Resit A levels and Aiming Higher
Resit A levels: Improving university admissions options
I would like to thank you and your staff for enabling Hannah to get the grades she needed for University. You took a girl in pieces after the disappointment of her A level results last year and turned her into a confident and successful young woman. She has now been accepted to study Zoology at Bristol, her dream University, and she would not have done it without you all. Gill Gower, mother of Hannah Presdee, A level retake student from King’s School, Canterbury.
Many students arrive at RIC each year having missed their offers and leave with three top grades and a first choice university place after an intensive A level retake course. Equally important is the self confidence gained from these successful educational makeovers.
This year more students than ever before who did not quite get the grades they needed for their first choice places are finding themselves being offered alternatives. Sometimes these alternatives work out, but often students find that the snap decision to take up a place that they did not plan for does not turn out to suit them. Each year we have one or two students join us late in the term to go back to plan A, retake and improve grades and apply to the courses they really wanted in the first place. If you have any doubts about the alternative you have been offered, call or come and discuss the options with us first. We won’t try to persuade you to retake if that is not what we feel is best for you, but we will give you an opportunity to take a fresh look at your options.
Rochester Independent College, rather than just profiling a few high achieving students, publishes its university destinations list in full each year.
A level retake students at Rochester won 2016 places that include Biology at Imperial, Dentistry at Bristol, Vet Science at Liverpool, Pharmacy at UCL, Law at Exeter, Theology at Durham, English at Leeds, French at St Andrews, Geography at Loughborough, History of Art at Oxford Brookes, Japanese at Sheffield, Computing at Imperial, Nursing at KCL and Medical school places at Bristol for Natasha Alford and Exeter for Abi Wong .
Exeter University, the most popular choice for RIC retakers in the last few years say in their admissions policy: “The University does not discriminate against applicants who have re-taken part or all of a qualification and will treat an achieved or predicted qualification grade in the same way irrespective of whether or not re-takes are involved (this applies to all our programmes including BMBS Medicine).”
What gives Rochester Independent College’s A level retake students the competitive edge when reapplying for university is that they often add new A level subjects completed as one year intensive courses alongside their resits to properly prepare them for their chosen course of study, demonstrate their academic potential and make their year more engaging.
“Having set my heart on medicine, I was devastated when I fell short of the grades I needed for the offer I held at Barts. I soon realised that if my dream was to become a reality, I needed to keep at it and resit.
“This year has better prepared me for university and I now feel fully equipped to take on the new challenge. With the help of RIC, I was over the moon to achieve two offers for medicine. Small class sizes mean you get to know people very quickly, and I always felt well supported. The staff are so dedicated and passionate, they make A-levels as easy and enjoyable as possible. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and encouraging community. As well as resitting my existing A-levels (biology, chemistry and mathematics), I completed two additional subjects (sociology and statistics) to enhance my Ucas application. I can’t say that taking five A-levels in eight months was the easiest task, but here I am at the other end, excited and ready to start at Exeter medical school in September 2016.” Abi Wong
The RIC boarding option for those doing A level retakes or one year A level courses allows students from other schools to still move on, as they might have initially planned to do, before results day changed their original higher education plans. Many opt to weekly board at RIC for their A level retakes from London or elsewhere in the South East.
2016 A level Resit Success for Boarders
Chris Richardson who joined from King’s Canterbury went from BBC at A level in Chemistry, Maths and Biology to A*AA, winning a Durham place for Biological Sciences. Toby Vautier from Bryanston School in Somerset improved his CDD to ABB. Particularly noteworthy is that while Toby retook his Economics taking it from a C to an A he opted to take two new subjects from scratch in one year, English Literature and Film Studies. His parents said: “We are relieved and grateful in equal measure. It has helped his confidence greatly. He is really buzzed about Loughborough which is also positive.”
Another boarding student retake success is Freddie Fone from Tonbridge School who improved his grades from BEE to ABB and now has a place to study Marketing and Management at Newcastle University. Freddie retook his Fine Art A level and again took two new subjects from scratch, Film Studies and Graphic Design.
