top of page

Retaking your Exams and Making that Top Grade

When it comes to exam results, there are multiple reasons as to why we did not get the grade we’d hoped for, whether it’s personal circumstances, or it may be that you didn’t end up preparing enough. Regardless of the reason, it can be disappointing not to receive the grade we’d expected, but the good news is that your initial grade isn’t necessarily the be all and end all!

In today’s blog, we will talk you through the process of retaking exams in order to get that top grade.

Student retaking exam

Why Should You Resit?

One of the main reasons someone may like to retake an exam is in order to get into a specific course, predominantly at university. Most universities offer places conditionally, and are dependent on the prospective student achieving certain grades in order to gain a place on the course. However, if at A Level you do not receive the required results, this can make things tricky when considering your next move.

For some, they may want to consider clearing, which means that they are able to go to uni when they wanted to, even if it’s not necessarily their first option. For most people, however, their dream university course is chosen for a reason, and not having the required grades may hinder them in achieving this, so the next option will be to retake their exams.

It might also be the case, however, that some students might want to re-take their exams simply because they weren’t happy with their results, and know that they can do better. Both reasons are entirely valid, and it’s worth pointing out that there is absolutely no shame in having to, or wanting to, re-take an exam! Ultimately, it’s going to form the path to your next steps in your career, so only you can make the decision as to how you would like to proceed.

Who Can Retake an Exam?

The answer is simple – anyone can retake an exam! This applies to both GCSEs and A Levels, and there is no upper age limit for who can take a GCSE or an A Level exam. The only prerequisite for A Levels is that you must have gained at least a C in your GCSE in the subject you wish to re-take.

Where Can You Retake an Exam?

There are a few different options for where you can take your resit, and where you take it will have a knock on effect as to how the course of the subsequent year will look.

The first option will be speaking to your school or college, and finding out how to retake your exam through them. If you choose this route, generally it will involve retaking the whole year in the run up to the exam, especially if this is for an A Level, where you will be in a class of current students.

A Levels are now assessed in a linear way, as opposed to the previous modular way (where you could retake a particular module or AS exam, for example), so you will have to retake the whole year in order to do your resits the following summer. As you’re enrolled in the course for that year, you should be automatically put forward for the exam in the summer of the following year (for example, enrolling in September 2023 will mean you take the exam in May/June of 2024).

Another option would be to check out independent colleges that specialise in helping people with their re-takes for both GCSEs and A Levels, with focused lessons to help achieve the grades you may have missed out on. However, there can be fees upwards of £6000, which is not accessible for the majority of people. The last option is to register as a private candidate through the exam board, then find out where you can actually sit the exam, for example at a local school or college - and make sure you contact them to find out exactly what you need to do to ensure you will be sitting your exam at the right time! The benefit of retaking as a private candidate is that you can revise at your own pace, studying the topics that you feel you specifically need to work on, as well as setting your own schedule.

Students in exam

How Should You Prepare For Your Retake?

As you’re retaking, you probably want to be aiming for the best possible mark, and there are lots of really achievable ways you can prepare yourself for this to happen. A good starting point would be to request a copy of your exam script from the exam board. Being able to see how and where the marks were awarded can be an excellent way of understanding where you may have fallen short.

It might have just been a certain topic that lost you marks, which will be a great indicator of what you need to revise. Alternatively, in some cases, students struggle with the paper as a whole, which might mean that you need to have a look at how you approach the exam.

One way to do this is to look at your paper in relation to the current mark scheme, as well as looking at past papers and mark schemes to get a really good understanding of what the examiners are looking for. Sometimes it’s simply a case of adjusting your writing to suit the mark scheme, and a lot of students find that they need to shift how they write, rather than what it is that they’re writing about.

If you’re still close to your teachers from school or college, don’t be afraid to ask them for help about how best to proceed, and ask if they are able to give you any advice on what they think you need to work on. Your teachers will have seen the way you work for at least a year, and they may even be able to give you some extra resources or materials.

If you’re struggling to make this adjustment on your own, or even work out the gaps in your knowledge, it might be worth getting a tutor, especially if you have decided to register as a private candidate.

One of the major benefits of working with a tutor is that each lesson will be individually tailored to your needs, and that focused, one-to-one work is a space for you to share concerns about your upcoming resit, and troubleshoot with your trusted tutor. Even if you decide to work with them for a few months as opposed to the whole academic year, having that sounding board can be a massive confidence boost, especially if there is any doubt or uncertainty that has come with having to retake.

Things to Consider:

The Cost The price of each individual resit can vary from exam board to exam board, and for GCSEs and A Levels, so make sure you triple check the cost of your retake so you aren’t stung further down the line. Generally, each resit is around the £100 mark, but triple check things like fees for exam centres (if any), or independent colleges (as mentioned above) before committing to a particular route. Deadlines This is one of the most important things to consider – don’t miss the deadline! Again, it can vary depending on which exam board you are working with, but be sure to check when you need to register for a retake, or when you need to contact your school or college to enrol for the upcoming academic year in order to resit. If you miss the boat, you may have to wait another full year before you can take it again! Your University of Choice Finally, you also need to double check that your chosen university accepts retake grades. Generally, most of them do, but there are some courses that don’t, so please make sure you find out before you undergo the process. If it isn’t on their website, you can contact the university through their website or phone number.

We hope you found this guide helpful, and remember that with a good structure in place, and with lots of research under your belt, you can absolutely succeed in your retake! If you would like the help of a specific subject tutor for your retakes, feel free to contact us, and one of the team would be more than happy to help you out. Best of luck!


Blog Post Crafted by Cicely

Cicely works on our Admin Team, and also tutors extensively.

In 2020, Cicely discovered her love of teaching, and has been tutoring English Literature and Drama ever since, as well as running a drama school audition help service with her friend and fellow actor to help prospective drama school students with their audition speeches.

Cicely has had her poetry published in anthologies and online, and in her free time is an avid reader. She loves living by the sea, a good podcast, and taking long walks in the countryside.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page