Low A level results?

So it’s results day, you open your paper and… oh shit. Things have not gone your way. All your friends may be out celebrating but unfortunately, you’re stuck getting a lecture from your mum and panicking internally. The Mix helps you figure out your options.

A young man is calling UCAS. He is dealing with his low A-level results. This is a wide-angle image.

I got lower A level grades than expected

Whether you ended up failing your English literature A level or Further Maths in Sixth Form you’ll get the same dreaded email from UCAS track. So read this advice closely for some support.

Firstly, don’t spiral; loads of successful people didn’t get straight A*s but they’re still worth millions today. The important thing is to not let it get you down too much. Instead, try to find a positive way to deal with the situation.

Secondly, there are still a bunch of options for you to explore. So take your time and think through all of them carefully. Once you’re ready you can try checking out sites like The Student Room to read about other people’s experiences and get some advice. A little word to the wise though: Don’t get panicked or pressured into making a decision that doesn’t feel right to you; sometimes it’s better to take time off and get it right, rather than settle for second best.

Who can I talk to about my A level results?

We’d recommend starting by having a very honest chat with your A level teachers and your careers officer. They’ll be in the best position to help you work out why you didn’t get the grades you wanted.

You can also call the National Results Helpline on 0800 100 900 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or 0808 100 8000 in Scotland ( in case you’re worried, calls are free from landlines). The helpline offers information and advice on your options, and problems with resits, UCAS, student finance and moving away from home etc.

What are my options if I got lower A level results than expected?

  • Appeal: It’s possible that the examiner made a mistake when marking your paper. If you think this is the case, you can always ask to appeal. For more advice, you can find out more about appealing A level grades in this article.
  • Resits: If you were ill, panicked in the exam, or just didn’t work hard enough, you might consider resitting your A level exams to improve your grades. Find out more about retaking A levels in this article.
  • Clearing: you got lower than expected grades or failed your A levels but want to go to uni that year, it’s possible. Especially if you wrote a killer personal statement. You’ll just have to find a similar course with lower entry requirements. This is known as the Clearing process. We’ll go into detail about this later on.
  • Alternative qualifications: There are tonnes of choices after A levels besides uni. For example, you can study for BTECs, or NVQs, or train with modern apprenticeships or City and Guilds. It’s best to chat with someone at your local careers service beforehand though. What’s more, as well as being recognised by employers, some qualifications can count towards your points needed to get into university.
  • Gap year: Take some time out to work, travel, teach, learn a new language, or volunteer. If this piques your interest then more information can be found in our gap years, work and studying abroad section here.
  • Get a job: This’ll buy you some time (and maybe some extra clothes) while you decide on your next move. You may even look at it as your starting point for a career. Look through our getting a job section here for some more ideas.

I failed A levels but want to go to uni

If you failed your A levels but want to go to uni, don’t worry, you’re far from the first person to find themselves in this position. University clearing provides a way for universities to fill all their available spaces. We reckon that this is your best bet if you didn’t get the results you were hoping for. Finding a place through clearing with bad grades is pretty straightforward and you’re likely to get in somewhere. You can even check out the university website and take a virtual tour so you have a better idea of where you’re going. So no matter what your results were, if you wanna be there for freshers week you should give it a try. Check out our article ‘what is uni clearing’ to learn more. 

Another option is trying to get in touch with both your firm and insurance choice to see if they’ll still let you in without having met the grade requirements. But its worth bearing in mind that this is slightly dicier than going through clearing with bad grades.

What about in Scotland?

Most of the advice still applies to those in Scotland; especially with university applications, as you’ll still use the UCAS application service. However, if you’re looking for advice specific to your qualifications, you should visit the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) or call the National Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000.

Did you get lower A level results than expected? What did you do about it? Let us know on our discussion boards to get advice and support from The Mix’s community.

Next Steps

  • UCAS processes your university applications - from the very first form, right through to results day.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.


results day

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 10-Mar-2022