A-level results – what now? The good, the bad and the cold feet

A-level results – what now? The good, the bad and the cold feet

Author: icould.com

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Unsure about what next? If you've done better or worse than expected or are just having second thoughts, here's our quick guide to your options on or after results day.


Clearing is the process that matches unfilled university places with students. If you don’t make your grades you can often get onto a different course. Try and get to grips with the Clearing process beforehand so you’re on the front foot when Clearing opens.

Ahead of results day, you can also register for Clearing Plus and identify other courses and universities you might be interested in – they will contact you directly if space is available.

Don’t worry however, if you come to Clearing fresh on results day, but do take some time to read through the information before diving straight in.

See the UCAS Clearing FAQs for more details.

Check out these expert tips on Clearing from The Guardian (the article is from 2020 but still contains useful advice).


If you think your grade is wrong, there is an appeals process you can follow but beware that grades can go down as well as up.

The first step is to speak to your school.

Find out more and see how it works in the Student Guide to Awarding 2021.


This year, if you’re unhappy with your calculated grades, you can choose to re-sit exams in October.

See more about the Autumn exam series.

If you didn’t give your studies your best shot and feel you could do much better second time round, then find out about other retake options. You may be able to repeat a year at your existing school or college, or find this option is offered by other colleges in your area.

Look into evening or remote learning courses. It’s often possible to combine your retakes with a part-time job or work experience, potentially giving you an advantage further down the line.


If you’ve done much better than expected you can always look for an alternative course. This process is called Adjustment.  If you try Adjustment but you don’t find anything you prefer, you’ll still keep the place you gained on results day.

See UCAS Adjustment for more information.

Consider a gap year

Taking some time away from education can give you breathing space to think about what you really want, try new things and take stock. A gap year may not have the same appeal now as in pre-Covid times, but there are still options out there. You might find the fresh perspective from traveling, volunteering, or work, sets you on a more fitting path than continuing your studies straight from A-levels. And a gap year can be a lot of fun too.

Explore alternatives to university

Schools and colleges are often geared up to help you apply to university but don’t always have the same level of support for other options. Exploring alternatives can take a little more detective work. Take a look at higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships which offer pathways to careers more traditionally followed by graduates. And investigate other courses, training schemes and job vacancies. You might find a route that suits you much better than the standard university option.

Speak to a careers adviser or check out sites such as Not Going to Uni for more information on different choices.

Get flexible

With most degree courses now offering virtual learning components, a distance-learning option could be a natural next step and provide additional flexibility. The Open University offers full-time and part-time courses which means you can study where and when you want.

Deferred entry

Some universities allow you to defer your university place after exam results. So if you’ve got the grades you need but now feel you want to take a year out before starting your course, contact the university direct to see if this might be possible. You will need to explain the reasons for your late request (the standard time to apply for deferred entry is with your application) and it is not always an option. Alternatively, you can decide not to accept your place this year and can apply again to start next year (but there’s no guarantee you will get the same offers).

UCAS has more details on deferring entry after exam results.

Find out more

Eight questions to help decide if university is your next step

Video: Disappointing A-level results – you can often still get to where you want to be, but it might mean taking a different route to get there. In this video people share their own experiences of what happened when they didn’t get the grades they wanted.

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Last updated: 17th September 2021