A Level Resits: The Complete Guide to Retaking A Levels 2021
We know you probably feel like failing your A Levels means you’ll miss out on university and all your big dreams for the future - but trust us, that’s simply not the case.
You didn’t make it on the first attempt, but with a little more time and hard work, you can still get there. You might even come out the other end a more enlightened and determined version of yourself!
If you’re thinking about giving it another shot, here’s our complete guide to retaking your A Levels.
Why should you resit your A Levels?
Do you have a dream career path in mind? If that involves getting a specific university degree, then it’s very much in your interest to retake your exams and get the grades you need to get in.
If you’re not quite sure what course you want to do but are dead set on going to uni straight away, you can apply for available courses through Clearing.
If you do apply through Clearing, be careful not to rush into accepting a place on any random course that will have you. If you do this, you run the risk of ending up miserable and either stuck on a course that’s not right for you or having to drop out.
This is ultimately a waste of your time and your money as you might end up saddling yourself with a lot of student debt for a course that you didn't complete. Trust us when we tell you that the less you end up owing the Student Loans Company the better!
You might find it's more worthwhile to take the time to resit, so you can take your pick of courses you’re actually interested in when you reapply.
Are there rules for A Level resits?
In the past few years, A Levels have been reformed from a ‘modular’ system into a ‘linear’ one. This basically means that all the course content is now assessed by exams at the end of the course.
Under the modular system, you could resit some of your modules, such as your AS exams, so that those grades wouldn’t affect eventual grades but the shift to linear no longer allows this.
If you fail or want to improve your grade now, you’ll now need to resit the whole A Level exam the following May/June (granted exams are back to their regular scheduling post-pandemic). However, it is possible to carry forward your coursework mark from your previous attempt, so you don’t have to redo it.
In 2019, most subjects were been switched over to the linear system but there were a few minority languages, such as Bengali and Punjabi, still running on the modular system. If you sat one of these exams in 2019 and need to resit, you will still be able to do so this year.
Where can you resit your A Levels?
Once you’ve decided to resit your A Levels, you’ll need to choose how you want to study them.
You have a few options to pick from, so think carefully about which option you think will be best for you and give you the best chance of getting the grades you need.
You can choose to study:
- At school
- At a college or sixth-form
Resitting at school
If you want to retake the course in the exact same way, you can enrol to resit at your school. You should speak to your teacher and check you’re able to do this as some schools don’t have an option to resit.
If you decide to go back to school, you’ll be taught in the classroom and sit the exam, so long as schools are back to their normal function at that time after COVID-19 lockdown.
Some of you might feel that you're ready to move on from school, so you’ll be glad to hear that there are other options for you!
Resitting at college or sixth-form
If you don’t fancy going back to school, you can enrol to retake your A Levels at a college or sixth-form.
You’ll still attend classes and have a set timetable like at school and when it comes time for the exam, you’ll sit it at the college with your other classmates.
If you want to go all out on your resits, there are specialist independent colleges which aim to help you get the grades you need to get into the uni course of your dreams.
These colleges offer much smaller class sizes, one-on-one tuition and are heavily geared towards exam technique.
Sounds great, right? You’d be sure to pass in an environment like that! The catch is that you can pay about £6,000 per A Level, so this is obviously not an option for everyone.
Resitting online as a private candidate
Thankfully, resitting through an online course is a much more affordable option than going to an independent college.
Studying online gives you much more control over how you want to work. You can work through the material at your own pace and spend more time on the topics you really struggle with.
You'll also have a personal tutor so you can get as much help as you need and won't be competing for attention in a classroom.
Online study also has a lot more flexibility as you’re not tied to a timetable. This means that you can work or volunteer alongside your studies, which will look great on your next UCAS application.
It also comes with an extra bonus of being able to study wherever you want. There’s no need to rush about running to catch buses; simply wake up, log in and you’re good to go. You don’t even have to bother getting out of your PJs if you don’t feel like it!
You'll sit the in-person exams at the same time as all the other A Level students, but you're responsible for booking a place to sit them. You can do this by contacting your local school or college to ask if they accept private candidates.
You should book your exam roughly six months in advance and you should be aware that there’s a fee to sit the exam which you’ll pay directly to the exam centre. The exact cost of this will vary depending on which centre you chose.
How much will it cost to retake my A Levels?
When you retake your A Levels, you’ll have 2 types of fees to pay: course fees and exam fees.
Your course fees will cover your tuition and/or course materials and will vary depending on where and how you choose to study your A Levels.
As we mentioned before, colleges can be pretty pricey with course fees ranging anywhere from £1,500 to upwards of £9,000 per subject. Thankfully, there are cheaper alternatives - an online course with 1:1 tutor support can cost you less than £350.
The cost of your exam may not be included in your course fees as they are an additional cost that’s paid directly to your chosen centre.
Prices are set by the exam centres themselves so there can be huge differences in the costs.
For A Level exams, prices usually start at about £175 per subject but at some centres, you can expect to pay upwards of £400 per exam.
We strongly recommend that you contact multiple exam centres in your local area, so you can be sure you’re getting the best price available.
When can you resit your A Levels?
Regardless of how you study the course, you’ll sit the exam on the same date as everyone else. January resits are no longer available, so the exam will be scheduled for a date in May/June, so long as schools are back to normal at that time.
Each year the exam boards publish exam timetables which can be found online. You can find exam timetables for each awarding body and exam diet here:
Or you can ask your teacher or exam coordinator to get you a list of those all-important dates.
Will universities penalise you for having to resit?
In most cases, you shouldn’t be penalised for resitting, but you need to take the right approach to discussing your resits in your application.
Your personal statement on your UCAS form is your chance to show why you’d make a great student and you shouldn’t feel that having to resit will put a negative spin on your application. Make like L'Oréal and show them why you’re worth it!
The fact that you’re willing to try again shows that you’re committed to achieving your goals and that you’re willing to put in the hard work needed to make them happen.
Try to focus on the positive aspects and talk about what this experience has taught you and how it has helped you develop as a person.
If you’ve taken up any work experience or charity work alongside your resits, you can explain how you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do this otherwise.
If you’re applying for a course with very strict entry requirements like medicine, you should be aware that most universities won’t offer places to anyone who has taken three years to complete their A Levels.
The only real exception to this is if you can prove extenuating circumstances, such as a medical condition, which would have prevented you from getting the required grades the first time around. If in doubt, always check with the university and ask them to clarify their policy for you.
Remember, failing your A Levels doesn’t mean you’re out of options.
Plenty of people retake their exams and go on to achieve great things - so work hard, stay positive and you’ll be able to do the same!
Want to find out more? Have a look at our flexible online A Level courses with unlimited 1:1 tutor support.
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