Everyone wants a do-over, another chance to get things right.

So enduring is that theme that the list of films on that topic has earned its own Wikipedia page; some of the more popular titles include Back to the Future and Groundhog Day.

Even Harry Potter had a go at it in The Prisoner of Azkaban!

Not to be outdone, the pop charts had their ‘do-over’ hits too; Shalamar, Lady Gaga and Nell Bryden all have songs titled Second Time Around.

Second chances work well in song and film: a life lesson gets learned, the desired result is achieved and everyone is happy.

Maybe that’s why we like do-overs so much. And you?

Perhaps you’re too young to wish for a life do-over but, if you didn’t quite get the marks you aimed for on your general certificate or other qualification exams, you might like to try again for a better result.

Let your Superprof give you all of the particulars on how to do it.

Why You Might Resit GCSEs

These exams are the capstone of your secondary education and, in a very real sense, they determine the entirety of your future – everything from your possible career options to your lifetime earning potential.

It goes without saying that choosing which subjects to test in, how many exams to select and earning the best marks in as many subjects as possible should be of the utmost concern.

In theory, the GCSE exam schedule affords anyone the possibility of sitting 16 exams but it’s probably not a good idea to do so.

The new GCSE scheduling permits testing in up to 16 subjects
The stress of multiple GCSE courses argues for not selecting the maximum number of exams possible Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Likewise, selecting only a handful of subjects to test in will cost you further down the road, even if you earn Grade 9 on all of them. The possible exception to that unwritten rule would be if you chose to test in the most rigorous subjects possible.

Most GCSE students aim for around 10 exams, with a small percentage of pupils choosing to sit 12 or more.

That statistic begs the question: with only English, Maths and Science exams required, why would anyone volunteer to test in other academic subjects?

Here is where the rest of your life comes into play.

Employers prefer to hire people who have more than the required GCSEs under their belts and, preferably, with acceptable marks in each exam they sat.

Furthermore, even though universities require A-Level results for admission, they also list prospective students’ GCSEs among their entry requirements. A paltry showing in that criterion – in marks and number of exams could cost you your spot in the study programme you want the most.

Now that you know how critical both the quality and quantity of your upcoming exams are, you can see why so many students would want a GCSE do-over.

By quality we mean the GCSE grades you earn and by quantity, the number of GCSE exams you sit.

GCSE Retake Policy

In most of your GCSE subjects, the choice of whether to retake an exam is entirely yours; in GCSE Maths and English, the choice is made for you.

If you achieve a grade below 4 – what used to be a C in the old grading system, you will be compelled to resit those exams.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait until the next GCSE test cycle to retest in those two critical subjects unless you absolutely want to; you can have your do-over as early as November.

You have far more latitude in the other subjects you tested in. For instance, if you are not particularly happy with your Religious Studies or English Literature results and you weren’t that wild about those subjects to begin with, you could just let them go.

Keeping in mind the richness of GCSE-level results expected – by employers, apprenticeships and university entrance requirements, you might think twice about dropping a subject.

Instead, why not see if your college will allow further study and a retest in tandem with your AS exams?

Or, if you feel an apprenticeship is the route you want to go, you could ask your adviser if you might update your GCSEs while working on your next stage of development.

If you need to resit GCSE mathematics, simply ask your teacher or adviser for review time
While you're earning your vocational qualifications, you could continue with GCSE revision Image by Stux from Pixabay

Bear in mind that exam resits cost money.

Your school or college may not be able to pay for all of your exam retakes or, for that matter, any at all. Should that be the case, depending on the awarding body and the examination series, you might have to pay around £35 per exam.

You may also think about retaking your exams privately

The Low-Down on A-Levels

Most students’ GCSE results generally reflect the career field(s) they wish to pursue – or, at least, that they might be interested in. Presumably, your exam results show the same thing.

Like a game of ‘Mother, May I?’, GCSE testing permits you to advance to the next round of examinations; these place a more intense focus on further education in a specific subject matter.

Unlike your school-leaving exams when more is better, you can afford to trim your AS exam registration quite a bit; five exams is considered the norm at this stage of the certification exam process.

Test takers have to be far more selective in choosing the subjects they wish to test in; you don’t have the luxury of picking one easy subject to balance out the two or three difficult qualifications you need to meet your goals.

Unlike for GCSE - which, as their name implies, are a general certificate of secondary education, sitting A-Levels suggests you have a specific goal in mind: you wish to enter a certain field of study and pursue it through university.

That makes your decision whether or not to resit an easy one. If the university study programme you want to enrol in will accept your A-Level marks, you’re golden – no need to resit.

If they don’t, you might apply to other university programmes through UCAS Clearing; not every university demands the same grades for admittance.

Resitting A-Levels is a bit trickier than GCSEs; before you will be allowed to sign up for a re-take, you must prove that you have a 4 (C) or higher in the equivalent GCSE subject.

That means that, if you want to resit your physics or biology exam, you have to have earned a 4 or higher on your GCSE Physics or GCSE Biology exam.

Final note: in 2015, the DfE changed the way exams are graded; since then, AS scores bear no weight at all on A-Level marks.

Good news! You don’t need to worry about resitting AS exams!

You can check online for your exam timetable
Although there are no online assessments to take the place of A-Levels, you may take courses online ahead of your exam resit Image by JaneB13 from Pixabay

A-Level Retake Policy

During the 2015 overhaul of the A-Level exams, they were reformed from a modular to a linear structure – that is why the AS scores don’t have any bearing on the overall exam scores.

Before this change, students could retest only the modules they did not do well in, possibly affording them a better chance at the university courses they wanted.

The bottom line is: if you wish to resit your A-Levels, you must retake the entire exam and the only time you can is during the next exam season, in May/June.

As for your coursework, which does count as a part of your overall A-Level assessment, you may be able to carry those marks forward.

Where and How to Resit A-Levels

Your school may or may not allow your resit; if you are permitted to, it will be a true do-over: coursework, timetable and exam, just like before.

If you’ve had enough school to last you a while, you might consider resitting your A-Levels online.

The exam boards would consider you a private candidate and would have to pay for the exams yourself, as well as for your online courses. Fortunately, they are much more affordable than going through a college!

In spite of your online course and registering as a private candidate, you will resit the exam in person, much like you did before. Be sure to book your spot about six months ahead of test dates!

Resit Rules in a Nutshell

  • No exam board imposes a minimum grade for retakes except for in GCSE English and Mathematics; if your school permits it, you may retake any and all exams
  • You should only retake exams you believe you could make big improvements in
  • Resit exams that ‘weigh’ more than others, meaning they have greater value on the job market
  • Be realistic: could you substantially improve a low grade if you have little interest in that subject to begin with?

Final note: the examining board (Edexcel, OCR and AQA, among others) will credit you with your highest grade achieved, whether it was your original exam or your fourth resit.

So, if you’re resitting to improve on a Grade 7, it’s really not worth your while to agonise, strategise and submit yourself to all of that stress. Besides, a 7 is not too shabby!

Now, join the discussion: should students develop coping strategies for exam failure?

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A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.