In 2014 all RIC retake students who applied to Russell Group universities received at least one, and in many cases up to five offers, from this group of the UK’s leading higher education institutions. Offers achieved and accepted for entry in September 2014 include: Music at Edinburgh, Chemistry at Leeds, Orthoptics at Sheffield, History of Art at Warwick, Vet Medicine at Liverpool, German and Spanish at York, Law at Sussex, Chemical Engineering at Sheffield, Geology at Exeter, Modern Languages and Business at Nottingham and Actuarial Mathematics at Leeds.
“Success! Thank you Rochester Independent College. From the first minute, we and Adam felt that RIC would be a good choice, Adam had his confidence crushed and felt deserted by his previous fee paying school after performing poorly in his A2 exams. The staff at RIC immediately assured Adam and us that he could achieve his goals. Today he passed three completely new A levels that he only started last September. We are both so proud of him and we are really appreciative that the staff were able to advise and support Adam and drive him to work hard to achieve what he wanted to do, he is in a much better place today, due to, not only his efforts but also largely to all his tutors and staff. We all as a family strongly recommend RIC. ” With many, many thanks, Chris, Wayne and Adam Dooley
Hallam Dyckhoff joined RIC as a boarding student from King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford (KEGS), one of the top performing state schools in the country. Hallam’s entry grades were CDE in Economics, Philosophy and Maths. After a year at RIC combining retakes with one year courses Hallam’s grades were an impressive AABB in English Literature, Film Studies, Economics and Philosophy. These grades won Hallam a 2014 place at Southampton University to study Philosophy.
Retake students often combine topping up key modules and adding new subjects to both impress universities and make their academic gap year more interesting. Isabella de Rosa from the Judd School took AS and A2 Sociology alongside her Chemistry and Biology retakes. She gained three A* grades and a coveted place at London’s Royal Veterinary College, the oldest and largest veterinary school in the UK and one of only seven in the country where students can study to become a vet.
“I’m delighted to see the results of Judd students retaking A levels at RIC and offer my congratulations to the five students who did so this year. We do recommend RIC to our students who are looking for further support and need to retake A levels.”
Robert Masters, headmaster, The Judd School, Tonbridge
Journalist and provocateur Charlie Brooker writing about disappointing exam results recently pointed out that “your grades are not your destiny: they’re just letters and numbers which rate how well you performed in one artificial arena, once.”
Resit A levels at RIC: fast track 1 year a level retake and university preparation courses for day and boarding students
If you have missed your A level offer grades and are not happy with the thought of applying through clearing there are positive options for students needing to resit their A levels. We have been offering intensive A level resit courses since 1984. Resitting A levels at RIC is not like going back to school. There’s no uniform, no petty rules, and teachers and students are on first name terms. It’s a stepping stone between school and university.
“Last year my results were CCB and I only got my insurance offer at uni. I actually went for one week but felt disappointed because I knew I could have done better and my results didn’t reflect my capabilities. My parents spoke to family friends and RIC was mentioned. I left university and had an interview at Rochester where I was reassured and encouraged to aim higher. It has helped to raise my ambition and realise my potential – my previous school told me I would never get into a Russell Group university. It has also helped me become more confident. It is relaxed and welcoming in the boarding house. The quality of teaching is noticeably better than at previous schools with small class sizes and plenty of discussion. The teachers have made me truly interested in my subjects and see their relevance in the world.”
Maddie, A Level resit boarding student 2012-13, destination 2013: Exeter
One year A level retake courses are often the most appropriate option if significant grade improvements are required. Short January A level resit courses are no longer possible as there are, as part of the government’s A level reform programme, no modules available in January.
Make your gap year count: combine A level resit with travelling or work experience
Where the grade improvements required are modest RIC is able to offer a flexible range of short retake programmes running from January-June or even, in exceptional circumstances, March-June.
Those aiming for places on highly competitive university courses such as Law, English, Physiotherapy, Dentistry and Veterinary Science will find themselves in A level resit and intensive one year A level groups of similarly dedicated students keen to make rapid progress.
