Results Week 2021


 Tracking the impact of the global pandemic on student sentiment and young people's education choices (view comparative 2020 insights here).


The lead up to Results Week

(Data: 4th August)

student poll

(When data collected: 157 responses)

Will students change their firm choice in Clearing?

Our snap poll found that most students plan to stick with their university choice (56%). However, students have not had their results yet, so Clearing may not be front-of-mind at this time.

Despite the majority sticking to their choice, this still leaves 44% who are tempted to change their mind. When we ran a similar poll in 2019 (pre-pandemic) 63% were happy and 37% were tempted to switch their university.

Of those who are considering Clearing, the most common reason is to trade up to a higher ranking university (28%). This shows that Clearing is not just for students who don't make their grades.  Universities should consider who their closest competitors (especially those ranked slightly higher or lower in league tables).

How are students feeling?

It's an anxious time for students and we're seeing lots of posts about exam nerves. We've launched the #YourPathYourFuture campaign to support students.

We're starting to see students asking what they can do if they don't get the grades they want, and Clearing is being mentioned in some key areas of the site like Medicine, Pharmacy and the Applications, Clearing and UCAS forum. Users are asking our Clearing and Applications advisors for support and we expect to see more of this in the coming days.  

These students are sharing pre-results anxiety with peers:

Student plans for A-level Results Day

Most students we polled said they intended to go into school or college to get their results (54%). Some were unclear that results would be released at 8.30am (in previous years it was 8am).

At this stage, Year 13s aren't really talking about appeals. There are a few conversations about grade inflation, but again not much. When results are released it will be interesting to see how the media spins it.

Some students who are not collecting in person are worried about whether they will get their results:

Over the weekend

(Data: 6th - 8th August)

results day

Preparing for Results Day

Over the weekend, student sentiment dipped by more than a point, from 5.2 to 4.1. The frequency of these keywords in student posts was quite revealing: fail (205 mentions), worried (200), scared (177) and nervous (104).

We polled students to find out how prepared they were feeling for A-level, BTEC and SQA Results Day and only 39% felt prepared. Fortunately, students were able to access onsite resources to help with this - our most popular article this weekend (by pageviews) was "Nine ways to be totally prepared for A-level and Btec results days". Top 'results' threads included this Medicine thread and the Results Day countdown.

Students have also started sharing their pre-Results Day self-care and relaxation tips, such as not thinking about it too much, cooking, or going out in the evening. Some students will already know their results, so will have less to worry about:

"Found one of my exam results already my teacher emailed it me.Not sure if it’s allowed or not"

Student conversations - Clearing

Questions about appeals, grade boundaries, clearing processes and individual student circumstances are beginning to crop up across the site. This weekend, posting in the Applications, Clearing and UCAS forum was up 86% for Year 13s and up 28% overall (vs the weekend before Results Day 2020). 

We’ve also seen more mentions of Clearing in our forums (609 mentions vs 362 last year). Medicine continues to be a key focus area for Clearing discussions - see this UCAT thread and this Medicine - UCAS Extra/Clearing thread. UCAS has already indicated that this could be a record year for Clearing, and some universities have responded by financially incentivising students to defer.

Student conversations - Appeals

Simon Lebus from Ofqual has said that students would need to have "very solid grounds for thinking something's gone wrong" if they want to successfully appeal their Teacher Assessed Grades. So far there have not been many discussions about appeals, but they have risen over the weekend:

Common words in student posts

student poll

Frequent words in these forums over the weekend:

Study Help
Uni + Uni Courses
Unis + HE Colleges

Day before Results Day

(Data: 9th August)


Frequent words in education forums.

What is on students' minds?

The day before Results Day the sentiment score rose again to 5.5 (4.1 over the weekend).  Overall the community was quieter than we would normally expect at this time - this may be because students were feeling more confident with a Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs) system.

