Can You Retake A-Levels? (Cost, Age and Process)

In A-Level by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

A-Levels are possibly the most popular option for students in the UK post-16, and the exams are taken by thousands of students every year. These are not easy qualifications, and a lot of hard work is involved to get the grades you want. Often, these grades are important for the next stage, whether that be university, apprenticeship, employment or any other path. Of course, it would be great if everyone got the grades they were aiming for on results day, but this is not always the case.

Some students will be disappointed with their grades and will be thinking of their possible next steps. Rest assured that there are plenty of options, and this article will answer all the questions you may have about one particular route – can you retake A-Levels?

The short answer to this is yes, you can definitely retake your A-Levels. In fact, there are very few restrictions on this. You can resit them at your existing school, transfer to a new one, or even do them online. There is no limit on the age you can take them, how many times you can take them, or which subjects you can retake. However, retaking A-Levels is still a significant commitment, of both time, and often money as well, although the exact amount varies. It may be that there are other options better suited to your individual circumstances.

There are lots of things to think about if you are resitting A-Levels, from how exactly you go about this, to the potential costs involved, to the pros and cons. Keep reading for plenty more information!

How do you resit your A-Levels?

The first step is to make an informed decision as to whether you definitely want to retake your A-Levels. There is plenty of information in this article to help you decide, as well as some information on other options. It is always best to talk to your parents/carers and teachers, who will know your individual circumstances and capabilities the best.

If you have decided to retake your A-Levels, there is almost certainly a way for you to do this. The first people to talk to is your existing school or college, if you attend one. Although not all of them facilitate this, many will let you redo Year 13 with them, retaking your A-Levels at the end of it.

However, you may feel like the school or college you are attending will not help you reach your fullest potential. This may be because you have already taken the A-Level course with their resources and teaching style, and not come out with the grades you want.

In this case, you are free to transfer to another school or college. You will likely have to get in touch with individual schools to check their policies on students retaking A-Levels, but most are perfectly happy to accept students taking this route. You will attend classes, complete homework, and sit the exams along with the rest of the students there.

There are even specialist independent colleges with courses meant for retake students, that will provide an environment designed to get you the best grades the second time around. For example, this page from Rochester College has plenty of information and success stories about their one-year A-Level resit students.

Can you retake your A-Levels online?

However, independent colleges often come with a significant cost, which can be several thousand pounds per year. This means it isn’t the best option for everyone. If you are looking for a more affordable option, online courses might be the route for you.

There are plenty of online providers that offer these courses, such as the Open Study College, whose website you can find here. You can also look at this Think Student article for a list of the best online A-Level courses.

This route is much more flexible, as you are often studying in your own time. This can be on a gap year, but it is also great for people who want to retake A-Levels later in life, perhaps alongside an existing job.

Because it is flexible, it also means you have to be more disciplined. Unlike a school or college, where there are timetabled lessons, you will have to manage your time yourself. That being said, there is still some structure, as you will usually have access to a tutor and regular progress checks.

Where do you resit your A-Levels?

Where you resit your A-Levels depends on the route you have chosen. If you are at a school or college, you will simply study for and take the exams there, along with that year group of students.

If you are studying online, or as any other sort of private candidate, it’s a little more complicated. You can study more or less wherever you want to, but you will have to find an exam centre yourself to sit the actual exam.

Fortunately, there are likely to be lots of these in your local area. Most schools and colleges will take on private candidates. Have a look at this search tool from the official JCQ website which allows you to find exam centres accepting private entries in your area.

The other thing to be aware of is when you can do your retake exams. There’s a common misconception that there are multiple A-Level sittings throughout the year. This used to be the case but isn’t any more.

There have been November exams in 2020 and 2021, but this was an exception due to the disruption caused to normal summer exams by COVID-19. For A-Levels, there is now only one sitting each year, in the May-June exam season, so this is when you will take the exam.

Why would you retake your A-Levels?

