Each year, thousands of students across the UK retake their A-Levels. A considerable amount of organising, studying and effort is required to ensure you can achieve the best grades possible to move you on to the next stage of your life- whether that be university, an apprenticeship, a gap year or anything else. Possessing a thorough knowledge of what retaking your A-Levels entails is imperative to guarantee you can thrive and succeed in the duration of the course and exam.
So, the short answer is yes. You can retake your A-Levels. This can be done at any sixth form college, whether it be your old college or a different one in your area, and you even have the option of going online. You must consider cost, which varies depending on where you took your A-Levels, but ranges from £105 to a massive £6600! There is no limit on the subjects that you can retake, how many times you can retake them or your age when retaking your A-Levels, and you can even retake A-Levels whilst at university (though this is usually not recommended).
The opinions expressed in this piece may well differ from your own- this does not mean that your opinions are invalid, as everyone is unlike the other. This article is meant purely to act as a guide for people enquiring about the process of retaking A-Levels and the views written are not set-in stone.
This article will go over all the main components that can guide you to success when retaking your A-Levels and will aid you in having a clear, detailed understanding on the next steps moving forward.
Should You Retake Your A-Levels?
The answer to that question depends on who you are, and what you would like to achieve. Firstly, you must recognise why you didn’t get what you hoped for the first time; did you thoroughly revise, but were still off your desired result? Or did you perhaps not revise as much as you should have?
If you identify with the first option and already tried your absolute best, then it is likely the second time around you are going to get around the same result. A better option may be to look to retake another course that you believe you could achieve higher in- or just go with the results you have. Even if you didn’t get such a high score in the topic you were thinking to retake, you could always apply for a course to a university that doesn’t involve that topic, and involves the other ones you achieved higher in. However, if you still believe that there was room for improvement the first time around, then retaking your A-Levels may well pay off.
If you identify more with the second option, then retaking your A-Levels could be the correct path for you– although this time you must be prepared to study for them and work hard to improve your grade. Adopt the mentality that you can do anything if you work hard and strive to achieve your goals.
Where Can You Retake A-Levels?
There are many different options for students who want to retake their A-Levels, in regard to where they can take them. You have three main options: online, in school, or at a college/sixth form. You need to know about these different options so you can make up your mind on which is best for you.
Firstly, in school. Retaking your A-Levels at your school has fantastic bonuses. The tuition fee will most likely be reduced, although you will still have to pay the exam fee as with everywhere else. Also, you will know the school, and going back there may seem less intimidating as you do not have to adjust to a new environment. You also have access to professional teaching and resources (such as books) that other options may not have to offer (such as online). Friends in your year may decide to retake them at school too, meaning you aren’t alone while retaking.
Retaking them at another college/sixth form may be a better idea for you if you find that returning to your old school is not something in your best interests. All over the UK are dedicated self-governing colleges that are specifically focused on resitting A-Levels, for example, Ashbourne College in Kensington. These colleges tend to have smaller classes and offer private tuition, so you may find learning is more focused around you and your needs than in a generic school classroom. All of this sounds amazing until you realise that the tuition fees are going to cost you an average of £6000 for one exam, so think wisely about whether it is worth it for you. You could also attend a local college/sixth form, as many are happy to facilitate to students looking to retake their A-Levels, and fees will most likely be significantly lower than the aforementioned.
Lastly, the wonderful world of online. You can now take your course again online, which is perfect for those who feel that going back to their school, or any education establishment at that, wouldn’t be right for them. You can apply to take the course through websites such as Open Study College, which is an organisation that will tutor you all through the year, just as a physical school would- except online. As with anything online, though, it is recommended you perform in depth research before signing up to anything, to avoid being defrauded. Please take into account, however, that the actual exam is not online- you will have to go to an exam hall, which will most likely be a school, and sit your exams there, so a quick search on the internet will show you what options are available for you.
Taking your A-Levels somewhere outside of the UK is not an impossible task, although it may be tricky. Firstly, you would have to find somewhere that is approved by your examination board, and who would be happy to cater for you. Since A-Levels are not completed anywhere outside the UK, this may be a difficult task as no other student native to that country is going to be completing them.
How Much Does It Cost to Retake A-Levels?
When it comes to retaking your A-Levels, there are two main costs involved: the tutoring fee and the exam fee. The tutoring fee the is the price you pay to whoever is reteaching you the material– whether this is school, an independent college or an online tutor.
The price varies depending on where you go; if getting tutored at your school, then it is likely the fee will be waivered for you, and although this is not a guarantee, those who wish to pay less and do not mind returning to their past school may find this option best suits their needs. This fee varies across different schools, so it would be difficult to say the average price. If you believe this is the option for you then consider emailing your school and to ask them about costs before the start of the academic year (which begins in early September) to get a more accurate idea.
