Missing out on the A Level grades you needed is tough. Getting straight-up bad A Level results is even worse.

You’ve spent two years of your life working hard to get three little letters, and now you’re staring at them more like Gotye than Kanye.

🎶 Totally not addicted to this crappy kind of sadness 🎶

It’s especially tough to keep a clear head in this situation because it’s true that your A Level grades can have a big impact on your future.

But there are plenty of options open to you, whether you’ve truly failed your A Level exams or just missed out on the results you wanted:

  1. Check UCAS Track
  2. Clearing
  3. Remark your papers
  4. Resit your A Levels
  5. Take a gap year
  6. Vocational and professional qualifications
  7. Apprenticeships

You might need to change your plans a little, but you never know – you might end up liking your new path better.

Anyway, we’ll leave the consolation to your parents. Here’s what to do next.


Check UCAS Track

If you’ve only narrowly missed your required grades, you might still get into one of your choices. Check UCAS Track to see if you’ve been accepted. 

If the uni has given you a firm rejection, they won’t reconsider. Eat some restorative biscuits and move on to Clearing.

However, if your status hasn’t changed yet, then you’ve still got a shot. Call your first choice and plead your case. Focus on sounding like the kind of student they’d want: calm, intelligent, and responsible.

No luck? Try your insurance choices. Less prestigious universities are more likely to be flexible.


Get your papers remarked

If you believe there’s been a mistake in your grades, speak to your school or college about getting your paper re-marked. You’ll pay a fee which will be returned if your grades change.

Remember your grades can go down as well as up, so be certain that there’s been an error before you go down this route.



Clearing is how universities fill their empty places. You might need to choose a different course, but if you’re set on going to uni this year, this could be the best option for you.

Note down your Clearing number on Track then hop on UCAS’s search tool to find courses with places still available. If you find a few you’re interested in, call up the unis to discuss.

If they make you an offer, confirm how long the offer stands for – usually up to two days. They’ll give you a course and uni code that you’ll use if you choose to accept the offer.

You can get verbal offers from more than one uni before you need to decide, so shop around. Once you’ve made up your mind, enter the details they gave you into Track under ’Add a Clearing Choice’. Remember, you can only make one Clearing choice at a time.


Resit your A Levels

There are a couple of ways to go about it:

  1. Retake the course in a school, sixth form or college. If you like learning in a classroom and can commit to a set timetable, you could resit the course in person. Your own school should be able to advise you on where to look.
  1. Retake the course online. If you plan to work, volunteer or travel while retaking the course, this is likely the best option. Online courses give you more flexibility and let you study at your own pace, meaning you’re not restricted to a set timetable like in school. Also, you get to learn in your pyjamas. Is this real life?

Either way, come exam time, you’ll resit the exam in person alongside all the other A Level students.

Take a gap year

Gap years don’t need to be about moving to a treehouse in Bali with your parents’ money.

Taking a year out and re-applying is generally a good idea if you:

  1. Narrowly missed out on your insurance choices
  2. Got decent grades but couldn’t find anything you liked in Clearing
  3. Aimed too high with your applications this year
  4. Are considering choosing a different subject to study

Use the time off to work or volunteer to show universities that you’re a well-rounded, hardworking person.

Or get that treehouse and become a yoga instructor. You do you, dahling.


Vocational and professional qualifications

Vocational and professional courses allow you to get industry-focused qualifications that directly relate to specific roles - no more asking ‘when am I actually going to use this?’

The pressure that many families and schools put on students to attend university can make non-academic routes seem like a cop-out, but depending on what you want to do they can actually be a smarter move.

In some fields, professional qualifications are more highly respected and valued than academic ones. For example, if you want to work in HR, most employers request a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) qualification, not an HR degree.

Others like Association of Accounting Technician (AAT) qualifications allow you to enter a fast-track programme to become a Chartered Accountant.

Plus, some non-academic qualifications are equal in difficulty and prestige to a Masters’ degree, so you can still become a leader in your field without going to university.

The Qualifications and Credit Framework can help you compare academic and non-academic qualifications.



If you’re keen to get working but want to develop your skills too, an apprenticeship can be a fantastic way forward. Many major companies take on apprentices, from the BBC to IBM.

You get real-world work experience in your industry while studying, giving you an advantage over those who only know their stuff on paper.

Plus, money. What more could you want?


Find out more about studying A Levels online or professional qualifications in Marketing, Accounting, HR, Procurement and Leadership.