Your guide to A-level retakes, resits and the optional autumn exams

student working on laptop

If your A-level results are not quite what you hoped for and you're thinking about resitting, here's the advice you need

If you're left feeling disappointed with your grades when results day rolls around, you might be a bit confused about what steps to take next.

First of all, it's worth remembering that every year plenty of students find themselves in exactly the same boat as you, and there's definitely no need to panic.

Of course, this year things are a little different than usual – exams were cancelled again because of coronavirus and students are receiving teacher-assessed grades instead. Because of this, as well as being able to resit exams next summer, you'll also have the option to sit exams this autumn if you'd rather not wait that long. You can find out more about the optional series of autumn exams in this article from our sister site The Uni Guide. 

Whatever you decide to do, we're here to walk you through the process of the autumn 2021 exams and the summer 2022 resits and explain how they can get you into your dream university.

More like thisA-level results day 2021: here are your options whether you’ve missed your grades or made your university offers

Why would retaking my A-levels be a good idea?

  • If you didn’t get the grades to achieve your conditional offer.
  • If you’ve looked through Clearing and there’s nothing suitable for you.
  • If you're committed to going to university and don’t want to enter into full-time work or an apprenticeship.

Where can I retake my A-levels? 

Autumn 2021 exams: If you're planning on sitting the autumn exams, they will probably happen at your school or college, although this isn't guaranteed. You'll have to register your entry to the exams through your school, and they'll be able to confirm with you where the exams are happening. 

Summer 2022 exams: If you're planning on retaking next year, you'll need to check with your school or college to see whether you can retake the exam there.

Unfortunately, not all schools offer this option so if that is the case or if you'd just prefer to take the exams somewhere else, you could check other local colleges.

Another route is to enrol into an independent college such as one belonging to the CIFE (Council for Independent Education) group. CIFE colleges offer intensely focused courses including one-to-one tuition.

Who can retake A-levels?

Autumn 2021 exams: For the additional autumn exams, only students who were due to sit exams during summer 2021 will be eligible to sit these. The exams regulator, Ofqual, has confirmed that exams will be offered for all subjects that should have run in the summer.  

Summer 2022 exams: When it comes to retaking next year, anyone can do it but you can only resit your chosen exam/s once. Again, it's worth double-checking whether your school or college allows A-level resits.

student working on laptop

Do I have to retake a whole A-level? 

In most cases, yes. A-levels have moved to the linear system, which means you have to resit all the exams again.

Autumn 2021 exams: If you take the autumn exams, you'll be able to request a replacement certificate from your exam board that only shows the higher of your two grades. 

Summer 2022 exams: If you retake next summer, you will then end up with two grades – one for your calculated grade and one for the resit. Check with your teachers to find out what's best for you.

When can I retake my A-levels? 

Autumn 2021 exams: The autumn A-level exams will start on Monday 4 October and finish on Friday 22 October. Ofqual has said that the deadline for entry to AS and A-level exams is 8 September, although you should check with your school because it may well have its own internal deadlines for entering you into the autumn exams. 

You can find links to the full timetables for all of the autumn exams on our sister site The Uni Guide. 

Summer 2022 exams: Usually, A-level exams are sat once per year in the summer. You can enrol at a school or college to retake the exams for the following year. Try your own school first as they may have a retake option for students.

How do I go about retaking my A-levels?

Ring up and either let your school or college know that you want to sit an autumn exam or ask whether you can sit an A-level the following summer. If they don’t allow retakes, then research schools and colleges in the local area to ring up and explain the situation.

If you take your resits at a centre that is not your school or college, you will need to give the exams officer your candidate details from the previous exam centre. These should be on your exam slip.

student working on laptop

How much will retakes cost?

Autumn 2021 exams: If you're sitting the autumn exams and you're at a school or college you won't have to pay a fee as your school will pay any fees for you. If you're a private candidate sitting the autumn exams you'll have to pay your own fees, which the individual exam boards will be setting. 

Summer 2022 exams: If you're retaking your A-levels at school or college next year, you may have to pay a fee.

If you’re confident about your abilities and want to follow the route of self-study for next year's exams, it is possible to apply as an external candidate. You will sit the exam without having any further formal study. Sitting an exam in this way can be expensive so do check the cost in advance.

Do I have to retake the whole course? 

Autumn 2021 exams: For the autumn exams, you won't have any additional teaching. 

Summer 2022 exams: If you're sitting the exams next year, it’s up to you whether you choose to repeat the whole course or simply retake the exams along with any non-examined assessment, revising independently. Both are options that you should think about carefully with your exam results in mind.

For some subjects it might be possible to use the same non-examined assessment. You will need to check this.

If I take the autumn exams, will I be able to start university in 2021? 

If you choose to sit the autumn A-level exams you’ll receive your results on 16 December, which will likely be too late to gain a university place for 2021.This is something to consider if you want to sit the exams.

Will I get into a good university with my resit A-level grades? 

Almost all universities accept A-level resits, however, they may expect you to explain why you needed to resit. Taking another year to study and complete your A-levels shows commitment and an ability for independent study which many universities respect. Offers for resit students can be slightly higher, however.

The autumn exams aren’t considered resits because you received teacher-assessed grades in the summer and didn’t have the opportunity to sit exams then.

Are you doing any resits this year? Did resitting an exam help you get into your preferred university? Join in the discussion below.

Ask a question in the A-levels forum
Your question will be posted in the A-levels forum
Awesome! Your question has now been posted. View your post here
  1. Please choose where you want to post your question.
    Please choose your study level.
    Please enter what your question is about.
    Please enter your question.
    Your message must have two characters or more.
People are talking about this article Have your say