What to expect on A level results day – a parents guide

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  • There’s a lot of pressure on teens to do well in their AS and A level exams and obtain good A level results. Not only is the jump from GCSE to A levels huge, but they’ve got just two years to get enough points to get into the uni they really want.

    If you’re finding it hard to distinguish your UCAS points from your course modules, we’re here to help. We explain in simple terms exactly what’s required of your teens, when their A level results are released, what your options are next and what to do if your kids haven’t achieved the marks needed to get them into the university they wanted.

    Be aware that many students find the change between GCSE exams and A levels exams difficult. Kim Coupar, head of business and IT at a school in Boreham Wood, says, “It’s a big jump from GCSE to AS level and often students don’t do as well as they expected in because they haven’t realised what a big jump it is.

    “We sometimes put students in for an exam in January – because even though they’ve only been studying since September, it gives them a real shock – and if necessary they can retake the exam in June.”

    But with the system changed this year due to exams being cancelled because of coronavirus, there are some other things to consider this time around as well.

    Collecting their A level results

    AS level and A level results are released on Tuesday August 10, 2021. On results day, your teen would normally be able to collect their results from school. But this year, it’s more than likely that their results will be available to view online instead. Results are usually available from 6am on results day, but the school or teachers should inform students in advance from what time results will be available. Make sure to also find out what time the school will close, so your child doesn’t miss out.

    If your child can’t make results day, they can nominate someone to collect them on their behalf. Your teen will need to provide them with a signed letter of consent, naming the person they’ve elected. They’ll also need to take along suitable ID. Most schools won’t tell you your results over the phone, by email or fax.

    If you’re worried about collecting results, contact your school and find out your options.

    What they’ll receive

    Your teen will receive their results on a slip, or they may have more than one slip per exam board. Since the changes to examinations, they’ll no longer receive a unit per module, your child will simply receive an overall mark and grade for each subject. AS and A levels are graded A* – E, and anything below an E counts as a fail and will be marked with a U, which stands for ‘Unclassified’.

    Please note that while getting less than a C at AS or A-level can be disappointing, it doesn’t mean that your teen won’t be able to get into university, but it may mean they don’t get into the one they wanted. See options for after A-levels below.

    A level results certificates

    Your teen’s certificate will be sent to the school around four months after results day. Make sure you collect it or have it posted to you as soon as possible. You will need it to show to any future employers and to universities.

    If you notice any mistakes you must inform your exams officer as soon as possible as changes are only free in the first three months of issue.

    A level results

    Credit: Getty

    A level results are in: What next?

    Advice from the NSPCC for parents and carers include:

    • Try not to place pressure on your children to gain certain grades
    • Your child may find it hard to talk to you about their results so be patient and supportive until they feel ready to open up about how they feel.
    • Encourage your child to take their time to think about what they want to do next. There’s no need to rush into a decision straightaway.
    • Help them think about their choices by writing down a list of pros and cons for each of their options.

    If your teen has just had their AS results, it’s a good time to see what they’re doing well in and what subject they might consider dropping for A2. Remember, their AS grades don’t count towards their final A level grade, so they still have a year to get the grades they want to get into their choice of university.

    The National Career Service Exam Results Helpline is the official free service available for both parents and young people alike to seek advice and support following exam results. We know this can be a tough time for families and it isn’t always easy for them to obtain the information they need to make informed decisions regarding their future. NCS’s dedicated team of helpline operators can share impartial advice from trained careers advisers on the different options available to young people.

    The helpline number (0800 100 900) will be available between the hours of 8am – 10pm and will be available from 15 August, the day A Level results are issued and close on 29 August.

    Options after AS levels

    For linear A level courses AS levels do not contribute to your A level grade therefore re-taking may not be worth it. AS levels can count towards your university entry and UCAS points but only if you don’t have an A level in the subject.

    Rethink their A level choices:
    If your son or daughter has done particularly badly in one subject, they should consider whether it’s worth carrying on.

    Kim  Coupar says: ‘If a student has really flunked out – and got a mark like 12/90, we’d probably say that subject isn’t for them. AS level is usually the basics of the subject – so they’d only find A2 harder.’

    Lots of students take on more AS levels than they plan on finishing at A2 level so that they can assess which ones they like best or perform better in.

    Rethink their options:
    Some students do decide it would be best to not continue with their A levels at all – meaning they could get a job, do an apprenticeship or take a different type of course. Read on for more information on options after A level.

    If your teen has just had their A2 results then here comes the exciting bit. They will need to check whether they have earned enough UCAS points to get them into their first choice of uni (you can see how to do this below). If they didn’t quite get what they were expecting then they may be accepted at one of their back up choices.

    If your teen is really disappointed with their results and didn’t get into any of their chosen universities, then they have the choice of going through clearing. Read on for their options.

    Options after A levels

    Like GCSEs, there are many other options available if your teen didn’t get the grades needed or expected. Apparently only 45% of predicted grades are accurate, so your son or daughter is not alone!

