Everything you need to know about retaking your GCSEs or A-levels

by Anita Naik

Sometimes the best-laid plans go awry. Perhaps you are worried you won't get a high enough grade or you will score far lower than you expect. Or maybe you already know you did not put in the work to do well. Whatever the outcome, it's never too late to think about retaking your exams. Here's everything you need to know.

Who can retake?

Anyone can retake their GCSEs and A-levels regardless of when you took them and what grade you received. It's your choice, and bear in mind retaking a subject will not affect your university application or how sixth form colleges see you as a student.

What should I retake?

GCSEs and A-Level retakes are offered in every subject, so it's up to you what you decide to do and how many subjects. However, if you have failed GCSE English language and GCSE Maths, it's worth retaking these as they are key for further and higher education and several jobs.

What are the benefits of retaking your GCSEs or A-Level?

1. Access to sixth form or university.2. Being able to move on to the degree or A-levels of your choice.3. Having more choices of courses at university.4. Feeling more confident about moving on to A-levels of an undergraduate degree.5. Having more value on your CV.6. Access to better entry-level position jobs.

Where can I retake my GCSEs or A-Levels?

You can enrol to re-sit your GCSE's or A-levels at your school or a local college. This means you'll be a student and have a timetable and attend classes with other students.

Many schools and colleges will let you re-sit your GCSEs alongside A Levels for other subjects, so don't assume you'll be held back a year - talk to your school.

Will I have to pay to retake exams?

There are two costs involved in retaking. There's a tuition fee and an exam fee. The tuition fee is likely to covered by your school or the original centre to retake, but you will have to pay the exam fee.

The cost depends on the exam board but is around £35 for a GCSE and £85 for an A-level. Colleges may have higher fees.

Will universities penalise me for retaking A-levels?

Universities cannot see what A-Level subjects you failed or needed to retake; the only results shown are your new/recent/passed grades.

Like anything, though, it's all about how you talk about your re-sits or being behind a year in your personal statement on your UCAS form. Use the statement as a way to show that you're committed to getting the grades you want and putting in the work, and that's why you chose to re-sit.

What's the best way to study for a retake?

If you don't know why you didn't reach the grade you needed, then it's worth working with a tutor. Talking through your current knowledge base and doing past papers with a tutor can help you highlight the areas you need to work on and your exam and revision technique. The right tutor will also fill knowledge gaps and explain what examiners are looking for from your work.

If you're going back to school make sure you attend lessons as these can be a form of revision in itself.

If lack of organised revision was behind your grade - how you study is the area you need to improve on. Start revising from the start of term to avoid cramming at the end and have time to cover all the areas you need for a higher grade.

A good-structured revision timetable that takes in work you skipped last time, past papers and practice, are also key.

For more help on this see our blog post on How to create a revision timetable and How to revise.