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How to prepare for GCSE and A-level exam resits

No-one wants to have to resit an exam. But if you have your heart set on a particular job or university course, then you shouldn’t let one failed attempt put you off.

According to 2015 research carried out by educational professional Dr Gary Jones, approximately 54% of UK college students who achieve a D in maths, go on to achieve at least a C in their resits. So, statistically speaking, there’s a lot to gain from having to resit GCSEs or A-levels. In order to help you prepare, we’ve put together this post, which should help ensure that you get the results you need the second time round.

'54% of students upgrade their D to a C by resitting' 

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1. Don’t make the same mistake twice

By the time your A-level or GCSE retakes come around, whether you’re still at school, college or working, finding the time to regain your focus and prepare for a resit can be tricky.

For more information on when your A-level or GCSE resits are likely to take place, have a look at the exam retake timetable on the Assessments and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) website.

What you need to ensure when preparing for a resit is that you understand where you went wrong the first time. Unfortunately, at GCSE and A-level, you won’t be provided with specific feedback on your test paper, although you should be provided with a breakdown of each unit, so you can work out where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

If you’re able to identify the areas that need improving, you can then break down your studying schedule so that you’re focusing on the topics that you struggle with. For example, you might find that your knowledge is really good but your exam technique needs improving, or that your understanding is good but your process isn’t.

2. Create a study schedule (and stick to it)

We’ve already written a post on how to revise for GCSE and A-level exams and a lot of these procedures apply to resits too. However, what can sometimes happen with a resit is that students become complacent when it comes to studying.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because you’ve done it once, luck will take over and you’ll improve your grade this time round, but the odds suggest that this is unlikely. If you want a better grade in your A-level or GCSE resits, you need to earn it and that means sticking to a strict study schedule.

You should map out how many weeks you have left until your resit and decide how many hours per week you need to dedicate to studying in order to get yourself to the level that you need to be at.

Having a documented study schedule in place makes it easier for you to manage your study time. It also provides you with a visual reminder of what you’re working towards and lets you adjust your efforts accordingly as exam day approaches.

Take a look at our guide to making a revision timetable with a difference.

3. Ask for assistance whenever you need it

F1 help keyThink back to when you were learning the course content in class. Did you understand everything 100%, all of the time?


But you asked for help when you needed it though, right?

What do you mean, no?

The biggest mistakes students make when learning in class is not asking for help when they need it. And the second biggest mistake they make is not asking for help the second time round either. If you really want to pass your resit, you should use every resource that you have available to make that happen.

We understand that sometimes teachers aren’t the most approachable (don’t tell yours we said that) but if this is the case, you can still ask for help from your friends who passed the course first time, or you can ask another teacher, or your parents, or a private tutor... you get the picture.

4. Keep your eyes on the prize

One of the best ways to motivate yourself to study for a resit is to keep your goal in mind. Why do you need to pass the exam? Is it so you will be accepted on to a university course? Or is it because you have a specific job in mind that you need the subject for?

Whatever the reason for doing your A-level or GCSE resits, it’s important to remind yourself of why you’re doing it. Sometimes it can help to focus on the rewards of passing the exam and visualising how good it will feel to have earned your place afterwards.

When the day of the exam comes, you want to feel confident that you’ve prepared as much as you can. You should feel that you’re able to answer any question that comes your way.

All set for the big day? Don't take any chances with your A-level or GCSE resits – make sure you're prepared for every scenario with our exam-day FAQs.

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