A-Level results day 2023: can you resit an exam? Process, costs and other options, like clearing, explained

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Students in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are receiving their A-level results, which will have a major bearing on whether or not they make it to university

College students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have received their A-Level exam results.

The class of ‘23 has seen a fall in top grades as a result of harsher marking. Exam boards have sought to bring standards in line with where they were before Covid-19 struck after having given students more leeway during the pandemic, a move that has been described as “hard” by several of those who have received their results.

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Given the fact that higher grades have been harder to come by, it’s crucial to know where this year’s grade boundaries lie. Having a good idea of back-up universities you can apply to if your results didn’t match your expectations is also a good idea.

But, if your results were well-short of what you were aiming for, a key consideration is whether you should resit your A-Levels. While it can be a tough decision to make, it could be the right decision for you - particularly if you want your next step to be a university degree.

So, how does the resits process work? In this piece, we’ll run you through your options.

Can you resit A-Levels?

In a word: yes. Whether it’s the right option or not depends on the grades you got, how close they were to the grade boundaries, and what you want to study at university.

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For example, if you only missed out on your grades by a small number of marks, it may be worth considering getting your papers re-marked instead of re-sitting your exams. Alternatively, if you didn’t get the grades you wanted for your firm or insurance university - but the grades you received may be accepted by another institution - you can try clearing.

You have several options if your A Level results were not as good as you hoped (image: Getty Images)You have several options if your A Level results were not as good as you hoped (image: Getty Images)
You have several options if your A Level results were not as good as you hoped (image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

However, if your grades fell far below was you expected, and won’t allow you to get onto a university course, apprenticeship, or a job you like, re-sitting may be the best option. You should properly consider what this will mean before you go through with it, as retaking your A-levels is a major committment.

How do you resit A-Levels?

So, you’ve decided you want to resit your exams. You may choose to resit all of them - or, you could choose just one subject that you want to give another go.

First, you need to inform your school or college. If you want to go straight ahead and resit your exams without any additional learning, your school or college can enrol you and you will take your exams in October. If you decide you need to redo the year in full, you can either ask your school or college to enrol you for another year - or you could apply to study elsewhere at a different college, school, or educational establishment.

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If you are retaking the year, you will most likely have to attend most of the lessons or lectures you attended in the previous academic year. If you are only resitting one or two subjects, you will only have to go to the lessons for those subjects. If the subject you are retaking had coursework, you may be able to retain those grades if you wish too - but requirements differ between exam boards.

If heading back to school or college doesn’t suit you (for example, you may need to get a job to see you through the year), you can hire a private tutor to teach you either in-person or online.

While the intensive learning process is likely to mean you’re in a better position to improve your grades, it is a pricey option. You will have to pay course fees to cover your tuition and any materials you will need, and you’ll also have to foot the costs for your exams - with prices usually starting at £175 per subject. But it does mean you can take your exams in October, rather than the following summer.

Getting into university can be crucial for some career paths (image: AFP/Getty Images)Getting into university can be crucial for some career paths (image: AFP/Getty Images)
Getting into university can be crucial for some career paths (image: AFP/Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

What about clearing?

If your A-level grades are lower than you wanted but not so low that you feel you have to retake your exams (or a course you are considering does not require high grades), you can go through clearing.

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Run by UCAS, you can see what entry requirements other universities (barring Oxford and Cambridge) have for your course, as well as similar courses you can take that may have lower grade requirements. Or, you can change direction completely and apply for a totally different subject - although not all universities will necessarily agree to this.

If you think clearing is the path for you, it’s worth carefully considering whether the universities or courses on offer meet your needs. Clearing is open until 17 October 2023. To apply, visit the UCAS website. You can use the service if:

  • You are applying to university after 30 June
  • You either didn’t get or accept any offers of a place
  • You didn’t meet the grade requirements of your offers
  • You have opted to decline your firm place
  • You have paid an application fee of £25

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