21 August 2023

What To Do When You Don’t Get The Exam Results You Want

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When you’ve finished your exams, the relief is unimaginable. Most go absolutely bananas. But then, five or six weeks later, it’s results day. Soon enough you’re back at school, opening a brown envelope with your future inside.

And sometimes, your exam results aren’t quite as good as you were expecting. It happens. If it happens to you, there’s one very important thing to remember – this is just a small blip, and you still have so many options.

We’re here to help you figure those options out, and work out what to do next. So let’s break it down…

Don’t Panic

Firstly, don’t panic! It’s okay to feel a bit lost and sad when your results didn’t match your expectations. Remember, there’s always a solution or another path to take.

If you need to, take a few days to process the news. It’s always better to wait a little bit to avoid making any rash decisions about your future. Spend time with your family and friends, go to the cinema, go for a walk… It will help you keep your mind busy while the news sinks in.

Your Options

Now that you’ve taken some time to process your results, it’s time to think about the different options available to you. If you’d applied to university, but didn’t get the required A-Level grades, it doesn’t mean your hopes of going to university are over.


You could try clearing to see if any universities are taking on students in a similar course that you applied to. There’s also the option to resit your exams in the next year and reapply to university.

Apply for an apprenticeship

If you’re thinking scrap university and those £9,250-a-year tuition fees, why not apply for an apprenticeship? An apprenticeship is a real job. And they’re a great next step after school or college.

You can earn while you learn, get industry-recognised qualifications and gain experience with employers in different industries across the country. Gone are the days where apprenticeships were only for those interested in plumbing or laying bricks.

What industries can you do an apprenticeship in?

You can now get apprenticeships in engineering, law, accountancy and banking – there are apprenticeships in everything! There are apprenticeships designed for students of different ages, interests and grades.

How long do they last?

Some schemes last for one or two years, during which you’re working towards nationally recognised qualifications equivalent to GCSEs and A-levels. Others last up to five years and lead to a tuition-free degree. They’re called degree apprenticeships by the way.

If you’ve already applied to one or several apprenticeships but didn’t receive an offer, don’t panic either. Keep an open mind to try to broaden your options as much as you can.

For example…

  • If you didn’t get into your first choice company, apply for similar apprenticeships with other employers
  • If there is only one employer you want to work for, try applying to similar apprenticeship schemes across other areas of the business

Take a Gap Year

Maybe you need a bit more time to process all the different options available to you. In that case, have you thought of taking a gap year?

It’s not a decision you can make on a whim, but it might be the right choice for you. A gap year is an opportunity to:

  • Travel, volunteer and/or learn a new language
  • Get some work experience abroad
  • Take more time to apply for apprenticeships or university

There are lots of projects you can get involved with on your gap year. You could volunteer at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. Teach English to schoolchildren in the Philippines. Or offer humanitarian, community and conservation support in Europe.

Check out these companies to help you plan your gap year:

Don’t Give Up!

It seems obvious, and perhaps you don’t want to hear this right now, but don’t give up! Setbacks can be hard to handle, especially at the beginning of your adult life. But with time you’ll learn how to deal with them and turn them into something positive.

Who can I speak to about my results?

If you’re feeling stressed and need someone to talk to, we recommend you call the Exam Results Helpline UK.

Open from the 16th to 30th August for both A-Level and GCSE students, the helpline offers support and guidance to those who have received lower grades than expected.


If you’d like to find out what options are available to you, including resits and remarks, please call the helpline from 8am – 10pm (seven days a week) on 0800 100 900 to speak with a professional career advisor. They will be more than happy to help.