When I did my A levels first time I know I was lazy. I just did the minimum to stay in school but I didn’t enjoy it so I didn’t put in the effort. When I got my results I knew I needed to retake but I wanted to home study using my notes from school. This was when my parents stepped in as they knew it would not work. I’ve found my retake year good but a lot of work. I think the teaching is really great and I am so much more motivated now. Smaller classes make it more personal and you get a lot of support. The two biggests shifts for me this year are that I now have an offer of AAB for Kings College, London. I went to the open day which was inspiring plus they have a strong film society with connections to industry. Also I have pushed myself to work hard, the significant factor is that my Dad’s paying for it. I want to do the best I can. Boarding is different. I’ve never done it before. I thought it would be really strict but here you get a freedom that prepares you for university.”
Efosa Osaghae, RIC A level resit boarding student 2012-13, joined from West Hatch School, Essex, destination 2013: KCL
Resit A levels at Rochester Independent 6th Form College key points
Average Class Size 8
Top 5 University placements: Leeds, Nottingham, Sussex, Cambridge, Imperial
Most A level retake students placed at Russell Group universities
2/3 of A level entries in ‘facilitating’ academic subjects valued by Russell Group
2014: A*/A at A level 42%
Good Schools Guide Award Winner
Oxbridge places every year
Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science specialist UCAS support
Individual help outside of lesson times freely available from teachers
Visual Arts Centre- Photography, Graphic Design, Textiles, Ceramics as full A levels
No A level option block restrictions
Flexible one year, short January-June and part time A level retake courses available
Transfer for Year 13 or restart Year 12
On campus boarding- a stepping stone between school and university
Independent Schools Council accredited
A level resits at Rochester Independent College
Watch the video below to learn about A level retakes and one year A level courses at Rochester Independent College where the tutorial style class sizes that average 8 are less than half the private school average.
The college is able to offer 1 year A level resit courses to students on most examination boards including Edexcel, OCR, WJEC, AQA and CIE. One year intensive A level resit courses allows for complete flexibility with regard to retaking particular modules.
2013 resitter, Luke from Skinners’ School, Tunbridge Wells says:
“Originally I was going to retake at my last school but decided for a change. It’s taught me to enjoy education, I prefer the informality and the banter with the teachers makes lessons better.”
Luke met his first choice offer for Information Systems at Cardiff University.
It can be effective to opt to retake A levels and not accept a second choice course. Despite the media scare stories each year about top universities shutting their doors on students who need to resit their A levels it is our experience that universities do recognise the commitment of students who opt to retake their A levels. Crucially students considering whether to retake their A levels need good advice about which universities and courses will consider A level resit students. Most coveted universities however do still make offers to A level resit students for most courses although they sometimes raise the bar and ask for higher grades.
“I came out of RIC confident and with a self-belief that I could achieve what I wanted to.”
Even top institutions like The Royal Veterinary College still consider A level retake students, as demonstrated by the vet science offer former King’s School Canterbury student Amelia Liddell received. As well as retaking A level Chemistry and Spanish at RIC Amelia took AS Sociology from scratch in a term, achieving AAA and continued to broaden her work experience. Writing to RIC Amelia said of her experiences as an A level retake student:
“I’ve just finished my first week of vet lectures and I just wanted to thank you for getting me here; I wouldn’t have had a chance without your help. We managed more in that one term than I had done in my whole two years of chemistry and you can definitely take the credit for that. On results day last year we had a big family discussion and we looked at the options for retaking. If you are willing to work hard then the teachers will give you all the help you need. I don’t think anyone goes on a resit course to slack though!”
Guide for students thinking about A level resits
One Year A level retake courses allow students to be comprehensively retaught syllabus material at both AS and A2 level. Class sizes average six. Exam practice is weekly and students are kept on target. Modular A level retake strategies are planned carefully. Individualised help is plentiful.
Some students on A level retake courses have missed periods of school in the past due to illness. Some have struggled with exam technique or knowing how to study and revise independently. Others have not flourished in previous schools or simply not worked hard enough before! All benefit from supportive personal tutors and university application expertise.
In order to make an A level retake course as stimulating and productive as possible it is usual for students to add at least one new subject studied intensively to full A level. Students often do better with fresh A levels than they would have done retaking A level subjects that were not right for them in the first place.
