Hints and Tips - 6 minute read
Bethan Foulkes - Subject Advisor
Waiting for your exam results can be very stressful; this year’s wait is no less stressful, and perhaps even more so than usual. What should you do if you don’t do as well as you had hoped? Take a deep breath, have a sit-down and read our five top tips…
The teachers at your school and college can really help in giving you some sound advice – they will be able to explain to you how your grades were awarded this year and advise on potential next steps. They will also know who to contact about your next moves and the different options open to you. Your teachers know you well and may be able to advise you about whether you should take exams in the autumn if you are not happy with your grades.
It might also be worth contacting the institution you were hoping to go to – they might still be willing to offer you a place even if you haven’t achieved the grades they asked for. If you're applying for university, the UCAS website has lots of helpful advice. It will also be useful to let your university know if your school or college are making an appeal about your result.
You might have had your heart set on a particular course or place of study but it’s worth considering alternatives. Take some time to think what your priorities are: the subject or course you want to take or the place of study you want to go to. Could you still end up in the same career by taking slightly different options? It might be that a vocational course or an apprenticeship might get you where you want to be.
Some students excel on different types of courses or are better suited to on-going assessment and work experience rather than courses with only end of year exams. If you have decided to change course, speak to the institution you are hoping to go to – they will be able to advise whether it is possible to change course, and how to go about it.
Don’t write a subject off just because you didn’t do as well in it as you expected. An ex-student of mine didn’t do very well in his first year of biology so switched to a vocational course. He finished the course with full distinctions and went to university to study nursing – something he realised he wanted to do once he switched courses. And don’t do a subject just because you did unexpectedly well in it.
It really helps to study a subject you enjoy or find interesting. Studying a subject that you have no interest in for two years could mean you may not want to put in the work required to achieve the grade you want.
If you don’t get your first or back up choice for university, sixth form, college and so on, there are still sensible options open to you:
Whatever you decide, it is really important to take some time to reflect. Less haste – more speed is the key. Speaking to your chosen institution is also helpful in decision making, as they may be able to guide you through the options they have for you. You may even find they have options you had not thought of.
If you are not happy with your grades, you may feel quite pressured to decide quickly if you want to take exams in the autumn series. Still take the time to make your decision; speak to your teachers, speak to family, speak to wherever you are planning to study next. You may find that there is no need to take any exams in autumn because your results will take you where you want to go. You can find out more information about the autumn series on our website.
The people that know you best can be really helpful in this situation. They might have their own experiences to share and talking something through with people with your best interests at heart will support you in making the right decision.
It might be that there are other sixth form colleges or schools etc that you could go to in order to study the subjects you are really passionate about. Get some help from family and friends in researching the different options available to you and then talk them through with you.
Getting good advice is obviously crucial not least because you now know all the options open to you but don’t let anyone pressure you into a decision you’re not sure about. Think about what you’d really like to do and the different ways in which you can get there. Whether it’s taking exams in the autumn series, taking a gap year, travelling, getting some work experience or finding an alternative course – there is an option that will work for you.
If you have any queries or questions, you can call us on 01223 553998 or Tweet us @OCRexams. You can also sign up to subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
Bethan joined OCR in April 2019 and is a subject advisor for GCSE Sciences and Applied Science. Before joining OCR, Bethan taught Biology to 11-18 year olds for eight years, and was responsible for planning her school’s biology schemes of learning. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Bethan mentored PGCE students and NQTs in science, and oversaw all the trainees and NQTs within the school as professional tutor. In her spare time she enjoys dressmaking, quilting and many other different crafts.