Education & Family

A-level results 2016 - ask the experts

Alex Neill and Tom Image copyright Which? National Careers service
Image caption Alex Neill of Which? and Tom Laws of the National Careers Service answer your questions

While some young people celebrate their A-level results, others will have very different emotions after not receiving the results they were expecting.

Marginally missing the grades needed, or even getting much better results than expected, can throw everything into turmoil.

With only a few days to secure a university place or take an alternative path, good advice is crucial.

Experts Alex Neill of Which? University and Tom Laws of the National Careers Service are on hand to offer personalised advice.


My daughter received her AS results this morning which were disappointing. She got Bs in the two subjects she sat, with her other two subjects coming under the new rules where she simply takes her A-levels in those subjects next year.

She is predicted an A* in English A-level but wonders what the impact of the AS B grades will have. She was hoping to study English at Durham. Her father wants her to resit the year, change schools or just give up which is totally over the top. Any advice would be most welcome.


Hi Amanda,

Firstly, congratulations to your daughter on what is a good set of AS results. With promising grades like these I certainly wouldn't suggest she gives up either!

The entry requirements for Durham University's English Literature BA course are certainly competitive: A*AA at A-level for 2017.

If she has her heart set on going there, I'd suggest she sits down to discuss the year ahead and the work she'll need to put in with her subject tutors, as well as having an informal chat on the phone with an admissions tutor if possible.

Remember she has five options to apply for on her Ucas form, so researching some alternative unis and heading to a few open days will be worth doing to keep her options open. All the best in the year to come!


Hi Amanda,

The the most important thing at the moment is to see how your daughter feels - after all, she is going to be the one doing the hard work.

Resitting the AS year is the most likely way of increasing her grade. She could certainly look at changing to a different school if she feels the quality of teaching or environment is the reason for her grades, but the downside would be having to adjust to new surroundings which could affect her studies.

Durham University will look at her AS grades when considering any application but if her teachers have predicted that she can get the right grades then there's no real reason why she would not be able to achieve them.

You and your daughter could discuss her options with a National Careers Service adviser on 0800 100 900 or the Exams Results Helpline on 0800 100 8000.

Good luck!


I've been on the phone most of the morning trying to appeal one of my grades because it's just on the border of me getting a A and I need it to get into my university.

We've been told the appeals process has changed this year, so wondering whether it'll all be done in time so I can actually go to uni in September? I don't want to have to wait another year as fees may go up again. Is there a time they must give re-marks back by?

Tom, Manchester

Hi Tom,

Great to hear you're already on the ball with getting in touch with the examining body to appeal your mark, speed is certainly of the essence! This will almost definitely be resolved before your September starting date but the sooner you act the better.

The deadline for re-mark enquiries is Friday 26 August for results which affect university places. The examining body appeals department is staffed by people who understand how important it is for you to get an answer as quickly as possible, so expect things to move fast.

If you haven't already spoken to your university, get in touch to explain the situation. They may accept you on to your chosen course with the grades you have; if not, they will at least be aware that you are very much still interested in taking your place.

It's worth remembering that this is certainly not the first time the university will have dealt with situations just like yours and they understand that it takes a while to get re-marks organised.

I hope this helps.


Hi Tom,

Sorry to hear you've been having a frustrating time of it today. If you're at school or college, your first port of call when it comes to appealing a grade needs to be with them. Students can't make enquiries directly with examining boards; your school needs to do this on your behalf.

As your university place depends on the outcome of this result, you'll be able to use the rapid appeals process (deadline next Friday). I'd also suggest speaking directly with your university if you've not done so already, as depending on the number of places they have available, they may be willing to accept you with your current grades or hold your place open for longer.

You're right that the appeals process has changed this year. New rules means that essentially marks will only be changed if an examiner has made an error in applying the marking scheme or adding up the marks, rather than on the basis of a difference in academic judgement. Which? has produced a step-by-step guide to the process.

Good luck,


I found out this morning that I got into my first choice! Just wondered when I had to apply for accommodation and healthcare etc? Is there a deadline? Everywhere seems to be giving different information.

Georgia, Essex

Hi Georgia,

Well done on getting into your chosen university. Now you definitely know where you're going, I'd suggest getting straight on with applying for accommodation if you haven't done so already, especially if you're hoping to stay in university halls of residence.

Not every university will have guaranteed space available for all first years (though some do) so places will be getting snapped up fast. Of course, there are plenty of other options, including privately-run halls and student housing, so check in with your university's accommodation office.

As for healthcare, registering with a local or on-campus GP should definitely be on your freshers' week to-do list. Have a great time!


I would like to ask where to find apprenticeships and internships. I just finished a gap year abroad after achieving three A-levels in maths, electronics and German. I am really interested in doing an apprenticeship in electronic engineering.

Everything at college was geared to university. I hear that companies want more women in engineering but where do we look? A lot of them ask for top grades and companies are missing out on a lot of potential. During my gap year I moved to Germany for six months to work in a law firm.

I really want to stay in England but I feel like I'm being pushed towards Germany as they focus on the many routes to finding a job.

Liberty, West Sussex

I'm sorry to hear you are finding it difficult to find apprenticeship and internship opportunities.

It is true that a lot of the companies offering higher and degree level apprenticeships are asking for applicants with high qualification grades, but the fact you have a variety of work experience should work well in your favour.

Many companies consider applications for those who might not have the specific grades indicated but instead have knowledge and experience which is directly linked to the apprenticeship role advertised.

