Results Day: What to do, When and How

Stressful... So very stressful. Telling you to relax and not to worry while waiting for your results, is of course like telling you to flap your arms and fly as you're pushed off a tall building. You can try, but good luck with that! The key is not 'not to stress', but to use how you deal positively whatever is thrown at you - the good, and the unexpected. It's how you react in life that matters most, and long terms really makes the difference.
Results Day: What to do, When and How
By David Westley
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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 the key dates UK university hopefuls need to know, and what you can do if things do not go exactly to plan...

Key dates

For those of you who sat the IB DP and CP in the May session, results will be issued on July 5th.

A' Level students will not get their results for another five weeks. Schools will be able to see A-level exam results on most examining boards’ systems by 14th August, but these are for headteachers and the exams officer only. Students need to wait until the morning on the 15th to collect their results from their school or college, or to receive them by email to either your school or personal email account - your school will advise you in advance of the process.

For the IB, and if the IB Coordinator allows, students can access their own results via the IB’s candidate results website one day after results are issued to schools: on 6th July, at 12 pm GMT, for those who sat their exams in May. (Those of you sitting your IB exams in November, results are due in December or beginning of Jan). Again, some international schools allow students to collect their results, semi-officially, from the school itself the day before.

Note: If you're going to university in the UK, UCAS receives your results directly and will update 'Track' – this is normally about 8 AM 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. UK universities are under pressure to fill places. You may find that your firm choice university offers you a place despite you having achieved considerably below the required grades.

Do think carefully before going ahead with this offer. Are your results telling you something? You may feel that you have been unlucky with your results, but do consider whether you can really manage the course and maintain your sense of wellbeing. You may be better to look at alternative options.

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.

It is good practice to set up a folder for all the information you receive from university.

Note: GCSE results day falls on Thursday 22 August, whilst Cambridge International (IGCSE) results will be released to schools on Wednesday 13 August to students on Thursday 14th August.

What to do if you do not get the results you want?

If your prime concern is a place at University, and you're heading to the UK, check UCAS Track. If it says your place is 'unconditional' then you're fine. You have been accepted despite falling short in the terms of your offer. Be patient and prepared to wait until 11 AM GMT - it may take time for the decision to be made and Track to update.

If you have not heard by then, call your university. You should have been sent a hotline phone number. If not, there may be one listed on its website. If you haven't got a special number then just phone the university's normal number and make it clear you are an existing offer holder, not a Clearing applicant.

It can take a long time for the university to make a final decision. If it reaches a week and you are still waiting, then phone the university ask when they expect to decide. Always remain calm and polite, not least because the person you speak may be in control of your fate.

If you have been unsuccessful, but are close to your university entrance requirement, ask for a remark! It is worth doing this simultaneously if you are waiting to hear from the university.

This editor personally knows two candidates who did not get the IB DP points they required for an Oxbridge place, but asked their school to request a remark. In both cases they were successful and got the place they were after.

For A' Levels it is more complex with, we believe lower success rates, but again you can ask your school or college to get an exam result looked at. You may be able to request a review from the exam board yourself. You can appeal a review if you’re unhappy with its decision.

It is also possible to make an appeal the exam board regulator, Ofqual, if you’re still not happy with the outcome of the appeals process review resulting from making an enquiry to your examining board.

An appeal needs to be made within 14 days of getting the result of a review.

You will need to speak to your teacher or exams officer at your school or college to make an appeal to Ofqual.

If you're a private candidate you can apply to Ofqual directly:

Complaints - Ofqual
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 0300 303 3344
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Note: Getting a change to grade has become significantly more difficult for A' Levels. Up until 2016, your paper would be remarked. However, since 2016, only the actual scoring of the paper is looked at - i.e. have the marks added up correctly, and have processes been followed correctly? It does not take a second, subjective look at the quality of your exam answers.

Note: If you are appealing any of your grades and have new information to provide, keep your chosen university informed.

University 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 until 23 October 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.

Over 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.

