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A level results day 2020: what to do when things don’t go as planned

Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. The 2020 COVID 19 pandemic and the consequential lockdown has meant that this year’s A level results day is going to be pretty different from the other ones. However, there are plenty of proactive steps that you can take to make sure that you end up with the best possible outcome and maintain a positive mindset, even if things don’t quite go to plan.

This is a follow-up of our comprehensive guide to A level exams cancellations and how they will affect your grades written by one of our writers, Chloe. This article will explore your options in more depth and provides useful links to help you prepare for your 2020 A level results day.

This year, A level results day will happen on Thursday 13th August 2020.

In 2020, you are in an extremely unique position when facing A level results day. The cancellation of exams has completely changed the way your final grades will be decided. Instead of being based exclusively on your performance in final exams and coursework, they will be decided from the work you have done over the past academic year. Your teachers will take into account everything you have done from your mock exams to your classwork and schoolwork.

Whilst this is most likely NOT how you envisioned your final year of A levels to go, it’s important to remember that all is not lost. Understanding how your grades will be given can help you to work out what grades you think you’re likely to get. You can use this knowledge to help you prepare a plan of action for the big day… and being prepared will be the key to surviving A level results day 2020.


If you have made the decision to go to university after completing your A levels, you will end up with one of three possible outcomes.

  1. You achieved the grades required to get into your firm or insurance university and you are happy with this.
  2. You did not achieve the grades you needed to get into your firm or insurance university.
  3. You either got the grades required or higher to get into your firm university, but you want to try a different course/university to your original choices.

There are options and things you can do in every scenario so that, regardless of how your A level results went, you can still end the day with a secure university placement in 2020.


If you didn’t receive the grades required for your firm or insurance university, and your placement was not confirmed, you can use Clearing to find and apply to different university courses that have extra spaces. Clearing places are applied to through the UCAS website and your school/college should have an advisor on hand to help you through the process. Below are some useful links to help you understand Clearing:

UCAS – ‘What is Clearing?’ 

UCAS – ‘Clearing Plus’

WhatUni Clearing search facility


Adjustment is for when you’ve received the right grades or higher to get into your chosen university course, so you want to explore what other options might be available to you. In Adjustment, there is no vacancy list like there is for Clearing. Instead, you will have to check course details and contact the admissions offices at universities and colleges to discuss possible vacancies.

A word of warning: when speaking to admissions offices, make sure that confirm with them that you are only gathering information, to avoid mistakenly verbally agreeing to an offer before you’re sure you want it.

Adjustment is available to be used from A level results day 2020 (13/08/2020) until 1st September. Once you register for Adjustment in ‘Track’ you will only have 5 24 hour periods (including weekends) to use it.

Useful links:

UCAS – Adjustment

Careermap – ‘UCAS Adjustment, what you need to know’


Deferring your entry into a course means taking a year out, having secured a place for next year. In this case, that would mean successfully securing a place with the required A level results in 2020, but your start day is deferred by a year, to begin in 2021.

It’s important to note that not all courses allow deferred entry, so it is important that you check with the university/college that it would be possible for your chosen course.

Deferred entry has become a fairly popular option for the class of 2020 A level students, particularly for those whose universities have announced that classes will be online for the entire academic year. If you do decide that deferred entry is right for you, it is advised that you consider how your gap year plans will be productive and contribute to your studies in the following year as you may need to explain this to the university.

Useful links:

UCAS – Deferred entry

The Student Room – ‘How to defer entry to university’

Not going to university

University isn’t the right option for everyone. If you have decided against going to university, you have a wealth of options open to you now, from full-time employment to launching your own business. The world really is your oyster, which can be as overwhelming as it is exciting so here are just a few suggestions.


Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to start building your career whilst earning and gaining a qualification. They are a more flexible option to go for than university as apprenticeships are available to apply for year-round. There is also a huge variety of different types of apprenticeship you can go for, depending on what grades and pre-existing qualifications you have. So if you didn’t get the grades you needed for your first-choice apprenticeship, or even changed your mind about going to university, you can go straight into finding and applying for apprenticeships.

