Repeating a year at A-level? Know your options…

What happens if your A-Level results aren’t quite what you expected? Do you have to repeat the year? Can you just retake your exam? Or could you still go to uni anyway? We have all the answers…

There are actually a few things you can do in this situation:

  1. Try and get into your first choice university (some universities may still accept your revised grades).
  2. Take your insurance choice (if your grades allow for this).
  3. Apply through Clearing for 2017 enrolment.
  4. Retake a year and try to improve on your current grades, to reapply for 2018 entry.
1. Your first choice is cool with your grades

First things first, don’t panic. Even if you didn’t get the grades required for your firm offer you may still be accepted onto the course of your choice. Whoop Whoop, everyone loves a second chance!


Some universities and certain courses may not have had as many applicants as they assumed and you might just find a spot is available for you. The course tutor may reassess your application, personal statement and/or references, and may decide that you still have the academic merit to be accepted onto the course. So, just give them a call!

2. You picked your back-up for a reason…

If your first choice no longer accepts your grades, you might have the option to take your insurance choice. You obviously picked your insurance for a reason and it might be a good time to consider it again. (Yup, it’s that second chance thing again…) This way you can steer clear of re-takes and still end up at a university of your choice (albeit second choice) and now you’re on your way to university for sure!

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3. Let’s hear it for Clearing!

The next option you have is that wonderful thing called Clearing. It’s a brilliant process where you’ll find a great selection of courses that you may not have considered initially, but on reflection, actually sound quite appealing.


Another benefit to the Clearing route is that it stretches throughout the whole of August and early September too. Places on popular courses will get filled very quickly though, so don’t leave it too late!chill-out

As well as Clearing, you can always consider re-applying for 2018 entry, with the grades you’ve already received. Choosing this option not only allows you to consider the courses you could apply for, but also gives you the time to attend a few open days and get a proper feel for the institutes you could be applying for.

4. Retaking your A-Levels

There are a few big things to remember here:

  1. As the AS/A-Level framework has changed, it’s now only possible to retake your exams/coursework in June, the January retake option is now unavailable.
  2. Some universities may not consider applicants who have retaken at A-Levels. You should prepare to explain why you had to retake and prove how seriously you’re going to work to improve on your missed grades. They should take this into consideration and give you an honest answer in regards to your chances of gaining a place on your chosen course. Which at this point in time is exactly what you need. This should help you figure out what your options are and hopefully calm some of those nerves you may be having.
  3. If you want to go straight back into your studies, you can continue building on what you’ve learnt and retake your modules the following Summer (June). Remember, it’s always best to contact your tutor or head of sixth form and find out the exact retake dates for your specific institution and modules, as not all exam and coursework hand in dates are the same everywhere.
  4. You also have to decide where you’re going to complete your retakes; the first and easiest option would be to continue on at your current institution, as you know your way around and the staff are all familiar to you. However, if you feel like a change of scenery is more your cup of tea, it might be worth looking at other sixth forms/colleges that’ll be happy to take you on to re-sit your A-Levels. This choice might make re-sitting a little less painful as you’ll be able to make new friends, learn from new people and be surrounded by a fresh environment to work in.
  5. Changing venue will involve calling your local sixth forms & colleges to find out how possible this will be, and also how much it’ll cost. As unfortunately once you have completed your A-Levels, regardless of the grades you achieved, you will have to pay to retake your modules. So it’s best to know how much the whole process will cost you and then you can decide which option is best for you.
  6. The last thing you’ll have to remember is that due to your need to retake you will have to reapply to university through UCAS for 2018 entry, completing a new personal statement as well. This is a great opportunity to explain why it took you a little longer to complete your studies, and how the extra time has helped you develop as a person. Although having to retake may seem terrible, some universities do appreciate that students who retake and improve their grades are hard working, driven students, with a determination to make the most out of their degree course.

Hint: make sure your tutors and heads of sixth form know how much hard work you put into your retakes when they’re preparing your UCAS reference, it may help in the long run!

So as you can see the process may not actually be as scary as you thought, it’s just about contacting the right people at the right time. If you have any questions regarding your A-Level results or options for retaking, feel free to contact our student bloggers through the comments section below. We’re always happy to help.