John Carberry is an experienced careers adviser who has worked on the Exam Results Helpline for many years. He offers words of wisdom for those who didn’t do as well as they hoped in their A-levels.

1. Have a plan B

“Before picking up your  A-levels, think about alternative courses and institutions you might you consider if you don’t get the grades you hope to. When Clearing vacancies become available, having worked out your plan B in advance will help you target your search and move quickly.”

2. Think about what went wrong

“If it goes pear-shaped, take a bit of time to reflect upon why. Were A-levels the right form of study for you, or would you have been better with a different approach to learning? What did you enjoy? Which bits did you find challenging? Considering these things will help you decide what to do next.”

3. What’s right for you?

“It may be worth considering other types of course, such as foundation degrees or Higher Apprenticeships. Think around your subject, too. If you planned to study business, are there other financially-related courses that might interest you? Broadening the net could help you find a place.”

4. Don’t be hard on yourself

“There will be things in life that don’t work out as you hope. Being able to take something positive out of those disappointments is a valuable skill.”

5. Take a punt

“Make contact with universities that have vacancies in Clearing and see if they might make you an offer. Tell them what you’re interested in and that you’re willing to work hard.”

6. Keep control

“You have to make decisions quickly in Clearing, but try to keep a clear head and don’t jump at the first offer. Aim to give yourself 24 hours to research courses and universities before making a final commitment. Admissions tutors should be understanding.”

7. Ask the right questions

“If you’re offered a place in Clearing, find out what the accommodation is like. Is this somewhere you’re going to be able to live? What’s your commute going to be like? There are all sorts of considerations that could affect your happiness.”

8. Take advice

“On the Exam Results Helpline, the advisers are professionally trained, professionally qualified, independent and impartial. We can give hard facts to help you make your own decision.”

9. Remember there are always other options

“You can take a gap year, you can resit exams, you can consider different modes of study – Clearing is not the only way forward, and it may not be the right way forward for you.”

10. Don’t let disappointing grades knock your confidence

“You don’t always miss out on things because you’re ‘not good enough’. Remember that just because it didn’t work out for you today doesn’t mean it won’t work out for you in future.”

The Exam Results Helpline number is 0808 100 8000,  or you can get advice at or on Twitter @ERHelp. The service is open from 5 August for students in Scotland and from 14 August for students in the rest of the UK. It runs until 23 August. Calls are free from landlines and some mobiles.