Bethan Foulkes – Subject Advisor
Waiting for your exam results can be very stressful, and this year’s wait might be 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 or college can really help in giving you 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.
There’s a handy guidance for students page on our website, with resources from us and from Ofqual, as well as useful contact information. It may be useful to look at these pages when speaking to your teachers or making any decisions.
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, the 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? Perhaps 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 you can 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 IB 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. If you study a subject that you have no interest in for two years 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, or college 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 under pressure to decide quickly if you want to take exams in the autumn series. Make sure you take the time to make your decision; talk to your teachers, talk to family, talk to wherever you are planning to study. You may find that there’s no need to take resits because your results will take you where you want to go. Or you may decide to wait and take exams next summer and give yourself more time to prepare for them.
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 who have your best interests at heart will support you in making the right decision.
You could go to another sixth form college or school 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.
Getting good advice is obviously crucial – not least because it will make sure you 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 that you can get there. Whether it’s taking exams in the autumn, taking a gap year, getting some work experience or finding an alternative course, there is an option that will work for you.
Finally, if you think a mistake has been with your grade, please speak to your school or college about the appeals procedure.
If you have any questions, you can call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCRexams. You can also sign up to receive 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.