When it's time to get your A-level results, find out about the various options available as you look to secure your university place

When are A-level results out?

A-level results day for 2017 is Thursday 17 August.

In Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) publishes its examination results online on Tuesday 8 August 2017 - the same day your certificate will arrive by post.

If you're applying to go to university in 2018, the key date for your diary is Thursday 16 August 2018.

What time should I pick up my results?

Students are able to collect their A-level results from schools and colleges any time after 6am on results day. However, you'll need to contact your school or college for their exact opening and closing times as these will vary.

UCAS will receive your A-level results directly and update Track accordingly - this is typically around 8am. As the system's going to be busy with other students eager to find out if they've received offers, you may need to be patient.

In Scotland, if you registered for MySQA you'll be able to access your results from 8am on the day they're published. Alternatively, you can call your school or college to find out your grades.

While you can't add a Clearing choice using Track until 3pm on A-level results day (when the official Clearing list is displayed in the UCAS search tool), you may still want to find out your offers as early as possible. By getting in touch with universities straight away, you can attempt to sort out invitations to add a course for when Track is updated with its Clearing option later in the day.

Do I need to take anything?

If you're going into school or college you should take a fully charged mobile phone and a notepad and pen. You should also have to hand everything you'd need to apply through Clearing, including:

  • details of conditional offers, university contact numbers, your UCAS Track number, universities' UCAS and Clearing numbers
  • a Clearing app from The Telegraph, or a copy of the newspaper listing the places available through Clearing
  • notes from having researched universities and courses beforehand, with a list of questions to ask course tutors
  • your personal statement and GCSE results.

What if I'm on holiday?

Ideally, you need to be contactable when your A-level results come out, so try to avoid booking holidays or working on that day. This is especially important if you have a number of conditional offers and using Clearing is a possibility for you. If you do end up being away, you'll need to ensure that Track contains your correct personal details before you go.

You might opt to nominate someone, such as a parent or guardian, who can access Track and make changes on your behalf. It's important to remember that some changes will be time-sensitive so your nominee may need to discuss your application with UCAS or universities within a specific timeframe.

If you didn't nominate someone when filling in your application, it's best to speak to UCAS and ensure the person now has access to your Track. The nominated person will be able to collect the results from the school or college office - providing they arrive with a completed permissions slip.

When you can't be there in person, but can get online, you can still log in to Track to find out what your chosen universities have decided.

When do universities get my results?

Only exams office staff and heads can view A-level results before they're widely released to candidate on the Thursday.

From 12.01am on Wednesday, known as restricted release day, results are available from exam boards such as the AQA (Assessment & Qualifications Alliance) and OCR (Oxford Cambridge and RSA) - but these must be treated as confidential by universities and exams offices at this stage.

When will UCAS Track update?

As Track is where you are kept informed of your application's progress, the UCAS site is the place to go on results day. However, Track is 'frozen' in the days leading up to the publication of your A-level results, meaning you won't be able to make any changes during this time. Contact UCAS directly if you need to update any of your information.

You can expect the system to be available again at around 8am on results day. After it's been updated, Track becomes 'frozen' so you shouldn't expect your page to change again until midday at the earliest.

It's worth waiting to log in after you've got your results, so you already have a good idea of whether you're likely to have been accepted by your choices and will be better prepared to deal with any disappointment.

What will Track show?

If decisions have been made by your university choices, and UCAS have been notified, you can expect to see the following changes to offers on your Track page:

  • Unconditional - your place on the course has been confirmed. This may be your firm or insurance offer, or both.
  • Unsuccessful - you've not been accepted by your choice(s). You're now eligible to enter Clearing.
  • UCC (Unconditional Changed Course) - you don't have the necessary grades for your offer, but the university has proposed a similar course requiring lower grades. They may also offer an alternative start date, for instance, deferred entry. You have five days to make a decision - you may use this time to speak to the university directly about what this opportunity involves.

Please be aware, your A-level results won't appear in Track.

What do I do if I meet my offer?

If you're holding at least one conditional place and you've met the requirements, the offer will change to 'unconditional'. This firm acceptance is confirmed in Track and your UCAS confirmation letter AS12 will be sent out. Some universities require further action on your part - the AS12 will explain what you need to do if this is the case.

