A level Retake Advice: Chemistry

“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. 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!”
amelia liddell, royal vet college student


“Should I re-sit my chemistry A-level?” is a frequently asked question.   The answer of course depends on the individual student and their circumstances.

You should consider whether you need to improve your A level Chemistry grade for your preferred university course or whether you should revise your ambitions according to your achievements to date.  You should also understand how your university will look on re-sits and whether they will raise their entry requirements as a result.

You will need to be clear in your own mind as to why you did not achieve the grade you hoped for previously.   Contributing factors might include:

Many students feel that they simply did not work hard enough during the year or revise early enough for the exams.   If so, ask yourself why it should be any different on a re-sit course – you will need to be honest about what you can realistically achieve which will also depend on having a clear motivation for study if the subject is not central to your ambitions.   We will push you hard at RIC but only you can do the learning.

Not everyone has the academic aptitude for top grades in chemistry – you should have some evidence from your module grades or from related science subjects that you can work at the level you aspire to even if you don’t always get there.   With small classes we can give a good amount of individual attention to students to help them to reach their potential.

Occasionally there may have been a problem at a previous school with personalities or teacher sickness or (unlikely) competence.   At RIC we have an experienced team working in a supportive environment where you should be comfortable and confident.

A few students will have suffered from serious illness or family problems that can have had a serious impact on their studies.   RIC can be an opportunity to recover academically from such a situation.

In 2014-15 we had students resitting A level Chemistry on Edexcel, OCR A and OCR B specifications but have previously prepared students for AQA and WJEC papers.  Most of the focus is on the A2 work which is usually the problem area but we will also look at issues from the underpinning AS course.  Practical work is used to support and illustrate the theory.   A level resit Chemistry students often have relatively high existing practical assessment marks and do not need to re-sit these modules but we have entered students for Edexcel and OCR A practical resits where appropriate.

Teaching is in small groups and students are expected to contribute to discussion, articulate their understanding of the concepts of chemistry and to constructively criticise the limitations of each other’s ideas.  Graded problems are tackled, often by student pairs, in class and individually for homework and regular testing provides an indication of progress and of remaining areas of weakness.

Our students, regardless of by how much they have improved their grades, frequently feed back to us the feeling that they have come to understand chemistry much better than they had done previously at school.

Julian Cass graduated from the University of Cambridge and took a research degree at the University of East Anglia.   He began his teaching career at RIC and then spent twenty years teaching A-level chemistry in further education and sixth form colleges before returning to RIC in 2012.   He is also an assistant examiner and coursework moderator for the OCR examination board.

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