A Levels, IB Students: What Happens Now?

The U-turn on A Level, GCSE and IB results will mean higher grades for many students worldwide – but the changing situation may create further chaos for students hoping to get their university place back. WhichSchoolAdvisor answers your questions on university admissions, resits and appeals.
A Levels, IB Students: What Happens Now?
By Carli Allan
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Students worldwide may be celebrating improved A Level and IB grades today after U-turns by the UK government and the International Baccalaureate Organisation – but can they still get the place they want at university? Can they still appeal the grades they have received? Or resit exams later in the year? WhichSchoolAdvisor looks at what happens now for A Level, IB and GCSE students.

If my A Level or IB results have improved, can I now go to my chosen university this year?

In theory, thousands more students can now be accepted to the university of their choice with their predicted grades or improved IA-based grades. However, it has been over six weeks since the IB results were published and nearly a week since the A Level results, which may mean that places to UK universities have already been offered to other students through Clearing.

The UK’s education secretary Gavin Williamson says he will remove the cap on the number of students’ universities can enrol, but that does not guarantee that every student will get the university place they were offered – even if they now have the grades required.

The policy changes on grading may mean that more students will have the grades that match the offer of their first-choice university. However, as Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said, “This will cause challenges at this late stage in the admissions process – capacity, staffing, placements and facilities – particularly with the social distance measures in place.”

Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities, says that many of its universities have increased admissions plans so they can take more students this year.

“Our universities have been working hard to be as flexible and compassionate as possible to help students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, so offer holders are not unfairly affected. We firmly believe that everyone who has the drive and determination to study at university should have the opportunity do so.

“Our universities have accepted students who narrowly missed out on the grades they needed, have held places open for those appealing their results or have been able to guarantee places on courses for the next academic year. UCAS daily clearing data shows that acceptances at higher tariff institutions are higher this year compared to the same time last year."

There are limits to what can be done by the university sector alone, however, and practical constraints on capacity for programmes that depend on specialist facilities or placements. To increase student enrolment further, universities are appealing for UK government support, particularly for high cost subjects such as chemistry, medicine and engineering.

Read more: How will A Level and GCSEs and IB Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme results now be graded?

So, can I change my university choice?

Universities worldwide are expected to update a decision on places on Wednesday (August 19) once they have received all revised grades from the exam boards.

If you received lower grades than expected you may have already confirmed you will be attending a second-choice university. However, if you now have the grades to be accepted at your first choice university you are advised to contact them directly to find out if there are still spaces on the course. The decision will be down to each university and whether they will honour places originally offered to students.

UCAS advises students who were not placed at their firm or insurance choice university or college, to "first speak with your parents/guardians and teachers to decide if you wish to take up your place at your first choice university or college".

Courteney Sheppard, UCAS' customer experience manager said:

"We are working with the awarding bodies to receive revised grades as quickly as possible to pass them on to your chosen universities and colleges. Any decision made will be made by the individual university or college, not UCAS."

Does the UK government’s decision on A Levels affect students studying at international schools?

Yes, A Level students at schools overseas can expect their results to now be based on teachers’ predicted grades too.

Cambridge International, one of three exam boards offering International A levels (and IGCSEs), will issue new grades based on OFQUAL’s policy change.

“It is important to us that Cambridge students can compete on an equal basis with students who have similar national or international qualifications, and that their hard work and achievements are compared fairly. We have decided that grades we issue for the June 2020 series will not be lower than the predicted grade submitted by the school. Where a grade we issued last week was higher than the predicted grade, the higher grade will stand.”

"We will issue new grades as soon as possible. We will also share the new grades with universities and admissions organisations as soon as we can in the coming days. In the meantime, in order to provide immediate certainty to students, schools can inform them of the predicted grades they submitted to us. We provided this information to schools on results day.”

Another exam board offering international A Levels and GCSEs, AQA, said that the UK’s decision will “apply to last week’s AS and A-level results and the GCSE results that are still to be issued”. A third exam board, Pearson EdExcel, is yet to make a formal announcement.

Can I still appeal against my teacher predicted grades?

A Level (and GCSE students) will be able to appeal their teacher’s predicted grades but the criteria has not yet been released. Students may lodge an appeal only if they believe their teachers had shown “bias or discrimination” towards them.

Previously the deadline for any appeal was September 17, 2020; this may change however.

You can contact QFQUAL’s Exam Results Helpline at nationalcareers.service.gov.uk for advice.

Can I still take resits?

Yes. You can’t appeal your grade because you think you would have done better in your exams. But, if you feel that your grades don't accurately reflect your performance, you can choose to sit exams in the autumn series or in 2021.

You can choose to take as many subjects in the autumn as you want to. But if you want to take a particular subject, you will need to take all the exam papers in that subject.

OFQUAL says: “If you choose to take exams in the autumn or next summer and achieve a different grade from the grade you received this summer, you will be able to use the higher of the two grades to show to universities, colleges and employers in future.”

Exam dates for AS & A Levels are October 5 to 23. The deadline for entry is September 4.

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