Education & Family

What if my GCSE grades are disappointing?

sad family
Image caption Disappointment on results day can be hard for the whole family

While hundreds of thousands of pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be celebrating a string of good GCSE results, others will be disappointed.

The BBC News website looks at some of the options for those who have fallen short.

What should I do on GCSE results day?

You may get your results by text, email or in the post, but it's still a good idea to go to your school on results day. By doing this, you can get help and advice from your teachers.

What should I do if I don't have the grades I need to do A-levels or vocational courses?

Firstly, don't panic. If you don't get the grades requested by the sixth form or college of your choice, approach them and see if they are prepared to be flexible. It's possible they will still give you a place or they might be prepared to take you on for different courses. Alternatively, approach other schools or colleges - you might find they will offer you a place.

What about retakes?

You could resit some of your exams. If you were close to the grade you needed, you may be able resit as early as November or January.

For modular GCSEs, you can resit individual units without retaking the whole thing, as long as you resit at least 40% of the qualification. But if you do worse in the resit, you can't use the grades from your first attempt.

If you are resitting several subjects or you need to improve your results significantly, colleges and schools are more likely to advise you to wait until next June.

Can I challenge my results?

If you feel strongly that your grades are wrong and do not reflect your ability, you can ask for a remark of your papers. Requests for remarking can only be done through your school or college. There is a fee for this service which is reimbursed only if there is a grade change.

Could I study for other qualifications other than A-levels?

You could decide not to go down the route of A-levels - academic-based qualifications are not the only route to university or successful careers. You may wish to consider studying for vocational qualifications, such as BTecs or City and Guilds, which are work-related qualifications in a range of subjects such as information technology, construction, beauty therapy and tourism.

What GCSEs do I need for vocational courses?

Vocational courses can be either level 3 - considered equivalent to A-levels, or level 2, equivalent to GCSEs. Level 3 courses can be a route into higher education.

If you don't have many GCSE grades of C or above, careers advisers are more likely to suggest level 2 courses. Once you have passed a level 2 course it may be possible to move onto a level 3 course.

When considering a course, ask what people who have completed it go on to do - how easy is it for them to find jobs, or move on to further study?

What about an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships combine work for an employer and a programme of learning which will lead to qualifications. They are available at level 2 or level 3. You get paid a minimum wage of £2.60 an hour (£2.65 from 1st October 2012). However, the average wage per week for an apprentice is around £170. More information is available from the National Apprenticeship Service.

Could I do something else altogether?

You could go straight into paid work, take a year out or volunteer for a while. It is possible to return to education - either full-time or part-time - later in life. Talk to careers advisers, teachers and your family and think carefully about what you are doing and why, and what future options it will create or rule out.

Where can I go for more advice?

You can call the national Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000.

The government website Directgov might also help you make decisions.

If you need help with career choices, you can email or telephone an adviser at the National Careers Service.