GCSE Retakes: Everything You Need to Know


GCSEs are a challenge - there’s no doubt about it! GCSEs are the first set of exams a student will take that could have serious implications for their future, both inside and outside of academia, so it’s unsurprising that they can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.

Equally, GCSEs are a super important set of exams, so it is definitely advisable (and in some cases a necessity!) to get some decent grades under your belt at this formative stage in your education.

However, the challenging nature of GCSEs means that, each year, many students aren’t quite as successful as they were hoping. Whether they really struggled to get their head around a certain subject or part of the syllabus, were overcome with stress under exam conditions or just couldn’t quite work out the best way to approach revision, failing to meet the mark the first time round is nothing to be ashamed of - so try not to worry!

Whatever the reason, you shouldn’t let it get you down for too long and it definitely shouldn’t stop you from trying again. Luckily, failing one or more of your GCSEs doesn’t mark the end of the road, and students have plenty of options when it comes to retaking these exams. Keep reading for the ultimate guide on all things GCSE retakes.

Whilst retaking can feel like a hard slog, in some cases it is vital - and in most cases it is most definitely a good idea. Not only will it significantly boost your understanding, knowledge, skill set and self-confidence but will also ensure you’re fully prepared to tackle the next stage of your academic journey.

Why retake GCSEs?

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GCSEs are vital qualifications to obtain, no matter what your goals or ambitions are for the future. They are not only hugely important for students to proceed and progress academically, but are also essential for life beyond the classroom, as most employers will expect students to have achieved good grades in at least some of their GCSE exams.

There are tonnes of benefits to retaking your GCSE exams if you didn’t do too great the first time around. Here are just a few:

  • Eligibility for further education and more chance of academic progression
  • Wider choice of A-Levels, Universities and University courses
  • A wider scope of knowledge, understanding and skill
  • Greater chance of lucrative career
  • Added value to your CV
  • Wider career choice in range of industries
  • Ensures you have the knowledge and skills to take a subject at A-level (or equivalent)

How much does it cost to retake GCSEs?

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There are fees for all GCSEs and A-Levels, but generally these are covered by your school or college when you’re sitting your exams for the first time. However, if you’re retaking your exams, then you will most likely be expected to pay for the exams yourself.

The actual price will differ based on the course and the exam board, but generally it costs around £35 per GCSE exam. If an exam requires more resources or materials - for example if it has a practical element - then the cost could be more.

The good news is that, in most cases, students who need to retake their GCSE exam will not need to retake practical and coursework elements. Under the new GCSE system, most coursework in unmarked or pass-fail although compulsory.

As a result, for most exam boards and subjects, students will not need to retake the more costly elements of their course. For example, Science GCSE retake students will not need to repeat experiments. As a result, students will usually only need to pay for the exams themselves. However, you should always check with your school or exam board so that you know exactly what you will need to pay before you commit to a GCSE retake.

Where can I retake my GCSEs?

Students have several options when it comes to where they can retake their GCSEs, and it will largely depend on their personal circumstances, preference, and how much time they think they need to dedicate to their studies in order to ensure they are successful in boosting their marks.
For those students who want to start from scratch, they have the option of enrolling to resit their GCSE exams in a school or college, meaning that they’ll be able to attend classes with other students - essentially redoing the school year(s).

Alternatively, some schools will allow students to study for their GCSEs alongside their A-levels - as long as the A-Levels they want to study aren’t the same as the GCSEs they’re retaking. This is ideal for students who are only retaking one or two subjects, and think they have the motivation to keep on top of their current studies whilst being able to dedicate sufficient time to working on their GCSE revision.Resitting online as a private candidate:

Alternatively, students can opt to retake their GCSEs by studying online and enrolling as a private candidate. This is a great option for students who need or want a bit more flexibility, as they won’t have to attend lessons or work to a strict timetable as would be expected if they choose to retake their GCSEs in a school. This is also ideal for students who want to work at their own pace, rather than in a classroom environment where they may struggle to keep up or wind up experiencing the same issues they had first time round.

