Whether it’s GCSE or A-level results you’re waiting for, results day is an anxious time for students as well as their families or carers.

But although it can feel like the end of the world if you don’t get the results you were hoping for, it really isn’t! Your results will not define you or your life and you do not need to panic.

It’s a great idea to prepare for results day so that you’re in the right frame of mind and feel prepared for any eventuality. Here are our tips to help you do that.

How to prepare for results day
  • Make sure you’re well rested—try to get a good night’s sleep before the day. Then make sure you have breakfast on the day itself so you have the energy you need.
  • Remember to maintain a good outlook on the day: stay positive. Whatever the day brings, it’s not about failing or succeeding.
  • Be ready to be busy! Make sure your phone, tablet or communications devices are fully charged and that you have a pen and paper handy to make notes.
  • Plan where and when you need to be on the day and how you will be collecting your results. Are you collecting them from your school or college? If so, what time do you need to be there? Plan your journey so you get there on time, and make sure you know where and whom you collect your results from, whether it’s from a teacher or an examinations officer.
Enjoy results day!
  • Easier said than done perhaps, but whether or not you get the results you were hoping for, it is worth celebrating results day. You’re finishing one part of your life and you got through your exams and coursework, so congratulations! Make sure you’ve got something nice to look forward to in the evening so that it’s a nice day regardless of your results.
Next steps: telling your college, university or training provider about your results
  • When you collect your results, make sure you know whether you need to hand them in to your chosen sixth form, college or university (and to whom) as part of your enrolment process. Do you need to enrol online with your chosen place of education, or go there in person?
  • If you have applied for an apprenticeship, how do you let your training provider know? Make sure you understand the process before results day and are prepared and ready to follow the right steps.
When you collect your results
  • When you pick up your results and get your examination certificates, keep them safe: take a photo of them and store them in a safe place like a ring binder or folder. You may need them in the future.
If you get the results you wanted, or higher
  • If you achieve the results you are expecting, congratulations - you can go on to your chosen course. But if you get better results than you expected, it may also mean you can now look at courses and universities that require higher grades, and which you didn’t originally apply for.
  • Speak to your chosen college or UCAS to see if they have a place on an appropriate course that you may be interested in taking.
  • If you have been offered an apprenticeship at Level 2 and your grades are higher than expected, you may be able to study at Level 3 instead. It is worth having a conversation with the college or the employer through which you are doing the apprenticeship to discuss what option may be available to you.
If you do not get the results you wanted
  • Please don’t panic. There are loads and loads of options available to you!
  • Firstly – speak to your teachers and examinations officers.
  • If you’re looking to do a Level 3 course and didn’t get your maths and English, there are Level 2 courses available including maths and English which will be available if you need to re-sit them.
  • Speak to your sixth form/college/Uni to see what options there are for you. They will have careers advisers and admission staff to help and support you.
Other options
  • If you haven’t got the results required for the university of your choice, you can still contact them to find out whether they will accept you. Or you can look at clearing, where you may find an alternative course or study at Foundation Level at university.
  • The UCAS website is a fantastic source of information to find courses like this. The website is great and there are lots of people who can help and support you with those decisions.
  • If you took your A Levels and didn’t get the results you wanted, you may want to consider a gap year or perhaps go straight into employment. If you’re a GCSE graduate, you could look at other Level 2 college course or apprenticeships. There are lots of options out there.
And remember...

It’s not always a bad thing when you have to reconsider your options. You may find out about new ideas you haven’t considered before. And you certainly won’t be alone: there will be thousands of young people not getting the results they hoped for and there are lots of people who can help you. And as we said at the start: it may not feel like it, but your results won’t define you. You’ve got a life full of possibilities ahead of you, many ways into your chosen career and even, for many people, better options for you that you don’t yet know about!

As careers advisers, we are here to support you. Make sure you speak to your adviser within school or call the National Exam Results Helpline (0800 100 900) so that we can help you to talk through the options and give you some advice and guidance. We happy to help.

Remember: keep things in perspective. This is one step on a longer journey.

Good luck!

Useful links

Post 16:

National Careers Service Exam Results Helpline: 0800 100 900 (available Thursday 18th August until Friday 2nd September weekdays from 8am to 8pm and 10am to 5pm each Saturday)  

Get the Jump


GOV.UK Further Education courses and funding


Amazing Apprenticeships

Post 18:

National Careers Service Exam Results Helpline: 0800 100 900 (available Thursday 17th August until Friday 1st September weekdays from 8am to 8pm and 10am to 5pm each Saturday) 

Get the Jump

Not Going To Uni


The Uni Guide


Amazing Apprenticeships

Year Out Group

Whatuni - gap year advice

Etrust - year in industry


Thank you to Claire Thomas for speaking with us about exam results day. Claire is a Careers Adviser who works at a school and college in Reading and Bracknell.


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