A Level resits.
A phrase dreaded by many pupils in the midst of their sixth form studies, but one that often turns into a reality.
This month, students will be knuckling down in what will be the last opportunity to retake A levels half-way through the academic year. From September onwards, no examinations will take place in January, with students only able to take papers in June.
Ofqual, England’s exams watchdog, have also recently announced a cap on A level retakes, where just one resit per paper will be permitted.
With these crackdowns on the horizon, we ask: what’s the point of retaking A Levels?
Well, you should certainly consider resitting exams if you have achieved borderline grades. For example, if you were just five marks short of a B, it’s worth swotting up for a second attempt.
If you come out with higher marks, you can then “cash them in” so they count toward your final A2 grade. Don’t worry if your marks go down though, as your original result will still stand.
You should also think about retaking A Level modules if you are applying to university and/or have a particular career path in mind that you really want to pursue.
As soon as you’ve received your AS Level results, take a look at the grades required by the universities you’re thinking about applying to. Are you on track to hit the A Level grades required?
Try to be realistic at this point - if you have 2 D’s and 2 E’s at AS Level, and the university is asking for ABB, can you really make this big jump? Think about the amount of work and motivation this will take, on top of the new material you’ll be learning for your A2 exams.
If you find yourself in this situation, retaking exams would probably prove to be a waste of valuable time and money, so you may want to reevaluate your options.
Ask yourself where you went wrong the first time around. If you’re not sure, you may want to think twice about applying for resits.
Some students find the new surroundings of a tutorial college allows them to reach their full potential, but with fees running into thousands of pounds per A Level resit, this is certainly never going to be an option for everyone.
If you’re planning to apply to top universities in the Russell Group, such as UCL, Cambridge, Sheffield and Bristol, then you’ll need to do your homework before deciding whether to retake A Level exams.
A few years ago, the country’s leading universities started placing bans on resits for some of their courses, or imposing higher grades as part of the entry requirements for those taking exams a second time.
For example, if you have completed A Level resits and are applying to Bristol University for Veterinary Science, you will only be considered if you were a ‘near miss’ candidate. And if they have to choose between you and a candidate who has achieved the required grades in one sitting, they will always choose the latter (tough world!).
However, for the same subject at the University of Liverpool, A Level resits “will not prejudice an application”, according to their policy. You can even reapply the following year with resits, as long as you’ve improved your application in line with their admissions criteria.
Since each institution has different rules for A Level retakes (even between the individual subjects they offer), it’s best to phone up the admissions department for all the universities you are interested in applying to and ask what their resit policy is for your chosen subject.
What if I'm not going to uni?
If you’ve decided university isn’t the right step for you, and you feel you can definitely improve on your grades second time around, then go for it! Potential employers will see you are motivated to try and better yourself.
Unfortunately the new limitations on when and how many times you can resit an exam, as well as restrictions on retakes from a growing number of universities, are making the A Level retakes decision process something of a chore.
But don’t let this put you off.
If there’s a path you’re keen to follow, regardless of whether it involves going to university, do your research thoroughly before deciding to retake your A Levels. While in some cases it can certainly help your prospects, it is also increasingly becoming a detrimental choice in a pupils’ academic journey.
Got any questions about retaking A Levels? Or any comments on my post? Please pop them below!