If your results aren’t what you hoped – whether at school or university – you may face re-sitting exams. You don’t have to re-sit; your teachers or tutors can advise whether dropping a subject would allow you to focus your energies on the ones that matter. For university students, check with your examinations office for the regulations on re-sits, as these vary by college and course. For school pupils, recent changes mean you can no longer re-sit AS or A levels in January, so you would have to wait until June to re-sit. If your university place depends on your results, and your grades were very different from those predicted, your school could request a priority re-mark from the exam board. There is a fee for this, and on 2013 figures only 18% of grades were changed as a result of re-marking (and some went down!). The option usually is to enter university clearing to see if you can find an alternative place.
For current GCSE students, November re-sits are available for English Language, English Literature and Maths in 2015 and 2016. After that, for the new-style GCSEs, only English Literature and Maths re-sits will be available in November 2017. For other subjects, you can only re-sit in June, but if it’s a crucial subject for what you want to do or study in future, this might be viable alongside taking your AS levels. If you want to talk to someone outside your school, you can call the national Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000 or talk to an adviser from the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900.
So, re-sits. Don’t waste energy beating yourself up about a bad result. Talk about it, and then move on. Make the most of the months ahead. Try and identify what went wrong, and then set out a strategy to reduce the chances of it happening again. You may know why you slipped – you didn’t answer enough questions, you panicked – or you may not. Be honest: you might have felt a bit under the weather on the day, or the nasty examiner set nasty questions, but was this truly enough to make you fail? Was the real root cause a lack of revision, a lack of concentration in the classroom or a failure to do your homework or self-guided study? If you’re not sure where you went wrong, ask your teachers/tutors where they think your weak areas are – does this chime in with what happened in the exam?
A strategy for success
Start by listing people who can help you. Not just teachers. What about your fellow students who did well? How do they study and revise, what books and websites were useful? How about a mutual support group of others who have to re-sit – encourage each other with revision goals, study sessions, joint tutoring? Could parents, friends of parents, older siblings or students give you a new take on the subject? If you feel overwhelmed, consider finding a tutor, online or in person, to help polish your skills and knowledge. There are many online resources to help you study particular subjects, and there will be revision classes at school and university student study services to support you.
Improve your revision technique – make a plan and start early, even earlier than you think. Break the subject up into bite size sections, so that it doesn’t seem too high a mountain to climb. Reward yourself for getting through a section. There’s lots of advice online (including on this site) about revising, but key points include: create a distraction-free study place (switch off the phone, loud music and social media), take regular breaks, bump-up your brain power with exercise, healthy food and lots of sleep.
Critical to success is to go through as many past papers as possible. Practice makes perfect, ensures your learn how to time your answers and helps you not to panic on the day. Find papers at school or on your exam board website; they may even have ideal sample papers to draw on. Look at different questions on the same topic – what are the key things that link all of them? How can you apply your knowledge to them? Practise individual questions under timed conditions, and then whole papers against the clock. Do loads.
Ask for help whenever you can. But remember, in the end, that you are not defined by your exam results. When you’re in the middle of them, it can feel like the end of the world if things go wrong. It isn’t, and life will happen anyway. So, deep breaths and good luck!