There are a range of reasons students decide to retake A-Levels. The most common one is that, having just completed their A-Levels, they have not achieved the grades they wanted, and missed out on a place at university. They can take a gap year to resit their A-Levels and improve their grades, then going on to university as they had planned.

This is by far the only reason you might want to retake A-Levels. For example, you may have taken a different post-18 route, such as going straight into full-time employment. Later on in life, you may want to go to university, but think you need higher A-Level grades to get into the course of your choice.

Alternatively, you may be planning a job change. It may be that the job or company you are aiming for requires higher A-Level grades than you currently have. If you are planning a full career change, you may want to retake A-Levels in different subjects to prepare you with knowledge and skills required for your new field.

Some people do not necessarily need higher grades, but just feel they could have done better, and the grades they got don’t represent their true capabilities. Whatever your reason for retaking A-Levels, it is likely there are people in the same boat as you!

Can you retake A-Levels while at university?

Essentially, yes, you can retake A-Levels while at university. However, it is rare for students to choose to do this, for a range of reasons.

Firstly, being at university and studying for a degree already involves a lot of work. Not only will you have lectures and classes, but you will have work to complete in your own time, as well as extracurriculars and a social life.

Trying to study for A-Levels on top of this can make the workload very intense. This can then have a knock-on effect on the grades you are working at, in both university and A-Level work, and more importantly, your mental wellbeing.

Nevertheless, the workload is not the main reason people don’t retake A-Levels in university. The main use of A-Levels is in university admissions processes. Universities will often ask for specific minimum grades students need to get in order to secure a place on the course.

Of course, if you are already in university, then you have got the grades necessary for your place. Therefore, there may not be much benefit to resitting A-Levels to try and achieve a higher grade.

You may still want to retake A-Levels to get higher grades for your future employers to look at on your CV. If this is the case, it is worth doing some research first about which employers and career areas pay a lot of attention to school grades.

Most likely, you will find that employers will be more interested in your university degree, as this is a more advanced level of education. Therefore, it would be better to focus on your degree study, rather than retaking A-Levels.

That being said, there are no official restrictions on taking A-Levels while in university. If you still feel it would benefit your future career, and are informed about the workload involved, it will be possible to resit your A-Level exams.

How much does it cost to resit your A-Levels?

The most common route through A-Levels should not cost students, assuming they are studying at a state-funded school or college. However, retaking A-Levels often involves a charge. The exact amount varies greatly, depending on how you are studying for these retakes.

If you are studying at a state school or college, whether that be your own or a new one, they will likely not charge you for the studying itself. You will have the same free access to teaching, lessons and resources as if you were a student there.

However, they may ask you to pay the examination fee. These are set by exam boards and are usually around £100 for each A-Level you are retaking. Have a look at this page from the official AQA website for more about their entry costs.

Studying at an independent college is the most expensive option. While many of them advertise excellent results due to small class sizes and an intensive exam focus, you can expect to pay several thousand pounds per year. Check out this Think Student article for more on the average cost of private schools.

Studying A-Levels online is the other main option we have mentioned, which is considerably cheaper than independent colleges. You can expect to pay a few hundred, rather than a few thousand, pounds per A-Level. For example, the Open College charges around £415 for most of their online A-Level courses, which you can find out more about on their website here.

That being said, with an online course, you will usually need to pay separate examination fees to your exam centre. Although the exam board fees are approximately £100, exam centres sometimes charge administration fees to private candidates, which can increase the price slightly.

Clearly, retaking A-Levels can be a significant financial investment, so it is important to make sure it is the best path for you to take.

Who can retake A-Levels?

There are generally no restrictions on who is allowed to retake their A-Levels. You can retake them at any age, no matter how long it has been since your first A-Levels.

It doesn’t matter how you first studied them – in a state or independent school, as a homeschooled or private candidate. Whatever circumstances you can think of, there shouldn’t be an official limit or barrier to you retaking your A-Levels!

