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GCSE results day 2021: what to expect

Collecting your GCSE results is probably the first time you’ve received official academic results in person. So what can you expect (and what if things don't quite go to plan)?

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Before GCSE results day

GCSE exams were cancelled for 2021, but if you were due to take these exams you will still be issued grades. These results will have been decided by your teacher and will be based on how you've got on with each course. Your teacher might have used your performance in things like coursework, mock exams and class tests to help them decide on your final grades.

GCSE results will be published on Thursday 12 August 2021.  

This is an earlier date for GCSE results than usual. The date has been brought forward to allow time for students who might need to appeal their teacher-assessed grades, particularly anyone relying on a GCSE grade for uni applications. 

Try your best to not worry too much about results day as it approaches. Eat normally and get plenty of sleep the night before. Be open with your parents about your upcoming results and any worries you may have – they’re there to help!

If your school is opening for the collection of results, confirm what time it will open. Your school should have told you this before you broke up for the summer, but you can always check this on their official website (or even social media channels).

If you can't make it in to school to collect your results, see what you need to do, below.

Finally, spare a thought for whether you'd prefer to collect and open your results with your parent(s), in a group of friends for moral support, or perhaps just on your own.

What to take on GCSE results day

Make sure your phone is charged so you can call your family and friends once you receive your results (as well as take some celebration pics and share your good news with the rest of the world on Instagram, Snapchat etc.).

Take some photo identification just in case, though it should be a teacher or someone who knows you well who'll be handing you your results.

Remember that most of your school's building will be closed off to you for the summer, so you won't be able to hunt around for equipment.


Opening your results

You can either open your results alone, with your family or with your friends – it’s completely up to you! If you want to open your results with as few people around you as possible, go into school early. If you go in later, there will be more people hanging around who've already collected their results.


What those grades mean and why they matter

English and maths: you should obtain at least a grade 4 or 5 (formerly a grade C) in these subjects no matter what your future plans are. 

Colleges and sixth forms look for these as a basic requirement to continue your studies with them and universities typically have minimum English and maths requirements, whatever subject you're taking.

Employers – be that for a part-time job now, or a full-time job several years later – may also ask for these. 

The subjects you want to carry on studying: similarly, it's important to meet any grade requirements you've been set for the subjects you've chosen to study at a higher level. 

University applications: universities may consider your GCSE grades when deciding to offer you a place (for some students, these may be the most recent set of formal exam results available).

Plus, depending on your chosen course, you may have GCSE entry requirements to meet too.


Didn't get the GCSE grades you hoped for?

You'll hear this a lot, but don’t panic if things don't go to plan. This isn’t the end of the world, even if it feels like it. You have a number of options and paths open to you:

Appealing a GCSE grade

This year your grades have been decided by your teachers. If you're unhappy with any of your grades, every students has the right to appeal. If you want to query a grade – perhaps one is unusually and unexpectedly low compared with others – speak to your teacher in the subject or your head of year. They can help you with the next steps of the appeals process.

Do this as soon as possible, ideally, on results day itself when you pick up your results. If reviewing your exam doesn’t lead to anything, you could choose to resit it.

You can find out all about the appeals process for teacher-assessed grades here.

GCSE resits

If you don’t achieve at least a grade 4 or 5 (formerly a C) in your maths and English GCSEs, you’ll have to resit these to proceed to A-level (or other) study. Resits for these can be taken in November so you can rectify this one quite quickly.

Retakes for other subjects normally take place the following summer. However, in this no-exam year, the exam regulator Ofqual has said there will be a full series of autumn exams - so you can show what you can do in an actual exam. 

Remember, you'll need to be fully committed to juggling the extra study and exams.

Changing subjects or courses

If you needed certain grades to get into a college or sixth form and you missed these, speak to them as soon as possible to find out if they will still accept you. If they won't accept you to the original courses you applied to, find out about similar courses they offer.

If you did better than expected in a particular GCSE subject, or you've since been rethinking your greater goals and ambitions, speak to your college or sixth form as soon as possible to see if switching A-level subjects is possible. Provided you meet the entry requirements, there are still spaces on those courses and it doesn’t create any conflicts in your timetable, this shouldn’t be a problem.

If you're not sure what you want to do, so-called 'facilitating' subjects – sciences, English, geography, history, maths or languages – typically allow you to keep your options open and progress into a wide array of subjects at a higher level.

Our six-step plan to making A-level choices can help you make your decision. 

Need to rethink your A-levels? Use our tool to see where different combos will lead you.

Changing sixth form or college

If your original college or sixth form won’t accept you to the courses you applied to and they don’t offer any similar courses you’re interested in, look around at other nearby institutions. These might have lower entry requirements or a wider range of courses to consider. 

Alternatives to A-levels

Btec qualifications are a viable alternative route to university if you can’t find an A-level course you’re happy with. In 2018, around 17% of university applicants applied to university with either Btecs alone or a combination of A-levels and Btecs.

Btecs are typically assessed on an ongoing basis through a mixture of coursework and exams, removing the onus on end-of-year exams associated with A-levels.

If you have a specific career in mind, there may also be alternatives to university study, including qualifications combined with on-the-job training, such as NVQs and apprenticeships that lead to a degree.

Our sister site, The Student Room, has a guide to all of the post-GCSE routes and options, from academic to vocational and occupational qualifications.

You can also get some great advice on Apprenticeships and Careers and Employment in the Student Room forums.

Can't collect your GCSE results?

Ideally it's best to make sure you're around on results day, so you'll have the benefit of being able to speak to a teacher on the day if you need to.

But the coronavirus pandemic has changed much of what's normal, and you may not be able to get into your school in person. It's also possible that your school chooses not to open. In these cases, arrange for your school to post your results to you. 

You can also arrange with your school for a friend or family member to go in and collect your results for you. That person will need a signed letter from you authorising that you’re happy for them to collect your results on your behalf and a form of ID to verify who they are. 


Now what?

So you have your GCSE results and you're beginning Year 12 soon, what now?

Before then – and while you still have a few weeks of summer holiday left  use our A-level Explorer to check where your A-level choices will leave you two years from now. It might give you some early food for thought as to what you may want to study at university.

You might find that you're not on the path you want to be on. Or maybe you didn't get the GCSEs you were hoping for and it's thrown your plans off. Luckily there could still be time to change your A-level choices (but you have to act fast!).

Where could your A-levels take you?

Enter your A-level choices below to find out

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