12/08/2014 11:00 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 06:12 BST

Exam Results: Help, I Didn't Get The Grades I Need!

Sophie Stokes
Sophie Stokes

Results day, the day that many teenagers – and their parents – have been nervously awaiting all summer, is nearly upon us.

A level results are released on August 14 2014, while GCSE students will find out their grades on August 21.

For many, the day will be a welcome end to weeks of limbo, as they finalise their plans for the coming year. But for those who don't get the results they need, the news can be a shock.

Sophie Stokes, 19, from Yorkshire, knows all too well how it feels to not get the results you were expecting.

Last year she planned to go to London School of Economics to study Anthropology. She was feeling quietly confident that she would get the AAB grades required to secure her place as she'd been predicted straight As in her English Literature, Maths and Religious Studies A levels.

However, after a nervous morning of refreshing the UCAS website, she discovered that she had not been accepted by LSE.

"I was absolutely devastated," says Sophie, who went to school in Yorkshire. "I wasn't in a fit state to go into school, so my dad had to go and collect my exam results for me."

Sophie's dad Brian adds:


It was like someone had kicked her legs out from under her. You'd have thought there had been a family bereavement, it was that level of complete and utter shock.


"Sophie had always got pretty close to 100 per cent in every subject, so although we knew there was a possibility she might not get the grades she needed, we'd just assumed that she would do fine and so she was looking forward to moving into her new digs in Bloomsbury.

"We hadn't planned for any alternative."

Sophie's story isn't uncommon: more than half of students aren't prepared for the possibility that they may not get the grades they need to secure their university place, according to a study by Which?

Sophie got A*BB and was just five marks off an A grade in Maths. She phoned LSE but they weren't willing to change their decision. She even had her exam papers remarked but her grades stayed the same.

Brian was aware that Sophie had to act fast if she was still going to go to university that September.

"I knew that clearing is first come, first served, so I was trying to balance cuddling and comforting my daughter, with also trying to move things forward, because you've got those incredible time pressures looking you in the face," he says.

After looking into clearing Sophie still felt unsure about what route would be best for her, so she phoned the Exam Results Helpline - a freephone service funded by the Department of Education, which offers advice from independent careers advisors for students reconsidering their options after receiving their exam results.

"It was nice talking to someone who was objective about it," says Sophie. "It helped me get my head together and see things from a clearer perspective.

"I'd not considered taking a gap year before, but as I thought about it, it began to seem sensible, as I didn't feel confident about choosing a uni that would be right for me through clearing - and if I made the wrong choice it would be a very expensive mistake to make!"

Sophie has spent her gap year working, volunteering and travelling, and she is now about to start a degree in Anthropology at University College London. She worked as a waitress, then taught in a school in India.

"A year on I'm really glad that it's panned out this way to be honest," says Brian. "Because I visited UCL with Sophie and I can see her really thriving in that environment.

"It's also given us more time to prepare for Sophie leaving home. Last year all the anxiety generated by her exams and applying to universities sort of masked the fact that our little girl was leaving home, and while there's always going to be mixed emotions on that front, we're very excited for her."

​If your son or daughter is reconsidering their options based on their exam results they can call the Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000 between Thursday 14 and Saturday August 23, (calls are free from landlines and some mobile networks).

The careers advisors can offer advice on higher and further education choices, clearing and adjustment (for if your grades were better than expected), vocational learning routes, resits and re-marks, gap years, careers and employment.

If your teen has a specific query about their university application, they should contact the UCAS Contact Centre instead on 0871 468 0468.

More on Parentdish: Exam results are out: What next?