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Student News

What will A Level results day 2020 be like?

It's safe to say: A Level results day 2020 will be like no other. Wondering what you can actually expect on the day? Here's everything we know so far...

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In a week of huge, short-notice announcements about A Level and SQA results, there's a lot of confusion among students in the UK.

After it was revealed that Higher results in Scotland had seen the pass rate for students from the most deprived backgrounds reduced by 15.2%, compared to a reduction of 6.9% for the most wealthy students, there was, unsurprisingly, a big outcry.

Saying, "I am sorry", Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney announced on 11th August that all downgraded SQA awards would be withdrawn, and students would receive the grades submitted by teachers and lecturers instead.

Despite hopes we might see the same change applied to A Level results, the government has announced a different change. But how helpful will it be, and what are your options moving forwards?

For more tips on how to prepare for A Level results day, check out our in-depth guide.

What to expect on A Level results day 2020

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A Level results day 2020 will be on 13th August – a day that seems to have taken a lifetime to arrive.

One of the biggest questions many students will be asking is what they can expect from their results.

When exams were cancelled and the grades were predicted by teachers instead, we knew that the marks would be moderated and adjusted across the country. What we didn't know, was how much by.

It was revealed by the Guardian earlier in August that 39% of A Level grades were expected to be downgraded from the predictions submitted by schools.

But, it's super important to keep in mind that if you don't get the results you're hoping for, it's really not the end of the world (we promise). You've got plenty of options for your next steps, as we'll explain below.

The 'triple lock' process


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Late in the evening on 11th August, it was reported that the 'triple lock' process will be introduced for students in England getting their A Level results.

This followed the news from earlier in the day that students in Scotland whose results had been downgraded would receive their teachers' predicted grades instead.

In Northern Ireland and Wales, there have not yet been any similar announced changes, but we'll be sure to update this article if there are. And, keep in mind that there are still plenty of options available to you if you're not happy with your results – see here.

A Level students can appeal to get mock exam results

Here's how the triple lock process works:

  1. On A Level results day, you'll receive the grades that have been moderated by exam boards.
  2. If you're unhappy with them, and you achieved higher grades in your mock exams, you can ask your school or college to send evidence of your mock result to the exam board. If the appeal's accepted, you would receive the mock result instead.
  3. As a third option, you will also be able to take your exams in autumn. If the grade is higher than both the moderated one and the one from your mocks, it can become your new grade.

If you're worried about the cost of taking exams in autumn, the good news is that you should hopefully be able to take them for free.

The government has introduced a support package to help schools with the costs of exams – in return they expect schools and colleges to pay the exam fees for students who were supposed to be taking exams in summer 2020.

Will the triple lock process help A Level students?

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Hopefully, the triple lock process will help you if you don't get the grades you had needed for uni, especially if you were happy with your mock results.

The government argues that it will act as a "safety net" for A Level students.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

Every young person waiting for their results wants to know they have been treated fairly. By ensuring students have the safety net of their mock results, as well as the chance of sitting autumn exams, we are creating a triple lock process to ensure confidence and fairness in the system.

No one wanted to cancel exams – they are the best form of assessment, but the disruption caused by COVID-19 meant they were not possible.
This triple lock system will help provide reassurance to students and ensure they are able to progress with the next stage of their lives.

However, we must admit that we had hoped for much bigger changes, more similar to those made in Scotland which saw 76,000 pupils' grades reversed.

Other student organisations have also expressed concerns with the triple lock process. NUS National President, Larissa Kennedy, said:

We called this week for the UK Government to ensure any exam resits were free to the student, and we welcome confirmation that this will be the case.

However, the rest of the triple lock approach is wrong. The use of mock exams results risks making a mockery of the whole system, given the lack of a standard approach to mock exams and the fact they are not taken by all candidates. This is a botched attempt at a solution which does not fix the problem created by the classist, racist moderation system, that students' results will be based on where they live, not a true reflection of their own abilities.

We still believe that England should follow Scotland in scrapping moderated grades. With its triple lock policy, all the Government has done is lock in inequality.

If the triple lock process is not useful to you, remember that you have more options.

How are universities responding to the new 'triple lock' process?

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Universities UK, who act as the collective voice of 137 unis in the UK, have responded to the news about the triple lock process for A Level results.

Particularly as the change was announced so close to results day, it's not surprising that universities, like many students, are looking for more clarification.

Professor Julia Buckingham CBE, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University London, said:

On the eve of A Level results, our advice to students is to carry on as planned, which means if you miss out on the grades for your offer don't panic. Speak to your teachers for their advice and get in touch with your first choice university as soon as possible – universities will be as flexible as they can in these unusual circumstances – and look at the courses available through Clearing.

This last-minute policy change presents a number of challenges for universities and we are seeking urgent clarification from the Department for Education on a range of issues including the likely scale and timing of appeals.

We chatted with Universities UK about what university will be like in 2020/21 – find out all in our article.

What to do if you're unhappy with your A Level results

Best of luck with A Level results day! Hopefully, you'll get the grades you'd been hoping for, in which case your university place could get secured and you'll be ready to start thinking about what to bring to uni.

But, if things don't go to plan, that's okay – the key is to stay calm, and think about your next steps.

Here are some routes you could take if you're not happy with your A Level results this year:

  1. Follow the triple lock process (England)

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    As we mentioned earlier, this is the route that you could consider first if you're based in England.

    Look back at your mock results, and if they're higher than the grade you receive, you should be able to receive that grade instead if you appeal.

    Otherwise, if you don't mind taking a year out before uni, you could consider taking exams in Autumn.

  2. Contact your firm and insurance universities

    red phone with a blue background

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    This year, more than ever, universities will know that your grades might not be an accurate reflection of your abilities.

    If you miss the required grades but you'd really love to attend your firm- or insurance-choice uni, you could call to see if they would still consider giving you a place. It's by no means guaranteed that they'll be flexible, but for the chance alone that they are, it's worth asking.

    Your chances of getting in to university after missing your required A Level grades will be particularly strong if your UCAS Track still hasn't updated by the time you receive the results. This could mean the unis are still thinking about whether to offer you a place.

  3. Consider applying to university through UCAS Clearing

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    If you're keen to get straight to uni and you'd rather not take a year out to retake exams, we'd definitely recommend trying UCAS Clearing.

    When you know how best to approach it, you can find some brilliant opportunities this way.

    Our guide to using Clearing to apply to uni has all the tips and info you need to nab a great university place.

  4. Research the alternatives to university

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    It can sometimes feel like there's a pressure to go to uni after your A Levels, but there are actually so many amazing alternatives to university. Degrees aren't for everyone, and that's okay.

    You could consider applying for a job, doing an apprenticeship, or even starting your own business.

    Or, if you just want to take a break from education before starting uni in a year's time, you could take a gap year and work abroad. It's a great way to earn some money while seeing the world.

    And better yet – travelling makes you more employable, ideal for your future job hunt.

Wondering what uni would really be like? Don't fall for the common myths about university.


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