What to expect on GCSE and A-level results day this year: How to appeal your results, apply through clearing and what to do next

From how results are calculated to retakes, results day is looking a little different this year.
  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • This year, those students getting their GCSE and 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 results day, 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. Those a couple of years younger, looking forward to their GCSE results next week, will be waiting to hear from colleges and sixth forms about what’s going to happen when schools go back in September

    Results day every year is an unnerving time but now with changes being made last minute to how students will receive their grades, it’s even harder to know what to expect. 

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

    If you’re an A-level student, read on…

    When is A-level results day 2020?

    The big day is here! Today, August 13 is A-level results day in the UK. 

    When does UCAS Track update on results day? 

    On results day, UCAS Track 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 about 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. 

    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 recently put in place by the government. 

    How to appeal A-level results in 2020

    For those students who feel their results have been moderated unfairly, the school can appeal A-level results on the student’s behalf. It’s not possible for a student to appeal A-level results themselves, unfortunately, so it’s best to get in contact with the school or college if you want to appeal your A-level results.

    There are criteria that you have to appeal A-level results successfully: 

    • As the predicted grades given by teachers are moderated through a system that looks at past exam grades, the school has to be able to prove that the student’s grade is lower than expected and the school’s education system has positively changed since the last exam grades used in the moderation were achieved.


    • In a last minute decision yesterday, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that schools can appeal students’ results if their mock exam results were better than the grade they achieved on results day.

    Already today there have been thousands of students enquiring about appealing A-level grades as headteachers are warning that some grades have been lowered in a way that was “unfair and unfathomable”. According to the BBC, 36 per cent of exam entries in England had a lower grade than expected, according to the BBC, with 3 per cent down two grades.

    Across the UK, however, there have been a higher number of A and A* grades this year.

    How to apply to university through clearing

    students on results day walking - UCAS Track results day

    Credit: Getty

    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.  

    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 that you might be interested in. 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

    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 if they think they’ve made the wrong choice of university or if they’ve got higher A-levels than anticipated and want to “trade up”, and go to a university with higher entry requirements. 

    Do universities get results before students?

    two people looking at a laptop screen - UCAS track results day

    Credit: Getty

    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, so this means that you also can’t access your decision before results day. 

    We also have a handy guide for parents on what to expect on results day, full of tips and advice to make the day as easy as possible for your children. 

    If you’re a GCSE student on results day, read on…

    What date is GCSE results day in 2020?

    As planned and similar to other years, GCSE results for all institutions will be released on August 20 this year. Although it is up to the individual school or college what time and the way that these results are given, as in previous years pupils have often gone into their school to receive results. 

    It’s likely that results for GCSEs this year will be posted online via an internal website, but for clarity it’s best to contact the school or exam centre for clarification on timing and how to access results. 

    Is 4 a pass in GCSE?

    teacher and student on results day - UCAS track results day

    Credit: Getty

    In recent years, the marking system for GCSEs has changed and now instead of a ‘C’ being a pass, a 4 is indeed the pass mark for any GCSE that was taken this year. 

    If you get a 4 in a GCSE this is considered a ‘standard pass’ and students won’t need to resit the qualification in order to carry onto their A-levels, if they choose to do so. However, this depends on the individual requirements of the college or sixth form. 

    Is 8 an A* in GCSE?

    On the new grading system, a grade 8 is the equivalent of between an A* and an A. While a 9 is a solid A* and a grade 7 is the equivalent of a regular grade A. It follows in a similar form for the rest of the grades, with a 6 being just over a B and grade 5 is between a B and C. 

    Grade 4 is the minimum grade you need to pass the GCSE. 

    What happens if you don’t get the GCSEs you want?

    It’s difficult knowing that if you’ve worked really hard, it might not have paid off this time around, but you can always retake a GCSE if you don’t get the grades that you want. 

    This year, because GCSEs and A-levels are being judged on mock exam grades and teacher predicted grades, there will also be a period of exams in the autumn for all those who missed out. 

    If you choose to enter into the autumn exam season, then you can get a higher grade than before. But if you don’t, then your highest grade – whether that’s from your predicted grades, mock exams or autumn exams – will be taken as your final grade. 

    How to appeal GCSE results

    Just as with appealing A-level results this year, it’s only possible to appeal GCSE results by contacting your school or college. They will be able to process the appeal on your behalf.

    However, it’s important to consider the reasons behind why you want to appeal. If you are just not happy with your grade then unfortunately, this is not grounds for an appeal. For an appeal to be successful, you have to meet one of these three criteria:

    • Your mock exam grade was better than your final grade: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson made last minute changes yesterday to enable students to appeal their final grade if their mock exam grade was better.
    • An administrative error: You are able to appeal your GCSE exam result if you believe that there was an administrative error made.
    • Bias or change in circumstances: If you believe that the grade you received was wrong due to bias of your school or college, or that your moderated predicted grade from your teachers was incorrect due to changes in the school system, then you can also appeal.

    It’s been revealed by the i paper this morning that the last minute changes to the grading system for GCSE and A-levels will entail a huge uplift in the number of people looking to appeal their exam results this year.

    The best way to check whether you can appeal your GCSE grade is to get in contact with your school or college, as they will be able to tell you.

    Just like for parents looking for advice on A-level results day, we have a great guide for parents whose children are getting their GCSE results and want some advice on how to help them with the next step. 

    GCSE and A-level results day can be a worrying time for everyone! So if you’ve got results coming your way over the next few days, be sure to stay relaxed and remember there are always other options. All is not lost!