A Level and T Level results day: What to do if you don't get the grades you need for your university course

From: The Education Hub
Published: Tue Aug 15 2023

It can feel like there's a lot riding on A Level, T Level and VTQ results day but if you don't get your predicted grades, don't worry. It doesn't mean that your education journey stops here.

Exams and grading return to normal this year, meaning grades have only been determined by the number of marks achieved in your assessments.

Grades are expected to be in line with pre-pandemic results, so they will be lower than last year, but universities have made sure that the way they set entry requirements and made offers reflects this.

This means students should be just as likely to achieve a particular grade this year as they would have been before the pandemic.

It's also important to remember that the number of top grades has no bearing on the number of university places available.

Even if you don't get exactly the grades you expect, you may be able to follow the route you were preparing to take. But if you do need to change your plans, there are plenty of alternative, exciting options for everyone.

Here we explain your choices if you don't get the grades you were expecting on results day.

What if I don't get the grades I need for my university course?

Even if you don't get the grades you need, your university or college may still offer you a place.

The first thing you should do is talk to your school or college, and to your preferred university, as they may be able to offer some flexibility. Whatever your grades, there's still time to rethink your plans if you're having second thoughts. And if you didn't make your university offer, there are plenty of alternative options out there.

What are my options if I still want to go to university or continue studying?


Clearing is when UCAS provides students with the opportunity to apply for university places which haven't yet been filled, outside of the normal application window.

If you've changed your mind about the course you've applied to, or you haven't got the grades needed for your original offer, you can apply for a different course via this route.

Find out more about Clearing on this page or by watching this video from UCAS.


If you're unhappy with your results you can enter for all A level subjects in summer 2024.

You can also take autumn exams in GCSE English language and maths, and enter to retake all other GCSEs next summer.

You should speak to your school or college about retaking exams.

Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs)

An alternative to a traditional 3-year degree, HTQs are job focused qualifications which provide you with the skills employers are looking for.

They are level 4 or 5 qualifications, including Higher National Certificates (HNCs), Higher National Diplomas (HNDs), Certificates of Higher Education (CertHes) and Foundation Degrees.

HTQs provide a great opportunity for young people looking to move to the next stage - these flexible higher technical qualifications can provide a direct route into employment, as well as further study.

They can also be a good option for people who:

  • want to study a job focused qualification.
  • prefer classroom-based learning to work-based learning.

HTQs can be studied on a full or part-time basis. All students who start an HTQ that is longer than a year can apply for both tuition fee and maintenance loans, in the same way as someone doing a degree.

HTQs are available at universities, colleges and institutes of technology. Applications to study HTQs are either made via UCAS or directly with the provider.

Visit National Careers Service for further information.

A full list of approved HTQs is available. The teaching of digital HTQs started in September 2022, and HTQs in Construction and Health and Science will be available from September 2023.

HTQs in Business & Administration, Education & Early Years, Engineering & Manufacturing and Legal, Finance & Accounting will be available from September 2024.

What if I'm ready to start work?


There are now more than 670 high quality apprenticeships in a wide range of roles.

This includes high level apprenticeships, like degree apprenticeships in nursing, engineering, law, and science. The first ever NHS doctor apprenticeship will also start from September 2024, and we've just announced a brand-new degree apprenticeship in space systems engineering also launching next year.

Apprentices earn while learning, gaining valuable on-the-job experience while receiving training at university or college.

From autumn 2023, you'll be able to search for apprenticeships via UCAS, as well as on the find an apprenticeship website.

School leavers scheme

Some companies offer school leaver schemes to young people who have completed A levels. The schemes allow young people to learn and train with a large company while earning a wage.

School leaver schemes are usually like graduate schemes, except they're aimed at school leavers. These can be applied for while students are still in school.

Employers create their own schemes, so students need to search for school leaver schemes or check each company's website to see if a school leaver scheme is available and to apply.

What if I'm not sure what I want to do?

Talk to a National Careers Service (NCS) adviser

Whatever your results, you have lots of options and there is more than one route into most careers. It's not always grades which are the most important thing, and employers look for a range of skills and qualifications.

First of all, you should talk to your school or college to discuss your options. Friends and family can also be a source of support to bounce ideas off, but it can be useful to talk your plans through with an impartial expert.

You can speak to a professional careers adviser for free and get judgment-free, confidential information and advice via the National Careers Service Exam Results helpline, via phone or by webchat.

Whatever your results, if you want to find out more about all your education and training options, as well as get practical advice about your exam results, visit the National Careers Service page and Get the Jump to explore your study and work choices.

What if I think there's something wrong with my results?

Speak to your school or college for advice

There is a rigorous system in place which makes sure that exams are marked fairly and accurately.

If you think there has been a mistake in how your exam was marked, you should speak to your school or college who can request a review from the exam board.

You shouldn't request a review unless you think there has been an error, or you could risk missing out on other options. Consider carefully if appealing is the right course of action for you by discussing it with your school or college.

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