    Times Higher Education advises: ‘The first thing to remember is that you have plenty of options depending on how A-Level results day went. Try not to worry if things didn’t quite go the way you had planned.’

    Here we’ve outlined the options if your teen hasn’t got the grades they wanted:

    1. Contact the university: The uni your teen wanted to go to might still accept them – especially if their grades are only slightly lower than what they expected. Contact them directly to see if it’s possible. You teen’s teacher might be able to help – but it may be better if they call themselves as this will give the right impression – instead of getting you to do it for them! If your son or daughter is unsuccessful with their first choice offer, but meet the conditions for their second choice, they’ll be accepted there.

    2. Clearing: If you have been turned down a place at university, you automatically become eligible for Clearing. UCAS will send all eligible applicants a Clearing Passport as soon as A level results are available. You will need to send off this form if you are offered a place. You can search for course vacancies in The Independent and Scotsman newspapers and on the UCAS website. You need to telephone universities or colleges direct to try to gain a place. In 2016, a record number of 40,000 university places were offered through clearing – and many of these were at prestigious Russell Group universities.

    3. Resit or take another course: If their A level results aren’t good enough to get them into uni, they could consider re-sitting their exams or taking another course to get the UCAS points. People don’t always do better in resits, so your teen may want to discuss the matter further with a teacher.

    This year, as results will be determined on teacher’s predicted grades and mock exam results, the government has allowed an exam season to take place later this year in autumn.

    4. Do an apprenticeship: Getting paid while you learn might sound too good to be true – but as an apprentice you really will get the best of both worlds. If your teen wants to enter the workplace but doesn’t want to stop studying then an apprenticeship could be the answer. There are now over 180 different apprenticeships available across 80 different sectors. You don’t even have to stop once you’ve completed an Advanced Apprenticeship – you can go on to do a Foundation Degree. You can search and apply for an Apprenticeship vacancy online by location or interest using the links at the bottom of this page.

    5. Take a gap year: If the idea of further education makes your child run for the hills then maybe suggesting a gap year would help. Giving them time to think about what they want to do next is sometimes the best option instead of rushing in to what could be a life changing decision. And, this may even give them the opportunity to travel and see the world.

    Remember, if your teen hasn’t got what they expected, it’s not the end of the world – and could even work out for the best, as 22-year-old Emma Maguire found out after she got her A-level results…

    “I was really upset when I didn’t get the grades I wanted for uni. At first I didn’t want to go through clearing but I picked up The Times newspaper the same day as I got my results and there were lots of places. I ended up with a place on a Law degree and came out of it with a 2:1! I couldn’t have been happier.

    “I’m now going to do the extra training I need to become a solicitor. I’m really happy I ended up at the uni I went to as I made loads of great friends, joined the netball team and had loads of fun too!

    “It’s certainly not the end of the world if you don’t get what you want – clearing is a great way to find places, so my advice is – go for it!”

    Exam results

    Credit: Getty

    How to calculate UCAS points from your A level results

    UCAS points are what universities use to assess whether an applicant has got the right grades. All qualifications are equivalent to a certain number of points and each course requires a specific amount of points to get a place.

    To find out how many points your teen has got, visit the UCAS website.

    It can all seem a bit overwhelming, so luckily there is help at hand from the careers advisers from the Exam Results Helpline. They will be ready and waiting for calls from 8am Thursday 15 August 2019 to provide valuable information and advice to students (and their parents) across the UK who receive unexpected A-level results (whether higher or lower) and more importantly for those who don’t know what to do next.

    The helpline can be reached on 0808 100 8000. (Calls are free from landlines. Mobile network charges vary). Information can also be found on the National Career Service website. 

    GoodtoKnow user Kiri sent us this tip:

    “If your child has just missed their offer with their results, tell them to look on UCAS Track. This will have all the up to date information on whether your child has got a place or has been released into Clearing. If UCAS Track doesn’t make any sense, then your child should ring the university. Third parties will not be dealt with on the phone without the child being there to give their permission.”

    What are A levels and AS levels?

    • They are the qualifications that usually follow GCSEs at colleges and sixth form colleges. They’re typically taken between the ages of 16 – 18, but can be taken at any age.
    • Universities require most applicants to have A levels or equivalent qualifications (such as a BTEC or GNVQ)
    • Some employers look for applicants who are qualified to at least this level.
    • A level courses generally take two years to complete. Students can usually take between three and five A levels but it may vary between schools.

    What’s the difference between AS levels and A levels?

    A levels are split into two units and each unit is looked at separately through a mix of internal assessment and exams:

    • AS units – these are studied in the first year of your two-year A level course. Most subjects have two AS units although some can have more. AS-levels are qualifications in their own right but they do not contribute to your overall A level grade.
    • A2 units are studied in the second year of the course. Most A levels have two A2 units but again some subjects have three.
    • AS and A levels are assessed at the end of the course and are no longer divided into separate modules.