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GCSE Results: 'What do I do if things didn't go so well?'

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Depending on how your GCSE results came out, results day 2021 may have been a cause for celebration, confusion or disappointment.

For a large portion of students that don’t attain the grades that they were hoping for, this can be a challenging time. In actual fact, around 25 to 30% of students do not attain a pass-grade in English and Maths. This represents over one-hundred-thousand students across the UK – a substantial proportion of young people find themselves in this situation.

For those of you that did not pass the GCSE English or Maths exams there are various things to consider:

1. Are you going to attempt to re-sit the exam?

For most students, the best course of action is to go and re-sit before moving on with the next phase in life. There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that having a GCSE English and Maths will allow you the option of further training and are prerequisites for any University course. The likelihood is that over the course of your life, you’re going to want to get some further training. The second is a simple question basic academic skills and confidence. The world we are moving into is requiring higher and higher levels of cognitive skills, developing a decent base line of numerical and communication skills is going to be helpful.

2. What are your career and training options moving forward?

It’s important to look at what options are on the table for you moving forward. For most people they are going to want to go into fields that require further training so the likelihood Is that GCSEs will be a requisite. I’ve worked with re-sit students that have gone onto study engineering, nursing and computing who needed to gain a pass grade in English or Maths in order to fulfil the requirements to get onto their training course. For other careers GCSEs may not be a pre-requisite. If you take the time to do a little research, you should find what kind of requirements there will be before you take the next step.

3. Where will you re-sit the English and Maths GCSE exams?

You will need to decide where you are going to sit the exams. If you are affiliated to a college and going through a re-sit course, you will automatically be assigned a candidate number and you will do the re-sit with that institution. If you are not affiliated to a college and would like to sit as a private candidate you will need to find a centre that will allow you to sit as a private candidate. Some of those centres will be listed on Google, but you should also call around schools in your area to see which ones register private candidates. If you ask to be put through to the exams officer they should be able to give you the necessary information. To sit as a private candidate will cost a fee – usually around £60 although this varies depending on the centre.

4. How are you going to approach the re-sit exam?

If you did not succeed the first time around, it’s unlikely that things will change without a new approach. The first step for most students is to begin to identify why they failed the exam to begin with. It may have been due to a lack of application, focus or preparation. In some cases students unfortunately have multiple teachers in the school year and are unable to get real continuity in their teaching and feedback. Students and parents should be proactive in finding a fresh approach and if necessary new resources and even some extra tuition.

The above are some of the issues that students would do well to consider when in their approach to re-sitting the exam. It can be a tricky time for many students who are often recovering from receiving a low grade in their GCSE exams. Although students will often not give much away, it can often affect their self-esteem and their belief in their own ability. One of the things that I notice with students is that they gain a sense of confidence as their skills improve. Parents will also often tell me that they have noticed a marked difference in the confidence level in their son or daughter. When a student moves from a fail to a pass-grade this is a fantastic confidence booster. In addition the skills developed on the English and Maths exams are fundamental life-skills – communication and numeracy – so they are going to come in useful throughout your adult life.

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