It can be difficult to find higher level apprenticeship positions to apply for as the market is very competitive but a good starting point is the National Apprenticeships Service website.

Also try Not Going to Uni and Tomorrow's Engineers which offers apprenticeship opportunities in a range of technology and engineering fields.

If you are struggling, call the National Apprenticeship Helpdesk on 0800 150400 or the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900 to discuss the best ways to search for apprenticeship places. You will hopefully get some advice on apprenticeships similar to the advice you were able to get about universities while at college.

I hope this helps and good luck!


Image copyright PA
Image caption Results envelopes can bring surprises

Would a university accept you on a different subject during clearing than the one you were originally hoping to do when you wrote your Ucas form?


Hi Matt,

Yes, it's certainly possible to opt for a different subject when you're applying for a course in clearing. In fact, when Which? surveyed students who went through clearing last year, about a fifth told us they had done just that.

Think carefully about your choice though. Remember you've probably spent time researching your original subject area, so we wouldn't suggest venturing too far from that area of study. A joint honours degree could be worth considering.

When speaking to a university, you'll need to be prepared to explain why you're committed to the course and subject they're offering and that you're clear on the specifics of what you'll be doing. All the best in your search.


Hi Matt,

You are able to apply through clearing for any subject which has a vacancy, even if it is different from your original choice. It's always worth speaking with the university first to make sure they will consider you for this course however, as they will still be looking at your grades and what subjects you have studied.

It's a good idea to think about what new subject you are choosing and why, as it's easy to rush headlong into something that might not be best suited to you. If in doubt, speak to your teachers, parents or one of the careers advisers at the National Careers Service.


My daughter has the grades she needs to get into her university of choice to study marketing. Most of her friends are going on a gap year and now she has her grades and is feeling confident, she also wants to go abroad and spend time gaining work experience.

What does she need to do, is it even allowed and who should she contact - Ucas or the university?

Kat, Bolton

Firstly, congratulations to your daughter on a great set of results.

You don't mention whether the university place she is currently holding is for deferred entry already, but it sounds like that's not the case. If not, she needs to speak to her university as soon as possible to see if they would be happy for her to defer her confirmed place for 12 months so she can pursue her gap year.

Most universities will be accommodating to a change of plan, particularly if she has good results and is intending to make good use of her year obtaining relevant work experience.

The university will then need to reflect this change on Ucas, which of course will then potentially free up that place for someone else to start this year. Best of luck!


My daughter did poorly in her AS results, getting a C and two Es.

It is realistic to hope that she will recover in one year to get Cs?


Hi Claire,

It can certainly be realistic for your daughter to gain her C grades this time next year. A lot of students will have received grades which may be lower than expected at AS and still go on to achieve fantastic results in their A2 exams.

Many students find the change from GCSE to A-level difficult. Ask your daughter how she feels about the results. If she was expecting better grades, is there a particular reason why she thinks the marks are lower? Does the way she has been learning suit her skills or has she been struggling?

The options open to your daughter are to continue to her second year and take the A-level exams, consider resits, or think about re-marks if she feels there has been a mistake.

It's best to discuss the last two options with her teachers as soon as possible. The deadline for re-mark requests is 20 September.

It may also be that your daughter isn't enjoying the environment she is in and this is affecting her studies. It may be worth looking at different qualifications types as well, as there might be something much more suited to your daughter's strengths available through college courses or apprenticeships.

You can call National Careers Service yourself on 0800 100 900 from 08:00 to 22:00 BST for the latest information.

Good luck to you both!


Hi Claire,

I think there's every chance your daughter can bring her grades up but she'll need to commit to hard work next year.

I would recommend she sits down with her subject tutors to talk over her unit marks so she can identify the areas in which she did well and where there's room for improvement.

You don't mention which subjects she's studying specifically, but changes to the structure of AS and A-levels means that the two qualifications are essentially now decoupled for many subjects including English, the sciences, history and art - meaning it's all to play for in her end-of-year A-level exams in Year 13 in any case. We've summarised these changes on the Which? University website.

Best of luck to your daughter for the year ahead.


My granddaughter has gained 2 Cs, a D and an E, in her AS subjects but unfortunately the E is in business studies which is what she wants to do at university. What chance will she have of getting an offer from a good university?

Susan, Lincolnshire

Hi Susan,

Your granddaughter is lucky to have you so interested in helping her achieve her goals.

The first thing to consider is what makes a good university. For every student, this means a slightly different thing. For example, someone might get the grades to successfully apply for Oxford or Cambridge but the environment there may be completely unsuitable for them and they could struggle. However, a "lower standard" university might allow them to flourish and achieve things they never would have been able to elsewhere.

Business studies is a very varied university subject and so a student might not necessarily need a specific business studies qualification to be accepted for a course. The Ucas website lists the entry requirements for all courses at every UK university.

Also, universities will make offers based on predicted grades and these grades are produced by your granddaughter's teachers. If they feel her AS levels haven't fulfilled her potential, the chances are that her predicted A-level grades will still allow her to apply to many different universities.


Hi Susan,

Well done to your granddaughter but commiserations if she is feeling disappointed with her business studies result. It will not count towards her final A-level result next year but it is likely to influence the predicted gradess. So she needs to set her sights realistically on universities and courses that play to her strengths.

She should speak to her teachers about the year ahead. Something worth mentioning is that many business studies degrees don't require you to have business studies A-level.

So perhaps she should consider pursuing the subjects she scored better in to keep her options broad. Either way, she certainly shouldn't lose hope of a place at university this time next year,

Wishing her well for the year ahead,


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