These last two years have been a very different experience for A Level students compared to their predecessors. This turbulent time has been spent switching between online and in person learning, struggling to complete a full syllabus and the cancellation of exams they had been preparing for over the last two years – no one could have predicted this scenario back in September 2019.
This year will again see exam results 2021 decided by teacher assessed grades, a decision which brings its own difficulties and controversies, but whatever the outcome, we have some expert advice for you on how to handle results day this year.
What if... you're going to be out of contact on results day?
With some restrictions on travel lifting, and results coming out in August, it’s likely that some students will be out of contact on the day itself.
You may wish to speak to your school or indeed the university if the outcome of your results means you want to change your application, so ideally you should make sure you have access to a phone and the internet on results day. Universities are only authorised to speak directly to the student, unless you have authorised someone else to deal with your application.
What if... your results do not meet the conditions of the offer?
Firstly, don’t despair. Your first step is to contact the university and ask to speak to an admissions officer. There will be plenty of people on hand to speak to on results day, but there will also be plenty of people calling, so do be patient.
You want to see if the university will accept you even if you’ve just missed the grades. Get ready to use all your powers of persuasion – having your arguments lined up as to why they should still consider you before you make the call will really help and you can always write a few notes to guide you.
If this doesn’t work then you still have plenty of options. Next stop is Clearing. Clearing opens on 5th July this year, so it’s sensible to have explored this before your results come in, just so you know what’s out there. This will allow you to move fast on results day and contact the universities you would be interested in once you have confirmed your results.
At this stage you could consider a foundation programme, which can act as a bridge between your results and the requirement for the undergraduate degree.
An exciting alternative is taking a gap year, which is a great way to build other skills, refocus on what you want to do next and explore new pathways.
What if... you want to retake your exams
We‘re still waiting to have confirmation on whether students will be able to sit an actual exam in the Autumn, but this is definitely being discussed. If guidance does not change by then, you could also look to re-sit them next summer and perhaps take a gap year or do an internship in the meantime, both of which help build new life and work skills; invaluable for the future.
What if... you want to appeal your Teacher assessed grades?
Results day has actually been moved forward this year to allow for candidates to appeal their grades where necessary.
If you do want to appeal your results, the first thing to do is to speak to your school. They will assess whether the correct processes were followed and look for any potential errors that were made. It’s important to note that this is purely from an administrative point of view, for example checking your work wasn’t mixed up with another student’s. It’s not assessing the teachers’ judgement. If they do find any issues, they can submit the revised grade to the board.
If the school doesn’t find any issues but you still want to dispute your results, you can make a formal appeal to the exam board yourself. This is free of charge and they will then check the school followed all the guidelines as well as reviewing your teacher’s evidence to assess whether the grade you received was based on reasonable judgement.
It’s important to be aware that your grade could go down following this appeal.
What if... my results meet the conditions of the offer?
Celebrate! You have secured your first choice and have a place at your top university. After all the stresses and strains of this year, this is well worth celebrating!
What if... my results are better than expected?
If you’ve exceeded your predicted grades, this gives you an opportunity to ‘trade up’. You can use the UCAS Adjustment process to explore what other courses and places are available to you, that you might not have considered before.
You can still keep your first choice offer in place while you have a look through other options. It’s a good idea to talk to an adviser at your school or another professional first so they can help guide you and decide if Adjustment is the right route for you.
Whatever the outcome for you this year, it’s important to remember that exam results are just one part of a much bigger picture. When planning for the future, looking at courses, internships and jobs, this is based on so much more than a set of exams – you are not defined by this and you are so much more than your exam results alone.