A level results 2023: What to do if you don’t get the grades you need

a level results
Not getting your desired A level results can be crushing, but that doesn’t mean you’ve run out of options — far from it. Source: AFP

As A level results day 2023 approaches, anticipation and excitement fill the air, blending with a hint of nerves and uncertainty.

You must be sitting at the edge of your seat, anxiously waiting to get the A level results that you feel will determine everything that happens next in your life.

All of your hard work has come down to this moment. While many are ready to celebrate their AAAs, some may face the not-so-good news of getting not-so-stellar alphabets.

What happens if you don’t get the results you were hoping for?

While it may feel like the end of the world, we promise it isn’t.  

A-level results

Not receiving the A level results you hoped for can be crushing, but it’s not the end of the road. Source: Choo Youn-Kong/AFP

It’s important to remember that failing exams does not define your worth or future success. Setbacks are bound to happen on the road to success, but it’s important to remain positive and motivated.

If you don’t believe us, take J.K. Rowling as an example. The billionaire author of the Harry Potter series got 12 rejections before the first book was published.

When Lady Gaga first began her singing career, no one was interested in her as an artist and would not sign her. Today she has 13 Grammy awards and two Golden Globe awards.

The road to the world’s top colleges and universities are paved with just as many hurdles.

Malaysia student Carisma Michaela Wong did not get any offers acceptance from any of the universities she initially applied to.

She was rejected by Oxford and Yale University and waitlisted by the University of California at Los Angeles and Berkeley campuses, Stanford and Princeton.

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Harvard student Carisma Michaela Wong initially did not receive any offers from universities. Source: Carisma Michaele Wong/AFP

She did not hear back from the London School of Economics, the University of Edinburgh, University College London, and King’s College London as well.

This did stop her from chasing after her dream to study abroad. Not giving up, she changed her approach to her application process and to her surprise, found herself accepted by Harvard University. 

“The whole process has been a lesson in self-reflection,” she says. “I learned so many things about myself that I didn’t even know when I began my application.”

Though it can feel crushing, failures such as not receiving the A level results you wanted, being rejected by a university, failing a course and not hearing back from your dream school can be a blessing in disguise. 

They serve as valuable lessons in life. They are opportunities to learn, grow, and improve.

It’s the spark that pushes us to check our strategies, refine our approaches, and become stronger. This can be a stepping stone towards success, guiding us towards better decision-making and preparing us for future challenges.

So it doesn’t matter if your A level results are not ace or if you narrowly missed out on the grades needed to get into your top choice course. Don’t give up on your dreams just yet.

There’s no denying that your A level results have a big impact on the next step in your academic journey, but there are still plenty of options available even if you fail. 

So wipe away those tears and get to work. Here’s what you can do if you didn’t get the A level results you wanted:

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Though it may feel like the end of the world, there are options available if you fail your A-levels. Source: Joe Raedle/AFP

Check UCAS Track

For those of you who were very close to achieving the required grades, don’t go wallowing in self-pity just yet.

There is still hope of being accepted into one of the universities you applied for. The first thing you should do is sign into your UCAS Track.

There’s still a chance that you might secure a place at one of your preferred choices.

Though you may not have met the requirements of your original offer, some universities may offer you a place in a different course that they feel is more suited to you.

Your other options include:

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Retaking your exams after failing your A-levels is a popular choice among students. Source: Richard Bouhet/AFP

1. Retaking the exams

Many students opt to retake their exams to improve their grades. You can discuss the available options for resitting the exams with your school or college.

This gives you another opportunity to achieve the desired grades and meet the entry requirements for universities or other higher education institutions.

2. Checking out alternative paths

If retaking your A levels is not feasible or not something you wish to pursue, you can consider alternative paths, such as:

  • vocational courses
  • apprenticeships
  • diploma programmes

Although shorter and different from uni, which is more academic, these options still lead to bright futures — there are several diploma programmes that lead to some of the highest-paying jobs in the world today.

3. Seeking advice and support

It’s crucial to seek advice from your teachers, counsellors, career advisors, mentors and parents. They can offer suggestions for next steps that match your strengths and interests.

4. Reevaluating your goals

Failing A levels might require you to reconsider your immediate plans and adjust your goals.

This could involve exploring different career paths, considering gap years to work or travel, or just taking time off for your personal development. 

And if those options aren’t what you’re looking for, you could always choose Clearing.

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Think of Clearing after A level results as matchmaking season with universities. Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

Choosing Clearing after your A level results 

What is Clearing?

Clearing is a process initiated by UCAS that matches students with university courses that still have empty spots.

There are typically over 30,000 empty spots available — a list that’s regularly updated until mid-September.

After the A level results are announced, universities will find themselves with unfilled spots in their courses as many students may not have gotten the grades they needed.

If you’re one of them, you will automatically be entered into Clearing. 

In 2023, Clearing starts on July 5 — which is earlier than A level results day on Aug. 17.

And that’s because Clearing is also for those who are applying after June 30, do not already hold offers or have declined their firm place.

Clearing will end on Oct. 17, 2023.

If you’re confused reading this, don’t worry. UCAS has come up with Clearing Plus, a more stress-free way to use Clearing.

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Clearing could offer you a chance to receive admission to your dream university. Source: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP

Why choose Clearing Plus?

The problem with A level results day is it’s an intense time. And with plenty of different courses and alternatives to choose from, how do you know if you’re making the right decision?

Clearing Plus eases this process by using what UCAS knows about you to suggest a list of courses you might like.

A button will automatically show up beneath your “My Matches” section. Click and this takes you to your top 50 course matches. Accept or decline as you wish.

If you accept a match, a university or college can contact you if they still have vacancies and you meet their entry requirements.

Don’t see any course that you like? You can discover more courses in Clearing with this search tool.

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The University of Oxford does not take part in Clearing. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

Which UK universities participate in Clearing?

Not all universities offer Clearing. For instance, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford do not provide Clearing options to students as this goes against their policies.

Still, there are many other top UK universities with Clearing places.

Last year, this list included the University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, University of Manchester, University of Warwick and University of Glasgow — all of which are ranked among the top 10 universities in the UK.

Clearing courses in 2022 included cybersecurity, Korean studies, world literatures and ancient history.

This may change in 2023 so check regularly to see if any option feels right for you.

Remember, there is nothing to lose in doing so. Universities want you around and can reconsider your application after seeing your determination using Clearing.

Or they may also offer you a place in a similar course or suggest reapplying next year. Nevertheless, if you really want to study at that university, why not give it a try?