How to help your child when they receive exam results

Reading time: About 4 mins

Your child might not have the results they hoped for or needed and may be unsure about what to do next. 

We've pulled together some practical steps you can take to support them:

1. Look for the positives

Be supportive. Reassure your child that they still have many options open to them; it might just mean that they take a different route to get the career they want. For example, instead of going to university to study engineering they might consider a Modern Apprenticeship.   

A Foundation Apprenticeship could also be an option for them if they're about to start S5. Your child will take a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of their S5 subject choices. They'll get real work experience with an employer and spend time learning at college too. Find out more on

2. Don’t rush a decision

The most important thing is not to panic. Encourage your child not to rush into any decisions. They need to take time to think about what they want to do next. My World of Work has advice to help them think about their next steps.

The Strengths quiz can help them see what they’re good at and offers career suggestions. They can also phone the Exam Results Helpline to speak to an adviser and talk about their options.  

3. Let them take control

Resist the temptation to take the lead. Instead, encourage your child to research their options. If your child is feeling disappointed and worried, it’s good for them to take action and feel they’re actually working towards a solution themselves.

4. Understand the next steps 

Understanding what options your child has can help you support them as they make their decision. We’ve listed a few below: 


Your child's school or college can request a clerical check or marking review from the SQA as part of their Results Services. Don't wait too long as there are tight deadlines, particularly for pupils with conditional offers. 


If your child didn’t get the results they needed for their chosen course, they could still get a place at college or university through Clearing. The important thing is to make sure your child doesn’t just grab the first thing they come across because it’s available and they have the grades.

Encourage them to consider something they enjoy and make sure the courses on offer give them a definite route – if slightly different from first planned – towards their preferred career.  


Resitting exams in sixth year is always an option and having already been through a course, your child will have a very good idea of what’s actually required. College can also be a good option for resitting Highers.

It’s a fresh start as well as a useful introduction to more independent study.

You should be aware that some universities and competitive subjects may prioritise students who are sitting their exams for the first time over those who are resitting when they give out their offers. This could put your child at a disadvantage even if they later get the required results. Find out whether this will be an issue before they decide on this option. 


There are now three different kinds of apprenticeship in Scotland: Foundation, Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships. One of them could be a good option for your child: 

  • If they're about to start S5, a Foundation Apprenticeship (FA) could be for them. An FA will give them the chance to find out what working life is really like. They'll get real work experience with an employer and spend some time learning at college too
  • Your child might decide that they want to go straight into work and a Modern Apprenticeship (MA) is a chance for them to learn on the job and get a qualification at the same time. MAs cover over 80 different job areas including accountancy, engineering, journalism, ICT and sport and there’s no limit to where your child can go next
  • With a Graduate Apprenticeship (GA) your child will be an employee - similar to a Modern Apprenticeship. But they'll be spending some of their time at university, working towards a degree, and earning a wage at the same time

Find out more about the different types of apprenticeship on

Gap years 

A year spent travelling or working can add a great deal to a personal statement or CV. Sometimes it’s not just about getting the grades for a specific course or job.

Working in hospitality, call centres or retail provides a valuable set of practical and soft skills that future employers, colleges and universities will look favourably upon. Find out more about gap years.

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