A level results day 2020

by Dan Roberts

Waiting for A level results is a nerve-wracking time, with your plans for the future hanging in the balance. This guide will help you to take control by being informed and getting prepared for the various outcomes.

Although it’s tempting to combat the stress of waiting for your A level grades by blocking the whole thing out of your mind, taking steps to prepare for A level results day will mean you’ll be ready to make quick decisions if you need to. And that could be the difference between success and failure when it comes to getting a place on a university course.

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When is A level results day?

A level results day in 2020 is Thursday 13 August for students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For Scotland, students will get their results from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) on Tuesday 4 August.

Holidays and A level results day

Try to avoid being on holiday or otherwise unavailable on results day, as you may need to contact universities, UCAS and your school or college if things don’t turn out as expected. If you need to go into Clearing to find an available university place, you’ll need to do this yourself and universities will want to speak to you personally.

Can I get my A level results online?

Unfortunately not – with the exception of Scottish students, who get their results from SQA by email. If you are going to be away, make sure that the Track tool on your UCAS profile contains up-to-date contact details. If you will be unable to log in to UCAS Track on results day, you can nominate someone – such as a parent, guardian or family friend – to access this tool and make changes on your behalf. They should also be able to collect your results from your school or college (or receive them over the ‘phone or by post) but all this must be organised in advance. Speak to your school or college exams office for the precise protocol and make sure you take essential information – such as your UCAS number – away with you.

If you are going to be away, make sure that the Track tool on your UCAS profile contains up-to-date contact details

What happens on A level results day?

For most students, UCAS will receive your A level results and update Track automatically. This usually happens at about 8am, so it’s worth logging in before you leave to collect your results from school, as this will give you a good indication of your grades and may take the pressure off a little (but your actual results won’t appear in UCAS Track). Bear in mind that thousands of other students will be doing the same, so the system will be busy and you may need to be patient. Students in Scotland have their results emailed to them from 8am.

it’s worth logging in before you leave to collect your results from school, as this will give you a good indication of your grades and may take the pressure off a little

UCAS Track will show one of the following, provided your university choices have made decisions about you and notified UCAS:

  • Unconditional– this means your place on the course (either for your firm offer, insurance offer or both) is confirmed.
  • Unconditional Changed Course (UCC)– you didn’t get the grades necessary for your offer but the university is offering you another course with lower grade requirements, or deferred entry. You will have five days discuss the offer with the university and make your decision.
  • Unsuccessful– this means that you have not been accepted by your choices, so you are eligible to enter the UCAS Clearing service to find a suitable place.

Then it’s time to collect your results from your school or college. You can open them there – on your own or with the support of your friends – or take them home, but bear in mind that staff will be on hand at your school to offer advice if things have not turned out as you had hoped.

If your exam board is one of the few that doesn’t send results to UCAS automatically, you will need to send your exam grades to your university choices yourself. This will be the case for many international students.

What do I need to have with me on A level results day?

You will need to take some things into school or college with you and it’s a really good idea to get prepared the night before so that you don’t forget something in the stress of results day. Useful stuff to have handy on results day includes:

  • A notepad and pen
  • Your UCAS number and log-in details
  • Contact details for your firm and insurance offer unis
  • Your UCAS Clearing number from Track (if applicable)
  • A copy of your personal statement (unis in Clearing may ask you questions about it)
  • Your GCSE grades (if you can’t remember them, as you may be asked for them)
  • Notes about alternative courses and unis that you like, along with contact details
  • Mobile ‘phone (and a charger)
  • Tissues if you’re likely to get emotional (that’s pretty much everyone, by the way).

How should I prepare for A level results day?

Think about plan B – and maybe plans C and D too, if you’re not feeling confident about your results. If you’ve thought through your preferred options in all possible scenarios, you’ll be more likely to keep calm and make good decisions on the hoof.

