So, you’ve finished your GCSEs and have already moved on to the next stage of your education but you’re wondering- when you can get your exam certificates?
In this article I will be explaining to you when schools will receive your GCSE certificates, how long they will keep them for, whether you actually need them for later life and what to do if you lose them.
Secondary schools will keep your GCSE certificates for 1 year after they have been issued. They are sent from exam boards to your school 2-3 months after GCSE results day in August, so will be received in November. If they are not collected within a year, schools will either send them back to the exam board or destroy them.
If you would like to know the answer in more detail or are wondering how to get a replacement certificate, this article may be useful for you.
How Long Do Secondary Schools Keep GCSE Certificates?
Secondary schools are obliged to keep your GCSE certificates for 12 months after they have received them from the exam boards.
The certificates are sent from each exam board to the school directly before they are distributed to students.
Now this may seem like a very long time, considering that you leave school after your GCSEs in June, but it is so they can give you a reasonable amount of time to collect them after your exams have finished.
Even though you will have left school and progressed to either college, work or an apprenticeship they should still contact you when they receive the certificates and organise a time for you to collect them.
Schools usually receive the certificates from the exam boards up to three months after results day in August. This means that they will probably be with your school in around Autumn time, more specifically in November.
As they will be there for a year at minimum, this should give you plenty of time to go and collect them. It is very important that you are responsible and are able to look after them.
If you can’t collect them within the time frame, you should contact your secondary school as soon as possible and try to organise a way for them to get your certificates to you.
Your school may be able to post them to you once they have received them if you are unable to collect them in person.
Why Does How Long GCSE Certificates are Kept Vary between Schools?
Some schools may only keep certificates for the year that they are obliged to and others may keep hold of them for years after you finish your exams.
This will depend on when they are able to organise the distribution of certificates. Some schools may be faster than others in contacting students and setting out specific dates and times for them to come and collect their certificates than others.
Secondary schools may also have varying amounts of storage space which could mean that they are unable to store certificates for long periods of time.
It would be impractical for them to store all of the uncollected certificates from previous Years so they need to prioritise having space for the most recent batch.
They may end up keeping them longer than the designated time but this is unlikely, and there aren’t many reasons preventing you collecting them when you are told to.
What Should You Do If Your School No Longer Has a Copy of Your GCSE Certificates?
If the circumstance arises where you were unable to collect your certificates within the time frame and the school were unable to post them to you, they may not keep the certificates on your behalf.
If your school no longer has your GCSE certificates, the first thing you should do is check what they did with them- you should see if they have returned them to the exam board or if they have been destroyed.
It is better to chase it up and see if there is any way of retrieving them before going through the process of getting new ones.
If there is no way you can get the original certificates back, then you need to apply for replacements by going directly to the relevant exam board website.
They will be unable to replace the original certificates but instead can offer a ‘certified statement of results’ which should show the same information on it as your exam certificates did.
However, to avoid any of this, you should really try to collect your exam certificates from your school as soon as they are available to you. Again, contact them and organise something that suits you more if this first option is not possible.
Do You Actually Need Your GCSE Certificates After Secondary School?
In short, yes, you will need your GCSE certificates after you leave school.
In the months after your exam, you may not necessarily need them as much, depending on what your next steps after secondary school are. As most students go straight to college after Year 11, it is very likely that by the time you receive your certificates you will have already started your further education.
Colleges and Sixth Forms use predicted grades for student’s applications and enrol students after GCSE results day, where they can bring a copy of their exam results to verify the grades rather than the specific exam certificates.
If you choose to continue your education to university, it will become more important to retain your original GCSE certificates.
As you move to higher education, your previous exam results become increasingly important as Universities want to know that you can work at the right ability and in the right subject fields to do the course you are applying for.
Universities will expect you to have an official record of your results (in the form of exam certificates) to prove that you achieved your GCSE grades.
Even if you don’t go to university, they will still be important for your future. Sometimes employers will want to see proof of your education, again to find out whether you have the relevant skills needed to suit the job role that you are applying for.
GCSE exam certificates may not be as important as A-Levels or a degree in this situation but will still be really useful.
What Should You Do If You Lose Your GCSE Certificates?
As I have mentioned earlier in the article, if you lose any of your GCSE certificates you should apply for a replacement (or ‘certified statement of results’) through your specific exam boards.
Because GCSE certificates are sent from the exam board to your school, to apply for a replacement you will need to go on their websites or contact the boards directly.
Here are the links to the 5 main exam boards in the UK and their instructions on how to apply for replacement certificates:
(If you are taking exams in Scotland, the link here may be of more use to you)
You will need to fill out personal information to confirm your identity. Exam boards also require you to pay a mandatory fee of at least £40 per exam board.
Because of this, replacing GCSE certificates can be very costly, especially if you have results from more than one exam board (as a lot of students do).
It can also be a lengthy process as it can take at least 4 weeks for your application to be reviewed and approved, followed by further time for the certificates to get sent to you.
If the exam boards are experiencing a high volume of requests at the time you apply, this increase your waiting time.
The best advice I could give regarding GCSE, or any exam certificates, would be keeping them in a safe, accessible place, so that you can provide proof of your qualifications easily whenever you may be required to.
If you do end up losing them, make sure you apply for new ones as soon as you can. The long waiting period for replacements could be very inconvenient if you have deadlines for university or job applications that you need to meet.
How Many GCSE Certificates Should I Receive?
The number of certificates you receive will depend on how many exams you take, and how many exam boards you use. You should get one certificate per exam board, per exam season.
This means that if you do one subject with AQA exams and another with Edexcel for example, you will receive separate certificates. Any other exams you take with either exam board will also be on the exam board specific certificate.
Additionally, if you take exams in different time periods they won’t be listed on the same certificate. If you do some exams in the summer and then have to take some later on in the Autumn for example, you will receive separate certificates for each exam season.
So, don’t be alarmed when you only receive a few certificates. They will still count for all of your GCSE achievements but will just be condensed onto one piece of paper. Just see it as a positive – less to keep track of and look after later on!