Visit our ultimate guide to apprenticeships to learn more.

Useful links:

GOV.UK – Find an apprenticeship

Degree apprenticeships vs university

How to apply for an apprenticeship 

Taking a gap year

Okay so travelling is still a grey area for many countries due to the 2020 pandemic, but gap years aren’t always focused on leaving the UK. This could also be a great opportunity to do some internships or work experience – all great ways to explore different career paths and build up your CV. The key to having a productive and meaningful gap year is planning ahead and setting goals. Think about what you want to experience during your year out and try to imagine yourself looking back to it a decade later – what do you want to achieve?

Useful links:

Advice on a gap year

Is a year out right for me?

9 basic skills to future-proof your career

Getting a job

‘Getting a job’ comes in many different shapes and forms. There are part-time jobs, full-time jobs, casual jobs, traineeships, temping.

Getting a job makes the entire effort of searching, applying and obtaining an opportunity sound so simple when the reality is, of course, far more complicated. The Fledglink app is designed to help you navigate the entire process of deciding on what type of job you want to do, finding and applying. Its job board consists of entry-level and school leaver jobs too so it is the ideal tool to use when trying to get a job. Below, you can find useful links that provide more information.

Useful links:

National Careers Service

How to find a job

Still not sure?

Not quite made up your mind about what your next steps are going to be yet? That’s okay too! There are some practical things you can do that can help you build your self-awareness and discover the best option for you.

  • Download the Fledglink app and complete the personality questionnaire. This questionnaire is designed to highlight your personality traits, skills and qualities and encourages you to analyse which jobs would suit you best.
  • Stay open to opportunities and utilise your network. The perfect job for you could be a job you don’t know exists yet! Even if you’re not actively looking for a job yet, having a quick browse every so often familiarises you with your options. Pay attention to which jobs really draw your attention and think critically about what attracts you.
  • Pursue your passions. Now is the time to really delve into what kind of work makes you feel happy and satisfied. This is the first time in your life where your time is your own and you can choose to spend it how you like. You are no longer restricted by the subjects you study at school. Consider paths less trodden – you could even become your own boss and start your business empire!

Useful links:

Alternative career paths: from temping to entrepreneurship

GOV.UK – ‘Set up a business’

CDI – Find a relevant career development professional

Caring for your mental health

Lastly, A level results day is a stressful experience at the best of times, and this year, with the effects of the 2020 COVID 19 pandemic being felt by everyone, it is vital that you care for your mental wellbeing. Maintaining a positive mindset will help you to get through results day, and able to cope if things don’t quite go to plan.

There are a number of techniques you can use to remain calm and mindful.

1. ‘Riding the wave’

‘Riding the wave’ is a metaphor for understanding different emotions and accepting for what they are – momentary waves that will eventually pass. When you are feeling a negative or unpleasant emotion, acknowledge what you are feeling, remind yourself that it is only temporary and focus on what helps you to cope. This video explains the concept in greater depth.

2. Stay active

The simplest way to improve your mood and get rid of some of that anxious energy is to do some exercise! There are plenty of youtube workouts to try to suit all abilities. Getting sweaty not your cup of tea? Try something calming like yoga or tai chi instead.

3. Talk to other people

A problem shared is a problem halved after all! Don’t keep your worries to yourself. Talk to your friends and family about your concerns. Even if it’s your pet goldfish, it can be extremely cathartic to speak out loud whats on your mind.

Useful links:

Results day stress and mental health

How to boost your confidence

Mental health crisis services



A level results day 2020 will certainly be a day you’ll remember. But no matter what happens, you still hold the power to take action and own your future by staying calm and prepared to take the right steps for yourself.

For individual support from UCAS call the most appropriate number below with UCAS Personal ID number to hand:

Undergraduate support 0371 468 0 468

Conservatoire support 0371 468 0 470

Teacher training support 0371 468 0 469

The National Careers Service are running an Exam Results Helpline in August, to support 16 to 18-year olds who are receiving GCSE, A-Level and/or technical education exam results. Call 0800 100 900 between 8am and 10pm to speak to a professionally qualified careers adviser for advice.

Read more here

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