Researching universities and courses

Research other courses and alternative places of study. Look at the accommodation available. Weigh up which options you prefer so that you can work through them in order if you don’t get your preferred choices. Make sure you have the contact details of these back-up unis with you on results day. Read your personal statement through to get familiar with it again, and perhaps even prepare what you might say in a Clearing phone call.

Weigh up which options you prefer so that you can work through them in order if you don’t get your preferred choices.

Planning your travel

If you don’t drive or don’t have a lift lined up, plan how you will get to your school or college on results day. You really don’t need the added stress of missing the bus or train!

When do universities get A level results?

For the vast majority of students, UCAS will receive your A level results from your examination boards, notify your university choices and update your status in Track on results day. A handful of exam boards don’t collaborate with UCAS in this way and, if this affects you, then you will need to send your exam grades to your chosen universities yourself.

What time do A level results come out?

Results are technically available from 6am – when the exam boards release them – but you’ll need to check with your school or college what time they will actually be open from.

Can I get my A level results early?

In a word, no. Exams office staff and headteachers are the only people besides the awarding bodies and UCAS to have access to students’ A level grades before they are released to candidates on results day. They can see them on the day before – referred to as restricted release day – but they must be treated as strictly confidential information.

Do universities email you on results day?

No, you won’t get an email (unless you’re in Scotland) or see your grades in UCAS Track. You’ll need to go to your school or college to pick up your results, unless you’ve arranged for a representative to do this for you or to receive them by post instead.

What happens if I get the A level grades I need?

Hit your targets? Congratulations! You can breathe a sigh of relief and start preparing for life at uni. Universities are obliged to honour their offers if you achieve the required grades, so ‘conditional’ should change to ‘unconditional’ in UCAS Track, meaning that your place is confirmed.

Universities are obliged to honour their offers if you achieve the required grades

If you don’t achieve the grades needed for your firm choice but manage to get the grades for your insurance choice, you’ll be accepted automatically into your insurance uni – you don’t need to do anything.

In either case, a confirmation letter will appear in UCAS Track within five to seven days with advice about student finance and enrolment (note that it won’t be posted or sent via email). Read the letter carefully, as you may be required to provide further info, such as proof of your qualifications.

If you’ve added another choice in UCAS Extra and been offered a place, you will need to accept it by the deadline shown in Track.

What happens if I do better in my A levels than expected?

Many students who get the pleasant surprise of doing better than expected want to stick with their choice of course and university – but you don’t have to. If this applies to you, then you can use the UCAS Adjustment service, which is available from results day until the end of August.

UCAS Adjustment

UCAS Adjustment allows you to hold your firm offer while looking for another course with higher entry requirements. You will need to register for Adjustment in Track and then look for a new place. Unfortunately there are no vacancy listings for Adjustment places, so you have to do the legwork by trawling through UCAS and individual university websites, and then ringing up the relevant admissions offices to enquire about places. Be sure that you only agree to a new course if you’re certain because once you’ve made a verbal agreement, the university concerned will add itself to your application in Track and your confirmation letter will be on its way.

UCAS Adjustment allows you to hold your firm offer while looking for another course with higher entry requirements.

Note that there’s a deadline in the Adjustment process: you get only get five days from the moment your offer becomes unconditional to use it (unless there are less than five days to go until the end of August). Thankfully, a timer shows in Track to help you respond before the deadline. Remember that if you don’t manage to find something you’re happy with, you still have your original unconditional offer to fall back on.

What happens if I don’t get the A level grades I need?

