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A-level results day: what to do when you receive your A-level results

Be prepared for every outcome with this step by step A-level results day guide

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Seeta Bhardwa's avatar

Seeta Bhardwa

Editor, THE Student
August 6 2021
A level results day


A-level results day is perhaps one of the most important moments in a student’s life but it can be difficult to know exactly what to do when you’ve received your exam results, especially if they didn’t pan out the way you expected.

Here’s a helpful guide to help you decide your plan of action in any results day scenario.

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You received higher grades than expected

If you are still happy with your firm choice of university, then feel free to stick with it. However, if you would like to try for another university that accepts higher grades, you can enter the adjustment period. First register your application with adjustment so that universities are aware that you are going through the process. 

There isn't a list of courses available in adjustment, so you will need to check for courses in the search tool and contact each university admissions office yourself. Initially, be sure to say that you are just inquiring, as you are only able to accept one adjustment offer. Once you feel ready, verbally accept your place and if the university is happy to accept you, your Ucas track should update and you will receive a letter from the university. 

Once you begin the process you will only have five days to make your final decision, so although you will need to make an informed decision, you will need to make it quite fast. The adjustment period will not run past 31 August.

During this period your firm offer at your original first choice of university will be held, so if you do not find anything you will still be able to go back to your initial choice.

How to survive A-level results day

You received the grades to get into your first choice

At this stage, you don’t need to to do anything further. Just ensure that your Ucas track has updated to confirm this (this might take a couple of days) and sit back and start planning the things you need to pack to go to university.

You should also receive a letter from your university confirming your place, so keep an eye out for that too.

You missed your first choice, but received the grades for your insurance choice

This is still an excellent achievement and hopefully means that you will be heading to a university that you are excited about attending. Again, just make sure that your Ucas track has been updated and wait for that letter.

If, however, you still have your heart set on attending your first choice, get in touch and see if they will accept you with lower grades. There is a possibility this could happen, so giving them a quick call can clarify this for you.

Video: 10 common exam results day questions – answered

You missed both your firm and insurance offer

In the first instance, check your Ucas track or contact your university to confirm that your universities will not accept you with your current grades. Your status will then be updated to let universities know that you are going through Ucas clearing

Many students go through clearing every year and it could end up leading to a university that might be a better fit for you.

Thousands of courses are available every year so make sure you spend plenty of time searching through and be prepared to spend a lot of time on the phone to universities. You can use the Ucas course search tool, individual university websites and Twitter to search for all the available courses.

Once you have selected a few universities start calling them up and make sure you have some reasons as to why you have selected that particular institution. Once you've made your choice, add it to your clearing application and wait for official confirmation from your university. 

University clearing usually runs from 1 July to 23 October so you will have sufficient time to make your final decision. 

Clearing: What you should say on the phone to universities

You wish to defer your entry for a year or you've decided against university altogether

If you haven’t already deferred your entry and you’ve decided that you would prefer to take a year off before going to university, contact your university as soon as you make this decision. Some universities will accommodate this but some may not, but having a good reason as to why you wish to defer will help your case. If you are feeling this way, it won't harm you to have a chat through with the university as they cannot withdraw your offer just for inquiring. 

If you have decided that university isn't the right decision for you at all, then you will need to contact your university and tell them to withdraw your offer. 

Whatever you decide to do on results day, make sure you think through your decision carefully and rationally and you make the decision for yourself only.

And lastly... what to take with you to collect your results: 

  • Pen and paper
  • Ucas login
  • Mobile phone
  • Contact details for your university


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Seeta Bhardwa

July 30 2021
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