You can only retake in the summer (January exams disappeared several years ago), but you can retake just the modules you need to rather than having to redo the whole exam.
If your modular A level was in a subject being examined for the last time in summer 2017 (ie it is a 'Phase 2 subject' - see 'new A-level and GCSE exams' article for a list of these) summer 2018 is the very last time any retake module papers will be set, and only retakers who took the full modular A level before can enter for them.
If your modular A level is one of the last lot of subjects to go linear (see 'new A-level and GCSE exams' article for a list of these), you can resit it in summer 2018 and in summer 2019.
The exam boards will recalculate your modular A-level grade taking the best marks you have achieved for each unit, no matter when or how often those units were taken (so long as all the units came from the same exam specification). You might think it better to retake all the units anyway, but bear in mind that you'll still have to work hard to improve a unit you have already done well in. cife colleges have a lot of experience in helping students work out what to retake and what to leave.
You are perfectly entitled to switch to a new linear exam for your retake if you want to, but you will of course have to take the entire linear exam in summer 2018.
Sixth-form staff have had a lot to think about. Here are just some of the issues they have been grappling with:
Which AS subjects to offer? The default option is to offer AS in all A level subjects and to co-teach AS and first year A level. However, the new AS is only 'worth' 40% of the A level, so this approach may leave 60% worth of work to be covered in the final year. But it costs more to run AS classes separately from A level. As the entry statistics referred to earlier show, many schools are dropping AS.
Whether to make all A-level-bound students take AS in lower sixth? This has some plus points:
- A public exam is easier to to gee students up for than an internal one
- A public exam is likely to be more 'valid' in terms of question setting and marking
- Teaching a group of students who are all aiming at AS is easier than teaching one in which some will take AS and others won't.
- It's a clearer strategy during the 2015 - 2018 transition period when many will be taking old style AS as well as the 'new' specifications
- Universities may trust grade prediction more if AS results support them
However many independent schools and some 'top' state colleges have decided that their sixth formers will not take AS en route to A level. We expect this trend to continue as more and more schoold revert to internal exams at the end of lower sixth.
Whether to enable a 4th AS subject? The pros and cons are likely to be much the same as they are with current AS and A level exams, though other pressures on teaching time may reduce the numbers taking this option. We anticipate, with regret, that the number taking stand-alone AS exams will decline.
Whether to give more teaching time per subject to the second year? The 40/60 split between AS and final A level impies more teaching per subject in second year. This may or may not be easy to implement depending on timetable practicalities, funding, non-A level components etc. Colleges will need to monitor the effects od their preliminary time-allocation decisions very carefully, and be ready to change if events prove that students need more teaching time.
How to squeeze in other components of sixth-form education? Sixth-form programmes have always included 'enrichment' and 'extension' and pastoral elements which must be given suitable time. The Extended Project Qualification is a relatively new sixth-form enrichment component which attracts UCAS points and the Government's commitment to ensuring that, by 2020, the majority of sixth-formers take a post 16 maths qualification will add to pressures on the timetable.
How to cope with mixes of old and new subjects? Until 2018 many A-level students will be taking programmes which mix old style and new style subjects with their different exam patterns and assessment styles. They need accurate and confident advice to minimise confusion.
How to get students ready for big sit-down exams? Teachers have had to review how they teach, assess and prepare students for the new end-of-course exam pattern. The challenge is significantly greater than posed by the old module-based exams, and many younger teachers have not themselves taken exams based on a whole two years' worth of learning.
How to predict A-level grades effectively? Teachers have to make grade predictions for university-bound students 6 to 9 months before they sit A levels. That's always been challenging, and as UCAS' statistics show, the shortfall between prediction and achievement has grown over the past few years. New exams always make this harder, and even for those sixth-formers who take AS at the end of lower sixth, there will be new uncertainty about their predictive value.