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What to do if you don’t get the exam results you want

With GCSE and A Level exam results days looming, what happens if your child doesn’t get the results they wanted? Naturally we all want them to do brilliantly, but just in case something doesn’t quite go to plan it’s good to be prepared. 

In this feature Amanda Reader, Head of Careers at Cranleigh School, tells us her top tips on what to do and how to cope…

We all want our teenagers to work to the best of their ability and to ultimately have their hard work rewarded with excellent exam results but sometimes life doesn’t always go according to plan. It can be so difficult to watch our children receive disappointing news about their results. So what can we do to help  pick them up and move on with their next steps?

Here are a few guidelines to help them through this difficult time:

Don’t Panic

There can be a moment of panic on results day when our teenagers bleary eyed open up the browser, logon to the school portal and receive their results.  When it comes to A levels, a number  of pupils do fall one grade below their expectations, but more often than not, their first choice university will still accept them. So do make sure that they open up their emails and logon to the UCAS site. So often there is a reassuring email saying ‘Well done, welcome to….’  Calm will soon return.

Unconditional love

Ultimately as parents, we love them unconditionally. Our love for our children does not depend on their success academically. Reassure them of this. It can feel like the end of the world, but show them that your love hasn’t changed on results day.

What helps our teenagers be unique is not their academic ability, but what makes them who they are, their ability to communicate, to show empathy, to lead others, to make us laugh. Yes exam results are important, but don’t let academic success define who they are.

Time will heal

I’m not sure that I can think of a time when I was asked what I achieved for my degree, A levels and certainly not my GCSEs. Time is a great healer and probably by the middle of the autumn term, the conversation about exam results has dwindled into a distant memory.

So when you have reassured them of your love and support, then take time to consider the practical steps that your teenager could take.

Request a remark

Look at the breakdown of the exam results and if something is amiss, then it could be worth having the paper remarked. It is worth doing this pretty quickly, but be warned that a remark doesn’t necessarily mean that they will go up a grade, they could go down, so think carefully about it. You will have to pay for this, but if the marks go up, then you will be reimbursed.


If your teenager’s A levels fall short of their expectations and as a result they no longer meet their university requirements then they can apply to go through  the university clearing process.

A full and useful account of the Clearing process can be found here.

Take a gap year

With the population living longer and retiring later, why not encourage your teenager to take some time to reflect? A gap year is an ideal opportunity to really develop those soft skills that help to make our teenagers exciting  and fun. Working hard to help to fund themselves before going travelling or volunteering really does develop a good work ethic in them. The world is their oyster.

University isn’t for everyone

With university tuition fees always on the rise and the cost of university accommodation increasing, why not help your teenager look at their other options?

Degree apprenticeships are increasingly common but do still remain highly competitive, so if your teenager has a great work ethic, why not consider applying? It reduces student debt and helps to give them a great foot on the employment ladder. It can still give them that independence that our teenagers crave whilst enabling them to live and socialise with their apprenticeship colleagues.

World of work

There are some great employment opportunities out there that are not dependent on highly academic results. Gaining a job does not necessarily mean a lifelong commitment to the company. So why not encourage them to work for a while and keep an open mind about university?

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