Results Day: The Ultimate Guide

It’s the day you’ve been waiting for ever since you left the exam hall after your final exam.

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It’s been practically the whole summer arriving and it’s been a nervous wait. But what actually happens on the much-anticipated – and much-dreaded – Results Day? In this guide, we take you through what to expect on the big day, whether you’re waiting to hear how you did in your GCSEs, AS-levels or A-levels, and we’ll explain the important actions you need to take with regard to university or A-level choices.

When is Results Day?

Image shows the date numbers on a calendar.
Knowing the date is useful so you can prepare ahead of time, for instance by thinking of the universities you might wan to apply to through Adjustment or Clearing.

It’s probably already etched in your memory, but just in case you didn’t know, Results Day will be in August. AS-level and A-level results come out on the same day, a week before GCSE results. The dates for 2016 are as follows:

  • A-levels: 18 August 2016
  • GCSEs: 25 August 2016

Before Results Day

If you’re waiting for your A-level results prior to going to university, you can start checking Track first thing to see if your firm or insurance choice universities have confirmed your place (this will appear as “unconditional” in Track if they have). The universities get your results before you do, and may therefore confirm your place before you get your results. Note that if they have, it doesn’t necessarily mean you got the required grades; they may simply have decided to accept you anyway.

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Picking up your results

Image shows students with results envelopes gathering around a table where a teacher is handing out results.
A typical results day.

It’s understandable if you don’t get much sleep the night before, but try to remain calm. Getting stressed and panicky won’t change what’s on those results slips! Have some breakfast before you go so that you keep your energy levels high enough to deal with the emotions heading your way. When you arrive at school, there will be a big table with all the envelopes lined up in alphabetical order, and plenty of teachers floating around ready to offer advice to those who need it. You’ll get your results slip but not your certificates – these come later.

What to do when you get your GCSE results

Your A-level choices may depend on how well you did in your GCSEs, as a grade C or above is often a requirement to continue a subject to A-level. If you’ve fallen short of this requirement, you’ll need to go to your head of year and/or the teacher in charge of the subject in question to ask whether they will still accept you onto the A-level course. If you’re moving to a different school for A-levels, you’ll need to phone up that school to explain the situation and check whether or not they’ll still take you. In both instances, if they won’t accept you onto that course, they might offer an alternative A-level choice or choices that aren’t dependent on achieving a certain GCSE grade. You may want to retake one or more of your papers to bring your final mark up. If that’s the case, talk to your teachers and find out what support there is to help you do this. Don’t forget that many employers and universities will want a minimum of a grade C in core subjects such as English and Maths, so if you’ve missed out on these, it would be advisable to retake them to bring your grade up if you can. However, your teachers will know your personal circumstances and be best placed to advise.

What to do when you get your AS-level results

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You may be able to save yourself anxiety by figuring out the grade boundaries ahead of time.

Your AS-level results may be presented as raw UMS marks, leaving you having to calculate what grades you got using a calculator. At AS-level, your considerations are going to revolve around two things:

  • Will your AS-grades be sufficient to impress the universities to which you want to apply? These will be your latest academic results, and, since your final A-level grades are only predicted at this stage, your AS-levels give admissions tutors something concrete by which to judge your current level of academic performance.
  • Have you given yourself the best foundation upon which to build during your A2 units? If not, you face an uphill struggle to compensate for this to give you a chance of a good overall final grade, which puts a lot of pressure on your final year.

You have two possible courses of action if the answer to either of these two questions is ‘no’. These are re-marking and re-taking, and we’ll look at them more closely a little later in this article.

What to do when you get your A-level results

A-level results day is going to be all about your university place. Take your UCAS offer letters for your first and insurance choice universities along with you, so you’ll know exactly what their offer conditions were. Also take a calculator so that you can calculate how many marks you are off a target grade if necessary.

If you meet your offer

If you’ve met or exceeded the requirements of your offer, you’ll automatically be granted a place at your first choice university. The status of your offer will change to “Unconditional” in Track and you’ll get a letter in the post confirming it (read it carefully to see if you’re required to do anything more to confirm your place). You don’t need to do anything on Results Day, but if Track doesn’t update then give the university a ring next day just to check.

If you exceeded your offer

Image shows Newcastle University.
Newcastle University, ranked 20th in the country in the CUG league table, had places in Adjustment last year.

If you did much better than you were expecting, you can explore alternative courses through a process known as Adjustment, for which you need to register through Track. You’ll be able to do this if you have met or exceeded your conditional offer, but unlike Clearing, you won’t be able to find a list of available courses via UCAS. You’ll need to phone the universities you are interested in, telling them that you’ve made the grades they ask for in their entrance requirements and asking them whether they would consider taking you (make sure they know that you’re going through Adjustment, not Clearing). If they choose to give you an offer – normally done verbally – they update your Track for you and your original firm choice is automatically cancelled. You have five days in which to pursue the Adjustment course of action, and you don’t have to decline your firm choice in order to do this (so you have nothing to lose by trying).

If you missed your first choice offer

All is not necessarily lost if you’ve missed out on your first choice offer. The university might still be willing to accept you, particularly if you had extenuating circumstances or only narrowly missed out on the grades (they don’t see your individual UMS points, only the final grade, so they won’t know if you were only a mark off their offer). However, it all depends on what it says on UCAS Track; if it still says “Conditional” then give them a call urgently, but if it says “Unsuccessful”, you have sadly been rejected and the university won’t change its mind.

