The route to success: 4 top tips for when your child’s exam results are unexpected

By Samrita Hayer Careers Adviser at the National Careers Service Exam Results Helpline.

The National Careers Service Exam Results Helpline is the free service available for both parents and young people alike to seek advice and support following exam results. Here, Samrita shares her expert advice on what to do next if results are lower (or higher!) than expected.

Summer is here and with it comes the moment many parents and young people dread – exam results day! Whether your child is opening their letter to reveal their vocational qualification results (some announced 14 August), A Levels (15 August) or GCSEs (22 August) – it’s bound to be a tense time, for you and for them. Check out our top tips to ensure you are giving your child the best possible advice:

Take a moment to pause before making any decisions

Exam results

No matter how well your child did in their exam results, it’s best for them to take a short amount of time to pause and reflect on their next steps. They might have achieved better results than expected (woohoo!) which is exciting, but also means they might want to explore new opportunities which are now available to them. If that’s the case, make sure they don’t rush into anything like accepting offers to college, sixth form, their apprenticeship place or university, without first taking time to consider if new avenues may have opened to them.

On the flip side, it can be really disappointing for young people, their parents and guardians when they receive exam results that they weren’t quite expecting, especially when they’ve spent sleepless nights revising and worrying over them. If this is the case for your child, it’s important to remind them that exam results don’t necessarily define anyone’s ultimate career success.

Weigh up the different options

When young people are in the haze of exam stress it’s easy to follow the crowd and choose similar options to friends. But it’s important to encourage them to research all the options available to them with their grades – also considering their personal interests and strengths. For instance, they may want to go to a different university or earn while they learn by exploring degree apprenticeships with some of the UK’s leading organisations.

There is never one set path to a career and there will be routes that suit your child better than others. A great way of exploring options is also by speaking to friends and family and asking them about their career choice and why they wanted to pursue this route, it might just give your child a flash of inspiration.

Seek advice from experts


It can seem like quite a daunting prospect for students to pick up the phone to a careers adviser. But all of the advisers at the Exam Results Helpline have a passion to help young people understand their options and are sensitive to what a truly overwhelming time it can be. The helpline is also available to parents and guardians seeking advice on their children’s behalf – we often get a lot of calls from parents needing support and guidance. We take as long as needed to find out the callers strengths and personal interests and combine this with their results to find the best next steps for them in a straightforward way.

If your child has really pulled it out the bag their results might have opened up many new doors for them. Calling the Exam Results Helpline can be a good way of quickly finding out about the routes they can now take and the best way for them to proceed with them – this might be going through Adjustment to change universities, exploring apprenticeships options with big companies or taking a gap year to possibly get some work experience and decide what it is they would like to do.

Dream big

Finally, young people need to continue to dream big! If your child got the exam results they expected, or better – that’s fantastic, they will have a wide variety of options available to them to choose from. If your child received unexpected low exam results, we know that may really knock their confidence and make them feel like they are doomed to fail. In this circumstance, it’s really important for young people to realise that sometimes things go wrong, so do encourage them to pick themselves up and take advantage of the services and information that’s out there.

The National Careers Service Exam Results Helpline number (0800 100 900) will be available between the hours of 8am – 10pm, 7 days a week and will be available from 14 August (the day certain vocational results are issued) and close on 29 August, following GCSE results day. Further info can also be found via the National Careers Service website:

Expert advice can also be accessed through the Exam Results Helpline social channels, which will be launched on the 1 August – see below:

Twitter – @ExamResults2019 or use #ExamResultsLive to ask a question
Facebook – Exam Results Helpline Event page
LinkedIn – Exam Results Helpline Showcase page

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.