A Level results day is always a day of mixed emotions, for staff and students. Covid -19 means that 2020’s will be a results day like no other!  Students, parents, carers and, yes, teachers may well be even more confused and stressed because they are venturing into uncharted territory.  Find out more about what to expect on 13th August – and beyond.

Your aim is to support each student whether they have done better than expected or not as well as they hoped.  Universities have indicated that they will be “flexible” about grades: let’s see how that works in practice…

Top tips for teachers and tutors

  1. Know your stuff. You will be familiar with a lot of what’s going on, especially if you’re a veteran of several results days in the past.
  2. If you’re new or unsure how the pandemic has affected key issues, be ready to find out. UCAS runs the results and admissions system so its website is the best source of information.
  3. Don’t panic! And don’t let your students panic. You will all need to think clearly: there may be difficult decisions ahead, often with limited timescales.

Most importantly, look after yourself. It’s always a long day. Make sure you eat, drink and can unwind afterwards.


Be ready for results

Encourage students to get to school/college early. They need to bring, or have access to, all their UCAS information: ID, password, personal statement, etc. And a charged-up mobile phone!


On the day

Universities receive the results in advance so UCAS can update each candidate’s Track system by 8am on 13th August. So students may know whether they have a uni place, even if they haven’t yet received their grades. Some may be puzzled by what’s on Track and how this relates to their results. Help them strike the balance between acting quickly and not missing out, while taking time to make the right decision.

Whatever they’ve achieved they might still be unsure what to do next. Here are some responses to common situations:


Q I’ve got my results, my place has been confirmed, what now?

A Congratulate yourself – and wait. The uni will be in touch about next steps. Enjoy what’s left of the summer!


Q My results meet the conditions of my offer, but Track doesn’t show my confirmed place

A Be patient! Keep checking Track. Sometimes there is a delay before universities pass data to UCAS. If you’ve not heard anything after two hours, phone them (although they will be busy!)


Q I missed the grades I needed, but I’ve still been offered a place on the course I applied for

A Congratulations! The uni is prepared to take you, even with slightly lower grades.


Q I’ve been offered a place but I’ve changed my mind

A If you’re absolutely certain that you don’t want this, you can decline your firm place. Think carefully: once you hit “Decline” there’s no going back. If you want to look for another uni place, you can use Clearing. You can also contact your insurance course and ask them to accept you, but be quick, otherwise your place may go to someone else.


Q I didn’t get the results I needed. The uni has offered me a place that’s different from what I originally applied for.

A This is a changed course offer. They might offer you a different subject, start date or entry point (such as a foundation year). You have a few days to decide whether to accept. If you decline, you could still use Clearing.


Q My grades are much better than I expected. What are my options?

A Well done! You can accept your first choice offer, knowing that you are well-qualified for this. Or you can see whether those high grades could get you onto a different course using Adjustment. This keeps your confirmed place safe, while you research alternatives and contact university admissions staff. Once you start Adjustment, you have five days to decide whether to “trade up” or stick with your original place.


Q My Track says I’m in Clearing. What does this mean?

A You’ve not been accepted onto a course, so you are free to look for an unfilled place, using Clearing to search and apply. Clearing Plus is a new service for 2020 – pairing up students with potentially appropriate vacancies.  Just press the “View Matches” button on Track, remembering that you don’t need to accept these.


How does Clearing work?

Each year there are thousands of places available. Students can search any uni or subject, not just those on their original UCAS application. Once they have found a suitable course(s) they should phone the uni’s Clearing line (which will be red hot). Students may have a mini interview over the phone, so they must be clear why they are applying for that option.


5 tips to get through Clearing

  • Use UCAS’s list of Clearing places. Unlike information in newspapers, this is updated throughout the day (although not in real time).
  • Places can go extremely quickly but new vacancies can be added too.
  • Original UCAS personal statements can’t be changed. A student applying for a course that is very different from their original choice could send a revised statement.
  • Students may verbally accept multiple offers but can only enter a single choice onto Track.
  • Clearing gives students a few days to reply to an offer. Normally students use this time to visit the university. This year, a virtual tour may be their only option.

Tip: suggest that they check on accommodation availability too.


Where can students get extra help?

UCAS is running a helpline (0371 468 0 468) this year, although staff are working remotely.  Emails assisting with choices will also be sent to students.  In addition, UCAS is delivering several live events on Facebook, on 12th and 13th August.

The National Careers Service helpline is another option: 0800 100 900, daily from 8am to 10pm, starting on 13th August into the following week.


Reviews, appeals and resits

Students will be able to appeal if they think that there have been mistakes or inconsistencies in their results, but different protocols apply in each UK nation.  Autumn resits in conventional exam format are available in all A level subjects in England, but not via the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland exam boards.

You will be asked “If I get better grades on the resit, can I switch to another course/uni?”  Yes – but, given that they will have missed an entire term, this may not happen until September 2021, unless they are changing to a very similar programme.  A move might involve an internal transfer, a shift to year 2 of another course or starting again from scratch – both the latter usually via UCAS.


Alternatives to university

Students without a uni place will need support in deciding what to do next, especially as they may initially think that they have no alternatives. Possibilities to consider include:

  • Re-applying for entry in 2021. They can start on their application straightaway and submit it to UCAS from 8th September. Currently, the received wisdom is NOT to defer, because this could well create a logjam for places next year, particularly on popular courses. However, the final decision depends on individual circumstances.
  • Finding employment – maybe relevant to their uni and/or career choice or just to earn some money. It is likely that jobs will be harder to come by this year, although this will vary between labour market sectors and in different geographical regions.
  • Looking at alternatives such as School Leaver Schemes and Apprenticeships. They involve training towards a qualification, possibly a degree. All the signs are that there will be fewer opportunities of this kind.  However, some career areas are more buoyant and will still be recruiting. Signpost your students to https://www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship. Careers consultant Alan Bullock is also currently providing a weekly overview of Higher and Degree Apprenticeships in England on https://alanbullockcareers.com/blog/
  • Volunteering in a field relating to their personal interests and/or their potential degree course: they can still claim benefits if they are available for any paid work that might arise.
  • Taking another Level 3 course at an FE college: for many subjects, this will be free under new government regulations.

Reassure your students that not everyone goes straight from school to university. Taking time out can help them decide whether and why they want to undertake higher education. Working or travelling (once this becomes more straightforward) can reveal new opportunities and give a different perspective on life.



Whatever your students decide, there may be challenges ahead.  However, most HE providers are working on a mixture of online and face-to-face teaching and doing their utmost to ensure that, while the 2020 fresher experience might be different this year, it will still be positive.



Gill Sharp is an experienced careers writer and careers adviser, working mainly in higher education. She updated this article written by Susanne Christian in 2019.