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Know Your Options Before Results Day: A Level

Posted by: Jo Carter - 16 May 2018 - MPW Group - Read time: 5 mintues

A level results are released each August. For some, the day will be a celebration of achievement of hard work having paid off. Unfortunately other students might be disappointed by their performance in the exams and may need some help in deciding what to do next. This article explores various scenarios, and their outcomes, to assist you in planning for Results Day.

Students who have applied to university through UCAS will find that the system automatically updates on the morning of Results Day, so logging into Track will indicate whether a student has won a place at their first or insurance choice institution. There are three possible scenarios for a student awaiting a university place:

  • Meeting university entry requirements
  • Exceeding university entry requirements
  • Underperforming (therefore not winning a place at a first or insurance university)

Meeting university entry requirements

If a student has achieved the grades required to meet their first choice university offer, their place will be confirmed on UCAS Track. Students logging into UCAS on Results Day will see this reflected on their account and do not need to do anything other than enjoy a well-earned celebration.

If a student has matched their insurance offer but not their first choice, again UCAS will reflect this. Their place at their first choice will be lost but enrolment at the insurance institution will be confirmed.

Exceeding university entry requirements

Students who have exceeded their first choice university offer by one grade or more will have the option to ‘trade up’ through the UCAS Adjustment service. A place remains confirmed at the first choice university giving students and their families time to research alternative institutions and courses before deciding what to do. A student can choose to remain at their original first choice institution or to accept a place at a different university.


Some students will be disappointed by their results and will not have met the grade requirements for their first or insurance choice universities. Many of these students will opt to find a place at an alternative university through Clearing. This option best suits students who have narrowly missed an offer and are one or perhaps two grades short of expectations.

Option 1: UCAS Clearing

On Results Day, UCAS will publish a list of universities with vacancies online. Students will be able to search these courses and can then apply by telephoning the university in question and speaking to an admissions tutor.

Option 2: Retakes

Many students who underperform choose to retake and there are a number of courses available to help with this.

For students who are reasonably close to their predicted grades or who are not retaking a number of subjects, a short course is likely to suffice. The most straightforward of these begins in January and runs until the exams in June.

MPW offer two additional short courses which are split to ensure that students receive support with their UCAS re-application. Students taking split retakes will join in September, start their course and submit their UCAS application in consultation with their Director of Studies. They will then have a short ‘gap year’ during which they may pursue their own interests before returning for the second half of their course in Spring/Summer.

Alternatively, MPW offer one-year self-contained A level courses which will suit students who have a number of retakes or who would prefer to take up a new subject entirely. The first half of the syllabus is taught from September-January and the second from January-June, preparing students for all exams in the summer. Students on this course will also have their UCAS application supervised by a Director of Studies.

The first step for all students is to seek advice from an expert, who can explain the options in more detail and counsel students on the most appropriate routes for them. MPW will be open during the summer vacation, with senior academic staff including the Principal and Vice Principals available to provide academic consultations.

Students who feel they may have underperformed are encouraged to visit in advance of Results Day for a no-obligation discussion of the possible alternatives. Having a contingency plan can help to ease nerves ahead of results day and no commitment is necessary. MPW will also be open on Results Day and afterwards to provide help and advice regarding university entry and retake courses.

For more information regarding results and your options, do not hesitate to contact your preferred college.

When is the best time to retake A levels?

A level retakes can now only be taken in June of the year following Results Day. January retakes were abolished in 2013. Depending on how many units you are re-taking you can decide on what would be a suitable period of revision for you. Some may begin revising at Easter or can take a retake course from January to June. MPW offers four different options for short retake courses and a full year course for those students who have fallen substantially short of their target grades.

Where can you sit A level retakes?

MPW offers A level retakes at all three of our sites; London, Cambridge and Birmingham. Across all of our sites you have the option of short retake courses, a full year course or even a two year course.

The majority of A level students at MPW are studying on two year A level courses. These are designed predominantly for students who are continuing after GCSE, students from other schools seeking a specialist A level college and Year 13 transfer students.

The one year course may be of interest to those who are improving upon previous A level results or who want to commit to academic success in new additional subjects.

For those who only just missed out on the grades they needed for their university course of choice, a short retake course is likely to be the best course of action. For this we offer four different options with start dates in either September or January.

For more information regarding UCAS and retake options, please do not hesitate to contact your preferred college.

Find out more about the retake courses available at MPW: