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GCSE and A-level Exam Results Day: Everything You Need to Know (Updated for 2024)

After years of hard work and revision, it’s time to make that journey into school or college to collect your A-level or GCSE results.

While we hope you get the exam results you need for university, it’s important to be prepared for any surprises – and that includes doing better than you expected!

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So, to help you out on GCSE, higher or A-level results day, we’ve tackled some frequently asked questions and put together the most useful links and numbers you’ll need to explore your options.

Do I need to go into school to collect my exam results?

Some exam boards, including the SQA for students in Scotland, will post results online if you register for them, but most students are still asked to go into school or college to collect them.

Alternatively, you can contact your school or college and authorise someone else to collect them on your behalf or provide a stamped addressed envelope to your exams officer to get them posted to you.

Your school might post them to you even if you don't specifically request, but that may mean an extra couple of days waiting…

Remember too, you might need to speak to a teacher if you don’t get the results you expected, so it’s a good safety net to go into school on the day, as you might not be able to get them on the phone right away.

What if I don’t get the exam results I need?

First things first - don’t panic. It happens.

For GCSE results:

If you needed to get certain grades to get into sixth form or college, you must check with them to see if they’ll still accept you. They may do so without the need to resit and improve your grades.

In some cases, you may have to take resits, which can be done as early as November, or you may be able to take up a place on different courses at the same college.

Alternatively, you could apply to other further education colleges in your area or rethink your plans and go for an apprenticeship or vocational course, like a BTEC.

Intermediate and advanced apprenticeships are available to school/college leavers with GCSEs – and if your results weren't what you were hoping for, you may be able to work towards functional skills in numeracy and literacy while doing your apprenticeship. These programmes open the door to higher-level qualifications later on.

For A-level or Scottish higher results:

You should check on UCAS or contact your university first to see if your offer still stands.

Other options include applying to university through UCAS Clearing (you could even get into the same uni on a different course), taking a year out to resit your exams or applying for a higher or degree apprenticeship.

But if you can’t get a place through clearing, or you decide university is not for you, there are lots of other options. We’ve put together five practical alternatives to university to give you some ideas.

For more info, take a look at this guide.

What if I do better in my exams than I expected?

For A-level and Scottish higher results:

If you get better grades than you needed for your first choice course, you can apply to universities with higher entry requirements through UCAS Clearing. While Clearing used to be specifically for students who hadn't met their offers, it is now also open to those who have done better than expected and want to get a place on a course with higher entry requirements.

If you have your heart set on a new uni and course and it’s full up, you could reapply the following year and concentrate on getting work experience to support your application.

For nationals and GCSE results:

You may be able to take higher-level qualifications than originally planned or switch courses, so speak to your school or college about this directly.

What if something is wrong with my exam results or I want to appeal?

If an individual grade or paper is suspiciously low compared to others, you are very close to a grade boundary or if you think there is something missing from your results, speak to your school immediately and they’ll contact the exam authorities on your behalf.

If you’re asking for a remark to try and make your university place then request a priority remark. You must let the university know this is what you're doing too.

Can I defer my university place after exam results day?

There is no specific rule about this, you’ll need to contact your university directly and ask if you can defer.

It will help if you have a reason, like a job or placement. If the uni says no then you can also give up your place and reapply next year. Don't forget you're not guaranteed to get a place next year just because you did this year.

What are the alternatives to university?

There's no unwritten rule that says you have to go to university! If you're looking for a high-skilled job in fields like law, engineering, software or management, a higher or degree apprenticeship could be your way to get there.

With these apprenticeships, you'll also work towards a degree or other high-education qualification alongside training on the job. The beauty is, you'll get paid a wage and your employer will have any university tuition fees paid for you.

Big employers offer training programmes for school and college leavers. These are a bit like apprenticeship, offering training in a paid job, and often the chance to work towards recognised vocational qualifications.

So if you don't get the results you were hoping for, or are having second thoughts about university, make sure you've researched all the options before making your final decision.

Useful links and numbers

Related posts

What options do I have after taking my GCSE exams?

How to prepare for going back to school

Image credits

Thomas Tallis School via Flickr