We are able to offer places in our on campus halls of residence to students on A level resit courses. We tend to group such older, university aged students together in boarding. The RIC boarding option for those doing A level retakes allows students from other schools to still move on, as they might have initially planned to do, before results day changed their original higher education plans. The atmosphere is closer to a university halls of residence than a traditional boarding school. Many opt to weekly board at RIC for their A level retakes from London or elsewhere in the South East as an alternative to the London tutorial or independent sixth form colleges formerly known as crammers. The cost of being a day student for retake A levels at the central London 6th form colleges is often close to weekly boarding for A level resits at RIC.
Do Russell Group and other top universities accept students who need to retake their A levels?
Universities do recognise the commitment of students who opt to retake their A levels and even the top Russell universities give offers to RIC’s A level resit students every year. Last year A level retake students applying for Law won places at Exeter, Birmingham, Newcastle and Lancaster. What gives RIC A level retake students the competitive edge when reapplying for university is that they often add new subjects alongside their A level resits to properly prepare them for their chosen course of study and demonstrate their academic potential.
RIC’s year 13 students enter the exam period aiming to meet an impressive range of university offers. In fact we can’t remember a year where so many RIC students have received offers from their first choice universities. Senior UCAS Advisor Dr Rachel Woolley says: “At Rochester Independent College we start preparing students for their university application early. The level of support and guidance our sixth form students have from their teachers and Personal Tutors when preparing their applications is unusual and perhaps helps explain their success in winning places.”
Dannii Jennings: “Dear all. I just wanted to drop you a line to thank you for everything you did to help me achieve A levels that I could never have dreamed of. This time last year, I thought my dreams of ever going to uni had vanished, now I have achieved the impossible and a place on the best drama course in the country! I know I haven’t been the easiest student but I am truly grateful for every inch of help you have offered me. Hopefully seeing how much I have changed over the last year is satisfaction enough. I am 110% more confident in my ability and feel totally ready to embark on the challenging degree ahead, knowing I will take the skills I learnt at Rochester with me. Rochester (and my failure last year) have taught me that if I want something, I can achieve it- if I work for it!”
A level resit stars
The alarmist annual headlines about A level retake students being shut out of top universities is not the experience of RIC’s students.
Students resitting their A levels at RIC this year hold offers from universities ranging from Bristol and Durham to Imperial and UCL.
In fact almost all of the RIC students who resat their A levels secured offers from Russell Group universities, the research intensive institutions whose degrees are the most highly prized by employers. It can be worth retaking, not compromising in clearing and aiming high.
Russell Group offers won by A level resit students this year include places for Biology at Edinburgh, Dentistry at Sheffield, Ancient World Studies at UCL, Business Management at Exeter, Clinical Science at Exeter, Neuroscience at Bristol, Drama at Bristol, Biomedical Sciences at KCL, Business Management at KCL, Chemistry at KCL, Accountancy and Finance at Warwick, Mechanical Engineering at Nottingham and Petroleum Geoscience at Imperial.
Aman Chana from Townley Grammar in Orpington says: “A level results day last year was horrible. I had an offer from St George’s for Medicine and was two grades off. Instead of just doing A level resits I opted to change direction and do one year courses in Economics and Further Maths. I considered going back to school but wanted to study somewhere fresh to resit my A levels that would boost my chances. I feel much more confident than last year.” Aman’s classmate Rosie Geradine came to RIC to retake her A levels with grades ACD in her A levels from Tonbridge Grammar. She says:
“Smaller classes mean more one to one help on things you specifically need rather than a group problem. The teaching is more friendly and less formal. I’m more comfortable in class and more able to ask questions. Before when I went to talk to a teacher about a problem I felt I was doing something wrong.”
Rosie won her place at Durham University to study Psychology and Aman was similarly successful in meeting her UCL offer for Economics.
Increasingly students join RIC on a one year resit A level programme after disappointing results on the IB Diploma . Tim Hoffmann says:
“I come from a background studying an international school in Istanbul. I lived there with my family and completed the Diploma but was very disappointed with my results. RIC was recommended to me by friends whose daughter had had the same experience but came to Rochester, switched to intensive A levels and did really well. It seems to me that the main difference between A levels and IB is that A levels allow me to focus on the subjects I am interested in. Also, it is essential to be well rounded academically to achieve a high score at IB, I’m mainly interested in the sciences so it was harder for me. I’ve had a good boarding experience at RIC, especially considering that this is my first time living away from the family. I can’t go home at weekends but I feel safe and looked after. The food is great too. I play football in a local league and we are currently second in the division! I think that RIC has been a great transition for university. I wish now that I had taken A levels in the first place as I always knew that I wanted to study Bioscience at university. I am now taking fast track A levels in Biology, Chemistry and Maths at RIC and I feel really prepared, I’ve had lots of support. I have a number of offers but am hoping to get AAB to go Bath. When I finish my exams I’ve got four weeks kite surfing planned in Turkey.”
