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Retaking GCSEs

If GCSE results fall short of expectations, you may need to think about retaking some or all of them.

This is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and what you decide largely depends on the subjects involved.

For instance, students in England whose results fall below a Grade C in Maths and English have to pursue these subjects further, in line with recent government legislation.

In addition to this, the entry requirement for taking A levels at a sixth form or further education college is generally 5 GCSEs at Grade A*-C. 

If you pass the core subjects of English, Maths and Science with good grades, however, and you definitely want to move on to full-time education, it may not be worthwhile retaking any GCSEs.

Feeling overloaded with additional study at A level stage is no joke, and if a retake is not really necessary, why put yourself under extra pressure? 

Career choices

For those of you lucky enough to know what you want to do with your life, the decision will be based on your specific career path and its requirements in terms of qualifications. Very often though, the reality is that at this age, options are still wide open, and help and guidance is vital in order to reach the right decision.

So what options are available to you if exam results prove to be less than perfect?

Let’s take a look at the various alternatives, and guide you towards a more informed decision.

Full-time further education – retaking GCSEs alongside A levels

School Sixth Form and Further Education Colleges

If you decide to pursue full-time further education, you should be able to retake GCSEs within a year, alongside A levels or other qualifications including the International Baccalaureate.

This route offers you a choice of moving into your own school’s sixth form, going to a sixth form department within a different school, or deciding to attend a further education college. 

Speak to teachers and college advisors to check whether retaking GCSEs is possible at their school or college, what they advise specifically for your situation, and you’ll soon be able to get a ‘feel’ for what is right.

Retaking GCSEs whilst working

‘Working’ might include starting an apprenticeship, unpaid work experience following contact with local businesses, or a full-time/part-time job. There are several options available if you want to retake GCSEs whilst taking one of these routes into the workplace:

Night school – you might find that your own school offers evening classes for people wishing to retake their GCSEs. If not, GCSE courses are popular with local colleges, offering a flexible way to gain this qualification in the subject(s) you need.

Distance learning – this study method would suit somebody working in a full-time job. Distance learning courses at GCSE level can be taken online, or by receiving study materials through the post, with the exam being taken at a local approved college for which you would need to register.

Day release – depending on your place of work, there may be an opportunity to retake GCSEs via day release. This usually involves spending a working day at your local college or learning centre, and gives you the chance to improve your results at the same time as earning money.

Even if some GCSE grades are very low, if the subject isn’t relevant to what you want to do in life, it probably won’t be worth your while retaking the course/exam.

Your other grades may have been very good, so think carefully about dedicating precious time to retakes. Although it may be disappointing to get a low mark, it’s not the end of the world.

The main thing is to make sure you speak to your parents, teachers, and careers advice staff, and look online for relevant information and guidance. Only by taking your time to absorb as much information as possible can you plan for the future, and make a decision that is right for you, based on the facts.