“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 in 2008 from rochester maths school for a 1 year a level resit course, now at leeds university studying dentistry
rethink and retake at ric- fast track 1 year a level retake courses for day and boarding students
Many students who miss their A level grades and university places have traditionally faced the prospect of spending an unplanned gap year retaking their A levels at independent sixth form tutorial colleges. Many students arrive at RIC each year with three low A level grades and leave with three top ones and a first choice university place after an A level retake course. Equally important is the self confidence gained from these successful educational turn arounds. 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.
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 2014. Groups in all subjects on short A level retake courses tend to be dynamic and exciting with lots of interaction between students and teachers.
Those aiming for places on highly competitive university courses such as Law, English, 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.
The College is able to offer 1 year A level resit courses to students on most examination boards. One year intensive A level resit courses allows for complete flexibility with regard to retaking particular modules.
It can be effective to opt to retake A levels and not accept a second choice course. Universities do recognise the commitment of students who opt to retake their A levels and leading Russell and 1994 Group universities give offers to RIC’s A level resit students every year. 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 ask for higher grades.
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 in October 2011 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!”
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 RIC’s supportive personal tutor system 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.
Universities do recognise the commitment of students who opt to retake their A levels and even the top Russell and 1994 Group 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.
team ric’s 2012 A level retake success stories
The alarmist annual headlines about A level retake students being shut out of top universities is not the experience of RIC’s class of 2012.
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 in 2012 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 RIC retakers 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 retakes 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 intensive 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 resitting their A levels in 2012 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 2012 place at Sheffield University to study Dentistry.
when twin doves fly- a level resit 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 in 2010. 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.
profiles- a level resit students
A level retake 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. Despite being an A level retake student he got offers from all the universities he applied to 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.
It is possible for committed retake students to win places on courses such as Medicine, Veterinary Science and Dentistry. Harriet Morse joined the College from Newstead Wood Grammar School for Girls initially intending to just retake her Biology and Psychology in January. Recognising the need to demonstrate to the dental schools that she was using her retake year imaginatively and to better prepare her for her chosen course she took up A level Sociology in a year from scratch and AS Ceramics. By adding additional relevant subjects and extra work experience to a student’s portfolio the disadvantages of applying as a retaker can be countered. After a successful retake year Harriet won a dream dentistry place at Sheffield University.
Callum Atkins, formerly of Simon Langton Grammar School, Canterbury was disappointed after receiving his A level results, securing only CCC, missing his place at Vet School. Callum enrolled on a 1 year retake programme at RIC and received an offer of a place from the prestigious Royal Veterinary College. Callum’s A level grades when he arrived were CCC. When he left for vet school in 2008 they were AAA.
“I know I might never have been the most attentive, hardworking student ever, but with the occasional reminder, or even veiled threat I managed to get grades I thought and almost believed were totally beyond my reach (“you’ll never be an A grade student Alastair”- my last head of sixth form.) What you have at the College is almost scary in its nature- an ability to make gold from lead, to heighten the aspirations of dreamers to previously unthought of altitudes and, most importantly, to get them there. I sincerely wish you all the greatest success in continuing this in the future.”
alastair bennett, joined ric from the judd school tonbridge on an a level resit course
Alastair achieved ABB at A level, after arriving at the College with DEU and won a place to study English and Film at Warwick University after an A level resit course at RIC. He is now working for Channel 4 after a stint at EMAP’s Smash Hits television.
“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
Some of the best A level tutorial colleges, formerly known as crammers, have evolved into distinctive and high performing independent schools and sixth forms while still offering second chance opportunities for motivated A level resit students. RIC was founded as an independent sixth form college in 1984 and is a member of the Independent Schools Association, accredited by the Independent Schools Council. We welcome children from the age of 11 as well as Royal Thai Government King’s Scholarship students on accelerated one year A level courses. Nine of these high flyers came to us in September 2011 and a record three won places at Trinity College, Cambridge. 15 RIC students have gone to Cambridge in the last five years. The Adam Smith Institute compared RIC in a 2011 report on UK independent schools to a “successful Swedish free school.”