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Exam results helpline

Exam results helpline's blog

Specialist careers advisors ready to help families on GCSE results day

Teens and their parents waiting for GCSE exam results on Thursday (Aug 24, 2017) are being urged not to panic as the UK’s only specialist ‘pop-up’ exam helpline for students is open for them first thing on the morning of results day.

The Exam Results Helpline (0808 100 8000) is a specially-formed team of expert UK careers advisors who come together at the UCAS head office in Cheltenham once a year for the sole purpose of helping young people who receive unexpected exam results.

Created nearly three decades ago and funded by the Department for Education, the helpline provides impartial advice to anyone who receives GCSE results and wants to talk through their options.

The helpline is open on Thursday morning from 7.30am and remains open until Thursday August 31st. Full timetable can be found here.

On average, a quarter of the calls placed to the helpline come from parents asking the all-important questions about next steps.

Nick Hynes, a careers adviser who has worked for the service for more than 25 years said: “We are here for everyone who has questions but, in particular, for those people who want to find out all of the options available to them as well as sixth form.

“There are so many choices now and apprenticeships are growing in popularity as well as professional options and going to local colleges.

“Often it’s parents who want to help their children – this is an incredibly stressful time for some young people and it’s really important they don’t panic and call us as soon as they need to and we can work things out together.”

The Exam Results Helpline has already helped thousands of students since A Level Results day both on the phone as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Advisers have been talking to callers about re-sits and retakes, gap years, Clearing, Adjustment, apprenticeships, funding and student accommodation.

The helpline number is 0808 100 8000 or find the Exam Results Helpline on Twitter or Facebook.

Further information including opening hours can be found here.

Top 5 tips for parents to help their young teenager through this testing time

In preparation for results day, Exam Results Helpline careers adviser Nick Hynes gives his top 5 tips for parents on how they can help their teenagers:
  1. Don’t panic – do reassure: We take calls from students who are panicking that they haven’t got the results they need and the first thing we tell them is to try to stay calm. This goes for parents too! Try to remain positive, whatever the results. Your child may need reassurance from you that everything will work out and it will all be OK
  2. Don’t get ‘FOMO’ (Fear of Missing Out) and rush into anything: There is no need to make quick decisions. Give your child time to reassess and have a good think about what they want to do before they start making the next steps into their future education outcomes
  3. Know the options: Your child is legally bound to stay in full-time education or training until they are 18. Their three main options are: 6th Form; College; and Apprenticeships. With thousands of courses on offer, there will be something to fit your youngster’s personal tastes
  4. Think local: There will be variations in your local environment so take some time to speak with local colleges and see what apprenticeships are available in your area through
  5. Pick up the phone: If you want to find out more information, clarity, support or advice don’t forget that the Exam Results Helpline is here to help parents as well as the students themselves so give us a call on 0808 100 8000 or Twitter @ERHelp or Facebook

“When Molly discovered her exam marks on that morning my heart really went out to her” – a Mum’s story on exam results day

Gill Claridge, aged 49, from Halstead in Essex said that watching her daughter become ‘devastated’ at getting lower-than-expected exam results was incredibly difficult and left her feeling helpless. Nineteen-year-old Molly had been head girl at her school and a star pupil in her coursework, but, says Gill she became very nervous when faced with the exam environment.

The whole family became worried after she received a C in English Language, a D is Sociology and an E in Psychology – but according to the online report was still accepted into her first choice of Bath Spa University to study Media and Communications. With results that were lower than she expected, she felt unsure about the fact she would still be accepted onto her course.

Gill, a teaching assistant, said: “Molly had worked really hard throughout 6th form and had really enjoyed her coursework but things just didn’t go very well during the exam process. When she discovered her exam marks on that morning my heart really went out to her because she was devastated.”

Molly said: “I was really nervous. You wake up and realise that ‘today is the day’ and so there’s quite a lot of pressure on you. When I looked online and saw my grades I really freaked out as I got lower than I thought. It was so nerve wracking anyway with all the build up to it and so the day itself was pretty traumatic. The thing that was confusing was that it said I was still going to get into Bath but I couldn’t really believe that without checking it out properly.”

“I called the helpline number and spoke to someone who was so helpful and told me what to do. Their advice is common sense, things like calling the university itself, speaking with tutors, looking at all the other options available – things you really need to hear if you’re worried and don’t know what to do.”

Molly has now completed her first year at Bath Spa and is loving the course but said that people need to get help if they are unsure about any aspect of their results.

