A-Level & GCSE Results Day 2020 - key questions answered

As hundreds of thousands of students open their A-Level and GCSE results across the country this month, many will find that they won’t quite have reached their expected grades.

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The country’s examinations authority, Ofqual, had initially used an algorithm to decide this year’s exam results, as lockdown restrictions have meant that final exams were not taken.

However, after this method caused nearly 40% of results to be downgraded, the government has allowed students to use their Centre Assessed Grades instead, if these are higher than the results presented by the exam boards.

Centre Assessed Grades will have been sent through by schools, and consisted of predicted grades as well as a ranking of students by achievement in each subject. Other factors would then be taken into account by exam boards using Ofqual’s model, such as prior results from the same school.

Whether or not you’re satisfied with your results, you’ll undoubtedly be thinking about what course of action to take next - below are a few pointers and answers to some of the pressing questions you might have.

What can I do if I don’t get the grades I was expecting?

1) Make an appeal

An initial response could be to lodge an appeal, although it would have to be on the basis that you believe an error was made in the submitting of your Centre Assessed Grades. Formal appeals have to be carried out through your school, so you should contact them as soon as possible if you think there are grounds for this, as it would also affect the rest of your cohort. You should also bear in mind that the appeals process outlined here is corrected as of August 14, according to Ofqual's guidelines,

In addition, if you believe that your school has been biased and discriminatory in the way in which grades have been awarded, you can individually make a complaint under what Ofqual describes as ‘malpractice’. This can be done by contacting the exam board which covers the specific subject - you should check their websites for more information, whether it’s AQA, OCR or Pearson. If you have evidence of discrimination in the grades assigned that your school has been unable to explain, a complaint could then lead to an investigation.

2) Re-sit your exams

The opportunity to sit an exam will be made available to students who missed out on taking them at the end of the last academic year. A round of A-Level exams will take place in the autumn. 

This won’t put you at risk of lowering your grade, as you’ll be allowed to use the highest of the grades you’ve attained. This series will run from October, while GCSE English and Maths exams could be split between November and early 2021 in the case of larger centres.

3) Use your mock exam grade

The government has also announced that students will be able to use a grade from their mock exams, should that be higher than their results.

You can make an appeal on this basis, which is intended to act as a safety net so as to not penalise disadvantaged students. The mock exam will have had to be held under conditions set out by Ofqual, and approved by your school.

4) Speak to your university of apprenticeship employer

Universities will be expected to take into account the unique circumstances of this year’s results when assigning their places, especially as appeals are expected. As a result, it would be a good idea to get into contact with them if you are lodging an appeal. If you are expecting to carry out an apprenticeship, you could also contact the employer regarding your situation. 

5) Go through Clearing

Alternatively, if you haven’t reached the conditions you needed for your university choices you could go through Clearing - this is the process by which institutions fill up the places left on their courses. 

You’ll find a list of vacancies on UCAS, with a new feature this year allowing you to see a list of which courses are the best matches for you. This feature allows you to show interest in a course without needing to get a verbal offer over the phone from the university beforehand. However, if you’d like to apply for other courses, you should go through the regular Clearing process, which you can find out about in our article detailing the steps you need to take.

Where can I find apprenticeship opportunities?

If you’d like to continue learning by combining training and working towards a qualification with a full-time paid job, you could consider applying for an apprenticeship. 

There are four levels of apprenticeship: Intermediate, Advanced, Higher and Degree Apprenticeships. When you have achieved your GCSEs you can apply for an Intermediate or Advanced Apprenticeship, while Higher and Degree Apprenticeships can be applied for when you have achieved your A-Levels.

For the latest opportunities in a wide range of sectors, you can check out our jobs page to find the apprenticeship that best suits you!

Taking a gap year - what are my options?

Although you’ll be able to take a gap year just as many from past cohorts have, you should bear in mind that your travel opportunities will invariably be limited as a result of travel restrictions. The UK government is constantly monitoring Covid-19 outbreaks in other countries and accordingly adapting policies regarding international travel, so the situation is particularly volatile and travelling for the time being could leave you unexpectedly stranded abroad or needing to quarantine on your return. 

For instance, although in July 2020 travel restrictions to Spain were lifted and arrivals were exempt from self-isolation, this situation had changed by August 2020 as a result of an outbreak in Catalonia. As such, it’s probably best to stay in the UK if you’re planning to take a gap year after getting your results.

Even if you’re not travelling abroad, there’s still plenty of ways you can make the most of a gap year by staying in the country. Opportunities for volunteering in the UK are aplenty, as there are a range of charities looking to take on people. This includes helping refugees or the homeless, skills-based volunteering, or joining the NHS’ program to reach out to vulnerable and isolated people and delivering necessities to those who are in lockdown. These are all highly rewarding experiences and will undoubtedly look good on your CV.

Alternatively, you could use the gap year to further your knowledge by signing up to various online courses that develop technical skills. For example, you could use the time to learn a foreign language, or join a course that focuses on IT skills.

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