According to this article from the Online Learning College – which has plenty of other advice about retaking A-Levels – there is one prerequisite for retaking A-Levels. This is set by the exam board, and requires you to have at least a GCSE Grade C (equivalent to a new Grade 4) in the subject you wish to retake.

However, this shouldn’t be an issue. This is because, in order to take the A-Levels the first time around, most schools and colleges will ask for this pass grade at GCSE anyway. Additionally, if you are taking a more obscure A-Level subject, you may not have had the option to take it at GCSE, in which case this won’t be relevant.

Can you retake A-Levels at any age?

As mentioned, there are no limits on age if you want to retake A-Levels, or on the amount of time between taking the exams. Whether you have just got your results and are planning to retake them on a gap year, or took your A-Levels decades ago, you can retake these qualifications.

In fact, retaking A-Levels later on in life is more common than you might think. As this article from about A-Level and GCSE resits says – it’s never too late to resit your exams.

It may be that you are planning a career change and don’t yet have the required qualifications, or that you want higher grades to boost your current CV. Either way, your age will not be a limiting factor if you wish to retake your A-Levels.

Similarly, there is no lower age limit to retakes. Taking A-Levels early is rare, so retaking them early is even rarer – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t allowed.

Also, check out this Think Student article for more information about the ages you can take A-Levels.

How many students resit A-Levels?

The number of students resitting A-Levels can vary greatly year on year. Previously, when A-Levels were assessed by modules, it was much more common for students to retake a certain module they did not do as well in.

However, since A-Levels were reformed to be linear qualifications in 2016, you now have to retake the full A-Level exam. This has made it a less appealing choice for students.

The impact on exams by the COVID-19 pandemic also affected the number of resits. November exams were held just for 2020 and 2021, due to the disruption to summer exams. In 2020, there were 20,100 entries to these resits, compared to just 8,880 in 2021 – you can find more information from Schools Week here.

It is harder to measure how many people are resitting A-Levels in years where they are taking the same exams as first-time A-Level students. The general trend, however, is that relatively few students choose to resit A-Levels, but it is still a viable option that many schools and colleges facilitate.

For example, there are usually around 750,000 A-Level entries per year. Of these, fewer than 1,000 appeals are made for grade changes. This is likely to be similar to the number of people who choose to resit. Not everyone who is unhappy with their grades and appeals will resit, but this is balanced by people retaking A-Levels later in life rather than straight after their first set.

You can find out more about these statistics on the government website here and here.

How many times can you retake your A-Levels?

There is no limit on how many times you can retake A-Levels – you can do these exams as many times as you like. That being said, most people don’t resit exams more than once, potentially twice.

As mentioned, A-Level exams can only be taken once a year, so each time you retake a subject, it involves a full year of additional study and revision. This is a significant time period, and it is unusual for students to repeat the process multiple times.

Additionally, grades are unlikely to change drastically the more you retake them. Many students see an improvement in their grade after a retake. They have put in the hard work and had more time to consolidate the content and practise exam technique.

However, this upward trend can’t continue forever – for example, you are unlikely to get a C in your first 5 retakes, then an A* in your 6th.

Finally, it might not be helpful to have the mentality of ‘if I fail, I can just retake the exam’. It is better to try your best at the exam with a positive mindset and think about resits as an option if you are disappointed with your grades.

There are plenty of exam resources available on Think Student to help you get the grades you are aiming for, such as this article with plenty of revision tips and advice.

Can you retake AS-Levels?

The answer to this question is yes, you can retake AS-Levels. The rules for this are largely the same as retaking A-Levels.

For example, there are no restrictions on things like age or the number of times you can retake them. You can also take the same routes to resit them – in a school or college, or by studying independently or online and taking the exams as a private candidate.

The main difference is that AS-Levels are gradually being phased out, so far fewer people take these exams in the first place, let alone retake them. A-Levels are now linear qualifications, meaning your grade is based on the exams you sit at the end of the two year course.

