If A level results day turned out to be a disappointment, rather than a cause for celebration, try not to worry.
Even though you didn't achieve the grades you were expecting, and they don't match up to your university offers, it doesn't mean the end of the world.
Give yourself time to think and consider your next step toward retaking A level exams.
The first thing to do before anything else is to contact university admissions in case they are not oversubscribed for your course and you can get in anyway.
If you have extenuating circumstances that have hindered your performance during A levels, there may be exemptions. Universities welcome hearing from students who have had to retake A levels for personal or medical reasons.
If you find that you cannot get a place at either of your chosen institutions, read on for more advice on whether to retake your A levels.
Is it worth retaking my A levels?
This depends on several factors. First, you must identify why you failed to make the grades first time round. Be completely honest with yourself - did you really work hard for your grade(s) or did you leave revision to the last minute?
You have to be sure that second time around, you will actually be able to make some improvement and that you are capable of obtaining a higher grade, otherwise it's a waste of time retaking exams and you'll just be repeating the same mistakes.
If you put your best effort into Physics or Maths for example, but still struggled and turned out a disappointing grade, then perhaps numbers and equations aren't the right thing for you, and should consider other routes that don't require such high levels of numerical skill.
If you have a particular career path in mind, such as medicine or engineering, then it's worth the effort of resitting exams if you're sure it's the right career for you.
Although time is short to make a decision on retaking A level exams, it's important to be wary of accepting second best by panicking, rushing into Clearing, and picking a course that will make you miserable so you end up dropping out.
This will just waste time that could have been better spent planning a year out to resit exams and get onto the course you actually want to do.
Once you have decided to retake exams, you need to officially decline the university offers you have by 20th September in order to start the process of retaking.
The exams co-ordinator at your school/college will be able to give you further advice on this.
When can I retake my A levels?
Recent changes to the system mean that A levels can now only be retaken in the summer, usually in June. The option to retake exams in January is no longer available.
Speak to your Head of Sixth Form or class tutors for more details on when you can retake exams for individual subjects, or check the subject specification on the exam board website.
Where can I retake my A levels?
If you feel you can't swallow your pride and go back to retake exams at your school with a bunch of younger classmates, you can go to www.cife.org.uk.
This site lists specialist independent colleges that aim to help students with A level retakes so they can get into their chosen university.
The downside is that they cost from between £6,300 for 1 A level, and £16,200 for 3 A level subjects, over a period of 1 year. For this you will receive one-to-one tuition, a large number of contact hours, very small class sizes (usually no more than 4 or 5 people), and a strong focus on exam technique.
However, if this option is too expensive, you can also contact your local college of further education, who offer A level retakes for external candidates at a much lower cost.
This means you can study for your retakes at home, and just pay the required exam and/or invigilation fee.
Will universities frown on me if they know I've retaken A levels?
No - as long as you approach the situation in the right manner. Declined A level grades are not shown anywhere - only certificated grades will show as your results.
Although reapplying to university through UCAS will mean you will have to write another personal statement, this gives you the chance to explain why the dates on your application form show it's taken longer than usual for you to complete your A levels.
Write about how you are going to constructively spend your time before and after your retakes, what you have learnt from the experience of taking exams again, and how it's helped you develop as a person.
Be aware though, that if you are applying for subjects such as medicine and veterinary science, most universities will not accept those that have taken 3 years to complete their A levels, unless there are extenuating circumstances for having not achieved the minimum grades required first time around.
Planning a Gap year that involves retakes
Taking a gap year that includes retaking A levels doesn't have to be a hassle or a wasted period of time.
In fact, it can provide the opportunity to do something really worthwhile, and still easily fit in plenty of time for study.
Depending on how much time you feel you need to spend revising for your retakes, it may be possible to combine it with a work placement, either in the UK or abroad, and save up for a gap year trip. You can revise, save money, sit the exam and then treat yourself to some well-deserved time off over the summer by going travelling in South America or signing up for a volunteer project in Africa until you go to university later on in the year.
Alternatively, you could take a complete break from studying and go travelling abroad for a while, or find a job that is relevant to your chosen career to gain some experience.
Hopefully, once it's time to get the text books out again, you will feel refreshed and more positive about your resits.