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If you receive your A level results next week and haven’t done as well as you would have liked or as well as you had expected, there are many options available to you.  One of these options is to re-take some or all of your A levels again.  Whether or not you do this will depend on many different factors but it could be a shrewd move.
Your own individual circumstances will dictate whether or not you decide to do this, but here are some things to consider before you do:
Retaking can close doors as well as open them
Some universities and some degree programmes have a strict policy on retakers that is very simple – “we don’t accept candidate who have retaken their A levels.”  Some medical schools operate this way for example and you may find other competitive degrees with similarly inflexible policies.  Call them and speak to the relevant admissions tutors before you waste your time.
Can you stay motivated?
As your friends and peers go off to university or off on their gap years, can you stay motivated to do another year of A level, perhaps still at home, perhaps with students a year younger than you, learning the same material you have been learning for the last two years?  This is a very important question, if the honest answer is no, then retaking could well be a huge waste of time and possibly money.  You might be better to spend a year doing something more constructive such as working, volunteering or traveling.
Where will I do it?
You could approach your school or college and see if they will take you back – they might, but they possibly won’t and so you will need to make other arrangements.  You could:
  1. Self-study – sounds like a nice idea as you picture yourself pouring over the books in a coffee shop with few other cares in the world, but self-study is really only for the super-motivated.  You have to be phenomenally committed to focus for a whole year.  That year suddenly seems like a very long year indeed once the hullabaloo of results day has calmed down
  2. Find another college – there are many colleges with specialist one-year A level retake courses.  Several of these are in London, but there are more throughout the UK.  Do your research and find the one that suits you best
It could be the best thing you ever did
A year seems like a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, it really is not.  If you know that you under-performed in your A levels and you believe you can do better, you have a great opportunity to go to a university that corresponds with your abilities and talents rather than one that corresponds with your results first time around.
For example if you achieve, let’s say BCC in your A levels, you’ve actually don’t quite well and you could, if you wanted to get into university either through clearing or some other means.  And this might well be what you want to do, if so – fantastic, go for it!  However, if you know for certain, deep-down in your heart-of-hearts that you didn’t work hard enough, that there was some external factor that affected your results and that those results are just not a reflection of your ability, then you should strongly consider re-takes.  If after a year those results are all one or even two grades higher, you are on to a good thing and that could change your life in a positive way forever.
On the other hand, if you know that BCC was the absolute best you could achieve and you put everything into it first time around, you need to consider whether another year is really going to make much difference.
Be realistic
If you have grades of DEU in your A levels, you will have to be exceptionally committed to your studies and extremely well taught to achieve AAA second time around.
Some universities welcome retake candidates because it shows a great commitment, that you are prepared to make sacrifices and that your education is important to you.  However, you need to be slightly more pragmatic and selective in your choices.
Have a focus and a reason for retaking
You are much more likely to be successful if you have a goal to work towards.  Do your research first, find a few universities that you want to go to, find out their entry requirements and consider whether or not you think you can achieve them.  Then focus on the grades you need to get in, this will be motivating as the year goes on and you hit a trough with your studies and revision.
Do your homework
If you have missed-out on university, or you have rejected a place at university because you believe you can get in somewhere else, you have another chance with retaking, but it will likely be your last chance.  For this reason, you need to do your research and be prepared.  Make sure you are not wasting your time.  Contact universities and departments in advance and have an open conversation with them.  Tell them why you under-performed, tell them why you think you can do better this time, ask them “will you consider my application?” Listen carefully to their response and only apply to universities you feel will consider you equally with first-time applicants and who have a positive response to your circumstances.
Exploit other avenues first
If you achieved results that are close to those you need for university, don’t rush to retake. For example, if you needed ABB and you got BBB.  Make sure you exploit all other avenues first.  Have you called the universities?  Have you looked at clearing?  Have you thought about taking a year out to get some more experience before applying again?  Only then should you decide to retake.
Retake everything or be selective?
Again, you need to chat to some university admissions departments before you make this decision.  It also depends on whether you missed out on all of your grades or just some of them.  You may also need only to retake odd units within the A level.  Whatever your personal circumstances here, you might want to consider not only retaking your A levels but also taking another A level or AS level entirely from scratch.  This will demonstrate a strong commitment to your education, it will be a strong statement of intent, the new material will keep you motivated and it may even give you other options when it comes to university applications.
A level results are not the be-all-and-end-all
It could be that gaining work-experience, or even just life-experience is more valuable than improving your A level grades.  Again, have a chat to some universities about your best options before you embark on a retake programme.
Good luck on results day!


