Scottish exam results: What to do if you don't get the grade you want

Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills John Swinney with a pupil Credit: PA

Around 138,000 Scottish students received their exam results on Tuesday, after the coronavirus pandemic saw tests cancelled for the first time in 130 years.

Although students did not sit any tests in Scotland, there was a rise in exam pass rates - but the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has downgraded 124,564 pupils’ results.

Results showed the National 5 pass rate was 81.1%, the Higher pass rate was 78.9% and the Advanced Higher pass rate was 84.9%.

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

What does this mean for students who didn't achieve the results they wanted?

From Tuesday young people will have access to an exams hotline that will offer them support with their test results.

The Skills Development Scotland helpline offers information and guidance on results and also offers career support, to students, parents and carers.

The line, which opens for calls at 8am on Tuesday, can be contacted on 0808 100 8000.

Can you appeal your results?

Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon announced that students can appeal if they don't agree with their results, from 4 August.

It must show that students were performing at the level of the estimated grade - this goes for exam results, past papers, preliminary tests and coursework.

This year due to the coronavirus pandemic, pupils on a National 5, Higher or Advanced Higher course can make free appeals - if they believe their grade is below the estimated grade issued by their school, college or training provider in May.

The appeals can only be made by schools, colleges and training providers, so students will need to contact them in the first instance.

Schools will discuss the three possible outcomes from the appeals process with students, before proceeding.

Appeals need to be signed off by principals, head teachers or their representatives, and can only go ahead with the consent of the student.

Once the SQA receives all the evidence from schools or colleges, a senior examiner will review it along with any other evidence it already holds, such as unmarked coursework submitted before the cancellation of exams.

The SQA examiner will then decide whether your grade should stay the same, be awarded a higher mark or in rare circumstanced you can receive a lower grade.

Those wishing to confirm a college or university place will be informed of the outcome by 14 August.

For all other appeals, students will be informed by 21 August.

What are the resit options?

Scottish students will be given the opportunity to sit their exams from next year, if they want. Grades from the resists and the estimated grades will both be shown on their records of attainment - meaning they can take whichever grade is better.

Scottish students can resit their exams next year. Credit: PA

What are your options if your grades don't match university offer grades?

If your grades don't match university offer grades, then your next best option is UCAS Clearing, giving students who don't meet the grades of their chosen university a chance to gain a place at a university elsewhere.

Clearing is open until October 2020, so students don't need to rush to get a university place as soon as they receive their results.


Students can also seek other avenues to get into the job market such as apprenticeships, which allows them to work while learning.

There are no student fees associated with apprenticeships as the government and your employer fund your training.

Secretary for Education and Skills John Swinney Credit: Andy Buchanan/PA

Are the grades legally standing?

Although resit options are available from next year to those who wish, and free appeals from Tuesday 4 August - the estimated Scottish Higher grades will be final.

UCAS are also working alongside schools and colleges to ensure they can assist students in taking the next steps after gaining their Scottish Higher results.