Gill said: “It just shows you that there are always choices and ways around things – but, in that moment, you panic and you don’t know where to turn. We all felt an incredible amount of gratitude to the woman at the Exam Results Helpline who helped Molly put her mind at rest and reassure her that the place was still available. She didn’t say anything negative or unhelpful, it was all constructive and knowledgeable. She even phoned back later in the day to make sure we were ok – which shows how much they care. It’s a great service and it’s just right there when you need it most.” 

Don't get FOMO on results day! Call the Exam Results Helpline

Don’t get ‘FOMO’ on exam results day! Panic buying because you think you’ll miss out is not the solution to your problems. Here our advisor Annie Dobson helps bring some perspective to what can be a worrying time for everyone.

Exam results day are stressful for most people – so you don’t have to do this alone

Take someone with you, preferably parents or carers, and if you can, get them to drive so that you have one thing less to worry about.

It's good to have people you care about to celebrate with, but it's also important to have them there if your results are not what you had hoped for. If things have not gone to plan, take a moment to let it sink in.

Talk to your support, be it your parents or carers or your teachers and listen to them, they can be the voice of reason. It's important not to panic, and not to panic buy when you start to look at clearing options.

Take your time, and remember, you can take a year to take stock, re-sit if necessary, get some work experience and transferable skills and re-apply for next year.

This really is all about you!

It's important to focus on you. There are not many times in life when you shouldn’t have to think about others, but make sure you blank out what your peers and friends are or are not doing. Don't rush into anything for fear of missing out, remember it's your future and no-one else's so make sure it's right for you.

There is the chance that you won't get the course of your choice through clearing and it's better, in this case that you look at the alternatives, rather than rush onto a course simply to say you are at university.

Plan. Creating a plan for the day, and the days leading up to it can really help.  

Take a look at alternatives, in case things don’t go to plan.  This could be a list of clearing possibilities or alternatives such as Foundation Degrees, HNDs and HNCs as well as employment and apprenticeships.

On the day, check your status on Track to see if you have been accepted into your firm or insurance choice.  Track opens at 8am, however, it will not tell you your grades and you will need to find out from Sixth Form or College about how you will receive your results.

Eat something in the morning – preferably after you’ve had a good sleep!

When you do go to collect your results, make sure you go prepared and that means physically also. Try and get a good night’s sleep and then get up and have a decent breakfast. You don't want to be wobbly if you have to spend time there trying to sort our university or accommodation, and you certainly don't want to be celebrating on an empty tummy!

Make sure you top up in case things bottom out

Take a fully charged and topped up mobile with you in case you need to contact your university or to contact others through clearing. Take your universities contact details as well as any you thought about clearing options just in case you want to consider adjustment, things don't go to plan, or you have simply changed your mind.

Take a note of the Exam Results Helpline 0808 100 8000 - there are experienced advisers on hand to help you.


The ultimate checklist for parents ahead of exam results

While students across the country are nervously waiting their A Level results this Thursday (Aug 17) or GCSEs (Aug 24), a thought should be spared also for their equally anxious parents.

To help everyone going through the stresses and strains that inevitably come with this time of year, the Department for Education’s Exam Results Helpline opens at 7.30am on A Levels Day and will continue to be a lifeline of support and guidance until the end of the month.

Although students make the bulk of the calls, a quarter are from parents phoning to find out how best to help their youngsters take the next steps.

Here, Exam Results Helpline careers advisor Iwan Williams has outlined the ‘Ultimate Checklist’ for parents to ensure they can help their teenagers make the right decisions when the time comes.

So, what do parents really need to know?

1) The options: Having a solid understanding of the options can help calm the initial shock if results are unexpected. Clearing may be an option if firm and insurance offers are not secured and knowing how to access the lists can provide reassurance. Adjustment is something to consider if results are better than expected. Gap years, deferred entry and alternatives to university, like apprenticeships, can all be considered in the right circumstances too.

2) Free up some time: Universities are notoriously busy fielding phone calls and it can be frustrating waiting to speak to the right person. If a new university is being considered, it can be useful have a look in person and make a flying visit (geographically dependent obviously). Having a parent available to help them go through this process is invaluable.

3) Speak to the school or college: Despite an increase in the electronic notification of results, the school or college will still be open on results day with staff and teachers available to speak to but potentially not all day. Know the opening times, know what support is available and factor all this information into the day’s plan.

