Need help following your GCSE or A-Level Results?

So your exam results aren’t what you hoped for? Or perhaps they’re better than expected? Whatever support you need, the National Careers Service Exam Results Helpline is here to support young people and their parents/carers in deciding their next steps.

If you haven’t been given a place on your chosen path, or if you’re done better than expected and want to review your option, contact the National Careers Service for professional, impartial advice.

Exam Results Helpline

Contact the National Careers Service Exam Results Helpline on

0800 100 900

to speak to a professionally qualified careers adviser if you need advice on your next steps.

The helpline will be open from 08:00 to 20:00 Monday to Friday and 10:00 to 17:00 on Saturday for two weeks from 9 August to 20 August.

The helpline has professional careers advisers available to provide free, impartial advice and guidance on the different choices available, including:

  • Skills, qualifications and subject choices
  • Re-sits and re-marks
  • Post-16 and Post-18 options, including gap years and re-sits/re-marks
  • Moving away from home
  • Vocational learning routes including diplomas, apprenticeships, SVQs and NVQs
  • Careers, employment and setting up in business

What should I do if I fail my GCSEs or A-levels?

Whatever happens, there are always options you can pursue. It is important to remember this. Hopefully you will receive the grades you need for your next steps.

However, if you haven’t been given a place on your chosen path, make sure you gather advice on what all your options are. If you’re lucky, you will have access to a fully qualified independent careers adviser, either in your school, on the phone, via video or by email.

If you don’t, the National Careers Service will be running a dedicated free Exams Helpline. The helpline is open from A level results day until a week after GCSE results day.

National Careers Service Exam Results Helpline: 0800 100 900

Government Advice on Exam Results

The government has set out advice to help which is worth being aware of:

“Many exams and assessments cannot be held fairly this year as a result of the disruption students have faced due to the pandemic.

“Your teachers will instead submit grades to the exam boards, based on their assessment of what you have shown you know and can do, enabling you to progress to the next stage of your education, training, or employment.”

You can read more about the above as well as the Autumn exam series and the appeals process, if you feel you need to access these, at:


If you decide to take a re-sit and not attend a 6th form, college, or study programme, consider what you will do during this time carefully. Especially if you don’t have work or an apprenticeship lined up.

If you do resit the government says:

“You can take exams in the autumn if you received a teacher-assessed grade in summer 2021 in the same subject or your exam board believes that you would have taken exams this summer had they not been cancelled.

“This may apply to private candidates. If you get a higher grade in your autumn exam than you get this summer, then you can ask the exam board to provide a new certificate showing your higher grade.”

Post-18 – University

If you are collecting your BTEC or A-Level results and have applied via UCAS for University, make sure you have your Track login details with you. Be prepared to give yourself time if things need “sorting out”.

For universities, it is expected that many will be more flexible with regards enrolment and entrance requirements.

UCAS has loads of help and advice which is worth reading before you collect your grades at:

Top Tips if you don’t get GCSE or A-Level exam results you were expecting

  1. Don’t assume you haven’t been offered a place at your chosen university, college, training centre, apprenticeship or school if you don’t get the grades you needed or expected. Always check directly with them.
  2. Give yourself time to consider your choices. If looking at university (higher education) don’t be in a hurry to enter clearing (if looking at this) and settle for any course. However, be aware the most competitive courses in Clearing may be snatched up quickly if you’re not fast enough… get the balance right between rushing in too fast (making a rash decision) and dawdling – potentially missing out on courses!
  3. Ask yourself whether your chosen option will get you to where you wish to be. Check whether there is more than one way to get to your destination, such as Apprenticeships or distance learning.
  4. If you feel that your university course isn’t what you wish to take, you can “self-release” from your university course into regular clearing. Just make sure you are aware of the risks before taking this option:

Late University Applications

If you weren’t planning on going to university and decide on the day you wish to, it is possible to make a late application with support from your school or college. If you’re “new“ to the finances required, check out Money Saving Expert to help you:

Keep in mind there may be a delay in funding getting to you and your chosen university in time, if making a late application. If this is the case, you may need to set up some transition arrangements with the university you are going to whilst you wait for your funding. If you speak to the finances team at your university, they should be able to discuss this with you.


If you have done better in your exams than expected and applied to university be aware you can enter adjustment to look at other courses:

Clearing & Finance

You will have access to Clearing and Clearing Plus, which enables specific students in Clearing to be matched to courses that may suit them. Read more about this here:

It maybe that you need financial support if your options have changed. Make sure you contact the college or university you are hoping to attend for help. Some will know of, or have, bursaries and grants you can access.

These links are useful for further preparation:

Post 16 – GCSEs

If considering choices after GCSEs, keep in mind many (but not all) colleges and 6th forms offer a flexible six week ‘wiggle period’ where you can switch courses if they have space, allowing you room to assess whether your chosen pathway is right for you. If you discover it isn’t, make sure you access support from your careers service to explore all your options.

As with students picking up A-Levels, don’t assume you haven’t been offered a place at your chosen 6th form, college, training centre or apprenticeship if you don’t get the grades you needed or expected. Always check directly with them.

Lastly, remember your options aren’t just college or 6th form after GCSEs, there are a huge range of study programmes, work experience, traineeships and apprenticeships you can explore depending on your grades and situation.

Call the exam results helpline to discuss all of these options: 0800 100 900


To search traineeships:

For apprenticeships:

Supported employment for those with SEND:

Careers research:

Support & Help

Whether you are picking up GCSE, BTEC or A-level results, look after your mental well-being. It can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. Make use of the support networks around you in school, college and at home. If you feel there is no one you can turn to please look for help from support services such as those listed below:

The National Careers Service provides free, up to date, impartial information, advice and guidance on careers, skills and the labour market in England to anyone aged 13 and upwards. To speak to a National Careers Service adviser, call 0800 100 900 or use our webchat (8:00am to 10:00pm, 7 days a week.)