Didn’t get the grades you need? Here’s what to do next

Results day is a nerve-wracking time but even if you didn’t get the grades you wanted, we’re here for a bit of reassurance that there are still plenty of options available!

Read on to discover our best advice for what to do if you didn’t get the grades you need.

Try not to panic

Firstly, it’s important not to be too self-critical and work through your options calmly.

It’s understandably disappointing if you don’t get the results you wanted, particularly when you’ve worked so hard. However, there are often many routes into a particular career path so you’ll have more options than you may initially think.

Talk to someone

Discussing your options can provide some helpful perspective; we’d recommend chatting to your tutors for advice as a starting point.

You can also call the Exam Results Hotline which provides free, impartial advice on anything from subject choices to vocational learning and careers support. This hotline is open on selected dates following GCSE and A-Level results day in August.

Exam Results Hotline (Scotland): 0808 100 8000
Exam Results Hotline (Rest of UK): 0800 100 900

Contact your first-choice college or university

If you just missed your GCSE grades, your preferred sixth form college may still be able to offer you a place so it’s worth giving them a call to find out your options.

For university applicants, we’d recommend checking UCAS as you could have still been awarded a place if your results are only slightly below the requirements.

If they haven’t updated your Track status yet, they could still be considering your application. We’d recommend contacting them directly by phone to discuss your options – they might even be able to offer you a place on a similar course with lower grade requirements.

Consider a remark or resit

If you were within a couple of marks of the grade boundary or received a much lower grade than you were expecting, it could be worth getting your paper remarked. Your teachers will be able to help advise if they think this is a suitable path for you.

It’s important to note that your grade could go up or down so bear this in mind when paying for a remark.

You can also choose to resit an exam if you need to achieve a specific grade in a subject to progress with your chosen study or career path. This is particularly important in GCSE Maths and English as many courses and jobs will require you to have grade 4-5 (formerly C). Resits for Maths and English often take place in November and some colleges let you resit this alongside your A Levels so this can usually be rectified quickly.

In some cases, you may not have achieved your grades in multiple subjects. In this case, you could also consider resitting the entire academic year – speak to your school or college who can advise you on this further.

Consider a different college or university

If your first-choice college or university won’t accept you onto your first-choice course and doesn’t have a similar course that you like the look of, why not consider a different one?

For students going into college or sixth form, research your local area and see whether any other colleges offer a similar course with slightly lower grade boundaries.

University applicants can go through the UCAS clearing service to apply for another course at a different university. For 2020, UCAS have introduced Clearing Plus which personally matches you to courses you may be interested in: if you’re unplaced, a ‘My Matches’ button will appear in Track where you can view these. Alternately, you can use the search tool to apply for something totally different.

Is there another route?

There are often many routes into a career so if you didn’t get the grades you needed, this could be a great time to explore the different options available.

Instead of A-Levels, you could consider studying a BTEC, NVQ or a City & Guilds vocational course. These are more ‘on the job’ and coursework based assessments that give you relevant work experience to a particular workplace.

From September 2020, you could choose a T Level. These are two year courses, equivalent to three A-Levels, which are based on a mixture of classroom learning and ‘on the job’ experience via a 45 day placement.

Apprenticeships are also popular options that have you develop skills with an employer while completing ‘off the job’ training via a learning provider. You’ll earn a salary as you learn – a great bonus!

For those who didn’t get their university grades, some colleges and universities offer a Foundation Year option. This is a great option if university is the best way to get into your career but you didn’t quite meet the grades. Once you have passed your foundation year, you can usually advance straight to the first year of the degree.

Professional qualifications are also a great option to learn about a very specific industry. Designed and regulated by professional bodies, many offer courses varying from one year to degree or master’s standard.

Some examples of professional bodies include the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).


Not sure what you want to do?

Perhaps not achieving the grades you were hoping for has made you reflect on what you’d like to do as a career.

If you don’t want to rush into a decision, taking a gap year could be a great way to gain some experience or discover more about yourself and the world – things that are both often looked on highly by employers or universities.

During your gap year, we’d recommend making a plan. You could choose to work and save money to travel or alternately, seek out internships, work experience or volunteering opportunities.

With so many options on the table, even if you haven’t achieved your required exam grades, we hope this advice has given you food for thought on what your next steps could be. Best of luck!


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