If you've used UCAS Extra to add another choice - and been offered a place - you just need to accept it by the date displayed in Track. There's also the option of adding another choice, should you wish to decline the offer.

What if I don't get the grades I need?

Don't panic. There are a number of options open to you.

The first, if you've narrowly missed the grades by just a few marks, is to talk to the university. While they're under no obligation to reconsider their decision, especially with places so competitive, they may listen to you if you plan to appeal any grades. You may even be offered a place on an alternative course.

On the other hand, you could simply accept the decision and aim to go through Clearing instead. See university Clearing for more information on what to do next.

You may change your mind entirely and consider taking a break from study before applying for university again the following year. Try exploring ideas for a gap year.

Can I get my exams re-marked?

Once the results have been announced, if your marks don't seem right and your university place is under threat, you can request a review of marking or moderation by the exam boards - see GOV.UK's guide for regulating A-levels.

It's important to start the review process as soon as possible. This can only be done through your school or college, and it's recommended you keep the university informed of your plans, as there's a better chance they'll reserve the place for you. Be sure to send your results to your chosen university by 31 August.

Even if the review is successful, you may still not be given a place on your chosen course. In this instance, it's likely you'll be offered alternatives on similar courses or be able to defer your place until next year. That's why it's advisable to get their conditions in writing so you know where you stand.

These post-results services are offered by exam boards such as AQA, the largest A-level awarding body in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which accounts for around half of all A-levels taken each year.

If you decide to go down this route, you need to be aware that there's now no grade protection for mark reviews, meaning that your marks and subject grades could be lowered, confirmed or raised following the review. So you should therefore be honest with yourself about your chances of success. It's worth discussing your options with your subject teacher first.

You may also be liable for a charge, but this will depend on whether the review is successful or not. If your subject award grade remains the same following a standard review of marking, this will result in a fee of £42.25 per unit.

When time is of the essence in getting your work looked at again, especially if your university place depends on the outcome, the priority service allows for the review of marking to be completed within 15 calendar days instead of the usual 20 days. The priority service return fee stands at £50.30 per unit.

You can request a review of your marks up to the 21 September deadline for 2017 entry, despite universities beginning to confirm places on courses from the end of August. The priority review deadline however is 24 August 2017.

If you aren't happy with the outcome of the review, there's the option to submit an appeal.

For more details on fees and post-results services, visit AQA's post-results services page.

Can I defer my university place for a year?

You can ask your university to defer you for a year if you don't already hold a deferred offer. Technically speaking, this can be done up until the start date, but the earlier you tell them, the better. Be prepared to explain your reasons.

While many universities will agree to this, if they don't, you might wish to withdraw your application for this year and reapply when the process begins for the next student intake.

What if I get better grades than I expected?

As Christina Edgar, head of student recruitment and admissions at The University of Sheffield, says - if you'd known that you'd have done this well, would you still have chosen the same course and university as your firm choice?

For most students, the answer will still be an emphatic 'yes'. But if now you're not so sure, then it's time look at Adjustment, which gives you the option of choosing an alternative course requiring higher grades.

To use Adjustment, you simply need to have met and exceeded the terms of the conditional offer from your firm choice. 'It's like a special version of Clearing that lets you shop around for your ideal course while keeping your current choice safe,' Christina explains.

Available from A-level results day until 31 August, you can have a look and see whether there's anything that interests you, while you have your original unconditional firm choice to fall back on.

However, you're under no obligation to reconsider what you've already chosen. 'Remember, it has to be your decision - don't be pressured by anyone else,' says Christina.

But if you decide that you would like to change where and what you're studying, you'll need to register this in Track. As many competitive courses may now be full, you'll have to search the vacancies to see what's left.

To discuss course vacancies you're interested in, contact the university admissions office directly. You can only verbally agree on one course choice, which will then appear on Track. Once you've confirmed this offer through the UCAS service, you'll lose your original choice in place of this new course/university.

If you only applied for one course in your original application (at the reduced rate of £13), you'll need to pay the extra £11 fee to be eligible to apply for another course.

Adjustment can only be used during five 24 hour periods (which includes weekends), unless there are less than five days to go until 31 August. This period begins from when your conditional firm offer becomes an unconditional firm offer, or on A-level results day - whichever is the later.

Visit the UCAS website for full instructions on how Adjustment works. To secure your student loan following Adjustment, follow the advice on our Clearing page.