4) Be the voice of calm:  Try to be calm, reassuring and positive regardless of whatever the day has in store. Be ready to celebrate their success and enjoy their upcoming transition to a new chapter. But, just in case, be ready to comfort them if things don’t go as planned.

5) Call the Exam Results Helpline: In the event of any part of results day causes confusion or doubt, encourage your child to call us. Or call us yourself - we speak to hundreds of parents each year too. As trained careers advisers, we can help assess the options, evaluate the pros and cons and support your child to making the best decision for them. We are an impartial and knowledgeable voice in what can be a complicated but exciting time and we love helping every caller. We open at 8am on the morning of the results and we are available on 0808 100 1000. Good luck!

The Exam Results Helpline is 0808 100 8000 and opening times can be found here.

Mind the gap! How to make yourself even more employable by taking a year out

As we run up to A Level results day on August 17 many students will be looking at the option of deferring and/or taking a gap year.

Exam Results Helpline Careers Advisor Iwan Williams explains how to make the most of this valuable time.

Q: Gap years used to be about finding yourself and going travelling to far flung places – how has this changed in the past few years?

A: There has been a major shift towards much more targeted and strategic approach to gap years. No longer is it viewed just a chance to ‘find yourself’ on a beach in Goa. Graduate employers want more than a degree. They are also seeking a cultural fit and if the student has a range of experiences to draw on it can really enhance employability.

Q: Is it important for students to learn another language etc while they are on their trips?
A: Having another language is undoubtedly seen as a good thing by many employers and if the chance is presented and the desire is there to do it then absolutely grasp that. With many employers having an increasingly global approach, it can be a significant advantage.

However, it is not essential.

Q: Why do you think gap years are so popular? 
A: Alongside the break from education and the chance to travel, a gap year provides the chance to spend time on self-development and build confidence – ideally by participating in a range of activities like volunteering, working etc – and then take that leap the following year.

Finally, there will be those who are thinking about their future career plans. Some will want to build relevant experience to help their application to university/graduate job while others might not have made their minds up and need more time before making such a decision.

Q: What do universities particularly look for from the gap year student?
A: Universities will want to see that the year has been spent positively and not been wasted. Self-development is key and whether this is through travel, gaining work experience or volunteering it’s important to think about how this will be evidenced.

Some universities will want to interview applicants during the process but all will read a personal statement. So, make sure this details the valuable experiences and skills learnt and how this will be put to good use during a degree course. This is essential.

Q: What other observations can we draw from your experience of gap years?
A: Gap years where there is a focus on gaining work experience can benefit students in two ways. Firstly, they can explore different roles and see how well suited they are and this can then lead to decisions around what degree to study. An example might be nursing – how do you know that you can work in such a clinical and demanding environment without ever having experienced it?

Also, it provides the student with the chance to pull together an employability toolkit. For example, if a student wants to work in law, having experience of working for a law firm helps them develop networks within the sector, gain a better understanding of the role and its wider impact – what we call commercial awareness – as well as offering a range of real life experiences to use in interviews and application forms.

Q: If someone wants to take a gap year, and then apply for university for 2018, then is there any advice for that (ie is that easy to do, or is it better to have a deferred offer in the bag)?

A: If the students knows in advance they want a gap year holding fire on the application might be easiest. That way, the application would be made with actual grades (as opposed to predicted) and they should receive an unconditional offer rather than the uncertainty of waiting on results.

Exceptions to this might be for individual courses where perhaps entry requirements are expected to change for the following year to become more difficult and securing the place under the old requirements is seen as advantageous.

If the decision for a year out is last minute and the applications have already been made then, as long the student is happy to commit to the course and university for 12 months later, they should wait until they have their place confirmed and then phone the university and ask for a deferred entry for the following year.

Most universities will be fine with this but it is obviously up to the university in question. If they refuse or the student wants to keep their options open, then they will need to be asked to be released from their offer and will be free to reapply next year. 

