What to Do If You Failed Your A Levels | A Level Results 2021
In light of summer 2021 A Level exams being cancelled, this year's A Level grades are due to be published on 10th August.
If you were among the many who were due to sit their exams, you probably already know that you will now be awarded your grade based on a Teacher Assessed Grade.
All of your hard work comes down to this moment – a moment that has very much been impacted by the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 – so what if when you open that envelope, the results are not what you were hoping for?
Whether you’ve failed your A Levels or narrowly missed out on the grades you need for university, it's important to remember it’s not the end of the world. Yes, your A Level results do have a big impact on what you can do in the future, but there are still plenty of options available to you.
Now is not the time to wallow or put yourself down - here's what you can do instead.
Check UCAS Track
Before anything else, the first thing you should do is sign into UCAS Track.
Receiving a Teacher Assessed Grade doesn't harm your application in that it will continue through the admissions process the same as it would if you had taken your exams as expected.
If you were very close to achieving the required grades you might still have been accepted by at least one of your choices. Even if you didn’t meet the conditions of your original offer, you might find that some universities offer you a place on a different course that they feel is more suited to you.
If the university rejects your application because of your grades, then it's likely that you'll just have to accept this.
While there are some reports of admissions officers being swayed by a pleading letter or phone call, it's very unlikely, and moving on to Clearing will give you a much better chance of finding a place.
Have you logged in to find that your status hasn’t been updated? You might still be in the running to bag a place at one of your choices.
You can try giving the university admissions department a call to find out the outcome. However, keep in mind that because of coronavirus, many universities are working with limited staff and typical protocol may vary.
Appealing your assessed grade
If you believe that you've been graded unfairly, there's an option for you to appeal your Teacher Assessed Grade. However, under the circumstances, the normal arrangements for reviews of marking and appeals will not apply.
Much like last year, students will receive a Teacher Assessed Grade rather than Centre Assessed grades this year.
This means that grades will be a reflection of your teacher's judgment rather than be based on an algorithm. Accordingly, your teacher should be able to provide you with information on the supporting evidence they need to grade you, including:
- Mock exams and course work already completed
- Non-exam assessments (even if incomplete)
- Ongoing non-exam assessment
If you’re still unhappy with your grade once you've submitted the above, you should have the option to appeal it by submitting an appeal to your school or college.
Please also note that if you feel that your grades do not reflect your ability, you will have the opportunity to take your exams in likely the Autumn series or in summer 2022. If you choose to do this, both of your grades will stand, and you will be able to use the higher of the two grades for your future progression.
If you’d like to make a complaint, you can also do so through your school, however, each school has its own process though, so speak to yours to find out the best way forward.
Find a course through Clearing
Clearing allows you to apply for university places that haven’t been filled in the first round of applications.
You might end up having to go to a different uni or to study a completely different course than you had planned, but if you’re certain that university is the right path for you, then this is your best chance of getting in.
You can use the UCAS search tool to find courses you want to apply for and then contact the university directly to have a chat with them about the course and see if they're willing to give you a place.
If the university gives you an informal offer over the phone, be sure to check how long they're willing to keep the spot open for you. This is usually about 2 days, but it’s best to get this confirmed so you don’t miss out.
Get as many verbal offers as you want before making up your mind, just be wary of those expiry dates!
Once you make up your mind, fill in the course details in the ‘Add Clearing choice’ in Track. The university will have provided you with the codes you’ll need to put in here.
You can only add one Clearing choice at a time, but if the uni doesn’t end up confirming your place you will be able to start again. If the uni comes back to confirm then congratulations, you're officially in!
Resit your A Levels
You might decide that you’d rather hold off on university and take another crack at getting the results you wanted. You can do this in a couple of different ways.
- Resit the course at school, sixth form or college.
If you want to retake the course in the exact same way, you can enrol to resit at your school. If your school doesn’t offer this option, then they should be able to advise you of local sixth forms or colleges that can accommodate you.
- Resit the course online.
You might decide that you want to work or do some volunteering whilst you study. If that’s the case, you can enrol on an online course which will give you a lot more flexibility as you’re not confined to a classroom and set timetable.
You'll also have a personal tutor to help you if you need some extra help on tricky topics.
This means you can study anywhere you choose, whether that’s in bed in your PJs or out in the garden on a sunny day. As long as you have a WiFi connection, the possibilities are endless.
When it comes time to sit your exam, you'll still sit it at a school or college on the same date as all other students. However, you'll need to book your place yourself at your local school or college - you should aim to do this about 6 months before the exam date.
Take a gap year
There are many reasons why a gap year might be the best option for you and it can be good to take some time out to figure out what you want to do next.
You might have just missed out on your dream course or couldn’t find anything that appealed to you in Clearing. If that's the case, a gap year can be a great way to get some work experience (paid or voluntary) that will enhance your UCAS application when you reapply and show universities that you’re committed and hardworking.
If you feel the pull of travel overseas, it doesn’t have to be all backpacking and full moon parties. You can apply for volunteer schemes or, if you spend some time completing a TEFL course, you can make some cash teaching English abroad. Just be aware that due to visa restrictions there are some countries that need you to have a university degree to be able to teach there.
Study for a professional or vocational qualification
Some university degrees like medicine have a defined career path after graduation, but with some degrees, your career journey will be a bit more flexible.
With these kinds of courses, it can often be difficult to show employers evidence of skills rather than just knowledge, making it harder to get all important work experience.
Professional and vocational qualifications offer a more straightforward path into certain professions.
You might feel like not going to university will hinder your career, but in some industries, there is a higher value placed on professional qualifications than degrees. For instance, if you want to work in HR, most employers request a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) qualification, not an HR degree.
A professional qualification might even help you enter a university at a higher level. For example, the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) qualifications will allow you to enter a fast-track programme to become a Chartered Accountant.
You can even study them online like our student Faye who didn't want to give up her full-time job to go to university but was able to fit her AAT studies into her busy life.
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.
Become an Apprentice
Apprenticeships are a great way to enter the world of work and get valuable training at the same time. You’ll get to study for a qualification and get real on-the-job experience at the same time. Plus, you’ll be getting paid, so it really is a great opportunity to kick off your career.
Apprenticeships are not just for entry-level roles either - there are apprenticeships for managers, department heads, and even Directors and CEOs.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that some of the most successful people in the world didn’t let failure hold them back, so why should you?
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