What Happens if My A-Level Results Don’t Go as Planned?

So, you think your A-levels haven't gone to plan and you're feeling stressed. Don't panic - here are some options for you to consider if your grades don't turn out to be as expected.


If you’re studying at sixth form or college, it’s likely you’ll have heard once or twice how you need to knuckle down because you’re A-level results will affect the rest of your life.

Yes, your A-levels are important, but failing to meet your predicted grades – or the grades you were hoping for – is not the end of the world.

Are you concerned that your A-levels didn’t go to plan? Perhaps you struggled with a certain paper, or didn’t feel yourself on exam day? Try not to let the stress overwhelm you between now and results day; stay calm, be prepared and read our practical advice for anyone whose results don’t turn out to be quite what they’d hoped.

Is there a chance I could be accepted without the required grades?

If your firm choice university hasn’t filled as many places as they expected, it may well be that they can reassess your application. There could be a chance you’ll still get a place on your chosen course, so it’s always worth calling to ask if this is possible.

Your firm choice may also offer you an alternative if you haven’t achieved high enough grades; for example, they may offer you a place on a joint honours degree rather than a single subject degree. 

Students writing on an exam desk

Your insurance choice is there for a reason, too, but consider alternatives carefully before rushing to accept a place. You need to be sure an alternative is really the best option for you.

How do I use UCAS Clearing?

While Clearing officially opens on 5th July, it won’t be accessible to anyone who’s taken A-levels until results day: Thursday 15th August.
Once you’ve received your results, you’re eligible to find a place through Clearing if you haven’t secured a place at either your firm or insurance choice – and finding a place using Clearing is down to you.

If you’re concerned, you can prepare for Clearing in advance; look at universities and courses you’d be happy with a place on and note down their details in order of preference. If results day arrives and you aren’t holding any offers, you’ll need to start ringing universities to see if you can secure a place.

You can only ever hold one place through Clearing at a time – you can accept or decline this offer, but remember that declining comes with risk, as you may not receive any other offers.
If you need any support with the Clearing process, you can contact UCAS’s helpline on 0371 368 0468 if you’re in the UK, and +44 330 333 0230 internationally.

Can I appeal my exam results?

You can request a review of results (an appeal), but it’s important to remember that it might not go in your favour, and such reviews can take time.

If you think requesting a remark is a viable option, the first thing you need to do is speak to your teacher(s). If you decide to go ahead, your exam centre (typically, your college or sixth form) would have to submit paperwork to the exam board, in line with the board’s procedures.

If your university place is dependent on a remark, you can request a priority review of marking. While this would fast-track your request, there’s still a chance you wouldn’t receive the results before the UCAS deadline. A conversation with your teacher should help you decide whether this route is best for you but do bear in mind, if you miss the UCAs deadline, your entry will be deferred to the next academic year.

Can I retake my A-levels?

The A-level format changed from ‘modular’ to ‘linear’ in 2018 and the rules around retakes changed, too. If you think retaking is the best option for you, you can opt to re-sit your entire year, attending classes as you have in the past.

Alternatively, you can choose to re-sit an exam as a private candidate – but you will have to wait a whole year to do so. While you’d have to re-sit the whole exam, you wouldn’t have to redo coursework, as your old mark can be carried forward. For more information on A-level retakes, visit the CIFE website.

I’m not sure uni is for me. What else could I consider?

University is a big commitment and it isn’t the best route for everyone, so don’t feel pressured into attending just because your friends are.

If you’re doubting whether uni is right for you, take some time to research other educational opportunities; you may decide that moving away from home and into halls isn’t what you want, but that doesn’t mean your journey in education needs to end.

Degree Apprenticeships are increasing in popularity, helping you study alongside a job. With a Degree Apprenticeship, your employer not only pays you a salary for your work, but also sponsors your study. This means you earn money while you study and you graduate debt free – it’s a win-win!

Blended Learning degrees are also on the rise, and while you won’t get the traditional uni experience, you do get the chance to study in a classroom setting part-time, completing your studies via independent online learning. Blended Learning may not be for everyone, but if you’re focused on your qualification and career rather than the lifestyle, it’s definitely worth considering.

What if I’ve over-performed?

It’s not always doom and gloom! If you’ve achieved grades higher than you were expecting, you might like to try and gain an offer you feel is better than the one you’re already holding – and Adjustment helps you do just that! 

You can register for Adjustment in UCAS Track, and your unconditional firm offer will be safe while you look around. You’ll only lose this place if you confirm that you’d like to go elsewhere.

Not achieving the grades you expected can feel very demotivating, but it’s important to remember that even if that does happen, it’s not the end – keep calm, stay focused on your goals and find a way to move forward. Who knows, one day you might end up pleased that things happened the way they did…