A level results: A parent's guide to A level results day

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A parents' guide to A-level results
There's a lot of pressure on teens to do well in their AS and A level exams. 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 or the same one as their friends.

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 the 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 uni they wanted.

Be aware that many students find the change between GCSE and A levels 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.'

AS level and A level results are released on Thursday 18th August 2016 

A levels and AS levels

  • 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 study three or four subjects in their first year and then decide which three subjects they want to continue studying in their second year

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, like science and music, have three
  • Students can study up to four subjects in AS level and have the option to drop one when they move onto A2 (their second year).
  • A2 units - these are studied in the second year of the course. Most A levels have two A2 units but again some subjects have three
  • Your AS results won't count towards your A level grade

Collecting their results

On results day, your teen will be able to collect their results from the school. Results are usually available from 6am on results day, but your 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 you don'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.


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.

Results are in: What next?

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

Each AS level is split into two modules - if your teen thinks a retake would help, they could retake just one module or the whole thing. According to Kim, head of business and IT at a school in Boreham Wood, universities are getting more strict on entry grades.
She says: 'University places are getting fewer, so less people are getting in. If someone was predicted 3Bs and they actually get 2Bs and a C, in the past they would have had a good chance of still getting accepted to their chosen university, but it's not as likely anymore.'

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 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 four AS levels but then only carry three over into A2 level - so your teen's marks might help them to decide which subjects they would be best to carry on.

Carry on:
It's worth thinking carefully before your teen decides to resit.
Kim says: 'The percentage of students that do well in a retake is actually quite small. Because they're also taking other modules, they leave the revision for the retake modules until last. And also, staff are focused on the units they are currently teaching. What a student gets in their AS levels is usually a good indication of what they'll get in A levels. They'll possibly jump up one grade, but it's unlikely they would go from a D to a B for example.'

Discuss with your teen how much they think they could realistically improve on a mark - and whether their time would be better spent focused on their A2 exams.

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!

Here we've outlined the options if your teen hasn't got the grades they

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.

3. Resit or take another course: If their A level results aren't good enough to get them into uni, they could consider resitting 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.

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.

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!'

How to calculate UCAS points

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 14 August 2014 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).

Continued below...

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.'

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