there’s no shame in that. Taking a gap-year can also leave you starting university feeling rested and more enthused about learning.

Finally — You’re reading this with your (still unopened) envelope in hand…

Open it. Just do it. Seriously. Bite the bullet. Face the music. Rip the band-aid. Take the bull by the horns. Carpe Diem! If we haven’t managed to ease your worries with the above options, and those weren’t enough cliches for you; to quote the good Dr Pepper, what is the worst that could happen?

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