Could Easter revision courses give A-level results a boost?

With A-level grade offers for university entrance this autumn certain to be even higher than they were last year, more students are signing up for Easter Revision courses to maximise their chances of summer success. Competition for places at good universities is more intense than ever, with more courses for example requiring A* grades as part of their standard offer.

Well-established revision courses run by specialist colleges and by some leading independent schools are predicted to be in high demand again over the Easter holidays.

James Barton, course director of Easter Revision courses at MPW, a specialist A-level and GCSE college in Kensington, London, says: "Enquiry levels are very healthy compared to last year, especially for maths and science."

As well as GCSE and A2 courses, AS revision courses are seeing an upsurge in demand. David Lowe, Principal of DLD College in London, believes that this is due to increased awareness that admissions tutors will be looking more closely than before at AS modular scores when assessing UCAS applications in the autumn. He says: "Students now realise that they are under pressure to deliver high AS scores if they are to optimise their chances of good offers. As far as A2 revision courses are concerned, most Year 13 pupils want to make sure they have the right grades to get into university in 2011 before the fees increase takes effect the following year."

With most students having sat their mock exams in January and some getting disappointing results, now is the time of year when many are considering taking an intensive, one-week revision course in April, but Barton emphasises that a key date for them should be 10 March. He says: "This is results day for all the modules sat in January and from then on most of our courses fill up very quickly." He adds that most students who take this type of course are not struggling with their subjects, but are capable students aiming for top grades. A new development this year at the high end of the market is the availability of revision courses for pre-U exams, though providers are usually offering these as one-to-one tuition.

Revision courses have grown in popularity over the past few years and, at between £350 and £500 for a week (around £120 more if residential), they are reasonably affordable. This year they will become a great investment for parents if they help to ensure that their child can enter university paying the lower level of tuition fees for the last time. "Despite the recession, many parents still put their children's education before anything else," says Chris Kraft, Principal of Duff Miller College, London.

Given the wide range of courses offered, how should you choose one suitable for your needs? The best are run by people who have direct experience of exam-orientated board-specific short courses. In practice, this means that you have three choices. Firstly, you can go to one of the many independent sixth form colleges, also known as tutorial colleges. Most of the best colleges are members of the Council for Independent Education (CIFE) and you can find a list of these at www.cife.org.uk, where there is also specific advice about Easter revision.

Secondly, a number of major public schools have been successfully running day and residential courses for many years, eg Harrow School, Wellington College, Clifton College in Bristol and Magdalen College School in Oxford.

Thirdly, you can approach a private tutor or agency, which is best done if they come well-recommended by a satisfied previous student. Most importantly, don't leave your enquiries until the end of term – the best courses fill up first and fast.

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