Coronavirus (COVID-19) update for A-level students
If you're an A-level student concerned about how the current COVID-19 situation will affect your chances of going to university in 2020/21, the government has released some details.
Following the cancellation of A-level exams across the UK, the Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed that formal grades will be given to students on A-level results day as planned.
For most students this will take place on Thursday 13 August 2020. In Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has stated that results should be received no later than Tuesday 4 August 2020.
Students will be given formal grades that fairly reflect the work they've put in, with these based on:
- previous performance, including GCSEs and mock exams
- non-exam assessment such as coursework
- the grade they expected you to have achieved should exams have gone ahead.
For those who feel that these grades don't accurately reflect your performance, there will be an opportunity to sit an exam later in the year.
Remember that university places will not be determined by grades alone, as your personal statement and reference form part of the decision-making process, along with your interview, portfolio, audition, and any other relevant information.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has provided information for students concerned with how coronavirus may affect their application. It has confirmed that May's offer deadline for undergraduate applicants has been extended, with those affected to be contacted.
At Prospects, we’re closely monitoring the ongoing situation and will update this information as it becomes available. However, you can also visit the following websites according to your country of study:
- England - GOV.UK - Department for Education (DfE)
- Scotland - Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
- Wales - Qualifications Wales
- Northern Ireland - Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA)
If you're eager to find out what happens on A-level results day, put your mind at ease with our comprehensive guide on securing your place at university
When do A-level results come out?
The A-level results day for 2020 is Thursday 13 August 2020.
In Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) publishes its examination results online on Tuesday 4 August 2020 - the same day your certificate arrives by post.
For applications to go to university in 2021, the key date for your diary is Thursday 19 August 2021.
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 - when they're released by the exam boards. However, you'll need to find out their exact opening and closing times, as these will vary.
UCAS receives your A-level results directly and will update Track accordingly - typically around 8am. As the system will be busy with students keen to find out if they've received offers, you'll need to be patient.
In Scotland, if you registered for MySQA you'll be emailed 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 - so you've had enough time to think about your options - you may still want to discover your offers as early as possible.
By getting in touch with universities now, you can attempt to sort out invitations to add a course for when Track is updated with its Clearing option later in the day. The official Clearing list will then be displayed in the UCAS search tool.
Do I need to take anything?
If you're going into school or college to collect your results, you should take a fully charged mobile phone, a notepad and pen. You should also have 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 copy of The Telegraph newspaper (or the online version via your mobile phone) 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 should 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've received any conditional offers, and Clearing is a possibility. If you're away, you'll need to ensure that Track contains your correct personal details before you go.
You could choose to nominate someone, such as a parent or guardian, who can access Track and make changes on your behalf. However, 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 a person when completing your application, it's best to speak to UCAS and ensure they have access to your Track. The person will be able to collect the results from the school/college office, providing they arrive with a completed permissions slip.
If you can't be there in person but can get online, you can still log in to Track to discover 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 candidates on Thursday 13 August 2020.
From 12.01am on the day before - with the Wednesday known as restricted release day - results are available from exam boards such as the AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance) and OCR (Oxford Cambridge and RSA).
However, at this stage, these results must be treated as confidential by universities and exam offices.
What time does UCAS Track update on results day?
As Track is where you're 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 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 information.
The system will be available at around 8am on results day. After it's been updated, Track becomes 'frozen' and your page won't change again until midday at the earliest.
It's worth waiting to log in after you've got your results, so you've a good idea of whether you're likely to have been accepted by your choices and 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:
- 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.
- Unconditional Changed Course (UCC) - 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, such as deferred entry. You have five days to decide and can discuss the opportunity with the university in question.
Bear in mind that 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 appear on the page within five to seven days of the confirmation - it won't be posted to you or sent via email.
Some universities will require further action on your part. The letter will explain any further instructions, such as providing evidence of your qualifications.
If you've used UCAS Extra to add another choice - and have been offered a place - you'll 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, as there are a number of options open to you.
Firstly, if you've missed the grades by just a few marks, you should talk to the university in question. 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 another course.
Alternatively, you could simply accept the decision and go through the results day Clearing process instead. For more information on what to do next, see university Clearing.
If you change your mind entirely and would like to take a break from study before applying for university again the following year, consider exploring gap year ideas or countries where you'd like to spend a year working abroad.
To enter the world of work while studying towards a vocational qualification, you might think about securing an apprenticeship.
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.
You'll need to start the review process as soon as possible, but this can only be done through your school or college. It's recommended you keep the university informed of your plans, as there's a better chance they'll reserve the place for you. Make sure you send them your results by 31 August.
Even if the review is successful, you may still not be given a place on your chosen course. However, it's likely you'll be offered alternatives on similar courses, or be given the option to defer your university place until next year. Ask for their terms and conditions in writing so you know where you stand.
Post-results services are offered by exam boards such as AQA, which accounts for around half of all A-levels awarded in the UK each year, from A-level results day onwards.
If you go down this route, you need to understand there's no grade protection for marking reviews, meaning your marks and subject grades could be lowered, confirmed or raised following the review. So be honest with yourself about your chances of success, even though your university place may depend on it. Discuss this with your subject teacher before making a final decision.
You may also be liable for a charge, but this depends on whether the review is successful or not - for both reformed and outgoing A-level subjects. If your subject award grade remains the same following a standard review of marking by AQA, you'll have to pay a fee of £43.45 per unit/component (January 2019).
When time is a significant factor in getting your work looked at again, 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 £51.75 per unit.
You can request a review of your marks up to the Monday 21 September deadline for 2020 entry, despite universities beginning to confirm places on courses from the end of August. The priority review deadline, however, is Thursday 20 August 2020.
If you're not happy with the outcome of the review, there's the option to submit an appeal.
For more details on post-results services and any applicable fees, see AQA's post-results services.
Can I defer my university place on results day?
You can ask your university to defer your place for a year if you don't already hold a deferred offer. While this can technically be done up until the start date, 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 could choose to withdraw your application for this year and then reapply when the process begins for the next student intake.
What if I get better grades than I expected?
The question to ask yourself is: if you'd known you'd have done this well, would you still have selected the same course and university as your firm choice?
For most students, the answer will still be an emphatic 'yes'. But if you're no longer so sure, Adjustment gives you the option to pick 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.
Available from A-level results day until Monday 31 August 2020, you can look around for your ideal course, while you still have your original unconditional firm choice to fall back on. As you're under no obligation to reconsider what you've already chosen, you can take your time in making this decision.
But if you do decide you'd 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 in Track. Once you've confirmed this offer through UCAS, 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 £20, you'll need to pay the extra £5 fee to be eligible to apply for another course.
Adjustment can only be used during five 24 hour periods (including weekends), unless there are less than five days to go until the deadline. This begins from when your conditional firm offer becomes unconditional, or on A-level results day - whichever is the later.
Find out more
- Read how to make the most of the university Clearing process.
- If you've confirmed your university place, explore university life.
- Discover how to fund your education at student loans and finance.