If you are a year 13 student in the UK right now, you will be aware of the cancellation of A level exams as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. In this time of confusion you may be wondering, what does this mean for me? Here is a comprehensive guide to what you need to know regarding your final grades, your opportunities to improve these, and your UCAS options.
How are my grades going to be decided?
First of all, try not to worry! You are still going to be given A level exam grades, and these will be just as legitimate as normal grades achieved through exams – you will not be at any disadvantage when seeking higher education or employment!
Your teachers will use all evidence available to them to determine the grades of you and your peers as fairly as possible. This can include classwork, homework, mock examinations and coursework, amongst other things such as work ethic, but their personal opinions regarding their students will not be a factor. So don’t worry about that one teacher who played favourites, or who maybe wasn’t your biggest fan – your ability and hard work will be the things taken into consideration. As for the news that you will be ranked within grades, again this comes down to evidence-based assessment, not who your teacher likes the most!
Whilst this is far from an ideal situation, rest assured that everything will be done to make the process as fair as it can possibly be. It will all work out in the end!
What if I am unhappy with my grades?
If you are concerned now that maybe you haven’t worked quite hard enough, or you were relying on cramming for your A level exams, do not panic. This situation was unpredictable and blaming yourself for your past actions will only make things worse – instead, take some time to familiarise yourself with the options you can consider if your grades are not what you hoped for.
First of all, Ofqual has confirmed that there will be an opportunity to sit your A level exams at a later date. There are exam sittings provisionally marked in for, according to Ofqual, the “earliest reasonable opportunity” in the Autumn term. Otherwise you could sit your exams in Summer next year. Keep an eye on the Ofqual website for further information on these exam sittings if this option appeals to you.
But if your revision materials have been gathering dust for the past three months and the prospect of sitting your A level exams is now terrifying, there will also be an appeals process put in place for students unhappy with their final grades. However, this won’t be like remarking exams in other years – it will likely just mean your centre-assessed grade will be checked again based on the academic evidence that was used to calculate it, in order to determine that results are as fair and as accurate as possible. Therefore it is worth pursuing this option if you think, based on evidence, that you deserved a better grade.
How will this affect my university offer?
As mentioned before, your calculated grades will be just as legitimate as the grades you would have gotten from actually sitting your A level exams. This means that they will still be recognised by universities.
So, if your calculated grades meet the conditions of your firm or insurance choice, you’re in! You will still find this information out on results day as you would have done under normal circumstances. Your first year of university will undoubtedly be different to what you expected, but you made it nonetheless. Congratulations!
If, however, you do not meet the conditions of your firm or insurance choices, Clearing will be taking place as usual. Consider contacting a university directly if you just fall short of their standard offer – given the current situation, they may well be more lenient with their entry requirements this year. According to UCAS, Clearing will open on the 6th July, when you will be able to view available courses and use the service if you are not holding any other university offers. However, if you are an offer holder already, you won’t be able to release yourself into the service until results day in August without declining your offers.
On the other hand, if your grades are better than you expected, you can also use Adjustment just as you would have in normal circumstances. Lesser spoken about than Clearing, Adjustment allows students who have exceeded the offer conditions of their firm choice university to look for an alternative course. This service is optional, but provides you with a good opportunity to have a look and see what other opportunities are now open to you. Don’t worry – if you have a look but don’t find a different course you want to study, you will still hold your offer from your firm choice university.
If this doesn’t suit you, there is always the opportunity to reapply for university again next year. This may be a suitable option if you really need a break, fancy an impromptu gap year, or are having second thoughts on the degree you want to study. Of course, there will be greater competition next year as students from the year below will also be applying, but it’s a viable option to consider nonetheless.
After receiving your A level exam results, you may even make the decision that university isn’t for you after all, and that’s okay! There are so many more opportunities available to you now that go beyond a conventional university experience and that will open many doors for you. If you want to explore alternative options to university, the Fledglink app has multitudes of information regarding careers and apprenticeships. Have a look – you can build up your digital CV, and who knows, you may find the perfect career option for you!
What if I'm not going to university?
If you are not going into university and are instead taking a different route when you leave sixth form, such as employment or an apprenticeship, the cancellation of exams will affect you differently.
If you need certain grades to progress into your next stage, similar advice will apply in terms of dealing with the grades you receive. If you get the required grades, these will be honoured as regular qualifications, and so you should be able to maintain your original post-18 plans.
If, however, you do not meet your grade requirements, you may want to look into alternative options. As mentioned before, options such as sitting your exams at a later date or appealing your results are available for students unhappy with their grades. Additionally, you may want to contact your new employer or training provider – they may be able to advise you on your next steps. They may also be able to help in ways such as being lenient with the grades they expect from you, or postponing your start date so that you can sit the autumn exam series. Different places and providers will vary on their approach to this, so it would be wise to contact them directly with any queries or concerns you may have.
Apprenticeships, traineeships and employment can be very beneficial for working towards your future career. If this is an option you would like to explore, you can download the Fledglink app, where you can start to network and research current job opportunities. If you aren’t sure what area you would like to work in, you can also take Fledglink’s Personality Questionnaire on the app, or read this article about deciding what career you want.
When will I get my results?
Just as you would have if you had sat your A level exams in the usual way, you will receive your grades on the 13th of August. This allows for UCAS processes such as Adjustment and Clearing to go ahead as usual.
As mentioned before, you will still receive formal results, and you will receive them on a formal results day as a typical year 13 student in any other year. Celebrate your results however this is possible – you may not have sat your A level exams, but you still deserve your grades and should be proud of the work you put in.
Overall, try to remain calm and optimistic about the situation. It is of course frustrating and may have an influence on your post-18 plans, so you have every right to be upset or anxious about your results and your future.
But in the end, the situation is sadly out of your control. Whilst this is worrying, the best thing you can do is accept it for what it is, and make yourself aware of all the possible options that are now available to you. Approach it with a positive mindset – it may even make you consider possibilities you were not aware of before, such as attending a different university, or finding an impressive apprenticeship.
Remember the sentiments that you’ve probably heard so many times before – your grades do not define you or your intelligence, and rejection is just redirection. As cliché as it sounds, it really is true. Good luck!