Tim successfully won his place at Bath.
Another success story is Angus Whitehorn from Wadhurst who in spite of the perceived prejudice of top universities against A level retake students has secured a place at his first choice Bristol University to study Drama after taking History of Art and Film Studies alongside English Literature and Theatre Studies.
Other significant grade improvements from students doing A level resits include Hannah Morley from St Lawrence’s School, Ramsgate who pushed her Music A level up from a D to a B and Thomas Kwok from Colfe’s School who joined with DDEU at AS and left with ABC at A level. Aaron Thurston from Borden Grammar in Sittingbourne arrived at RIC with a grade E in A level Maths and left with a Grade A. His Physics grade shot up from a D to an A and he added a third top grade with an A in Geography from scratch. Aaron has a place on his first choice course, Mining Engineering at Camborne School of Mines, one of the world’s most famous mining schools and part of Exeter University. Simon Tucker from Sevenoaks took a different route to resit success. He opted to switch schools after a disappointing Year 12 at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys and decided to change direction. He took A level Geography, one of RIC’s strongest subjects, on a one year intensive course, gained a fast track Grade A and won a place to study the same subject at Reading University. Special congratulations go to Anna Lee who after retaking her A levels at RIC has finally won a place at Sheffield University to study Dentistry.
When twin doves fly- A level resit and success
Tonbridge twins Harriet and Adam Dove are celebrating A level resit success and getting ready to leave for university- a year after they planned to.
Both Harriet and Adam missed their university offers last year and, like so many students caught up in the crunch on university places, were left facing an unplanned gap year and the need to retake their A levels. Harriet completed her A levels first time around at Tonbridge Grammar School for Girls, Adam at the Judd School. Refusing to compromise in clearing both enrolled for A level resits at RIC and, demonstrating that perseverance can pay off, now have places at their first choice universities. Adam started Chemical Engineering at Manchester and Harriet Law at Birmingham. As well as following successful 1 year A level resit courses the twins both took A level English Literature from scratch in a year and won matching A* grades.
Resit A level profiles
A level resit student Asha Chohan demonstrated that it sometimes pays to rethink and retake. Asha says: “Last year I didn’t get the grades I had hoped for so I knew I needed to retake.” Asha is now celebrating grades of A*AA and a 2011 place to study Optometry at Aston University in Birmingham, the UK’s highest ranked programme in the subject. Asha moved to RIC from a state school in West Bridgford, Nottingham to resit her A levels.
Will Mounty from Gravesend Grammar followed in his brother’s footsteps and came to Rochester Independent College from to retake his A levels. After candidly acknowledging that his two years of sixth form study had not been characterised by a great deal of hard work Will’s grades rocketed from BCD to AAA in one year, including taking A level English Literature in a year from scratch. He got offers from all the universities he applied to and took up a place at his first choice Lancaster to study Geography in September 2011. His brother Tom, another RIC A level resit success story is at Royal Holloway studying History.
“When I got my A level results I got CDD and knew I had to make a difficult decision. I had an amazing expedition planned – a placement at a big cat sanctuary in Malaysia then travelling round Asia and Africa. I now had to decide whether to take a clearing place at a university that I didn’t really want to go to or retake. I decided to retake and it has been such a brilliant experience. I get so much encouragement that my confidence has improved enormously – even my driving instructor has noticed it! Any worries about not knowing anyone soon disappeared as everyone is in the same boat so we have lots in common.”
Emily Martyn, retake a level student 2010. joined RIC from tonbridge grammar, now at York University studying Biology
“There were times during the A level retake year I thought about giving up and choosing an alternative course but I’m glad I persevered. I know I wouldn’t have been happy with anything else.”
Shahab Sarwar, joined RIC from Rochester Maths School for a 1 year A level resit course, now at Leeds University studying dentistry
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