Back on course via the crammer

UNIVERSITY & COLLEGE COURSES If all else fails, a college may save your A-levels. Marie Woolf reports

Alexandra Coxen, 18, went to a leading girls' boarding-school. Last year, she took three A-levels, in French, maths and history of art. She failed maths, but retook it in January after three months at Davies Laing and Dick, a London crammer. The course cost pounds 1,500. She describes her experience.

I was exceedingly disappointed with my result. I had got a U in maths, but I needed an A to go to Oxford. I didn't want to be defeated by maths, so I decided to retake.

I made a bet with my Dad that I would get an A. He said it was impossible. Everyone thought I was mad to try to go from a U to an A. But I was determined to prove them wrong. Instead of going straight on my gap year, I spent three months studying for a January retake at Davies Laing and Dick.

I had friends who had gone there and who had got good results. It was also about five minutes' walk from my home, which was useful.

There were seven students in my class, a real mix of people. I had been to an independent girls' boarding-school, but here there were people from all sorts of backgrounds. Socially it was nice.

The ability level was more or less equal. Some were slightly better and some were slightly worse. There was one boy who was incredibly bright, but he was taking his exam early.

It was not at all like school. It was more like a tutorial, one to one. At school, the classes were larger, and they tended to teach to the highest level. Some students were exceedingly bright, and people could get left behind. At the college, you got more personal attention.

At school, I just panicked when it came to maths. I had absolutely no confidence. Every time I did a maths equation, I would question what I had done. Every time I went into an exam, I totally panicked. I felt I didn't know the basics properly.

At Davies Laing and Dick, my teacher basically built up my self-confidence. Gaining confidence about my ability was quite a slow process to start with.

My teacher was encouraging. If I got something right she would say: "Yes, that's right, keep going, keep going. That's good." They didn't encourage as much at school.

Davies Laing and Dick was completely geared up to getting good results. They made you do hundreds of practice exams to improve your technique and to help you understand the way A-level questions are phrased. They stopped if you didn't understand something and explained it. There were certain things I was weak on that I had to work at.

Because you were doing a two-year course in three months, the work was very condensed. There were two hours a day of teaching, four days a week. I was far more motivated to work than at school, because I had a definite goal.

Before the exam, I was a bag of nerves. Everyone was nervous. But I felt well-prepared. The teacher had familiarised me with how the exam would look, so I knew roughly what kind of questions would appear in each section.

It was not like the first time, when I thought, "Oh my God, what am I going to do?"

After the exam, we all went out and celebrated. Everyone in my class did well and got the results they expected.

In the end I was three points from an A grade, so I lost the bet with my Dad.

But I was delighted with my B. I'm going to Bristol in October to do anthropology and archaeology. I'm really excited.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Administrator

£13000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about custom...

Recruitment Genius: Dialler Administrator

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Main purpose: Under the directi...

Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City of London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen