Course Guidance: Tutorial college was the right prescription

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Polly King, 20, from Bromley, Kent. Needed: BBC in Biology,

Chemistry, Maths for Medicine at St George's Hospital,

London. Results: BCD; then BBB after 17 weeks at crammer.

Now: 1st year medical student at Royal Free Hospital,


'DAD had a colleague whose daughter went to MPW (Mander Portman Woodward, a network of tutorial colleges) and he'd got the phone number. I was a bit dazed when it happened; I got the results on Thursday and Friday afternoon I was with Mum at MPW being interviewed.

'In retrospect it was a really good thing, because they have such a positive attitude. I thought BCD was the end of the world and I was stupid, and they said 'You aren't stupid, you're an intelligent person and you'll get them'.

'I didn't believe you could go somewhere that could make you from a D into an A in such a short time. But it's the way they teach you that's so successful. They can condense something that takes three months at school into a two-hour lesson. At school everyone is talking and mucking about. Here you have five or six people who all want to do it, and they tell you exactly what to do. They tell you what to revise and when; they give you so many past questions that when it comes to the exam you've seen most of the questions at least once.

'I don't know how much it cost, though I know it was expensive (Two sciences in 17 weeks cost pounds 2,580 in 1990; this year's price is pounds 3,068). The cost makes you work harder, because you think if you don't get the grades you're letting everybody down.

'I decided when I started that I wouldn't tell the other students I'd retaken. I was just going to say I'd had a year off. But I'd been there about an hour on the first day and we were asking everybody's name and what A-levels they'd got. Someone said, 'Did anyone retake? Because I retook.' After a minute virtually everyone in the room put their hand up.'