How to appeal A-level results, apply through clearing and what to do next

Here are some of the things you can expect on results day, like what to look for on UCAS Track and the minimum pass for GCSEs.

Students walking together to pick up a level results
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This year, those students looking to appeal A Level results will already know that things are a little different. So this is what you can expect on results day, how to appeal your results, apply to university through clearing and more.

As soon as UCAS Track opens on A-level results day (opens in new tab), millions of A-level students will be logging on to find out whether they have got into university, need to go through clearing or appeal their results. Results day every year is an unnerving time but with continuous disruptions to students' education over the last year, A Level results day will be a little different again this year. 

To prepare for results day 2021, we’ve put together this handy guide so you know what to expect and what your next steps could be. 

When does UCAS Track update on results day? 

On results day, UCAS Track (opens in new tab) opens at 8am. But as UCAS takes all the A-level grades across the country and updates the Track website, the system is always busy with anxious students waiting to know if they’ve got into their chosen university. So it’s important to be patient with the website and if you can’t get in, keep trying. 

What will UCAS Track say on results day?

Unlike the legends surrounding the UCAS tracking system suggest, your A-level results will not appear on UCAS Track on results day. These come from your school and college, so you will often have to pick these up in person or access an internal website for your centre. 

Student learning how to appeal A Level results online

Credit: Getty

What UCAS will say on results day is whether you have got into your university of choice. While the system unfortunately can’t update everyone’s applications at once, during the course of results day, your acceptance or rejection into your first choice university will appear in the purple box. 

What happens if you don't get the grades for your first choice university?

UCAS Track will also say whether you have been accepted into your second choice university. If you haven’t been accepted into your firm or insurance choice university, then you might have to go through clearing. 

But always call the admissions office university of your choice to make sure first, as you might be able to change course or make other arrangements and still gain a place. 

If not and you don’t want to go through clearing, you can appeal your results or re-take your A-levels in the autumn term under new procedures put in place by the government last year. 

How to appeal A-level results in 2021

The appeal process for A Level results in 2021 is different from last year. Due to the pandemic, no one sat any GCSE or A Level exams. Instead, teachers assessed students and submitted their marks as final grades.

The appeals process in 2021 is made up of two stages: 

  • Stage 1: This is the centre review. Students can request that their centre (the school or college) conduct a review to find out if there have been any administrative errors. If an error is found, then the centre must contact the exam board and as a result, the grade may go up, down or it could stay the same.
  • Stage 2: This is the appeal. If the centre conducts a review and they don't find any administrative issues, then the student can appeal to the exam board. The centre does this on behalf of the student.

However, the centre review must happen before the appeal. If it hasn't, then the appeal won't go through.

Advice from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) says, "Requests for appeals on the grounds of academic judgement (unreasonableness) will only be considered by awarding organisations and not by centres.

"In these cases, an initial centre review must still be completed to ensure that the centre has not made any procedural or administrative errors. The centre should not review its academic judgements during the centre review stage."

How to apply to university through clearing

If you didn’t get your place at university confirmed on UCAS Track, there will automatically be an option to ‘Add clearing choice’ on your Track screen. This will also give you your Clearing number, which you will need when you phone universities.

Phone the admissions office at your chosen Clearing university yourself, as soon as possible. On the phone call, they may ask some questions as they read through your UCAS applications you already submitted. They may ask some questions or even ask you to do a formal interview. Then if they ask you to apply, this means that they are offering you a place.  

Woman walking around university following A Level appeals

Credit: Getty

Head back over to UCAS Track and enter the university and course details under ‘Add Clearing choice’. This means you are making a formal offer to take the place. 

If possible, prepare for clearing in advance by having a look at some other universities and courses. This will make applying to universities through clearing on results day much easier and less stressful. To do this, take a look on the UCAS website (opens in new tab)

Can you go through clearing before results day?

Yes! Although clearing - the process of matching university applicants with institutions that still have places - is famously used on results day for those who haven’t got confirmation from their first or second choice universities, it actually starts before results day. 

Clearing starts in July and is used by many students who either applied to university after the UCAS deadline or missed out on securing any offers initially. However, there are limited places available in clearing before results day. 

Can you go through clearing if you have an offer?

If you got an offer from your first or second choice university, you can still go through clearing. But you do have to get in contact with the university to inform them that you’re rejecting your place and going through the clearing process. 

While this might sound unusual to some, many students enter clearing voluntarily. Especially if they think they’ve made the wrong choice of university or if they’ve got higher A-levels than anticipated and want to go to a different university.

Do universities get results before students?

In many cases, universities will get potential students’ A-level grades a couple of days before results day. This gives them time to go through the applications and confirm or reject places for the students who have offers. 

UCAS then publish the universities’ decision online on the morning of results day. This means that you also can’t access your decision before results day. 

Grace Walsh is a Features Writer for, covering breaking news health stories during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as lifestyle and entertainment topics.  She has worked in media since graduating from the University of Warwick in 2019 with a degree in Classical Civilisation and a year spent abroad in Italy. It was here that Grace caught the bug for journalism, after becoming involved in the university’s student newspaper and radio station.