How Many Times Can You Resit GCSEs?

In GCSE by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

There’s always so much pressure surrounding your GCSEs and how much your results can impact your life. Some entrepreneurs love to boast that they dropped out of school early or left school with no GCSEs and still went on to become millionaires. As inspiring as that sounds, it isn’t a common story for the vast majority of students. While in secondary school teachers can really make it seem like your whole life depends on your GCSE grades as they are in some ways a reflection of the culmination of your time in education up until that point, it is important to remember that a grade doesn’t define you. That said, if you feel as though you haven’t achieved your full potential in an exam, or are required to retake exams for compulsory subjects, it is important to understand how they work.  

You can resit your English Language and Maths GCSE as many times as you like. Before you turn 18, this is a government requirement, and so it will be necessary for you to achieve a minimum grade of 4 (which is equivalent to a C). This is something that your Sixth Form or College will account for, and support you with. You can also choose to resit your Science GCSE (and any other GCSE subjects) as many times as you like but, unlike Maths and English Language, this is not a requirement. 

Not many students expect to do a resit, but it basically involves doing work that you’ve already done – so you’re not learning anything new. For further details about resits and how many times you can resit exams for certain subjects, make sure that you continue reading. 

How Many Times Can You Resit Your Maths and English GCSEs? 

It’s compulsory to achieve a grade 4 or above in both your Maths and English GCSE. If you don’t achieve the required grades you will have to resit the exams.  

There is no limit on the number of resits that you can do, but it is necessary that you continue to resit the exam until you achieve a minimum grade 4, ideally before you turn 18. You can also continue to resit them after this point, but it is not legally required of you (though not having pass grades in these subjects can cause you some problems when it comes to university applications and job opportunities).  

Maths and English are core compulsory GCSE subjects, meaning that every student has to take them. These two subjects in particular are vitally important as they teach skills that are necessary for everyday life. I know many students have asked or wondered, “When am I going to use the Pythagoras theorem after my GCSE’s?”, or “Why am I learning about Shakespeare if no one sensible even talks like him anymore?”. These are very valid questions, but unfortunately you don’t have control over the curriculum taught in schools.  

However, you do have control over how you respond to the information you’re taught and whether you’re willing to put your feelings aside, put your head down. Apply what you’ve been taught, and focus on trying to get the best grade possible – regardless of whether or not you will ever use a protractor again. 

Aside from education, most employers and even universities require a minimum of a pass grade in both English and Maths. This should serve as further motivation to aim to do well in these subjects as you wouldn’t want it to stop you from getting a job interview or into the university of your dreams. However, remember that there is no shame in having to resit either of these subjects. Although it is not ideal, many students have to go through this process to get the grades that they need.  

How Many Times Can You Resit Your Non-Core GCSEs? 

It’s not compulsory to resit any non-core subjects, so it is your choice alone if you decide to do so. Even if you do not pass a non-core GCSE subject (such as History or Spanish), you will not be required to retake them until you pass. This doesn’t mean that these subjects should be neglected in your revision, though. If you are unhappy with any of the grades that you achieve in non-core GCSE subjects, you can choose to resit them. 

Once again there is no limit on the number of times you can resit your non-core GCSEs so you can resit them as many times as you please 

There are many potential reasons that someone may choose to resit a non-core GCSE subject. For example, a student may want to study Biology at A-level. In this case, they would obviously be expected to pass GCSE Biology. However, if this student doesn’t pass GCSE Biology and gets a grade 3, they can either decide to resit the exam or choose another A-level subject such as English or Geography that is not related to Biology. 

Another reason why a student may want to resit an exam is that they may have high hopes of getting into a prestigious university, such as Oxbridge. For example, if they wanted to study a History related degree, they might want to ensure they get the highest grade possible in History. 

When and Where Do GCSE Resits Happen? 

The exam period for formal GCSE exams is in May and June. Resits take place at the same time as the normal exam season, as well as for an additional period in November/January. You can decide when you are ready to retake your exams.  

When you do a resit you’re not going to be doing the same exam paper you did the first time round – that would make it too easy! It’s going to be a completely new paper, but still with the same topics. A resit is still a formal exam so it will be taken under the normal exam conditions in an exam hall with invigilators. 

If you decide to wait a year until you do your resit you will essentially be taking the exam with the students in the year below you as your cohort would have progressed onto their first year in sixth form or college. If you don’t want to wait a year and feel ready to do your resit, given you already have all the necessary materials to help you revise, you should speak to your teacher and you could do your resit early in November or January. 

Alternatively, there is the option to do your resit alongside your A levels. Before deciding to do this ensure you have thought well about how you will manage both your A levels and GCSEs to ensure one does not suffer as a result of the other. 

Are GCSE Resits Free? 

In general, resits are free, provided you remain at the same school you took the exam in and the exam board is the same. If you move to a different sixth form or college, or another external body there may be fees involved. This is something that you should check with the organisation that you attend.  

When resitting compulsory GCSE exams such as Maths and English Language, you will not have to pay for retaking exams. This is something that your sixth form or college will cover while you are studying with them, or are under 18.  

Can You Change Your GCSE Grade Without a Resit? 

When you get your GCSE results you will either be happy with the grades you got, think you could have done better but you’re content, or you might fail. As we know, a resit is when you do an exam again, either because you failed the first time or because you want to get a better grade. However, this is not the only option when it comes to changing a grade.  

Let’s take an example: on GCSE results day a student could get the following grades in these subjects (their predicted grades are also shown): 

Subject   Predicted Grade  Actual Grade 
English Literature  9  8 
English Language  9  9 
Maths  8  9 
Biology  8  8 
Chemistry  8  9 
Physics  8  8 
History  8  5 
Sociology  8  9 
Business Studies  9  9 
Spanish  8  7 

From the grades given above the student is clearly a high achiever and may feel that the grade given in History isn’t a reflection of their ability. This may be because they had a bad experience of their specific exam paper, or it could be something that could be fixed by requesting for the paper to be remarked.  

Deciding to appeal the grade if you think you were wrongly and unjustly marked could result in your exam being marked again. However, in the event of remarking it’s important to remember that there is also the possibility that your grade may go down, and not up as you would have liked. 

If you do decide to appeal your grade if you’re not happy with it, you should always speak to your teacher first as they would be able to best advise you on the next steps to take and whether it would be worth it or not.  

It is also important to keep in mind that remarking may come with a cost, depending on the reason for remarking the paper. In many cases, if you are on the boundary of a higher grade, your school’s exams office will let you know and appeal the grade on your behalf (and cover the cost). If they do not cover the cost, exam boards may charge you for remarking your paper. AQA charge £37.55 per component that needs remarking, and more information about their service can be found here.  

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