At an independent college, the prices are sky-high – they can cost £6000. If you firmly believe that a more private, personal and specialised tutoring system is going to help you achieve to the best of your ability, then this may be the option for you, although consider the price carefully.
An online tutor can vary in prices, but it usually lies in the range of £20-£100, depending on subject and tutor.
Next examination fee. As you are retaking your A-Levels, you will be entered as a private candidate, meaning it’s going to cost you to take the exam. This cost does depend on which course you took and which exam board you did it with, but overall the examination fee will cost you about £85, although this can be more or less (information about AQA exam fees here). If you decide to take your exams online, and then go to an examination hall to do them, the prices can be monstrous-sometimes up to £600, so make sure to thoroughly research your different options to get the best value for money.
These two costs combined can seem like a discouraging price, and this is why you should take your decision to retake your A-Levels into meticulous deliberation and work out whether paying this money is going to be worth it for you.
Can You Retake A-levels at Any Age?
The short answer is, yes! There is absolutely no limit or restrictions to what age you can retake your A-Levels. Whether you are a student coming back from a gap year who wants to retake their A-Levels before university, a university student who has taken a different subject path and wants to have some qualification in that topic before their degree, or even if you left school 5 decades ago and fancy an academic challenge, A-Level retakes are open to everyone. Learning is not just for one generation, hence why A-Levels are not limited to a certain age group. A-Levels are usually held in late June to early July. You can find out more about national exam timetables here.
How Many Times Can You Retake A-Levels?
Whether your aim is to higher your grade, or just solely to pass, students are given unlimited chances to retake their A-Level. As stated by AQA, more than half of candidates who take their A-Levels retake at least one exam. However, it is recommended that students put in as much effort as possible and try their absolute best to achieve their grades every time to try and prevent having to retake them again. Having the mentality that you can just ‘retake if you fail’ can discourage you to revise and study thoroughly, and also has many downsides.
A pupil that decides to retake will often be left behind, while their friends and classmates progress into the next stage of their life- which will most likely be a university. If that particular student retook multiple times and then went to university, they could find they would be several years older than their newfound classmates, which can be disheartening and alienating.
Statistics also show that retaking your A-Levels more than once may not improve your grade; it may even decrease it. Those statistics also suggest that some took the exam, knowing they weren’t ready because they understood they could just retake at a later date.
If, when retaking your A-Levels, you find you do not know how to improve your revision techniques or how to keep motivated, in the ‘General’ section of the Think Student website, you can find an extensive range of different articles talking about revision tips, motivation and more. Revising is the only way to improve your A-Level result, and although it may seem overwhelming, your hard work will pay off. Everybody can pass and get a good grade in their A-Levels- it is just a matter of determination, perseverance and believing in yourself and your ability.
Which Subjects Can You Retake?
In some way, shape or form, you can retake all A-Level subjects, as there will always be a school that will offer the course that you would like to apply for a resit. There is not a specific course that can only be sat first time round; the issue lies in finding a location that offers your desired subject. For example, tutors only tutor certain things (such as Mathematics or English Language) as they specialise in this particular topic, so if you wanted to study and resit A-Level Biology, then you would have to find a tutor that specifies that they have the ability to tutor you on A-Level Biology, which can get increasingly difficult especially if your subject is lesser-known (such as A-Level Archaeology).
However, it is liable the subject you would like to resit an A-Level for is one that you have already taken before, and one you would like to improve your grade in. If so, then going back to your school may be the best, yet also the worst option, depending on your experience. It may be the best option because you know that they offer it and have all the facilities required for the course. Contrastingly, it may be the worst option because you may have felt that while at your school, the learning environment and methods were not fitted for you, and this may have contributed to you not achieving your anticipated grade. If that is the case, going to a different Sixth Form or retaking online may be a better option for you.
If, as mentioned, your subject is not well known and is not one offered by many sites then you may not have the option to complete an A-Level resit in this area. In that case, you could take a look at the AQA website to see what subjects are offered, and which are similar to the ones you initially wanted to take. You could also look up a potential career that you predict for your future, and what the requirements are for the course and degree at different universities.
How Do You Organise Retaking A-Levels?
This depends on who you take them with:
If you retake them with your school, you will not have any organising to do– you will take the exam with the rest of the students in school. You will have to get the money together to pay the school your examination fee, but you will most likely be given a deadline to do so by teachers. The same can be said about an independent college– you will either take the exam there, or at an exam hall nearby, but this will be organised for you by teachers, and so will your payments.
The most difficult to organise would be if you take your exams online- you will have to be the one organising where to sit them, where to give in your examination fee, and how to get there. You could just look up online examination halls near you, or even contact a nearby school/college, explaining that you will be entering as a private candidate and ask them if you could sit your exams there. The organisation that you decide to sit your exams with (e.g. school, exam hall) will most likely have information on where and how to pay the examination fee, so get in contact to understand the full price.
