top of page

I didn't get the exam results I need – what do I do now?

Updated: Jan 28

What to do if you didn't get the exam results you needed

What should you do if you didn't achieve the exam results needed to get in the university of your choice? What should you do if you didn’t get the entry grades required?


a disappointed student flopped in a chair

You may have read in the news or social media that students have been warned they may be disappointed as examiners have cracked down with harsher grading on exam results which went through a phase in the past few years during and post-COVID-19 of displaying high predicted grades by teachers when exams were cancelled.

Experts from the fair access and participation in higher education have predicted that students may not receive the grades they were expecting and that they should be prepared to consider their options and potentially choose another path.

So what should you do if you didn't get the exam results you needed to get into the University of your choice?

Navigating Post-Exam Disappointment

Take a breath! Don’t over-react the moment you receive the results.

Call your parents, friends or a logical support system available to you, and talk it out.

Get your emotions out first, acknowledge your initial disappointment, then shift gears and work through the many options that remain available to you, as listed below.

Understanding Your Options After Disappointing Results

UCAS Clearing: A Second Chance for Your University Path

Clearing” is the support system that helps students get a second chance to pursue their university path.

It is a well-oiled process that has been perfected over the years and, following a chat with the staff, you can choose to follow another course, university, and/or location that helps you remain on track with your goals.

Thousands of students have been in this position over the years, and have redirected and gone on to succeed in another direction. It pays to be prepared and explore options online first before calling the UCAS application officers, then you’ll have an efficient conversation which will yield rapid results and get you on your way.

Check out UCAS to find available vacancies for courses that you may be interested in, and research the syllabuses to see if they would be a good match.

Go back to your original notes to remind yourself of the other courses you had previously looked at to see if any of those alternative courses would still interest you.

Note down the Uni, course code and title, as well as your Student ID code before you call UCAS to have an efficient conversation and not waste time. Vacant places will keep changing so check regularly and be open-minded out the outcome.

Retaking Exams: Is it the Right Move for You?

If you really really want to go to THAT first university of choice and follow THAT course, you may wish to go back to the drawing board and retake your IB subject or A Level exam and work even harder for a better grade to make the cut.

Speak to your university counsellor or teacher at school first to see how retakes work in your area, or contact professionals such as The Independent Education Consultants who can advise on next steps and the best path for you to take.

Reflect well on this before you make the decision. It may mean retaking the whole last year of studies to then retake one exam next year, or you can independently study and register at a local exam centre to retake at the earliest opportunity.

The Risk and Reward of Appealing Your Results

In the heat of the moment after receiving your results, you may go through a myriad of emotions; disappointment, anger, fear and indignation. How DARE the examiners not realise you worked really hard and needed 2 A*’s and a B?

Appealing your results is a risky option, as insisting on the exam being regraded could possibly lead to a downgrade rather than an upgrade. The second result will be the one that counts, so you need to be absolutely sure you want to take that chance.

Ask your teacher or school counsellor for advice on how to proceed.

Taking a Gap Year: Pros and Cons for Future Success

What about taking a gap year if you don’t get into the Uni of choice this time, or you want to take some time out and potentially take a different course of action?

Whatever you decide, and whatever your reasons are for taking a gap year – exhaustion or fed up with studying, adventure-seeking, philanthropic, or you just need to take a beat – use the time wisely as it will appear on your CV and you need to be able to defend it!

In my professional world, I have always asked interviewees to explain the gaps on their CV or breaks between jobs. Their answers either convince me of their motivation and ambitions, their work ethic, and whether they spend their time wisely. They either impress or disappoint me! So set yourself up for future success.

Choose activities that will stimulate you, help you, help others, or push you to try something that you may never get another chance to do again. Such activities could be: backpacking and working in Australia or South America; working with children – au pair, special needs assistant, camp counsellor or teaching assistant.

And why not learn Spanish or Portuguese while you’re there?

Expanding Skills through Online Learning Opportunities

There are so many courses available online that would look good on your CV and stimulate your learning experience – Advanced Word, Excel, PowerPoint are all helpful for office jobs, or why not learn web design and help entrepreneurs develop their websites?

Apprenticeship or Internship: Exploring Alternatives

Getting an apprenticeship or internship with a company is a great opportunity to forge a career with them or a similar firm and you may end up choosing a professional path over higher education.

Whatever you choose, learn from it and give yourself an end date to make a decision on your future path, to avoid procrastinating and get on track with your future studies or career path.

College or Technical Diploma: Diverse Career Paths

University isn’t the be-all and end-all. You could pursue a vocational diploma or undertake technical training in a niche area that may even lead to a lucrative career path. Online courses, such as Open University also provide a huge range of accredited degrees and diplomas.

Keep your options open.

Obviously the greatest outcome is that you get the exam results you wanted, and off to University you go.

If you do, don’t forget to subscribe to our Members Resources and download all the checklists you will need to pack and prepare efficiently for your departure. We have lists you just won’t have thought of!

Like driving, you need to anticipate and shift gears quickly. Get ahead! Don’t wait for the exam results – you have a few days to plan your contingency so start NOW.


All rights reserved

Recent Posts

See All


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page