That said, we did see plenty of pre-results jitters and students staying up late to keep each other company. The Guardian reported rumours that around 150,000 students were still unplaced (20% higher than in 2020), so it's unsurprising that we would see some nerves:

"I'm hoping really hard that somehow, I did well in all this madness, and my dreams come true. It would mean the world to me to go into my dream course finally after so many struggles."

"Result's day is so close, I can't stop thinking about it. Tbh, it's been like this for two weeks now. I can't stop thinking of scenarios where something bad just happens and I don't get in this year.."

However, at the time of writing on Results Day, we are not seeing the levels of panic predicted by the media. We will keep an eye on this emerging situation.

Results - grade fairness, grade inflation and appeals

Most of the conversation about results was happening in our Results countdown thread, but we also saw activity in other areas of the site. Some students are worrying about the impact of grade inflation and grade fairness:

We expect to see more conversations about appeals soon as a result of inflation on top grades and the increased number of unplaced students. We are already starting to see conversations like this from Scottish students who get their results earlier.

"I will defo be appealing if I get below a B because it is literally an impossible grade to come to by averaging out my achieved grades!"

Clearing and Year 13 activity

The most popular article on 9th August (pageviews) was "University phone numbers and contact details for Ucas Clearing 2021".

The three most popular forums (based on posts and pageviews) were: Medicine, A-levels, Applications, Clearing and UCAS. Year 13 posting in the university forums was also high:

  • Uni and Uni Courses - 339 posts
  • Uni and HE Colleges  - 101 posts

"Before the storm that's inevitably coming tomorrow, I just wanted to say that this thread has been really comforting for me and I feel a lot less anxious than I was a couple days ago (thanks to you guys). I hope we all get what we want tomorrow. And to the admins, thanks for labouring away and always answering our questions, regardless of how stupid they may be. Nonetheless, good luck everyone. Our year group has undoubtedly had it the hardest ever. Getting through A Levels for us should be an accomplishment within itself. Being stuck in a home environment with so many distractions and disruptions whilst still being able to do what we have done is amazing. I'm reminiscing about how close I was to giving up on education because there was just so much uncertainty and panic but here we are now! I know I said it before but GOOD LUCK!"

User, The Student Room

A-Level outcomes on Results Day

Students in England with 3x A* grades

2021 12,945

2020 7,774

2019 3,007

2018 2,664

19.1% of entries achieved A*(vs 14.3% in 2020). 88.2% were A*- C.

753,000 A-level entries in England (vs 719,000 in 2020)

Females outperformed males at top grades (At this time only binary data available)


19.7% A*

46.9% A*-A

90.7% A-C

99.6% A-E


18.4% A*

42.1% A*-A

85.9% A-C

99.3% A-E

Entries overall are up 5.1% (824,718 A-levels taken).

More students have received the highest grades, which may mean lots of students are miss out by the smallest margin on their university offer.

Top grades have seen the most inflation, whereas there’s been less in the mid-low grades. (D level has actually stayed almost static). Overall, the pass rates actually declined slightly (0.2pp).

A* increased by 4.8pp from 2020

A*- A increased by 6.3pp

Female students performed better than males (A*- A female students increased by 7pp and males by 5.4pp). A-level Maths female students overtook male students for the first time in the number of A* grades achieved.

Very slight regional bias towards candidates in the South and London achieving more of the top grades (A* - A). At this stage, we have no clear evidence regarding whether advantaged students with "pointy-elbowed parents" have been awarded higher grades as a result of the 2021 system, but we will be following this closely.

Students have already been celebrating and sharing their results on threads like this offer holders one.

A-level, BTEC & SQA Results Day

(Data: 10th August)

UCAS has now reported that 395,770 students have a confirmed place at their first choice university (+8% YoY from 365,500 in 2020).

Overall, 435,430 students have a place (+5% YoY)

Results Day key information

Placing students:  Onsite activity is pretty calm and positive this year -  it looks as though plenty of students were placed at their firm choice. We have seen plenty of celebrations. However, we have seen some examples of universities deciding between edge-candidates on fairly tenuous grounds.