DJ Pandora gives her support to the Exam Results Helpline 2017

Our favourite KISS FM presenter, DJ Pandora, is once again helping spread the love for our helpline. We asked her what it's like when she did her GCSEs and what tips she had for those facing it this year.
Q: You did GCSEs, can you remember what it felt like on the run up to it?
A: On the run up to my GCSE exams I remember feeling anxious, and if I am honest, a bit stressed as I was constantly worrying if I had done enough revision. I tried to be organised and I remember setting time aside every day for a different subject and getting my friends to help with study groups, but you're still left with this feeling that you've not done enough.
Q: How did it feel on the day?
A: The moment I woke up on exam day, I had a clear head as I was eager to just get in and do it. I had the huge build up of worry and I just wanted to get it over and done with, and get everything down on paper.
Q: When did you decide you didn’t want to go on and be a vet?
A: I've always had a love for animals and my parents wanted me to be a vet which I thought would be incredible. The only problem was I felt squeamish around blood so I had no idea how I would cope in that environment.
I’d always had a love of drama and at that time I wanted to be an actress so when I got an A* in Drama I was over the moon.
My parents were quite keen for me to pursue the veterinary course but I got a D in maths and a double DD in science, meaning getting that degree to become a vet just wasn’t going to be possible! They offered to pay for extra tuition to retake the exams but I told them I was happy with what I got, as it confirmed the direction I wanted to take my career in.
Q: How did you start your career in radio?
A: I started out as a promo girl at Heart Radio, and I used that experience to shadow everyone I possibly could in that building! I let everyone know that I wanted to be a radio presenter and would do anything I could to find out everything about the trade. I worked in every aspect of radio whether it was alongside the producers, finding out what the engineers did, and listening to the sales team. I even sat in on a pre-recorded show to see how it was technically operated.
I first started at a community radio called Westside, and after a few moves to other stations, Capital Radio became interested in me to do the 3am slot, then I did daytime. I was there for 4 years and just one year ago I made the decision to join KISS and the infamous KISSTORY show and I’m having the time of my life. 
Q: What three key things do you want to say to people who are waiting?
  1. Mange your stress levels because you have worked hard and done all you can.
  2. Look at options of where you want to take your career, no matter the outcome of your results. Have an idea of the sort of career you would like to pursue.
  3.  Always remember even if your grades are not what you wanted, you can STILL be a success in life ... I am proof of that!
Q: Why should they call the helpline? 
A: The helpline is a great place to go if you are looking for impartial and useful advice. It can sometimes be daunting speaking about your career with people you know, so you can call the helpline with any concerns or worries. The team understand all the modern paths and options you can follow, and can give genuine advice which will help ease your stress.
Just remember that anyone can be taught how to do a job, but no one can teach you how to be you, so make sure you are always the best version of yourself.
You can call the Exam Results Helpline on 0800 100 8000 and visit the website to find out all the opening times
You can catch Pandora on KISS weekdays from 10am to 1pm.
Take a look at Pandora’s official blog and follow her on Twitter & Instagram @PandoraTweets. 

Winner of The Apprentice 2015 Joseph Valente: ‘Try not to stress about your exam results – just take control when the time comes’

Joseph Valente, who won The Apprentice in 2015, wants to give a clear message to stressed-out young people who are waiting for exam results: ‘Don’t panic – if you don’t get the results you want, just take control and get the information you need to move on.’

Joseph has some serious first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to have to make alternative choices when things don’t go according to plan.

Having been expelled at the age of 15, he turned his life around when a local plumbing firm offered him an apprenticeship and from there he got into college and changed the direction of his whole life.

Joseph, who is now a successful businessman in his own right, said: “I was an off-the-rails teenager, hated going to school and had loads of issues about education. So, quite rightly, when my behaviour got too much the school decided it was time to let me go.

“It was that realisation that made me completely re-look at my life and I knew I had to take control to get what I wanted.

“There’s no doubt that having something like exam results hanging over you can be a really worrying time – loads of people think ‘what happens if I’ve not done well enough?’ or ‘what will happen if I’ve failed’?

“But the truth is there is always a way through even if the marks mean you have to deviate from your original path, with the right help and some courage you can work out a new way of doing things that will get you where you want to go.”

Joseph, aged 27,  gained his qualifications, took out a personal loan and branched out on his own to form ImpraGas in 2012. In 2015, he took part in The Apprentice and won.

In 2017 Joseph bought back his company from successful businessman Lord Alan Sugar, who fronts the BBC show, and has tripled his turnover in just six months to over £2 million. 
Joseph said: “It’s easy to think that something big like getting your exam results is the end of something – but it’s actually the beginning. Your life is your life – no one else is going to live it for you, so if you get an unexpected result make sure you pick up the phone to the Exam Results Helpline. It’s free and it’s a resource made available especially for people in this situation.
“But that phone is not going to jump into your hand and call itself, it’s up to you. So, don’t panic, don’t stress, just take control when the time comes, get the right advice and you will work it out.”

