GCSE results day: Thoughts, advice, and preparing a Plan B

So you’ve got your GCSE results – congratulations if you’ve got what you wanted! But if your results aren’t what you had hoped for, here’s some advice.

First of all - don’t panic!

Results day can be tough for many people and, yes, you might have to get over a shock. But don’t let it make you think you’re no good – everyone has strengths and good qualities, including you. Also, don’t assume you’ve blown your chance of a dream career. This may well not be the case.

The most important thing to do now is talk to people:  teachers at your school, your exams officer and your parents. They know you – what you’re capable of and what you’re good at - so they’re really good people to get advice from. Also check carefully the relevant facts about entry requirements for your next step and your chosen career (if you have one).

Didn’t pass GCSE English and maths?

If you haven’t passed GCSE English and/or maths, get advice from your English and maths subject teachers straight away. It might be worth having your paper remarked, or resitting the exam. Think carefully about this, because English and maths are the most important subjects for your future, and the passport into many jobs. Even if you think you don’t need them now, you may well need them in a few years’ time, so don’t just give up on them.

If you haven’t passed enough GCSEs for your next step, you might think this has knocked you off your chosen path, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Ask staff at your school and also get in touch with the college/sixth form/apprenticeship provider you have applied to. There may be some flexibility on qualifications, or you might be able to do resits or an alternative course. These are all ways in which you could get back to your original path.

For example, if you only missed out slightly it’s worth contacting the college/sixth form/apprenticeship you are hoping to attend. Explain that you just missed out on their entry requirements and politely ask whether they would still consider taking you. It is so important to do this, because it may be that some courses are not as full as expected – if so then they might be flexible on their requirements.  If you didn’t quite get your maths or English, some courses will let you retake them alongside your chosen course. It varies from place to place, so get in touch with the course leader/admissions team/manager and ask. The quicker you do it the better!

Act quickly

Lots of colleges and sixth forms will be open to go and visit on results day. Often students can talk directly to the course leaders to find out whether they can still do the course they wanted. Even if you can’t do the level of course you wanted, in some cases you might be able to do the same subject at a lower level.

For example, let’s say you wanted to do Level 3 Health & Social Care but didn’t get the grades you needed. The course leader might suggest you start on Level 2 Health & Social Care. This would mean you’d still be on track to work in the area you want, but you’d just do the one-year Level 2 course before starting the Level 3. The same goes for A levels – some schools and sixth form/colleges have a one-year foundation course that you can do before A levels. You’ll only find out about these courses if you talk to the tutors!

Get support

It’s worth talking to someone like a teacher, careers adviser or even a family friend who has known you a long time to help. They might be able to advocate on your behalf (that means they basically say how great you are and explain some reasons why you didn’t quite get the grades) and help get you onto your chosen course. This won’t always work, but it is worth trying and the college is more likely to listen if it is a formal letter/email/phone call/meeting with someone who has an official job title (ideally not just your parents but someone else who is also fighting your corner). If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Finding a Plan B

If you have checked everything and your plan really isn’t working out, you need to consider a Plan B.  Here are some steps you can take to prepare one:

1. Go back to basics

The next step options after Year 11 are:

  • Sixth Form (mostly academic learning, if you have the required grades)
  • FE college (mostly work-related learning)
  • Apprenticeship (a job with nationally recognised training)
  • Getting a job (which may have training)

These are all good in different ways and they can all lead to really good careers. Make sure you understand what all of them involve, then make a list of those you think are right for you, in order of preference.

2. Make a list of careers/career areas which appeal to you, in order of preference

Talk to people who know you and do some careers research to check ideas.

3. Put the two lists together

Talk to your teachers and parents to get a best fit of next step options and career interests, and choose at least one next step option. This is now your Plan B.

4. When you’ve worked out a Plan B, put it into action right away

Apply to whatever you’ve chosen – check online or phone the provider, and get your name on their list.

You might not believe it now, but sometimes people look back and think “thank goodness I didn’t study that, I’d never have got into the job I’m in now!”, so if things don’t go the way you’d planned at first, try and see it as a potential new opportunity.

Good luck!