If students do decide to learn as private candidates, then it is hugely recommended that they enlist the help of a private tutor in order to ensure success - but more on that later!

When it comes to actually resitting the written or practical exams, students will need to register with a school or college and then sit the exams at the same time as the other students who are taking their exams for the first time, or who are also retaking that year. If you’re retaking as a private candidate, then you will need to contact local schools or colleges about six months before you want to sit your exam, and ask if they will allow you to take the exam in their exam hall with the other students.

When are GCSE retakes?

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Unlike A-level retakes, which can only take place during the May and June exam period, students retaking one or more of their GCSEs in some specific subjects have two GCSE retake opportunities to choose from.

As a result, when you can resit your GCSEs will depend on which subjects you are retaking.

When are GCSE Retakes if you are resitting an English or Maths GCSE?

First, we’ll talk about the retakes you simply have no choice about resitting. Under new government guidelines, students have to achieve at least a grade 4 in their English Language GCSE, English Literature GCSE and Maths GCSE.

Students will be required to resit each of these subjects until they achieve the minimum grade requirements (grade 4) or turn 18. In some cases, students may opt to study a functional skills qualification instead of resitting their Maths or English GCSE.

The good news is that students may not have to wait a whole year before they can resit. Maths and English GCSE retake students can resit their exams either in the November or May/June exam period following their first attempt.

This is great for students who only missed out on their target grade by a few marks and need less time in order to prepare for a retake, in which case the November retakes are ideal and will mean less for them to juggle over the academic year.

Students who struggled a lot with their Maths or English GCSEs should usually aim for the May/June retake option in order to ensure that they are fully prepared and have had time to fill in gaps in their knowledge.

While resitting one or more of their compulsory GCSE subjects the following May or June does mean there is more for that student to study in their first year of A-levels (or equivalent), if handled correctly it can actually complement their KS5 education.

Both Maths and English skills are essential for success in a number of A-level subjects and having academic support as you study these areas can result in greater success in whatever subjects students choose to take on to further education.

When are GCSE Retakes if you are resitting a non-compulsory GCSE? 

While resitting other GCSEs, such as Double or Triple Science, History, PE or Art is not usually compulsory (unless specified by your school), students can choose to resit one or more of their GCSE subjects for a variety of reasons.

For example, students who are hoping to study Medicine at University will usually need to achieve a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 7 to 9 (formerly A to A*) including English and Maths with at least a 6 (formerly B) in Science.

Equally, students who are hoping to study a specific subject such as Geography or Art at University may want to cement a strong GCSE grade in that subject in order to improve their chances of a place (particularly if they are applying for a competitive course).

Students who want to retake a GCSE in subjects other than Maths, English Language or English Literature, such as a GCSE Science retake, will have to resit in May/June of the following year.

While this does usually mean that a student will have additional work to take on while in their first year of A-level or equivalent study, when handled correctly GCSE resit preparation can enhance students other studies. Retaking GCSE subjects can fill gaps in a student’s knowledge that would otherwise undermine any attempts to study similar subjects at A-level.

Working with a private tutor is the best way to ensure that a student gets the support they need to succeed both in their GCSE resits and ongoing A-level studies. A private tutor can help with everything from cementing critical knowledge and targeted exam preparation, to helping students develop effective study habits and manage their time efficiently.

With a private tutor, students are able to transform themselves from students that need to retake a subject, to students getting top grades first-attempt.

How to retake GCSEs

student laughing and learning

How you retake a GCSE or multiple GCSEs will depend on a number of factors. Are you retaking a compulsory subject such as Maths, English or Science? Is your school supporting your GCSE retake attempt/s or are you going it alone? In the case of Maths resits and English resits, when are you intending to retake your GCSE/s? And so on. However, whatever your individual circumstances, there are certain steps you should take in order to successfully resit your GCSE/s.