Key tips for clearing...

1. Always keep calm and upbeat. Wherever you are right now, is the start of something new, and something exciting - even if, in this minute, it is not where you thought you would be. Life takes many unexpected turns, which often work out for the better.

2. Be as prepared for spanners as you can be: Do the contingency planning before Results Day. List possible courses and universities you’re interested in, and put in priority order. This will help when looking at the 1000s of Clearing listings after they are published.

3. Be positive: You have power. Universities need to fill their places as much as you want to fill one of them.

4. If you are not in it, you can't win it. It may sound obvious but now would not be the best time to be on holiday.

5. Keep checking UCAS Track - if you become eligible to use Clearing, an ‘Add Clearing choice’ option will appear on your Track Choices screen.

6. The more flexible about where you study, and what you study you are, the more options you will be open to you.

7. Call universities - nothing shows commitment more. Universities want to hear your voice. They are unlikely to be able to offer a place unless they are speaking to you directly. Note - some vacancies may never make it to the listings they go so quickly. Make sure they go to you! Treat all calls like they could be an interview: The university might do a quick run-through of your grades or you could have a full-on Q and A. Do your research and be ready to impress. To be prepared for the call:
- Have a pen and paper to hand. You will need to write things down.
- Have a phone charger - this is not the time to have a battery malfunction.
- Know your GCSE results – they might come up.
- Know your UCAS Clearing number. Tutors will want to view your original application.
- Know the course code, name and details of the course content you’re enquiring about.
- Read your personal statement and know the key points you want to make: Why that specific course? Why should you get the place? As importantly, think of questions to ask the university to show genuine interest...
- Have an answer as to why you think you didn’t achieve your grades. Think about any positives from your results - where did you get your grades? Where did you exceed them?

8. Check the UCAS as well as university sites for vacancies in the subjects you want to study. Not all universities advertise places on clearing. Last year 8 of the 24-strong ‘elite’ Russell Group universities did NOT use the system. Many of the most popular and competitive degrees – medicine, dentistry and veterinary science also don't feature. These courses are usually oversubscribed already, with a waiting list, but there is never harm in trying.

9. Never ever stop trying.

10. You can call every university on your shortlist and verbally accept more than one offer, but you will only be able to have one Clearing choice at any time. Before making that final decision, can you get to the university look around?

Many universities will run open days to enable Clearing applicants (and their parents) to visit, view the facilities (particularly accommodation), and talk to staff and students.

Even if there is not an official opportunity to visit, you can still contact the university and try and see the place before making a firm commitment. The ‘feel’ of a campus or city can be crucial. This is tougher for international students, but if you can, it is definitely advisable...

Once you’re happy, go ‘Add Clearing Choice’ and enter the course code and details requested. Once the university confirms this via UCAS you will receive your confirmation letter...

The majority of Clearing places won't become available until after A-level results are published in mid-August, however, but should you do find a course that's listed in clearing before then, and you have your grades already (IB students, resit students, or those who have just deferred entry), apply early to avoid the post-exam result rush.


UCAS: +44 330 333 0230 if you are calling outside the UK, 0371 368 0468 for UK callers.

Alternatives to Clearing

If clearing is not for you, don't worry. It is only one option you have available to you. If you still want to go to university, but don't feel the pressure to go immediately, also think about:

- Resitting a subject and then re-apply next year. Talk to a teacher and your parents about this. Clearly it means, if not going back to school, definitely going back to your books to get the grades you need. 

- Reapply next year for slightly different courses or universities with your existing grades. Also consider other countries. There are great universities around the world... Having a Gap year means you go to university a little older and a little wiser - with great and relevant experiences. Many students that do this believe it to have been one of the best decisions that they have made.

Whatever happens today, be proud of what you have done and where you are. If you have made the grades that should be easy. If you haven't, let's be honest, it is going to be harder - but don't let it get to you. Today is a setback - that is all. This is time to show the world who you are, and what you are made of. Deep breaths, cups of tea, and... carry on.

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