Career Advice Apprenticeship

What to Do if You Don’t Ace Your A-Levels

John Smith

Getting your results back after an exam has to be one of the most nerve-racking moments of your adult life. The A-level results can be particularly daunting as they’re the gateways to university placements and by extension your future career. The 2022 batch who sat their A levels have been in an unprecedented situation – with the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting over a year of regular classes and having to adapt to virtual learning – all while dealing with the social isolation of multiple lockdowns. The last two years have been anything but regular. After exams were cancelled in 2020 and 2021, this year saw the return of exams for the first time in two years.

Results day spells anticipation and excitement for some but for those who haven’t quite got the grades you’d hoped for, it can be a time of confusion and panic. And whilst missing out on your first and second choice of university can seem like the end of the world, know that there are other options.

First off, don’t panic!

In this blog we’ll look at some of the options if you didn’t get your desired A-level results.


Universities use a UCAS service known as Clearing to fill any remaining places on their courses. On the flipside, students who don’t have an existing offer from a college or don’t want to accept it, can apply for a different place or course using Clearing.

When does Clearing open?

This year you can apply for clearing between 5 July and 18 October. Usually, if you have your grades but don’t have a university offer you can use the Clearing service as soon as it opens. However, if you received conditional offers but didn’t get your expected grades then you can enter clearing from the day you get your A-level results.  

There are over 30,000 course vacancies listed in UCAS’s search tool and the list is routinely updated up to mid- September. Tuesday 18 October 2022 is the last date to apply to courses using Clearing, and for universities to make their final decisions.

Who can use Clearing?

You can apply to multiple courses using Clearing if you meet the following eligibility criteria:

Explore other options

You can use Clearing as a means to explore courses that you hadn’t previously considered. You can also reach out to universities that may have previously rejected your application. Contact your preferred universities directly (which still have spaces to fill) to find out if they might offer you a place. There are advisors on university hotlines to guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have. You’ll need your UCAS personal ID when calling universities so make sure to keep it handy.

Once you received a verbal offer, and it’s been added to the UCAS Hub and confirmed by the university, your place is guaranteed.

Gap Year

Every year, over 230,000 students between the ages of 18 and 25 take gap years and 60% believe that a gap year helped them decide what subject to study at university. A gap year can be a great time to regroup and rethink your options. While some use gap years to travel, others use it to pursue a passion or hobby. You can also use this time to learn a new skill or take up a volunteering. opportunity. Each of these pursuits offers the chance to learn valuable life lessons and a range of transferrable skills that can be applied to both personal and professional scenarios in future.


As college tuition fees continue to rise, more and more school leavers are rethinking their career options. The average cost of tuition for colleges in the UK is £9,250 annually. Apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional college degrees.

A university qualification earns you a Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree or PhD, which could take anywhere between 3 and 8 years to achieve, or even more if you study part-time.

On the other hand, an apprenticeship combines on-the-job training in addition to one day of study per week, which all contributes to obtaining an industry-recognised qualification at the end. There are various apprenticeship levels available that equate to different qualification levels, ranging from level 1 (GCSE Pass) to level 5/7 (Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree). So, at the end of your apprenticeship, you will be equipped with valuable skills and transferable qualifications to demonstrate your expertise to future employers. An apprenticeship takes between 1-5 years to complete depending on your chosen level of education. What’s more, you get paid while you learn.

And while most students end up with a hefty student loan to repay at the of uni, an apprenticeship leaves you debt free.

Confused about which route is right for you? Our blog Apprenticeships vs University: everything you need to know explains it all.

Register your interest for the FDM Apprenticeship Programme.


A-level students can resit their exams the following summer. So, if you’re unhappy with your 2022 results, you can retake them in the summer of 2023. There are many reasons why your test scores may not have turned out as you’d hoped and a resit gives you a second chance to pursue your original career plan if you’re truly committed to it. For example – if studying a specific course at a specific university is the best option for your chosen career path, a resit is a great option if you didn’t get the qualifying grades the first time. Some universities also keep their offers open for the next year.

Whatever the case, don’t be disheartened if you don’t ace your A-levels. Did you know, 58% of leading employers value work experience from graduates over university grades. Let’s take the technology industry as an example. According to Laszlo Bock, former Google vice president of People Operation, technology firms are no longer concerned with hiring staff from prestigious universities and an increasing number of those entering the technical field do not have a degree at all.

At FDM Group we believe that that the university you attend should not dictate your career prospects. We are committed to helping people from various backgrounds, giving them the tools they need to kick start their careers. Applicants from all degree backgrounds and universities are welcome. As a market leader in the Recruit, Train, Deploy sector we specialise in bringing more and more people into tech roles. You don’t have to have studied a STEM subject to join one of our technical graduate programmes.

So regardless of what you end up doing after your A-levels – whether you take a gap year and resit your exams the following year, or decide to enrol in an entirely different course or degree from what you’d originally intended, you can still have a promising career in future.