Retake your GCSEs online with exams in November and May/June!
The 22nd of August is this years' GCSE results day when thousands of students will either be jumping for joy or feeling pretty crushed.
This year almost all GCSEs were examined in the 9 - 1 style, which focuses on tougher content aimed at challenging even the most academically gifted students, so it’s understandable if you didn’t get the grades you were hoping for.
However, with online qualifications and apprenticeships carving out new paths for school leavers, not getting the GCSEs you wanted doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
Whether you’ve failed your GCSEs or narrowly missed out on your expected grades, here’s what to do next.
First, speak to your teachers
Your first port of call should be your teacher or tutor as they have plenty of experience with students in your situation.
Whatever you're planning to do next, they’ll be able to advise you and help arrange your next steps, whether that’s appealing your grades, resitting your exam, choosing a different sixth form, or something else.
Ask for your paper to be remarked
If you genuinely believe that there’s been a mistake made by your marker, you can request that your paper be remarked.
This is now known as a ‘review of marking’. Your grade could go down as well as up, so only request a review if you’re fairly confident there’s been an error.
The request must be submitted by your school or college on your behalf, so you should get in touch with them as soon as possible to get the process started.
They'll also receive the results and pass them on to you. If you were sitting the exam as a private candidate, the exams officer at the school where you sat your exam can manage the process for you.
If you need the grade for access to university, you can request a priority review of marking, which should take up to 15 calendar days. Non-priority reviews can take up to 20 days.
If your place at sixth form or college depends on your grade being changed, they might let you begin studying with them while you wait for the result of your request.
Please note that you'll generally have to pay a fee which will only be refunded if your grade changes.
Make an appeal or a complaint
If you’ve had your paper remarked and you’re convinced that there’s still been a mistake, you can appeal within two weeks of receiving the decision.
If you’d like to make a complaint, you can do so through your school. Each school has its own process, so speak to yours to find out the best way forward.
Talk to your sixth form or college
If you’ve narrowly missed the required entry grades, they might still offer you a place, particularly if extenuating factors could have affected your performance.
They could also allow you to transfer to a different course or subject, or recommend other colleges and sixth forms which might suit you.
Resit your GCSEs through your school
You can enrol to resit your GCSEs at a local school or college. This means you’ll have a timetable and attend classes with other GCSE students.
For Maths and English, resitting is compulsory if you haven’t achieved a pass (grade 4). You’ll need to continue studying these subjects until you either pass or turn 18.
- If you got a grade 3 and will be studying full-time (540+ hours) next year, you’ll need to resit the GCSE
- If you got a grade 3 and will be studying part-time (150 – 539 hours), you can take a functional skills qualification instead of GCSE
- If you got a grade 2 or below, you can take a functional skills qualification instead of GCSE
- If you’re going on to an apprenticeship, studying Maths and English will be part of your programme
If you achieved a pass in Maths and English, there’s no requirement to resit, but you can if you’d like a higher mark.
Most schools and colleges will let you study your GCSEs alongside A Levels for other subjects so don’t feel that resitting one or two subjects will completely hold you back.
Depending on the subject, you could be able to resit your exams in November, or the summer diet the following year. Your teachers will have this information for you.
Resit your GCSEs as a private candidate
If studying in a classroom isn’t for you, you can retake your GCSEs by studying online.
This can give you greater flexibility as you’re not tied to a set timetable. If you want to work or have a hectic family or social life, you can easily schedule your studies around your other commitments. You can even study for A Levels online alongside your resits.
You could also choose to study by yourself or with a private tutor.
As a private candidate, you'll still sit your exam in person at the same time as all other GCSE students; however, you’ll be responsible for arranging this yourself.
About six months before you want to sit your exam, you should contact your local schools and colleges to see if they’ll allow you to sit the exam there as a private candidate.
You should be aware that there’s a fee to sit the exam which you’ll pay directly to the exam centre. The exact cost of this will vary depending on which centre you choose.
If you'd like more information about exam booking, check out our GCSE exam booking guide.
Remember that if you’ve failed English or Maths, you’ll need to take these in school until you’re 18; you can only study as a private candidate if you're over 18 or if you've passed but would like to improve your grade.
Create a new career plan for your future
Don't fancy resitting? It’s time to make a plan for your future that takes your current grades into account.
If you have a specific career in mind, research all the possible ways you could achieve it. Don’t limit yourself to university or even college courses. Think wider: apprenticeships, professional courses (which often have no entry requirements), access courses, entry-level roles, work experience, volunteering.
If you’re not sure what you’d like to do, it’s time to dig deep. Research different careers – jobs that sound boring at first can be fascinating once you know what it’s really like.
Start with listing your strengths and try to match them up to potential careers.
For example, if you're good at English you might want to look into careers like journalism and marketing as these professions value strong writing skills and often prefer candidates to have valuable work experience rather than university degrees.
Be careful not to rule out careers based on your assumptions about them or dated stereotypes. Many people think that you have to be a Maths genius to have a career in accountancy or finance, but this is just one of many myths about these professions.
It's important to remember that there's no 'right' way to start your career and many people find their passion whilst doing something else or by taking a more unconventional route.
Similarly, Amy studied performing arts but took a temporary job with an accountancy firm where she discovered her love of accounting and finance and decided to make it a permanent career.
There are a huge number of enjoyable careers out there, and many don’t require any GCSEs at all. Go out and find them!
Study a professional qualification
Uni's not for everyone and professional qualifications are a great alternative if you don't fancy studying at uni and getting into a lot of debt in the process.
Professional qualifications give you real-world skills and in some professions are valued more highly than degrees (for example, CIPD HR qualifications).
Take Rachael, who decided not to go to uni and found that a marketing qualification from the Chartered Institute of Marketing gave her the practical skills and knowledge she needed to progress her career.
Plus, professional courses can often be studied online at your own pace, so they fit around a job and social life - no more FOMO for you, my friend!
Online, you could study:
- CIPD HR and Learning & Development qualifications
- AAT Accountancy and Bookkeeping qualifications
- CIPS Procurement & Supply qualifications
- CIM Marketing qualifications
- PRINCE2 Project Management qualifications
- ILM Leadership & Management qualifications
At the beginner level, none of these require any previous experience or qualifications.
Consider an apprenticeship
If you want to get a head start in the workplace, apprenticeships are the way to go. They allow you to get a job and earn money while studying professional qualifications that give you practical skills.
Apprenticeships are no longer just for manual jobs, as the stereotype might suggest. There are apprenticeships for accountancy, HR, management and more.
Take your time when considering all your options and remember that you're not alone - there will be thousands of other students up and down the country in the same position as you.
Missing out of the GCSE grades you wanted isn’t the end of your ambitions, but the beginning of your new plan. You have your whole life to build a career you love.
Retake your GCSEs online with exams in November and May/June!