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

Everything you need to know about what to expect on A level results day

A level results

The jump from GCSE to A levels huge, and there's a lot of pressure on teens to obtain good A level results and get into the uni they really want. To help you navigate it, here’s what to expect on A level results day.

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, 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."

What to expect on A level results day

On results day, your teen would normally be able to collect their results from school. But they may be available to view online as well. Results are usually released from 6am on results day, but the school or teachers should inform students in advance from what time results will be available.

If your child can't make results day, they can nominate someone to collect them on their behalf, and you should contact your school to find out how best to do this.

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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 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. 

Options after AS levels

Retakes: 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.

A hall full of students sitting at desks taking an exam

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.'

You might suggest applying for a different course through clearing, resitting A levels to try and achieve a better grade, or taking a gap year to pursue other opportunities.

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!"

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, who will be able 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.

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Lifestyle Writer

Gemma Chandler is a lifestyle writer specialising in kids' educational media across a range of topics including nature, history, science and geography across digital, print, social media and video channels. She joined Creature & Co. at 2015, shortly becoming Digital Editor of National Geographic Kids magazine.