To Retake, or Not To Retake?

To Retake, or Not To Retake

If you haven’t gotten the results you were hoping for, you’ll most likely find yourself with the tough decision, do you retake your exams or not?

With the controversies over the remarked English GCSE exams from the summer still ongoing, the question of whether it’s worth retaking exams remains an important one. What are the benefits of retaking an exam, and how can retaking sometimes make things worse? It’s worth thinking about everything from extenuating circumstances that might have caused problems with an original exam, as well as how quickly you can retake. However, it’s also important to consider the cost of retaking GCSEs and A Levels, and whether there are other options available.


The most common reason for retaking an exam is to boost a grade, which becomes particularly important when the difference is only marginal between the grade that you need to do the course you want at university, or to do the A Levels you want. The frustration of missing out by a few marks can mean that retaking an exam is necessary to avoiding being stuck with a lower than expected grade. Other factors might also make a retake necessary from medical problems around the time of the exam, through to other distractions that may have meant you weren’t working to your best.

In terms of when you can sit for an exam again, GCSEs and A Level exams are typically held in January and June, so you have about four to six months as a minimum. For the GCSE English exams that were criticised for changing grade requirements last summer, resits have been brought forward to November in some areas of the country.

It’s always worth speaking to career advisers and teachers about the benefits of retaking an exam, while remembering that you have the option of completing online courses, as well as they are accredited. You may also only want to take one or two modules from a course if you suffered unusually low marks in them. This is often the best thing to do during GCSEs and A Levels if you want to try to boost your grades before the final exams.

Why Retakes Can Make Things Worse

There are a number of risks and problems associated with exam retakes that need to be factored in to your decision. Primarily, a retake is expensive, and can cost up to a few thousand pounds. You also may not be able to use your old school or college to take the exam, and might have to travel to do so. Some universities are also wary about accepting retaken grades, meaning that you’ll have to contact individual institutions to check what their criteria is.

Assuming that a retake is necessary, you also have to face up to an intensive period of revision in a subject you have already studied. For a better chance of getting the right grade, you will also have to weigh up the cost of a specialist college course designed to help retakers. Taking this extreme action can work out, though, if you can retake in six months to a year, and then start university the same year. Delaying the decision can mean that you end up with a changing syllabus, or with reduced motivation to go through the exam process all over again.

This has been a Guukle guest post

Chris Green is an education advocate who spent a little too long in university. Now he’s pushing his advocacy from university into the secondary/upper sectors, promoting revision help, and courses for those who need that extra revision practice at Easter.