First, check in Track that your offer has not changed to ‘unconditional’ for either your firm-choice or insurance-choice uni. If not, you can ring both admissions departments in turn to put your case and ask them to reconsider offering you a place. If you’re only one grade or a few UCAS Tariff points off, they may offer you a place on your chosen course or, more likely, an alternative one. You will need to keep calm and sell yourself, which is why it pays to be prepared. If you are not successful, you still have plenty of options:

UCAS Clearing

Clearing is open from July to October but you’ll need to get started on results day for the best chance of getting on a course you like. The Clearing list is published on the UCAS website, with live updates. If you see a course you fancy, you’ll need to get in touch with the university to ask about a place. Again, familiarise yourself with your personal statement beforehand and be prepared to give your sales pitch over the phone. You can contact as many universities as you like. Once you receive a verbal offer that you want to accept, you simply enter the course and uni codes into Track.

familiarise yourself with your personal statement beforehand and be prepared to give your sales pitch over the phone.

Remarking your A levels

If your grades seem wrong, you can choose to get your exams remarked. Your school or college handles this process. Get started quickly because the deadline for getting A level results to the universities is 31 August. Unis are not required to hold a place whilst your paper is remarked but it’s still a good idea to keep them informed. Unfortunately, even if you’re successful in getting a higher grade, you may not get a place on your chosen course – but you may well be offered an alternative or be able to defer your place until next year. Bear in mind that grades can go down as well as up, and that there’s a charge to pay if your review is unsuccessful.

Unis are not required to hold a place whilst your paper is remarked but it’s still a good idea to keep them informed.

Studying abroad

If your A level grades mean you cannot get a place at your preferred UK unis, you could study abroad instead. Check whether courses you’re interested in are offered through the clearing-style process of the countries you’re looking at. Don’t forget that you’ll need to arrange a student visa and organise accommodation.

Resitting your A levels

If you don’t get offers that appeal to you, you can consider taking a gap year, during which you could retake some or all of your A levels. Then you can reapply via UCAS for the following year (note that Oxford and Cambridge may not accept reapplications). A gap year also gives you great opportunities to travel the world, undertake volunteering or work to save up for university.

Other options

You may decide that higher education is not for you and instead focus on getting a job or finding a suitable apprenticeship.

Deferring a university place

Provided you don’t already hold a deferred offer, you can ask your university to defer your place for a year. The earlier you do this, the better. Most unis will agree to this, but be prepared to explain your reasons for deferring (such as working to save money or volunteering). If your university doesn’t agree, you could choose give up your place and reapply next year.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) and A level results in 2020

After the UK government’s decision to cancel A level examinations due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the Department for Education confirmed that grades based on assessment will be awarded to this year’s candidates on the planned A level results day (13 August in England, Wales & Northern Ireland and 4 August in Scotland).

The assessed grades will be based on your prior performance (including GCSE results and A level mocks), coursework and predicted grades. If you feel that the grades you are awarded this summer do not accurately reflect your ability, you can choose to sit an exam later this year. Bear in mind that universities will not only be looking at your grades but also your personal statement and reference, as well as any interviews or auditions you may have undertaken.

If you feel that the grades you are awarded this summer do not accurately reflect your ability, you can choose to sit an exam later this year.

The government initially requested universities to stop making unconditional offers or amending existing offers but this process was resumed so your offer status will be shown in Track. UCAS has allowed students more time to make their decisions this year, with offer reply dates of 18 June (for last decisions received on or before 4 June) and 20 July (for last decisions received on or before 13 July – including Extra choices).

You don’t need to notify your firm and insurance unis about your grades when you get them – your application will be processed automatically by UCAS as it normally would (except if your exam board is one of the few not covered by UCAS). If you’re holding a conditional offer, your offer will become unconditional if you manage to get your grades. If you’ve accepted an unconditional offer, this will remain unaffected. And if your application is unsuccessful, you can still use the UCAS Extra and Clearing services in the usual way.

It is unclear what student life will look like this autumn when universities return, with at least a degree of online learning looking a distinct possibility. Although this scenario may not meet your expectations of starting your time at university, bear in mind that only a limited number of students will be able to defer their place until next year, and that if you relinquish your place and reapply next year, competition for places is likely to be fierce.


Avatar for Dan Roberts
Written by Dan Roberts
MD and Founder of Mystudenthalls.com

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