What NOT to do on the run up to getting your exam results

Iwan Williams, one of the Exam Results Helpline careers advisers, gives his top tips on how to keep it together as results day approaches.
  1. Panic! It seems inevitable to feel some nervousness as you get closer to the results coming out but stay positive that your hard work will pay off and think about the fantastic experiences that await you. Feel reassured that even in a worst-case scenario, you will still have a range of choices and options to help you move forward with your plans. 
  2. Stick your head in the sand. You probably already have a clear ‘Plan A’ scenario in mind. But things can change very quickly and what if you suddenly need a ‘Plan B’. Or even ‘Plan C’? If your results aren’t quite what you were hoping for or you have exceeded your wildest expectations then it doesn’t hurt to know what choices you have.
  3. Isolate yourself and turn away from loved ones and friends. I often talk about the importance of students building and maintaining a support network. Your own personal cheerleading squad, there to celebrate your successes and help you up when you feel down. It can be made up of friends, family and teachers; anyone that knows you and cares about your wellbeing. 
  4. Be inflexible. Understandably, your eyes will be fixed on a September start in your first choice university. I always think it is worth knowing about alternatives to that option though. And I don’t mean only consider this in a worst-case scenario! There are many pathways to success and while a September start at your chosen university is undoubtedly one of them, what could a gap year offer you? How would building work experience that supports your career choice be really beneficial later on? What options are there in the world of apprenticeships? Each option has pros and cons, right for some, not for others. If you are unsure of what these good and bad points are, it might be good to investigate things now. 
  5. Rush your decisions. Remember only you can take these steps and that no one can pressure you into doing so. Think positively but dare to think about the ‘what if’ scenarios too. You do have the time and space – even on the results day itself – to look at all options, learn what they offer and make the best decision for your future. 
  6. Not call the Exam Results Helpline! This is the most important thing that you should not not do! We’re here for - and genuinely love - helping thousands of students with their individual circumstances and range of choices. We are open from 8am on results day so please do get in touch. If any of the above has left you any unanswered questions, then we can help you unpick the tricky stuff.
The Exam Results Helpline is 0808 100 8000 and opening times can be found here.

Holly used Clearing when she didn’t get the grades she was expecting

Name: Holly Laing
Age: 19
Address: Billingham

A Level results day last year
Holly missed out on her place at St Andrews University studying for master's in French, Spanish and Arabic.

“I got an A in English, B in English Literature and a C in French and although I knew I had done well, it wasn’t enough to get my original place. I really didn’t know what to do and just started to phone universities but had no luck.

I have never been so stressed about my immediate future! Everyone was posting their results and it had really hit me how I wouldn’t be going to the uni I was originally so set on.”

Next steps
Holly went onto Clearing to see what courses there were available to her and called the Exam Results Helpline for some advice.

“The adviser that I spoke to suggested that I should go and visit some of the unis that I was looking at to see if that would help my decision, which I did before accepting my place at Lancaster University. I have now just finished my first year and I hope to go on and achieve a master's in languages at possibly Oxford or Cambridge.”

How the Exam Results Helpline supported Holly

“If I hadn’t called the Exams Results Helpline I would have cried even more! I might have also missed out on some of the opportunities to study at some unis.”

Holly’s advice to this year’s students:

“Take a deep breath. I would say definitely visit the university that you have an offer for and see if you like it. Wherever you end up, as long as you stay positive and throw yourself into uni life, you will not regret your decision.”

Not sure what options are available to you after GCSEs?

Talk about A level results has dominated the news over the last week, but all 16 year olds and their families who are making their final plans for September and beyond need to know this: they might have been around since the 1950s, and everyone has heard of them, but A levels are not the only option!

For those students who feel ready for the world of work, there is a huge range of apprenticeships and traineeships available. By choosing this option, you get qualifications, a stack of work experience and the chance to progress in your chosen career too.

Or what about college courses? There are thousands of options available, courses awarded by long established and well recognised bodies: BTEC, NCFE, ASDAN, QCF, VRQ, an alphabet soup of qualifications, recognised by universities and employers, all with a practical focus to give you a head start if you do already have a sense of career direction.

And finally: the A level is not the only more academic advanced level course. The Pre-U Diploma, for example, and the International Baccalaureate are both well regarded qualifications which attract credit on the UCAS tariff system.

There are so many options available to you and the most suitable one for you will depend partly on your grades, and partly on any career goals you already have.

Speak to a careers adviser before making a definite choice. The Exam Results Helpline is staffed by professional, well qualified advisers and is open every day until 31st August on 0808 100 8000.