Summer exams help rise in Easter revision courses

Demand for A-level top-up sessions is increasing, says James Wardrobe

The last ever A-level exams available to be taken in January have now been completed. From this June onwards, AS and A2 modules will only be examined in summer sessions. This is already having a noticeable impact on some students' attitudes towards their A-level studies.

Providers of structured Easter revision courses, which have become increasingly popular in recent years, are seeing a significant rise in enquiries and early bookings for their intensive, one-week holiday courses in March and April. Genevieve Dear, general manager of Oxford Science Studies, explains why: "There's already been an increase in enquiries this year from A-level students who are particularly keen to achieve their best grades this summer, knowing that if they don't they won't be able to retake until summer 2014. Whereas in past years they might have been a little blasé, thinking they could retake in January and still have the rest of the academic year to enjoy gap year travels, this year they know they must do their best in summer 2013 or else go to a lower-ranked university or forfeit a year in order to do retakes. They'd rather work really hard over Easter this year than risk that."

According to Chris Kraft, principal of Duff Miller College in Kensington, which has run intensive one-week Easter revision courses since the 1980s, it is not only the Year 13 A2 pupils who are showing greater drive to get their best grades in June. He explains: "Our enquiries for Easter revision courses are up by 40 per cent over last year and the key group are the Year 12s. They are preparing for AS modules and they really don't want to have to resit them in a year's time when they need to concentrate on their A2s. Previously they knew that they had a January retake opportunity. This used to affect their performance and motivation to keep working through to the AS summer exams, but not any more."

Not everyone agrees that the surge in interest in these courses is mainly due to the demise of the January exam sessions. Mike Kirby, principal of Ashbourne College, a specialist A-level and GCSE college, says: "There is a general trend whereby pupils and their parents are realising that, left to their own devices, more and more modern teenagers lack the organisational skills to revise intensively in the school holidays without external help. So they are turning in increasing numbers to structured revision courses, whether at a sixth form college or with a private tutor."

At Lansdowne College in Notting Hill, one of the first London providers of Easter revision courses, John Southworth, principal, sums up the current situation: "The withdrawal of January exams is definitely making an impact, but this simply adds to the general increase in demand from students who know that it is imperative to be fully prepared for A-levels if they want to enter the more sought-after universities." Kraft adds that over recent years many more students who have been predicted top grades and who in the past would never have felt the need for a revision course now enrol. He says: "With many UK universities now demanding A*s for at least some of their undergraduate courses, the best students, often encouraged by nervous parents, are opting for what they see as an insurance policy against failure by taking Easter revision courses. From the parents' point of view, it's a relatively cheap investment in their children's future, compared with the cost of full-time private education."

More students are enquiring and booking earlier than ever before for the best courses. The most popular subject is mathematics, followed by the sciences, and then by economics and business studies. Courses are reasonably affordable, generally costing in the region of £400 for 15 hours' A-level tuition and £300 for GCSE (around £200 more if residential). You can find out more from the adverts appearing in the national press, or go to the website ( of the Council for Independent Education (CIFE), which lists its member colleges offering Easter courses. It also gives some advice about planning your own revision. Some of the major public schools – such as Harrow School, Wellington College, Clifton College in Bristol and Magdalen College School in Oxford – also run day and residential courses.

In the end, the best advice if you want a structured course is don't leave enquiries until the end of term.

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