Most people who have plotted a university course for themselves are in no way undecided about what they want to do with their lives.

Their university applications reflect the commitment they’ve made to follow the course they’ve chosen for themselves. If only commitment were all it took!

There is one major stumbling block to following your chosen life path: if it calls for higher-level education, you have to earn your place at university. The only way to do that is to meet the required A-Levels grade.

Of course, there are ways to higher education without A-Levels; open courses and non-degree plans are just two of them. However, for the majority of university hopefuls, successful completion of their A-Level ordeal is paramount.

Lower-than-expected results can throw a spanner into the works.

If, for whatever reason, you didn’t quite make the scores you need for the university programme you want, you still have options open to you.

Let’s explore them together, shall we?

Why Re-Sit A-Levels?

By all accounts, A-Levels are gruelling and there are options open to those who didn’t quite hit the mark the first time around.

Giving up your hopes/dreams of a career in your chosen field is not among them. However, opening yourself up to the idea of study programmes at universities you hadn’t previously considered is.

You might like to know that waiting for UCAS Clearing open season to submit your UCAS application might bring you conditional offers you thought you couldn’t get with the A-Level results you have.

Independent schools make it possible to earn higher marks on your re-sits
Why would anyone submit to examinations twice if they are so stressful? Image by silviarita from Pixabay

In light of that, who would voluntarily submit to another round of stressful exams?

One reason is that doing so proves your commitment, determination and your capacity for independent study; qualities that look great on university applications.

Despite earlier dire warnings that university admissions boards frown on exam retakes, today, most universities have no problem with students taking an extra year to get the A-Level grades they aim for – as long as they explain why in their UCAS personal statement.

Another reason for re-sitting A-Levels is classroom burnout; students simply don’t have it in them to jump from sixth-form college straight into the rigorous academic environment of the university.

There may also be a few qualms about loading up on a full course of study so soon after leaving sixth-form colleges behind.

That’s not as crazy as it sounds, especially when you consider that some re-sits permit you to self-study or study online. Some will even credit your past study to your re-sit results!

Find out how that and other exam re-sit policies work for both A-Levels and GCSEs…

Limitations on Re-Sitting A-Levels

With all of that being said, you should know that the choice of re-sitting is entirely yours – nothing and nobody compels you to do so.

Still, re-sitting exams is not the wide-open field that your first go at A-Levels was; there are limitations placed on re-sit opportunities that you need to be aware of.

You might already know that A-Level reform is all but complete; save for a few foreign language exams, the linear exam structure has completely replaced the modular structure of years past. That means that AS exam results do not impact your A-Level scores at all.

So, if you have opted for an A-Level re-sit, you don’t need to undergo the full two years of preparation; you have almost a full year to study – till the next exam cycle.

That brings up our second point: whereas GCSE exams allow for retesting in November (for GCSE Maths and English) and January (for all other GCSE subjects), A-Level exams are only administered during their normal May-June timetable.

Another point to consider: if you tested through AQA, Edexcel or Cambridge International on your first go ‘round, you have less work to do than any student who tested through OCR or WJEC because those three awarding bodies conduct the bulk of retests for A-Level candidates.

You should already be familiar with their past papers and marking schemes; hopefully, you have them still among your study materials.

Bear in mind that you will not have the same exam questions as the first time around but, at least, you will be familiar with the way they rephrase questions and what type of answers they expect.

Note: OCR and WJEC (Eduquas) also permit resits but they are not as widely offered as the other three; you may have to consult their websites to find a testing centre near you.

Now, for the third – and, some say, harshest stumbling block: depending on the school or college you choose, you may only select from a limited number of subjects for your A-Levels re-sit. Or worse: they may not permit re-sits at all!

That is why it is always a good idea to talk with the school you intend to study for your re-sit at.

Stressed over your re-sit? You might need some techniques for coping with exam failure

Where to Re-Sit A-Levels

Whether you are a private candidate or would rather select from the long list of schools and colleges to study, you will re-sit your exam in a room with other A-Level candidates while proctors walk around.

That being the case, what does it mean to be a private candidate?

Private schools charge a lot of money for university exam retakes
You may meet your university entry requirements after paying hefty fees at an independent school Image by moneycortex from Pixabay

Mostly, it comes down to money.

If you are younger than 19 years old, education costs, even your A-Levels, is absorbed. However, no matter how old you are, where re-sits are concerned, you will have to pay and it can be pretty pricey to do so.

Some independent colleges charge as much as £6,000 – and that’s just for one exam!

As we mentioned before, it is always a good idea to talk with your old school/college to see if they will let you re-sit and, if so, how much it would cost.

If they can’t accommodate your request, you might ask if they could recommend another facility.

Resitting A-Levels Privately at School

Some students believe that running the same course with more intense focus will net them better results.

If you too think so, you should talk with your teacher. If s/he says re-sits are allowed, you’re golden: you will reprise your studies and sit the exam the same way as before, just with a new crop of students.

If you’d feel more confident in another environment or if you are ready to move on from school, the next option might work well for you.

Private A-Level Study in College or Sixth Form

In such a setting, you will attend class and follow the institution’s timetables, just as you would in school. Your exam will most likely take place at the college, with your classmates.

If you choose this option, you will have a lot of facilities to choose from; each offers extra advantages to help ensure your success:

  • smaller class sizes
  • different approaches to studying
  • some such courses offer a personal tutor included in the price
  • a focus on examination technique, not just curricular study

Some of these courses come with hefty price tags; if spending thousands of pounds does not appeal to you, you may well prefer to take online study courses.

Preparing for your Resit Online

While independent colleges take a studied approach to A-Level re-sits – and charge accordingly, online re-sits put you in control of virtually every phase of the re-sit process.

A major advantage of studying online is that you can linger on material that you struggle with, working at your own pace and in your own time. You don’t even have to rush out the door; you can study in the comfort of your room.

And, online study courses are substantially cheaper – about 10% of the cost of independent colleges.

As a bonus, you may be provided with a tutor and you won’t have to compete with other students for your teachers’ time and attention – but you will still sit the exam in an actual classroom.

There’s no getting around that part!

You may receive a conditional offer based on the A-Level marks you already have
Universities and colleges can be flexible in their A-Level grade requirements Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Re-Sitting A-Levels Privately

Should you settle on re-sitting A-Levels privately, you will have to register for your exams and pay the fees – to the testing centre and to the exam board, on your own.

Mark your calendar! You will need to register about six months before you’re due to sit your exams and your fees must be paid before then.

If you miss out on your chance to re-sit due to scheduling errors or not having the funds to cover your fees, you will have lost an entire year without having anything good to show for it.

It would be a bit difficult to explain that on your university application, too.

A Brief Word on Rechecking

Some students, rather than re-sit exams, opt to have their original exams rechecked, especially if they are only a few points away from the higher mark they sought.

Doing so is entirely within your right but you should be aware that it can be a double-edged sword.

A recheck of your paper does not guarantee any mistakes found would be in your favour.

Some students have lamented the fact that they lost a few points on recheck and ended up having to retake the exam when, possibly, their original grade would have satisfied university requirements.

In light of that, it might be best to see what universities have to offer you before possibly jeopardising your possibly acceptable scores. Here again, it would be a great idea to talk with your teachers before making any decisions.

Whichever exam you are looking to resit – GCSEs or A-Levels, you probably need as much information as you can get

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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.