Those who fail to achieve their A Level grades should consider retaking subjects. Some universities exclude retake students, and courses such as medicine are unlikely to accept those candidates. Thankfully, there are many good universities who will. Your success on a retake course will be helped by small class sizes, lots of individual attention, exam orientation and outstanding teaching. Ashbourne College complements this with feedback from subject teachers and personal tuition. Ashbourne Independent Sixth Form College offers two year, 18 month and a one-year intensive A Level courses, providing a wide range of subject choices.
Determination is Rewarded
When you fail to achieve the grades required by your university offer, you should certainly consider retaking the A Levels (or modules) in which you under-performed.
Traditionally, universities have rewarded the determination of students who do not simply join any available course, but take the time and effort to resit exams and obtain the grades necessary for their first-choice subjects and universities.
Always Check with Universities First
This situation has recently become much more complex as universities have met unprecedented demand, especially for certain popular subjects, by either officially excluding or effectively discriminating against students who have retaken A Levels.
Therefore, if you are planning to resit you should contact your chosen university department to get the most up-to-date information about their policy on resits – whether they accept them, and what grade they will require from retake candidates.
At Ashbourne College, we also give highly informed and straightforward advice about when it is advisable to retake and when a student should settle for the courses that are available to them with their existing grades.
Medicine, Dentistry and Law
In general, prestigious courses such as medicine, law and dentistry are unlikely to be available to candidates who have retaken A Levels.
This situation is particularly acute for medicine, as is clear from our recent research. A snapshot of our report is shown below.
Click to download the University Entry Requirements for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science and Comparison of Past and Current Places at UK Medical Schools tables (PDF documents).
If you are interested in Medicine career you can check this article .
A few university medical schools do allow applications from retake candidates; others do so only under exceptional circumstances; but many do not, whatever the extenuating circumstances.
Even when medical schools do consider retakes, they will sometimes do so only for previous applicants or for those who gained certain grades first time round.
In other subject areas, elite universities such as Edinburgh and St Andrew’s are effectively refusing A Level retakes.
Other institutions are more accommodating, although some, such as Durham, LSE, Imperial and Cambridge, have policies that explicitly favour first-time candidates, while others, for example Manchester, require additional information when considering grades from retaken A Levels.
Clearly many universities regard resits as a softer way of achieving high grades than gaining them all in the normal, two-year cycle.
In an era of perceived ‘grade inflation’, where more students are gaining high grades, the exclusion of retakes provides a way of differentiating between high-calibre candidates.
It should, however, be pointed out that the new A* grades and indeed old-fashioned interviews are a more accurate way of doing this, especially as an uncompromising rejection of retakes would discriminate candidates who had very strong personal or health reasons for needing to resit exams.
State and Private Education
There is also a perception among universities that the acceptance of retake students in effect favours independent schools. While we have no evidence of this, there are undoubtedly some excellent private colleges offering highly effective retake courses.
Ashbourne is one of them. We would point out that in our experience it is often bright students from the state sector who need to retake courses in order to help them achieve the grades merited by their ability and effort.
The Majority of Universities (Courses) Accept Resits…
Thankfully, there are many very good universities and courses, especially outside medicine, dentistry and law, which accept retake students. Indeed, in recent research, the majority of universities surveyed said that they would accept resits.
At Ashbourne College, our goal is to give all committed and able students the advice and tuition that they need to take advantage of the numerous options that are still available.
How to Choose a Retake Course?
When choosing a retake course you must look very hard at the way in which the course is structured and delivered. For example, does the college offer dedicated resit classes for the relevant exam board?
Your success in a retake course will be facilitated by small class sizes, lots of individual attention, exam orientation and outstanding teaching. Small classes and extra teaching time will give you the opportunity to practice exam papers and discuss the problems that may have held you back in the past.
At Ashbourne College, we complement the interactive approach and feedback of subject teachers with our personal tutors. These are senior teachers who oversee students’ academic progress, as well as spending as much one-to-one time as is necessary to produce effective university applications.
Depending on your initial grade, you should expect to improve by at least one or two grades for each subject you resit. When choosing a school or college for retakes, you should certainly aim to achieve at least this level of improvement.
At Ashbourne College, we usually expect 75% of resit grades to result in an A or B grade.
Reapplying to UCAS
Private A level colleges such as Ashbourne College have a deep and varied experience in assisting students with their UCAS application. Liaising with previous schools to complete the confidential reference, colleges are happy to submit applications quickly to make the deadlines for Oxbridge for example.
Because of Ashbourne College’s focus on individual attention students actually benefit from individual meetings with their Personal Tutor and approach their application with much more confidence.
Ashbourne College is not the only school that offers resit courses, but we are particularly proud of our achievements in over thirty years of tuition. Our retake students are given exceptional levels of support to help them to achieve not only the highest grades but also the university course of their choice.
Our retake students have taken their full share of Ashbourne College’s recent successes, not only in helping us to achieve an Outstanding OFSTED Report, but also in entering the nation’s best universities, including UCL, Imperial College, the LSE, and Oxford and Cambridge.