For many students, a university offer is conditional upon their A Level results. 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).
But what happens if you don’t get grades required? Whatever the outcome on Results Day, there are always options – so don't panic. You can request a remark, apply to retake any subject, or find a UK university place through the Clearing system.
In this guide we look what all A Level students and UK university hopefuls need to know, and what you can do if things do not go exactly to plan...
A Level results will be published from 8am (GMT) on Thursday, August 13. Even though grades have been awarded differently this year, they will look exactly the same as any other year on the results slips and your certificates.
Be organised, and make sure you have the following close at hand:
In the absence of any exams, exam boards are using a statistical model developed by OFQUAL that takes into account the following when calculating how a student has fared in their exams: previous attainment, the results of previous students at the same school, and the students predicted grades from mock exams submitted by teachers in March.
In most countries, your chosen university will be notified of your results automatically. In this case you don’t need to do anything. If you have at least one conditional place and you've met the requirements, then the offer will change to 'unconditional'.
If applying to a UK university, this firm acceptance will be confirmed in Track and by a confirmation letter from UCAS.
Some universities will require further action on your part. The letter will explain any further instructions, such as providing evidence of your qualifications. If you've used UCAS Extra to add another choice - and have been offered a place - you'll just need to accept it by the date displayed in Track. There's also the option of adding another choice, should you wish to decline the offer.
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.
University offers are often dependent different factors, so, 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.
If you are not offered the university place you want, you can consider getting your exams remarked. However, remember that your results can go down as well as up. You may prefer to retake some of your exams or, if applying to a UK university, you can enter the Clearing process.
Speak to your school or college first. They can appeal to an exam board on your behalf if they believe the exam board used the wrong data when calculating grades or incorrectly communicated the grades calculated. You can’t appeal your grade because you don’t agree with the centre assessment grade or rank order position submitted by your school or college.
“We know many students wanted to be able to challenge their centre assessment grades if they were unhappy with them, but we judged this could not be done consistently and fairly. Any appeal would have to be done by someone better placed than your teachers to judge your likely grade if exams had taken place – as exams were cancelled, we don’t think there is such a person. It adds:
“It’s important that you understand on what basis you can and can’t appeal your results when deciding your next steps. Only your school or college can submit an appeal on your behalf.”
The deadline for any appeal is September 17, 2020.
You can also contact QFQUAL’s Exam Results Helpline at nationalcareers.service.gov.uk.
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.
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 until October 20, 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.
Details of available places through to how to accept your place on Track (your online UCAS application) can be found on the UCAS site. Alternatively, you can log onto the online versions of The Telegraph newspaper, which is UCAS’s official partner for Clearing, to search for available places (searchable by university or subject preference.