If you take your exams online, you will have to organise where you physically take your A-Levels 6 months before the actual date– so be sure to be ready and make certain you will not miss the deadline. It would be worth in the Summer Holidays looking on the internet for local exam halls and their prices and information just so you can be prepared. So, if you are taking your exams in June, you would have to organise this in December. Everyone in the whole country has to take their A-Levels at the same time for the same amount of time, which is why there are fixed exam dates, so checking this year’s dates online can make sure you don’t miss the closing date.
Can You Retake A-Levels While You Are at University?
You can retake your A-Levels at university, although it is recommended that you think carefully about your reasons to do so. At university, you already have a workload that can be overwhelming on its own, and with preparation and revision for your A-Levels added, you may burn out, which can affect your A-Level results, the quality of your course work at university, and most importantly and ultimately your wellbeing. Of course, this won’t happen to everyone as this is the worst-case scenario, but it is something to consider carefully.
If you believe that you could manage the workload, then contemplate your reasons for retaking. What benefits would it reel for you? Perhaps you want a higher grade for your CV, or background knowledge in a subject that you didn’t previously take at Sixth Form, but chances are the A-Level result you got first time around was enough. It succeeded in getting you to the university you currently study at, and chances are the course work you are currently doing for your degree will cover the knowledge you perhaps previously missed.
If your reasoning lies within the area of careers, focusing on your coursework may be more beneficial. A-Levels are mostly important for university admissions only, and some employers may not even take them into account, although it would be unfair to say that this is the case everywhere. It is correct to say that some do, and sometimes they focus heavily on them. With this in mind, perhaps think about what career you would like to pursue and where, and do some research into what they require, as this could heavily influence your decision on whether you should retake them.
If, however, you are a student who has not yet gone to university and is wondering whether it will be reasonable for you to retake in university, we would recommend the advice above: look into a potential career, the company and their requirements.
Does Retaking A-Levels Look Bad?
When reviewing your application, the fact a student has retook their A-Levels is not something that is greatly stressed over by universities. They will likely want to see your capabilities and the extent of your skill- and retaking your A-Levels and achieving a higher grade shows that you are capable of more than shown in your first exam results. It is probable that they will just look at your results from the final retake, not the previous exam outcomes. Even prestigious universities such as members of the Russell Group take on this method, so universities do not see retaking as a downside to your application.
The only universities that you may have a faltered chance at receiving an acceptance letter from are Oxford University and Cambridge University– two of the most elite universities in the world. This doesn’t mean you don’t have a chance, however- there is still a chance you could be acceded on your request to join these ‘cream of the crop’ societies.
Whether retaking your A-Levels looks bad for you as a person is an individual preference and opinion.
Can You Retake AS–Levels?
AS–Levels are available to retake in a wide range of subjects, including the likes of Dance, Mathematics and more. The full list is available at the AQA website. You can achieve an AS–Level in your first year of sixth form college (Year 12), which is generally known as your AS year. In this year you will choose 3 or 4 subjects to study; you will then drop one for Year 13, and the subject you choose to drop will be the one you get your AS–Level in.
Your AS–Levels can still be important, though- although not as important as in previous years, as things in England changed a couple of years ago. Prior to the changes, students would achieve an AS–Level in all your subjects after Year 12, and this grade would contribute to your overall A-Level after the exam, but unfortunately for those who are not as keen on exams, this is no longer the case, as your grade will depend fully on your mark from the final assessment in Year 13. Your AS–Level is also equal to 40% of an A-Level; so consider this, as it could still be important when applying to university.
Can You Have Your A-Level Paper Remarked?
Another option instead of retaking your A-levels would be to get your paper remarked– however this is a high risk, high reward situation. Getting your paper remarked may well mean receiving a higher grade (as all examiners are different, they could give you more marks where they see appropriate), but on the other hand, it could also mean getting down-graded. It just depends on the examiner. You should only get your paper remarked if you felt that the mark you achieved in the actual examination does not correctly reflect or follow the trends of the marks you had been receiving throughout your years at Sixth Form. It costs on average about £30 and upwards.
Talking to your school and your teachers prior to making this decision is imperative to see whether this is a sensible idea and the right thing to do, as their opinion is vital in making the right decision. They will have known you for almost two years (at least) and will be able to give an honest opinion on whether you will gain any marks.
It is possible to increase your marks, and potentially push up the grade boundary to perhaps achieve the grade you hoped for. One thing must be recognised, however, is that it is likely that, if you gain any marks, the difference will most probably not be dramatic. You may just gain 2 or 3 marks; however, this is not to say that you cannot gain more. There has been a case of a GCSE student whose paper was remarked who went from a C to an A* – so that’s not to say that you can’t either.