What to do if you didn't get the A-level results you needed, after 'bruising' year for school leavers

17 August 2023, 11:03 | Updated: 17 August 2023, 11:05

Some A-level students are disappointed with their results this morning
Some A-level students are disappointed with their results this morning. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Kit Heren

Hundreds of thousands of A-level students across the UK got their A-level results on Thursday, with joy for many but heartache for others.

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Top A-level grades fell this year compared to 2022, but the proportion is still above pre-Covid levels.

More than a quarter of entries got an A* or A grade, or 27.2% - down 9.2 percentage points from the year before, after a return to the marking system in place before the pandemic.

But that was still a higher proportion than 2019, the last time summer exams were taken before the Covid pandemic disrupted the education system.

Read more: A-levels get tough: Results worst in four years as Ucas website crashes amid scramble for university places

Read more: Schools minister refuses to tell LBC how teachers' pay rise will be funded - but insists school budgets are unaffected

Student Hasena Mahmood reacts after receiving her A-Level results
Student Hasena Mahmood reacts after receiving her A-Level results. Picture: Getty

What to do if you don't get your A-level grades for university?

Your university or college may still give students a place if they don't get the grades they need.

Students who miss out on their grades should talk to their school or college, and to the university where they had a conditional offer.

They may be flexible, especially given that this year's results were tougher.

If this doesn't work out, students have several other options, including going through Clearing.

A student reacts to getting her results in Brighton
A student reacts to getting her results in Brighton. Picture: Alamy

What is Clearing?

Students who don't get the grades they needed for their first-choice university can apply for university places which haven’t yet been filled.

They can apply for a course using Clearing from 5 July – 17 October 2023, if they don't have offer from a university or college, and the course still has places.

Students can use Clearing if they didn’t receive or accept any offers, or they have declined their firm offer

They also have to pay an application fee of £27.

A-level results came in today
A-level results came in today. Picture: Alamy

Could there be something wrong with my results?

If students think that there has been a mistake in how their exam was marked, they should speak to their school or college.

They can ask for a review of students' results - but grades could go up or down.

Reviews can cost over £100 and can take as long as 20 working days.

What about resits?

Students can also resit A-levels next summer if they are unhappy with their results this year.

They should speak to their school or college about resits if they are thinking about this route.

There are many options for people who aren't happy with their results
There are many options for people who aren't happy with their results. Picture: Alamy

What are Higher Technical Qualifications?

Students can take higher technical qualifications (HTQs), which are exams that focus on work.

HTQs can be full time or part time. All students who study an HTQ course that lasts longer than a year can apply for both tuition fee and maintenance loans, like someone doing a degree.

A full list of HTQ courses is available here.

But many are happy with their results
But many are happy with their results. Picture: Alamy

Planning to go straight into the world of work?

If, after getting your results, students want to skip university and get straight into a job, they can look for an apprenticeship.

School leavers can apply for more than 670 apprenticeships across various industries.

This includes degree apprenticeships in nursing, engineering, law, and science, with the first ever NHS doctor apprenticeship to start from September 2024.

Apprentices make a salary while learning on the job, gaining experience while also being trained up at a university or college.

Whatever students do, experts said that it's important not to panic over getting A-level results that were worse than they expected.

Graham Baldwin, Vice Chancellor at the University of Central Lancashire. said it is "important to remember that the number of university places available has not changed."

He added: "No matter the outcome, there are always options available through other routes like clearing.

"It’s often the case that there are other avenues into university that you hadn’t previously considered, so it’s good to take the time to consider them all. If you’re feeling disappointed on results day, remember that you aren’t alone and that your teachers, lecturers and careers advisors are all there to give advice and guidance."

Mr Baldwin went on: "I’d always advise students to keep an open mind. A university that you hadn’t previously considered might turn out to be just the right place for you.

"There’s a misconception that choosing a university through clearing might feel like you are making a rash decision, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Staying calm and taking the time to consider your options ahead of results day puts you in great stead for making positive, informed choices about your next steps and what is available to you."

The Prime Minister is among the famous names who have expressed support for students who did not get the A-level results they hoped for.

Rishi Sunak retweeted former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson who continued his annual tradition of announcing that he got a C and 2 Us, adding that "it's not the end of the world if your A level results aren't what you'd hoped for".

The Prime Minister said: "Jeremy has made a career of being the exception not the rule but he does have a good point here - results day is important, but not necessarily a deal-breaker."

He added that there are "lots of options" available "whatever results" students received, citing apprenticeship courses, higher technical qualifications (HTQs) and the possibility of finding a different university course through clearing.

Former footballer Gary Neville, who later founded a university, echoed support for disappointed students and said they should be graded purely on coursework.

He said: "I have a different belief around exams. I don't believe you should work for 16 years at school and at college and then it all depends upon a two-hour assessment.

"I think it's prehistoric. I honestly believe that it needs ripping up."