Around this time many AS students, having not quite got the grades they wanted, are considering whether to re-sit some of their modules in order to improve their overall results. But beware! This decision is much more complex than it first appears.
Very often students who don’t get what they need immediately apply to re-sit with little or no thought about the consequences. Students often think: “Well I didn’t get the grade I need so I have to re-sit and by re-sitting I am almost bound to achieve better grades next time.” Another common thought is: “Well I don’t lose anything by re-sitting the exam. Either I get a better grade which is good, or I just keep my old grade. So I may aswell re-sit.”
Obviously it’s true that if you re-sit and if you get a better grade and if your other grades don’t suffer then it’s worth re-sitting. But these are a lot of ifs!
In fact my experience is that this way of thinking leads students to re-sit too many modules and in fact end up doing worse than they might have done if they had not re-sat any!
There are a few problems with re-sitting modules. The first is obvious but somehow not sufficiently appreciated: working towards a re-sit is extra work that has to be done on top of new modules. So, say for instance you are doing Mathematics AS and C2 didn’t go well. You decide to re-sit this. That means you will have to work and prepare for that on top of the work required for your A-Level modules e.g. C3 C4 and S1. And those are hard!
Effectively by choosing to re-sit you are making your A-Level year even harder than it would have been. The knock-on effect is often that those second-year modules go worse than expected. And then you have to consider whether to re-sit those and…you get the picture! Re-sitting can often end up leading you to take three or even four years to complete your A-Levels rather than the normal two.
Second, typically but not always there is much less support from your school available for you to re-sit than there was the first time round. Frequently I have seen students choose to re-sit only to find that they have to work on it alone. This is not conducive to improving your grade!
Third, why would you do better just because you re-sit? Too often people assume that just because you try something more than once that you will do better. But that makes no sense. If I can’t drive no matter how many times I take my test I am not going to pass. So the idea that just by ‘turning up to the exam’ you will do better is an illusion. You have to work better, harder or differently in order to expect to improve your grade. And that’s not easy. So if you need to re-sit ask yourself why you didn’t get the grade you wanted in the first place? And what will you do differently if you do re-sit? If you can’t answer these questions then you should be wary of re-sitting.
This is not to say that people should never re-sit a module – of course not. It can be a good option if you can manage the extra workload on top of new work, and you have the support in place – in school or with a tutor like myself – to prepare better. But if you are likely to struggle with your existing workload and the support for re-sits is minimal then you might be better off not re-sitting and just applying yourself more rigorously to your new modules.