A parent’s guide to GCSE results and GCSE results day

  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • GCSE results are a nerve-wracking time for both teens and parents. Which is why we’ve compiled a guide on receiving results, what they mean and what the options are afterwards.

    They’ve put in the hard work, racked up hours of GCSE revision and now the all important results are just days away.

    As is the case with A level results day this year, GCSE results are being awarded differently following the government’s decision to cancel school exams in 2021. We explain what that means in terms of how students will receive their grades this year and what to do next if they’re disappointed with the results.

    When do GCSE results come out for 2021?

    This year GCSE results come out on Thursday 12 August 2021.

    Compared to previous years, the 2021 GCSE results day is earlier than usual. Though this is understood to be a deliberate move, allowing ample time for students who may want to appeal their teacher-assessed grades. Especially those relying on a GCSE grade for university applications.

    Education Secretary has wished all students receiving their GCSE results this year the best of luck. He recognised that the “last 18 months have been uniquely challenging” for pupils because of the pandemic. And further assured that those who find themselves not happy with their results will have the opportunity to appeal or sit exams in Autumn 2021.

    How have GCSE grades been decided this year?

    Following the cancellation of school exams in 2021, all GCSE results will be decided by your child’s subject teachers.

    Known as Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs), these grades hope to reflect the result a student would have received should they have sat the exam.

    It is wholly based on school assessments, taking into account their effort in class, essays, mock exams and GCSE coursework.

    England’s exam regulator Ofqual have provided further details on the grade awarding process. They have confirmed that a child’s grades judged by their teacher will have to be “signed off by your head of department and your head teacher or principal before being submitted to the exam board”.

    This differs from GCSE results in 2020 which used an algorithm to help determine grades. This system was later scrapped, following huge backlash from both schools and students who received lower grades than what they were initially predicted.

    Ofqual and the Department of Education have made it clear that pupils will only be assessed on what they’ve been taught this year.

    But it’s important to note that if students aren’t happy with their result, they do also have the opportunity to sit their exam in the autumn and receive that grade or appeal their GCSE exam results if results can be proven to be wrong.

    GCSE results day 2021:

    How will you receive them?

    This year some schools are allowing students to check their GCSE results online because of the pandemic.

    However, a large number of schools are also following the traditional custom of students collecting their results in person at school.

    With different systems in place for different schools, it’s worth contacting your child’s school ahead of time to find out what procedure they are following.

    If your child is receiving their GCSE results in person, they should make sure they collect them within the designated hours. Whilst those that are unable to make results day can nominate someone to collect them on their behalf.

    For this, your teen will need to provide them with a signed letter of consent, naming the person they’ve elected. Plus suitable ID to identify them.

    Students receiving their GCSE results 2021

    Credit: Getty

    What will you receive on the day?

    Your child will receive their GCSE results on a slip, or they may have more than one slip per exam board. Since the changes to examinations, you’ll no longer receive a unit per module, your child will simply receive an overall mark and grade for each subject.

    Understanding the new 9-1 GCSE grading system:

    In 2017, a new 9 to 1 scoring system was introduced for the subjects English Literature, English Language and Maths, with 9 at the higher end and 1 at the lowest. Phasing in over the years, from 2019 the grading system was used on almost all of the subjects on the curriculum, including languages and sciences.

    Northern Ireland and Wales will not be affected by the change and Ofqual has assured parents that children will not be disadvantaged by the change.

    Here’s how the numbers work and what their equivalents would be…

    • 9 = A*
    • 8 = low A* / high A
    • 7 = A
    • 6 = B
    • 5 = low B / high C (strong pass)
    • 4 = C (standard pass)
    • 3 = between grades D and E
    • 2 = between grades E and F
    • 1 = between grades F and G
    • U = U (fail)

    When will you get your GCSE certificate?

    Your child’s certificate will be sent to the school about three months after results day.

    Make sure you collect it or have it posted to you as soon as possible. You might need it to show to any future employers or further education establishments. And it costs money to replace.

    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.

    GCSE results

    Credit: Getty

    Results are in: What next?

    You’re more likely to be able to go into Further Education or get a good job if you have five or more GCSEs at grade 4 or above.

    Many sixth-forms and colleges do expect at least 4 grades but some schools may take pupils with lower grades, so it’s worth giving them a call to check.

    Remember there is plenty of time for your teen to decide so don’t rush any decisions.

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

    How can I appeal my GCSE results?

    The government has stated that every student in the UK has the right to appeal their GCSE results should they be unhappy.

    They outline that the first stage of the appeal is to approach the school, expressing your desire to appeal.

    A mother and duaghter discussing GCSE results

    Credit: Getty

    This should lead the school to undertake an “initial process review to check all processes were followed correctly and no errors were made.” And if the school finds an error, they can submit a revised grade to the exam board.

    However, if the outcome of this is unsatisfactory, students can then ask their school or college to submit a formal appeal to the exam board for them.

    “The exam board will check the centre followed its own processes and exam board requirements as well as reviewing the evidence used to form their judgement and providing a view as to whether the grade awarded was a reasonable exercise of academic judgement,” says a statement on the government website.

    If the exam board finds that the grade is incorrect, they will decide an alternative grade and inform your school of the changes.

    In rare cases where students are still dissatisfied with the result of the appeal, they can seek a referral to Ofqual’s Exams Procedure Review Service (EPRS).

    The important thing to remember when appealing any GCSE results is that grades can go up or down as a result of an appeal. And students must be willing to accept this risk when applying.

    Can I retake my GCSE exams?

    Yes students can sit exams if they are not happy with their GCSE results.

    The UK government has confirmed that GCSE retake exams will take place in between Monday 1 November and Friday 3 December 2021.

    Retakes will take place in the school, college or exam centre where your child would have sat the original exam. And it’s thought that like last year’s A level and GCSE retakes, students will be able to keep whichever grade was the highest from either their calculated grades or their autumn exam grade.

    If your child decides to sit these exams they will have to submit their entries by 4 October 2021. Further information on this will be available to parents and kids on their results day.

    You can check the timetable for Autumn GCSE retakes directly via the exam boards AQA, OCR and Pearson Edexcel.

    Advice on retaking exams:

    A spokesperson from Times Higher Education said: ‘The first thing would be to consider what you want to gain from the exam resit and whether you think it will be possible. Most students will be looking to get a higher grade and so you will have to think about whether this is something you could realistically achieve. Have an honest discussion with your teacher about whether you would be able to improve on your current grade. Some resits will also require a payment so make sure that you are able to provide that too.’

    • Vocational options such as BTECS or OCR Nationals and GNVQs – these have lower entry requirements and some are accepted by universities. There are hundreds to choose from and they mix theory and practical-based work. Many people are choosing vocational qualifications instead of A-levels as they are more focused toward a particular career and give you hands-on experience.
    • Try another college or school – if you choose a second option and give them a call they may be able to accommodate you.
    • Apprenticeships – these are a great way to gain entry into the work place whilst still learning.
    • Getting a job – there is the option of going straight into work. Many people work their way up the career ladder – but think about your chosen career and how far you’d be able to progress without further qualifications.

    For more help and advice call The Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000 for Scotland and 0800 100 900 for the rest of the UK, or visit the UCAS website.