Your insurance choice

If you missed out on your offer for your first choice university but met the terms of your insurance, you automatically get an offer from your insurance choice. It will change to “Unconditional” on Track if your place is confirmed (if it doesn’t by the end of the morning, you can phone and check). The only thing you have to do now is fill in a “Change of Circumstances” form to let the Student Loans Company know that you’re now going to a different university from your original first choice; it’s not urgent, though, so you don’t have to get it done straightaway. Again, if you decide that you don’t want to take this offer, you don’t have the option to decline it online – you’ll have to phone the university and ask them to release you.

UCAS Clearing

Image shows Queen's College, Belfast.
Queen’s College, Belfast, a Russell Group member, had nearly 200 courses available in Clearing last year.

If you didn’t make either your first choice university or your insurance choice (and you’ve already tried asking if either of them will accept you despite lower grades), it’s time to spring into action to find an alternative university place through UCAS Clearing. This means logging into your UCAS account, searching for a suitable course at a university you wouldn’t mind going to, and phoning that university for an impromptu telephone interview to see if they’ll have you. Here are a few tips for success with Clearing:

  • Keep your UCAS Personal ID and Clearing numbers next to you, as you’ll need to quote these over the phone.
  • Prepare some quick answers to possible interview questions, such as why you want to study at that particular university, why you’ve chosen that course, and what most interests you about it.
  • Prepare some questions to ask them, such as what accommodation is on offer.

If the university wants you, they’ll give you a verbal, provisional offer over the phone. You then add that course in Track and they will review your application before deciding whether to make you a formal offer. If you don’t find anything you like the look of in Clearing, your other option is to take a year out, which would give you the chance to get your papers re-marked or to re-take them, depending on how far off they were. Let’s look at these two options in more detail.


If you are surprised – in a bad way – by your results, and think there may have been some mistake, you can request a re-mark. The time to request a re-mark is normally when you only just missed out on a grade by a few marks. Look through your results and find out whether there are any papers that were just a few marks off the grade boundary. You’ll need to pay a fee for re-marking – somewhere in the region of £40 – but it’ll be refunded to you if your grade does change. If you’re seeking a re-mark pending a firm offer from a university, you need to request a priority re-mark to ensure it’s done quickly enough, and you’ll also need to let the university know by phoning them up (if you’re seeking a re-mark despite having received an unconditional offer, then the standard re-mark service will do and you don’t need to inform the university). Note that, while there’s a chance that your grade will go up, there’s also a chance that it could stay the same or go down.


Image shows desks lined up in an empty exam hall.
While you might be dreading the thought of sitting another exam, it could be worth it in the long run.

While re-marking is a suitable course of action to pursue if you’ve missed out on a target grade by a few marks, if it’s much more than this, you can instead re-take the exam or exams that led to your overall grade being brought down. Look at the breakdown of the marks you got for each paper and find out which of your exam results could be improved. If you’re in year 12 this is straightforward, but if you’ve just finished year 13, you’ll probably need to take a gap year in order to be able to re-sit A-level papers; and if your results were poorer than you wanted across the board, it might even be advisable to re-take year 13.

Deferring or declining your offers

Sometimes you can see things much more clearly in the heat of the moment, and a hitherto unthought-of path may present itself to you. Whether you’ve dramatically exceeded your offer, missed out on it and can’t find a suitable alternative, want a year out to re-take, or you’ve decided to take a gap year after a summer of thinking about it, you might find yourself considering deferring going to university for a year (or even not going). If you want to defer or decline offers, phone the university and explain the situation (with a good reason for wanting to defer, ideally, such as concrete gap year plans). If you don’t have any offers, you don’t need to do anything – just wait until next year and start again.

Results Day etiquette

If you’ve done really well, congratulations! But try not to rub it in the face of those who haven’t done so well – save your jubilation for when you get home and can celebrate with family and friends. Before you leave, go and thank your teachers, but be quick – they’ll be really busy helping those who haven’t done so well. If you haven’t done so well yourself, try not to be resentful of those who’ve been more successful. Instead, find a teacher and ask for their advice on what to do next.

If you’re not in the country on Results Day

Image shows a pair of pink flip-flops on a beach.
This might seem like a great place to spend results day, but in fact, you’re much better off collecting your results in person.

If you’re away for Results Day, you’ll have to get your parents to pick up your results on the day so that you can act quickly if your results aren’t what you’d hoped. Try to be in phone contact and have internet access on Results Day so that you can start contacting universities immediately if necessary.

And finally…

Results Day may be something of a crossroads for you, and you may find yourself having to make some big decisions, fast. If you didn’t do as well as you expected, try not to beat yourself up about it. There’s nothing you can do now to change your performance in exams you’ve already taken, so try to concentrate your energy constructively by setting about an alternative plan of action that might actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise in the long run. If you did do well, go home and celebrate your hard-earned success and turn your thoughts to the future. A new chapter of your life is about to begin.
Last reviewed: September 2015
Next review: September 2016


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Image credits: calendar; school; calculator; Newcastle; Queen’s; exam hall; beach.