What Happens If You Do Worse in a GCSE Resit?

In GCSE by Think Student Editor1 Comment

Every GCSE student will, at some point, have had the thought of what would occur should they fail their GCSEs. That answer is simple–you resit them in the following academic year: maths and English in November, the rest are sat in the summer. But then there’s the question that rings in the heads of those waiting to do their GCSE resits, what will happen if you fail them? GCSE (and knowing how they work!) can be difficult and sometimes confusing. I’m going to guide you through the rough waters so that you can take control of your own boat 

You can keep resitting your GCSE subjects as many times as you want, with almost no obligations as to what you pass (but you do have to get a passing grade for English and maths if you’re under 19). But don’t worry, your final grade will be the highest you achieved out of your resits. Each GCSE resit you take will have a varying cost based on the course and the exam board, but you might not have to pay depending on your age and position. If you’re struggling to get the grades you need, you can always do a Functional Skills Qualification instead, which is an easier alternative. 

I’m sure you have more questions, and I have more answers to give! After all, what even is an FSQ? And what about the effects on further education. I would recommend that you keep reading this article for more detail about GCSE resits.  

Will Your Grade Go Down if You Do Worse on Your GCSE Resit? 

Ofqual has stated that “many re-sitting students do not improve their grades”. Instead, 60% of students will receive the same grade and 10% will get a lower grade. In the event that you receive a lower grade than your original attempt, your final grade will be the highest grade achieved 

Can You Retake Your GCSEs Again? 

The good news is that you’re only required to have a passing grade for English and maths as there’s no obligation to pass any other subjects, though you might need them if you have a particular future in mind (some colleges and sixth forms will require you to have certain GCSE grades to study certain courses, the same is true for university courses as well, though this is normally only English and maths).  

The bad news is that you have to keep resitting these exams if you’re aged 16 to 18 (but you can retake them even after 18), until you get a grade 4 or above, due to a government policy. The reason for this is that many employers require their workers to have at least a pass grade (in English and maths) though they often prefer to hire people who have more than the passing grades. If you will be studying full time and received a grade 3, then you’ll have to resit the exams again, but if you will be studying part time or got a grade 2 or below, then you can take a Functional Skills Qualification (FSQ) instead.  

If you are interested in finding out about how many times you can resit particular GCSEs (both core and non-core subjects), you may find this article to be useful.  

How Much Does it Cost to Resit GCSE Exams? 

All exam retakes will unfortunately cost money. You’ll need to pay course fees to cover the tuition side of things (though you may not have to, depending on your age and position). There will also be exam fees which will be paid directly to the exam centre. The cost of each exam will vary according to the exam board and course.  

You will not have to pay to resit maths or English language exams (up until the age of 19) because they are compulsory.  

What is a Functional Skills Qualification? 

If you’re struggling to pass GCSE English and maths, the easier alternative is to work for a Functional Skills Qualification (FSQ) instead. The course covers more practical topics which are relevant to workplaces and further education (such as money, measurements and writing skills). 

FSQs are graded on a pass/fail basis, with questions based on everyday scenarios (which allows some people to perform better due to the added context). Teachers are able to mark Entry Level assessments, as well as the speaking, listening and communicating component of English. For English there is currently a focus on spelling, punctuation and grammar, and Entry Levels now include detailed reading and spelling expectations. Maths has an emphasis on the skills required to solve mathematical problems, including working with and without a calculator. 

How Does Resitting Exams Affect Your Further Education? 

If full-time further education is your path of choosing, don’t worry because most colleges will let you study for one or two GCSEs alongside AS/A-Levels, as long as you have four GCSEs with a passing grade – though the specific requirements will vary according to the school/college’s policies. 

The school/college may require you attend additional timetabled lessons to ensure you’re fully prepared, but you might find it useful to study with a tutor or online so that you can focus on your GCSEs separately from your AS/A-Levels. 

Can You Retake GSCEs While Working? 

If you are in some form of work placement (be it an apprenticeship, work experience or a part/full-time job), here are a few options that you could take: 

Night school: some schools and colleges will offer evening classes in this form, allowing you to learn at a more suitable time.  

Online learning: if you don’t want to study in a classroom, you can study online, allowing for more flexible hours. You can actually also study for A-Levels online at the same time. As you’ll have your own tutor, you’ll have plenty of support. But remember that if you haven’t yet received a pass grade or are under 19, then you will have to sit the exams in a school. 

How Should You Prepare for Your GCSE Resits? 

Make sure that when you study, it’s in a quiet space with a comfortable environment, where you are unlikely to be disturbed. Ensure you have a detailed revision plan (which includes when and for how long you’re going to study each component of your courses) nearby, so that you can tick off all the relevant boxes after each revision session.  

There are many useful study apps and websites which can help you to revise. This includes: 

  • Quizlet (where you can make and use online flashcards to quiz yourself) 
  • BBC Bitesize (which has videos, notes, worked examples and quizzes to help you out)  
  • Seneca (which teaches you what you need to know, before testing you in a various range of ways, such as multiple choice, with end of topic tests scattered throughout each course). 

Do past papers to practice, as you’ll often find that marking them yourself will give you a better idea of where you need to improve and how to do that. You can find them on the exam board websites, along with the mark schemes. 

Additionally, ensure you take sufficient breaks away from your study area, ideally after every 50 minutes, for 10 minutes. My advice is to step outside, look around and focus on your breathing. This will help to ease your mind and calm any nerves. This is a much better strategy than revising for hours and hours with no breaks.  

Finally, make sure you don’t feel too disheartened, as you could use your resits to your advantage–attempt different revision methods, use new ways to study and ask for extra help from a tutor. However, you should also think very carefully about retaking GCSE resits if they’re not compulsory for the line of work you want to go into. Either way, you must remember that it is NOT the end of the world, GCSEs do NOT shape your entire life, and there are plenty of other opportunities for you to succeed in!  

ChildLine has plenty of exam advice and can offer support if needed, but remember to go to one of your teachers if you’re struggling as they will have had students go through the same situations as you. 

In terms of revision, here are some links to other articles which you might find useful: 

Good luck to everyone who’s planning on resitting their exams! 

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7 months ago

Hi this may be late! However,I see You’ve mentioned that the exam board will take the highest mark. So will it count if your highest mark even thought it was a fail for summer grade boundaries? Or does this apply only if you’ve passed? Thank you 🙂