Oversubscribed in Medicine: Students holding Medicine offers at schools which are oversubscribed are being given the opportunity to transfer to another university or defer a year. Some are being offered bursaries for this. In the main, students say universities are being understanding, but we have heard complaints that some universities are pushing hard deadlines for students to make a decision.

Appeals: Due to the (as yet unsubstantiated rumour) that 20% more students are unplaced this year, we expected to see plenty of appeals conversations - this is still not the case. The top thread mentioning appeals was our Appeals FAQ thread. Students are discussing results though.

Grades and moderation: there is less negativity about A-A* grade inflation than expected, but some students who received lower grades seem disappointed. We polled students to find out if they were happy with their results and there was a very even split between those who were happy (33%), those who got what they expected (37%), and those who had grades that were lower than they expected (30%). Only 15% of schools were asked to take another look at grades (moderation).


Official Reps and our team of volunteers played a key role in supporting students on the day


Demand for keywords in Google UK


Search trends and student activity on Results Day

Demand for Clearing keywords in Google UK peaked at 09:00 on Results Day, with some smaller spikes at midnight on the 10th and 9th. Demand remained fairly stable overnight on 10th August (albeit at fairly low levels) but now looks to be picking up slightly. Key clearing subjects searched across the day were for Medicine, Midwifery and Nursing places.

The top thread on TSR throughout the day was ‘Medicine UCAS Extra / Clearing for 2021 entry"

#alevelresults2021 dominated Twitter all day, with #NoWrongPath trending briefly in the morning (Scottish Government Youth Employment strategy campaign).


The pre-results ‘breakout’ terms were similar to previous years (but with over 5000% increase in demand) and were focussed around: what time results were released, when does UCAS Track update, various freebies/food deals (Nandos, Frankie & Bennie’s).

Post-results breakout searches included students looking for clarification on unconditional offers, appeals and resits.

There was a noticeable increase in questions around BTECs asked (more significant than previous years) including questions concerning specific grades and also whether BTECs are being ‘phased out’.

Key apprenticeship companies searched were Siemens,, RAF, Kaplan, Audi and Aldi, alongside more general career searches for aerospace engineering, law, game design, and travel and tourism.

What were students talking about?

Omg I got an offer😭😭😭 after all that hard work and a year of tears and disappointment. I want to thank everyone on TSR ESPECIALLY GANFYD and ecolier for helping me with my medical journey. Thank you so much, bless you!!!

User, The Student Room

There are lots of Medicine conversations onsite, unsurprising given: a lack of Medicine courses in Clearing, inflation of high grades, extra funding due to oversubscription, and actions taken by universities to transfer, defer or offer bursaries to students. It's a popular forum even without these additional talking points. It's also worth noting that both SQAs and BTECs made the top discussion lists - they need to be talked about too. Many BTEC students are coming to us to interpret what their results mean.

GCSE Results Day and Results Week insights

(Data: 11th August)

GCSE Results analysis

5.75M GCSE entries this year (up 0.9% compared with 2020). Of these, 4.81M are 16-year-olds based in England. On average, students achieved 7.85 qualifications (compared with 7.84 in 2020). Entries for 17 year-olds declined (but fewer retakes for Maths and English were needed in 2021).

79.1% of entries were graded 9-4 (equivalent to A-C) and 30% were graded 7 or higher. The percentage of top grades increased compared with last year, but the overall pass rate was down:

7/A +2.7%

4/C +0.8%

Pass -0.6%

Females outperformed males (At this time only binary data available)

3,606 students achieved straight 9s - 64% were achieved by females (16 year-olds in England). There has been some speculation that mental health issues arising from the pandemic are having a greater impact on males.


7/A 33.4%

4/C 80.6%

1/G 99.7%


7/A 24.4%

4/C 73.6%

I/G 99.5%

Search analysis - GCSE Results Day

The top thread on T he Student Room was ‘List of GCSE results day freebies (A-levels too) Nando's, Las Iguanas, Chiquito', continuing a trend that we saw on A-level results day.