Talk to someone

The first thing to do is to talk to someone about your options. At this stage in your educational journey, your school teachers and form tutors are a great first port of call. Your teachers know you well, have worked with you over the past two years, and will be able to give you insight both into why you may have missed your target grade and what next steps are best for you.

Your teacher will be able to explain the school policy on GCSE resits, whether and how much the school will be able to support you, as well as whether resitting specific subjects is a good idea.

If you don’t feel able to talk to your school teachers, they are unable to answer some of your questions or you want a second opinion, reach out to one of the Tutor House education experts on: 0203 9500 320. Our trained team will be able to give you up to date and personalised support, advising you as to all of your GCSE resit options, whether retaking specific subjects is in your best interest and what alternatives you have, as well as how to facilitate and prepare for your resit attempts.

Decide whether you are retaking with your school or independently

Having decided to retake one or more of your GCSE subjects, the next step is to determine whether you can, and want to, retake them with your school. While many schools will offer to facilitate GCSE resit students, particularly for compulsory subjects like Maths retakes and English retakes, not all do. Even if your school will allow it, resitting GCSEs through your school should be carefully considered.

Retake GCSE(s) at school

While retaking with your school can have a number of benefits, familiar teachers, easy to fit around your additional study timetable, and the admin of retaking exams being taken care of, there are also a number of drawbacks. If you feel that missing your grade target in your first attempt was down to failings in your teachers or facilities, these issues may still be there when you retake. You will need to sit in GCSE classes with students from the year below yourself and you will not receive the one-to-one support you may need in order to manage all of your studies and succeed. Equally, while your school may arrange the exams on our behalf, you will usually be required to pay for the cost of taking the exam (usually £35 per subject).

Retake GCSE(s) independently with a private tutor

The best alternative to retaking a GCSE is to resit as a private candidate with the help of a private tutor. With the support of an experienced private tutor, you will have the personalised learning support you need to thrive whilst studying for GCSE retakes and your A-level or equivalent courses.

Private tutors can identify exactly what went wrong in a student’s first attempt, addressing any issues in their knowledge, skills or exam technique to create a learning plan that ensures success in their second attempt. Many students find that needing to resit a GCSE knocks their confidence or demotivates their studies.

Private tutors are able to support students both academically and emotionally, boosting their self-esteem, making learning fun and ensuring that their studying experience is a positive one. Private tutors can also help students to establish effective study skills and habits that ensure they are able to manage both their GCSE resit preparation and key stage 5 studies, without feeling overwhelmed or falling behind.

Private tutors can be booked at a time that suits the student, making it easy to fit tuition around school or college and your social life. At Tutor House, our tutors are experts in their subjects and levels with years of tuition experience. Your tutor will take the time to get to know you as an individual and craft a unique learning plan that reflects your goals, learning style, interests and areas where you need the most support. With the expert assistance of a private tutor GCSE resit students are guaranteed a successful and enjoyable learning experience that sets them up for a bright future.

Retake GCSE(s) online

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While your exams always need to be sat in-person at a designated exam centre, your studies do not have the same restrictions. As an independent candidate, you can choose to study for your GCSE resit without having in-person lessons and instead make use of a wealth of online resources. From online materials and online courses to working with a private tutor online via virtual lessons, you can do all the preparation for your GCSE resit(s) online.

Our tutors are here to help you with your GCSE retakes

Studying with an online tutor makes booking tuition even more flexible, making it possible for you to receive tuition any time and from wherever suits you best. The online medium makes it possible for a private tutor to utilise all kinds of innovative teaching tools and your notes can be automatically stored for easy revision.

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Alex Dyer

Alex is the founder and director of Tutor House and has a degree in Psychology. He has worked in the educational industry for 14 years; teaching Psychology for 8 years at a school in London. He now runs Tutor House, after setting it up in 2012. Alex still tutors every week, he writes for the Huffington Post and has appeared on the BBC and ITV to discuss educational topics. Alex is an educational consultant and UCAS expert, he’s worked with hundreds of students over the years. He’s obsessed with squash, but is distinctly average.

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