GCSE, A Level Results Day 2021: Need to Know

Students will receive their GCSE and A Level grades this week – but can you still get the place you want at university? Can you appeal the grades you’ve received? Or resit exams later in the year? WhichSchoolAdvisor.com looks at what happens next for GCSE and A Level students.
GCSE, A Level Results Day 2021: Need to Know
By Carli Allan
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GCSE and A Level Results Days is imminent. After the furore over A Level and GCSE grades last year, when all results were based on teacher assessments in a last-minute U-turn by the UK government, students (and many teachers) are understandably nervous and apprehensive. Once again, exams this year were cancelled due to Covid-19 and students will be awarded teacher-assessed grades (TAGs). And, once again, there’s a huge divide of opinion on how grades have been awarded.

The focus now is on the results, though, which will be announced from August 10.

If you are currently planning to go to university in the UK this September, exam results day carries significantly more meaning than if you plan, for example, to go to the US (where students will have already been accepted irrespective of results), or India, (where it is the university entry exams that matter).

In this guide we look at what happens if you don’t get the GCSE or A Level grades you were expecting and what UK university hopefuls need to know...

When and how will I get my A Level or GCSE results?

A/AS Level results will be published on August 10, just a few days earlier than previous years; the release of results had previously been scheduled for 27 August. Teachers are not allowed to tell students’ their final grade before results day.

GCSE results will also be published earlier, on August 12.

What do I need to do on A Level results day?

Be prepared by having the below ready:

  • If you've applied to a UK university, have your Track sign in details handy and check that your contact details are updated
  • Make sure that you're available on results day, because most universities cannot speak to anyone else about your application details unless you have given them access to do so
  • Check how your results are sent to the universities you have applied to. Most come directly from the awarding organisations; if not, you will need to send your exam results to your universities or colleges yourself

What do my GCSE grades mean and why do they matter?

You should obtain at least a Grade 4 or 5 (formerly a grade C) in English and maths, no matter what your future plans are. Colleges and Sixth Forms look for these grades as a basic requirement to continue your studies.

It's also important to meet any grade requirements you've been set for the subjects you've chosen to continue studying at a higher level, such as BTEC or A Levels.

What happens if my A Level results meet the requirements for my university offer?

In most countries, your chosen university will be notified of your results automatically. In this case you don’t need to do anything.

What happens if I do not get the A Level results I want?

It’s important to read your original offer requirements carefully so you know where you stand. Seek advice from your chosen university, and in many cases, they can decide to accept you anyway.

Alternatively, the university may let you know that they will not be holding your place. If so, you need to speak to your second-choice university if you have met their requirements.

Can I appeal my GCSE or A Level grades?

Yes, you can appeal your grades and this year there is no charge for appeals. However, remember that your results can go down as well as up.

Ofqual brought results day forward to provide more time for student appeals – particularly for those students who are waiting on A Level results as part of their university application.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) guidance says:

“Requests for appeals on the grounds of academic judgement (unreasonableness) will only be considered by awarding organisations and not by centres.
"In these cases, an initial centre review must still be completed to ensure that the centre has not made any procedural or administrative errors. The centre should not review its academic judgements during the centre review stage."

The deadline for priority appeals (for students applying to higher education who did not achieve their first choice offer) is August 16, 2021. It is September 3, 2021 for all other cases.

Can I retake my GCSE or A Level exams?

Yes. You may prefer to retake some of your exams in November or next year; exam dates are yet to be announced and the deadline for entry is likely to be late September/early October.

Exam regulator Ofqual has said there will be a full series of autumn exams.

What happens if an error has been made by my school or exam centre?

In the first instance, you can appeal to the exam board via your school if there has been an error in your grade calculation.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) guidance says:

"Although centres will have undertaken robust internal checks and a quality assurance exercise to ensure the grades they submit to awarding organisations are correct, there is always a small possibility that a procedural or administrative error is identified.
"If, after results day, you have identified an error...students in these circumstances will have a right of appeal against the grade change."

What happens if I have applied to a UK university?

If you're going to university in the UK, UCAS receives your results directly and will update 'Track' – this is normally about 8am GMT. While Track will tell you whether your chosen university has accepted you, it won't detail your grades. You may well be accepted for your firm choice even if you haven't achieved the exact requirements of your offer.

The Track system will be very busy, so you will need to be patient to find out whether you’ve been successful. Try not to stress too much – although doing so is of course totally understandable. Universities may also take a while to make their decision and for this to show on Track. If Track is not updating, you can always contact them directly over the phone.

When Track updates to show your place is confirmed, UCAS will email an AS12 letter. Follow the instructions as to what your university requires you to do. Some don't need you to do anything else to confirm your place, but others do. Store the email. You'll need it as proof to open a student bank account and other official requirements.

What is Clearing?

If you do not get the grades you need for your original university course, and you still want to go to university in the UK, then you need to go through Clearing.

UCAS Clearing is for anyone who didn't meet the conditions of their university offer, did better than they expected and wants to see if they can find a 'better' course, didn't receive any offers - or anyone that accepted no offers.

You can apply for a place through Clearing from July 5 until October 19, providing you are not already holding an offer from a university or college, and the course you're applying to still has space. If you decide that the firm offer choice is perhaps not the right one after all, you will need to ask the university to withdraw the offer in order to enable you to go through Clearing.

More than 60,000 applicants obtained places through Clearing last year. These include places at top universities and on sought after courses, for a whole number of reasons – not least because of students failing to get their grades, or last-minute switches from students who perhaps did better than expected.

Who can I talk to for more advice?

The Department for Education has set up an exam results helpline for students living in the UK on 0800 100 900. More information about exam results is also available at nationalcareers.service.gov.uk.

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