A level results day can be the most nerve-wracking and most significant day of a young person’s life.  Without exception, A level students who have worked hard for two years to get their qualifications are in equal measure nervous, twitchy, terrified, excited and anxious. Rightly so.  A student’s A level results can shape his or her immediate and long-term futures.
There is almost always something riding on the letter, A*-E, printed alongside each A level subject they have studied over the course of their A level programme.  Usually the thing at stake is a place at university and all the opportunities that are associated with gaining entry into the institution of choice.
Results day therefore is a stressful day, unfortunately things can go wrong, mistakes can be made and problems can arise, all of which add to a the stress-levels.  So, if you are an A level student awaiting your results, about to find out where you will be studying and living for the next three or more years, you need to BE PREPARED FOR RESULTS DAY http://wp.me/p4RGIw-o.
Here are some things you can do to help results day go as smoothly as possible:
  1. Collect your results in person from your school or college
  2. If this it is not possible to collect your results in person, be contactable and in contact with your school or college as early as you can be.  If you are overseas, you might need to operate on UK time for a while to ensure you are ahead of the game.  Note that you may not be able to receive results by telephone.
  3. Be prepared and bring with you – your student ID, your passport, your UCAS ID and your UCAS track login details, a charged mobile phone and, if you have one, a device that can connect to the internet
  4. You may want to have your parents, family or friends around, you may not.  Remember that your results are YOUR results, if you choose to share them that is up to you, but if you’d rather be alone, there is nothing wrong with that.  You are (probably) an adult now – decide for yourself how you want to do this then call other for advice if you need it
  5. Arrive early and don’t make any plans for the rest of the day
What happens after I’ve got my results?
If you get what you need – congratulations! You have nothing further to do and you can celebrate!  Your university of choice will already have your results and your acceptance materials will be on their way to you.
If you don’t get what you need you have to remain calm, focus and don’t panic.  Firstly, make sure that there are no PROBLEMS WITH YOUR RESULTS.  If there are no problems with your results and you have only missed out on your offer very narrowly, you could consider contacting the universities you missed out on to see if they will still take you.  They might.  If they liked your application and they still have places on the course, you might get lucky, alternatively, they might offer you a place on another, related course which could be of interest.  For example, maybe you missed your offer for maths and that course is now full, but the university has places available for maths with statistics.
If you have explored this route or you missed out by a long way, you may want to enter clearing so be prepared for CLEARING by reading here http://wp.me/s4RGIw-clearing  The golden rule of clearing is not to be rushed into a decision.  You probably spent weeks and months considering university options when you made your UCAS application, in clearing you may have only a few hours to decide whether or not to take up a place.  it is really important to remain calm, take advice and ensure you make an informed decision.
For clearing go to the UCAS website – http://www.ucas.com/clearing-service


If you are a student in Hong Kong about to find out your HKDSE results, have you thought about studying in the UK if you don’t quite get the results you need? If you get good DSE results but don’t get exactly what you need to go to university in Hong Kong, A levels in the UK may be an option for you.



  1. The UK A level system means that you only have to take 3 or 4 subjects. So you can study only subjects that you like, that you are good at and that are going to help you towards the career you want to take.
  2. Some Colleges will allow you to do you A levels in 1 year instead of the usual 2 years. Although this is a big challenge and it is difficult, it is not impossible and it can be done.  Even if you take two years, it could be worth it.
  3. One year A level means that you will finish A levels at the same age (18 years old) as students in the UK and progress to university at the same time as them.
  4. Getting good A level results could mean that you get into a high ranking university in the UK or elsewhere in the world that is better than the university you might have gone to in Hong Kong with your DSE results.
  5. If you still want to go to university in Hong Kong, you could apply the following year with you’re a levels as a non-JUPAS student.
  6. It will give you the opportunity to come and live in London or elsewhere in the UK.

Education agents in Hong Kong and the British Council can help you make a good choice.