A levels results don’t meet expectations ? Here’s what to do

Didn’t get the grades you want? That’s okay. It’s not the end of the world.

Firstly, you should know that results that aren’t expected, aren’t the same as results that aren’t worthy. Maybe your grades weren’t what you were expecting, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not still useful to you. Results could differ from expectations for many reasons – underestimating, overestimating, state of mind on the day of the exam vs. now, not understanding what the examiners expect despite understanding the material well, or just sheer bad luck.

Whatever it is, it’s now out of your hands. It’s done. You need to give yourself some time to wrap your mind around the grades that you have. You need to accept them for what they are. It’s perfectly okay to be upset, but the next step after that ‘mourning period’ is to figure out what to do next. And what is that?Let’s talk possibilities.

1. Blaze Your Own Trail

Don’t follow the herd. Let your results be an indicator of what you have an aptitude for. Yeah, maybe the neighbour’s kid got an A+ in Mathematics and Biology, but the neighbour’s kid wants to do medicine or engineering. Maybe you don’t. Focus on the results that met your expectations, the ones that indicate your aptitude, or even just the subjects that you enjoyed studying for, even if your grades weren’t stellar, for some reason (it happens, grades aren’t always the best indicator for aptitude and talent, surprise, surprise!)

Maybe you’d like to study humanities or liberal arts. Mathematics grades may not matter as much for that, and vice-versa. If you have the results you need to pursue your career path and goals, forget about the ones that were nasty surprises. Apply to the programmes that match your skillset and preferences. Note that most schools provide non-traditional admission channels for students who don’t make the cut in their grades through discretionary admission or appealing, wherein your strengths will be considered in greater detail.

2. Level Up Your CV

You could balance out your results with other skills on your CV. Online learning is the new higher education trend: flexible, great return on investment, and world-class professors just a click away. There are several MOOC providers (Massive Online Open Courseware): Coursera, edX, Udacity and Udemy andKhan Academy just to name a select few. These provide hundreds of courses, and even specialisations – a series of courses that you can get officially certified for from the university that offers them.


There could be a possibility of even college credit in some cases. Universities independently offer online degrees, and distance learning options as well (check out University of London International Programmes). So, you could work part-time and build up your academic portfolio in the meantime.

Yet another option to boost your CV are high-tech boot camps to equip yourself with what are turning out to be the most in-demand skills of the decade.

Doing things like this show initiative, self-discipline, and motivation – characteristics that employers and hiring managers just love. Plus, they take the focus away from your grades, and give you something to talk about during interviews. They might even help you discover new passions and purpose.

Pro-tip: Singaporeans can get reimbursed for many of Coursera’s specializations. Check out your options here.

3. Mind the Gap

Have you thought about taking a gap year? If you can afford to, taking a break now, can pay off in the long run and ensures that you won’t get burnt out. Work on underlying health or personal or family issues that may have affected your grades. Go volunteer somewhere. Get some perspective. Learn a language or a musical instrument. Broaden your outlook of the world. Travel. Figure out your life’s purpose. Taking a gap year before higher studies is the new in thing to do, so there are many options that cater to helping you have a productive one, if you don’t have any plans of your own. Malia Obama travelled to Bolivia and Peru for an 83-day educational trip that included trekking, living with a Bolivian family, and learning about local social movements and environmental conservation efforts. Research Global Nomadic and similar options.

4. Get a degree(still)

Consider Singapore’s many Private Educational Institutions, or PEIs. Many of them don’t have the rather outdated focus on grades that most institutes of higher-education unfortunately do. PEIs may even be the better option in some cases, since they offer you the best of both worlds – the ability to work and study, while still completing your degree on time. This isn’t possible at most local universities, and even if it is, it’ll take much longer than the usual timeframe.


When considering this option, take heed that PEIs can come with wide-ranging standards. There are close to 300 of them in Singapore, so make sure you choose an institution offering quality education that secures your future.

Look out for signs of recognition by established bodies.  For example, PSB Academy has been adjudged the Best Private Education Institution in Singapore by Business Excellence and Research Group (BERG), as well as the Best Private School in Singapore for Engineering in JobsCentral Learning TED Awards 2016. They have tie-ups with prestigious universities abroad such as the University of Newcastle, Australia which was recently ranked among the top 250 in the QS world rankings.

The in-person learning experience in schools is irreplaceable. Be sure to check out the facilities of the school you are enrolling in as well. In which case, you don’t want to miss out the  über cool high-tech campus, Future Academy, at Marina Square! Apart from the academic experience, it is important to look at schools that also provide strong non-academic support & training such as organizing of networking events. One example would be CollabX Communication that brings together PR professionals from Ogilvy & Mather and IPRS to exchange ideas.

5. Try, Try Again

If grades are still your focus, and you can’t get your head out of the past: retake the exams if possible, or apply for special consideration. Do this as a last resort: for example, if your career aspirations strictly involve certain cut-off grades. This time do some mental diagnostics to see what went wrong last time, find a couple of new study spots and master some new learning techniques.

To increase your chances of success, you might want to consider going to a private school. MDIS provides A-level courses as well as lab sessions for those who need to retake their science practical. However, if you feel that you do not want to waste time travelling to and from school, you can consider private tutors as well. Just don’t blow up your kitchen trying to make a makeshift chemistry lab.

As a parting gift, here is a motivational story on local girl Gabrielle Ong who has chosen to take the road less travelled – on-the-job learning and skills over academic learning – despite having the grades to make it to local universities. You’re not alone. Everything happens for a reason, and maybe this has happened just to set you on the right path. Remember, the world is your oyster.smiley


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