GCSEs and A Levels

What to Do If You Failed Your GCSEs 2021 | GCSE Results 2021



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In light of the ongoing pandemic, in January of this year, it was announced that GCSE exams were cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

To this end, schools and learning centres will need to instead provide grades to learners based on the appropriate evidence, so not all students will be able to receive a grade. (If you’re one of our students, you can find more info about this within your course on the Student Community).

This year's grades are expected to be published for learners on 12th August, and students will have a chance to resit an exam if they don't think their grade is fair. 

So, whether you’ve failed your GCSEs or narrowly missed out on your expected grades, here’s what you need to know.




You have the option to appeal your grade

There is a huge focus on making sure students are not disadvantaged by the unprecedented circumstances of coronavirus, and in light of the summer 2021 exams being cancelled, 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. 

Visit the Pearson Edexcel or AQA updates page for more information, or check out the Ofqual Student Guide

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, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

They could also allow you to transfer to a different course or subject, or recommend other colleges and sixth forms which might suit you.

There will be an option to take your exam

If you feel that your Teacher Assessed Grade doesn't accurately reflect your performance, you will have the opportunity to sit an exam in the autumn series or the summer of 2022. If you're studying an Edexcel IGCSE, you may also have the chance to sit exams in November or January, depending on the subject you're studying. 

However, keep in mind that the
 Teacher Assessed Grade will be your final grade for the summer 2021 session - there is no exam grade or calculated grade. You will only have an exam grade if you've sat your GCSE in a previous exam session (i.e. in the Autumn 2020 session), in which case, the higher grade will stand. 

While it cannot be guaranteed in every circumstance, Universities UK has stated that most universities will do all they can to ensure that students who take this option can begin their course with a delayed start time.

If you're in this situation, you should speak to the university from which you have an offer after receiving your Teacher Assessed Grade.

Resit your GCSEs through your school

You can still enrol to retake 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.

  1. If you got a grade 3 and will be studying full-time (540+ hours) next year, you’ll need to resit the GCSE
  2. 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
  3. If you got a grade 2 or below, you can take a functional skills qualification instead of GCSE
  4. 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 and your situation, you could be able to resit your exams after the beginning of the academic year or in the summer of 2022. 



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, however, for the purpose of resitting your GCSEs, you can study as a private candidate if you're under 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. 

Rahul was 2 years into a BA in Tourism and Business before he discovered his passion for HR, but he's now CIPD qualified in HR and working for the CIPD in Dubai! 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:

  1. CIPD HR and Learning & Development qualifications
  2. AAT Accountancy and Bookkeeping qualifications 
  3. CIPS Procurement & Supply qualifications 
  4. CIM Marketing qualifications
  5. PRINCE2 Project Management qualifications
    CMI Management & Leadership qualifications 
  6. 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.

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