GCSE trended on Twitter throughout the day, although it slipped to third place by mid-afternoon. Year 11 also appeared around lunchtime.

There were increased searches throughout the day concerning clarification over specific grades and their equivalents, endorsements and around what time results were released (although this is likely to be non-students).

A-Level and Clearing demand dropped off significantly after their peak on Tuesday but remained fairly stable. There was still a significant amount of demand for information about the Clearing deadline, and searches for Pharmacy places spiked in the afternoon.

Government apprenticeships searches continued to increase, alongside those for RSPCA, software engineering and aerospace engineering apprenticeships.

GCSE Results - subject focus

Subjects with the greatest increase in entries in 2021:

  1. Spanish +4.7%
  2. Geography +4.2%
  3. Physics +4%
  4. Chemistry +3.9%
  5. Business Studies +3.8%
  6. Biology +3.3%
  7. English Literature +2.6%
  8. Art and Design +2.6%
  9. Science (Double award) +2%
  10. History +0.9%

On the current trend, the number of entries for Geography may overtake History soon. The growth in uptake may relate to increased awareness about environmental issues.

Update on A-levels

We are now seeing a drop-off in conversations about A-level results or demands for support. Students are focused on their next steps - whether that's appeals and resits or preparing for university.

We continue to see reports of universities offering incentives for students to defer and stories about edge-cases where students are struggling.

UCAS clarified the situation regarding the 150,000 unplaced students rumour. There were 149,400 unplaced students overall: 

  • 97,000 are UK-domiciled
  • 51,000 are international  (11,000 EU, 40,000 non-EU)

The 51,000 international students can apply in their own and other countries, so are not necessarily unplaced overall.

Clearing and analysis on unplaced applicants

The number of applicants has increased by 21,490 YoY. By 11th August, 8,700 applicants had already been placed through Clearing and we expect this to rise quickly. At this point, there are 19,710 more applicants free to be placed in Clearing than in 2020, but this is more reminiscent of the numbers we were seeing in 2014,2015 and 2016.

Universities seem to be making decisions more quickly, as at the time of writing there were 10,000 fewer students waiting to hear about conditional offers.

Top Ten unplaced (in Clearing applicants) by subject:

  1. Subjects allied to Medicine ~ 29,000
  2. Medicine ~10,000
  3. Creative arts & Design ~10,000
  4. Business & Admin ~7,000
  5. Social studies (including Economics and Politics) ~6,000
  6. Biological Sciences (includes Psychology) ~6,000
  7. Education ~5,000
  8. Engineering ~3,000
  9. Computer Science ~3,000
  10. Law ~3,000

Health-related fields have a very high proportion of unplaced applicants – this could be down to university place and/or placement shortages, combined with higher applicant numbers. 

A-Level subjects onsite analysis

Onsite Medicine continues to be our most popular subject forum in the month leading up to A-level Results Day. We are also seeing consistently high levels of activity for related fields like nursing, dentistry and pharmacy.

STEM subjects are also popular, which may be linked to the fact that this cohort are more concerned about employability outcomes than previous years.

A-Level subjects - 2021 entries

Increase in subject entries 2021:

Geography +16.8%

Law +15.4%

Computer Science +11.3%

Decrease in subject entries 2021:

English Literature


Key takeaways from Results Week 2021

Insights so far:

28% of students said they wanted to trade up to a higher ranked uni in Clearing

Medicine is a key area for Clearing discussions

Media predicts 20% more unplaced students on Results Day vs 2020

Top grades are higher, but the overall pass rate is slightly down for both GCSE and A-level

Females outperformed males at top grades (GCSE and A-level)

This year is calmer than 2020, and generally, students seem to be happy with their results (with some exceptions)

Speak to our team about these insights, Clearing, or student recruitment

Get in touch