AS-Levels are no longer compulsory, and don’t in any way contribute towards your A-Level grade. For more on how AS-Levels work as of 2023, have a look at this helpful article from Think Student.

That being said, there are reasons you may want to retake AS-Levels. You may want to gain knowledge and a qualification in a particular subject, without having to commit to the full two-year A-Level course.

Because they are no longer popular qualifications, it may be harder to find a school or college that still offers these courses and exams. However, if you are sure you want to resit one or more AS-Level, there will likely be one near you – there will just be less choice. Additionally, if you are entering as a private candidate, most exam centres will be able to let you sit the exam there even if they do not offer that course.

How long does it take to retake A-Levels?

A-Levels are long qualifications, normally taking two years for students in full-time education to complete. Of course, if you are retaking your A-Levels, you will have covered the content before, so may not need this long.

Most often, it takes one year to retake A-Levels. This is partly due to the fact that there is only one set of A-Level exams each year. If you receive your results and decide to take a gap year to resit, you will not be able to do the exams until the following summer. (It’s worth remembering that this is one academic year, from September to around June, rather than a full 12 months.)

If it has been longer since you initially sat your A-Levels, it is likely to take longer than this as you will not have covered the content recently. You will likely be studying for these retakes via online courses, in which case you have a lot of flexibility over your time.

For example, studying online means you are not restricted to the academic year and timetables. You could study for 18 months, rather than one or two academic years, which wouldn’t be possible if you were attending school or college. Nevertheless, you will still need to aim to finish preparing by the May-June exam season.

Do universities accept A-Level resits?

Almost all universities will accept A-Level resits, including Russell Group universities, as well as Oxford and Cambridge. One of the most common reasons people retake A-Levels is to meet university entry requirements, and then successfully go on to the university courses with their new grades.

You will have to complete another, fresh application for university with these new grades – but this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, retaking A-Levels can be used to your advantage, to show your dedication, motivation and ability for hard work. This could be something you talk about in your personal statement for your new application.

You can find more information about this on the Oxbridge Home Learning website here.

Pros and cons of retaking your A-Levels

There has been a lot of information about retaking A-Levels in this article, and trying to sort through all the available information can be overwhelming. Have a look at the table below for a summary of the most important pros and cons of retaking A-Levels.

This can help you make an informed decision about whether or not you want to resit these exams. You can then research further about the logistics of the process for your individual circumstances once you have made this choice.

Pros of retaking A-Levels Cons of retaking A-Levels
Improving your A-Level grades Significant time commitment
Gaining a better understanding of the subject May be a financial commitment
Meeting university entry requirements Not a guarantee that grades will improve
Improving CV for job applications Only one A-Level sitting per year
No limits on things like age, how many subjects you retake, how many times you retake an exam etc.  

Should you retake your A-Levels?

Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to retake your A-Levels can only be made by you. This article should have given you a comprehensive guide to retaking A-Levels, to help you decide whether it is the right route for you.

As mentioned, make sure to discuss the decision with people who know you, such as family, friends and teachers. There are plenty of things to consider. How much will higher grades benefit you – do you need them for university or a future career? Will you study in school or online? Why didn’t you get the grades you were hoping for the first time around – was more revision needed, or were circumstances outside of your control?

If you decide that retaking A-Levels is not the right choice for you, there are lots of next steps to consider. Resitting your A-Levels isn’t the only option.

If you are set on going to university that year, you can try to get a place through Clearing courses. Check out this page from UCAS for more on how this works. Alternatively, you could take a gap year to get some experience and plan your future steps.

Can you have your A-Levels remarked?

You certainly can have your A-Levels remarked, and this is another common choice for people disappointed with their A-Level grades. It is best if you feel the grade, you received doesn’t accurately reflect how you feel the exam went.

Have a look at this article from Think Student for a full guide to getting your A-Levels remarked.

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