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Should You Retake The A levels? Here Are Your Options

Millions of teenagers sit for their A-level exams each year, but unfortunately, not all of them pass.

So what to do if you have failed your A-levels? Can you retake them? If yes, should you?

What other options do you have?

These are just some of the questions we will try to answer in this article.

One thing you have to remember is that failing the A-levels is not the end of the world.

Yes, it is embarrassing, and it will take some time to retake them if you decide to do so, but ultimately, in a few years, this unpleasant episode will be far behind you, and you will have moved on to bigger and better things.

So do not get overly stressed.


What does failing A-levels actually mean?

There are many overachieving JC students who say that they “failed” the A-levels just because they didn’t get the mark they were aiming for and didn’t get into the prestigious university of their dreams.

It is sad to have your dreams hindered like that, but it is not exactly a failure.

But if you really got bad grades (the kind that would spoil your chances of getting into any decent university), then you may want to think about what you are going to do next.

There are several possible options.

Let’s discuss them one by one so that you can see which one is the most appropriate for you.


1. Retaking A-levels.

A-levels are stressful, and ideally, you will only have to go through this experience once in your life, but if you aren’t so lucky, you may wish to retake them to get into a specific university of your choice.

To retake the exam, you will need to sit through the H2 and GP subjects again. This needs to be done because you must take the H2 and GP subjects in one sitting.

You do not have to retake the H1 MTL or H1 PW, since you can use the grades that you earned in the previous sitting.

But if you do decide to retake these subjects keep in mind that only the better out of two grades will be considered by the university. If you are not confident of studying on your own, think about hiring a specialist A-level tutor to help you pass this time round.

Also, keep in mind that only students who failed the H2 or GP may retake the exam. If you haven’t failed either of those, you have technically passed the A-levels, and you cannot go through one more year of junior college.

In this case, you will have to retake the exam as a private candidate.


2. You might still get into a university or polytechnic.

You may not get into Oxbridge, but that does not mean that no university will accept you.

There are many private universities in Singapore and thousands of foreign options to choose from. Even if you fail one or two subjects, what you already have may be enough to win you a place in a less demanding university.

We have a blog post on Local vs Private Universities: Things to Look out for.

Of course, it would be nice to boast about a Harvard diploma, but the prestige isn’t everything, especially nowadays when the world is changing at such a rapid pace.

In the age of technology, most universities in the world can access similar study resources, so how educated you will be at the end of the course may depend on your determination and hard work.

However, even if you fail at one of your subjects, that doesn’t mean that the chances of getting into the prestigious institution are automatically ruined.

For instance, if you fail the GP (General Paper), you may still apply for SMU, NTU, or even NUS.

There are certain courses that have minimal GP requirements (law, for example), but in some other, less competitive programs, the university admission staff may consider other A-level grades you received, and if the majority are satisfactory, you may have a shot.

There is also the Discretionary Admission Scheme that the aforementioned three universities have, which means that they may offer up to 15 % of the free places to especially talented students. This may be your way of getting in even if you do not meet the predetermined demands of the course.

You may also get into a polytechnic and hone your skills there.

There are some other educational institutions as well that provide industry-specific training. There you may acquire very useful skills that may enable you to earn a decent living and maybe even set up your own business one day.

Getting a post-secondary education in arts is also an option you may wish to consider, especially if you have the talent for it. Today with various online marketplaces available to independent artists, popular ones can make a decent living doing what they love.


3. Also, have you given enough thought about going abroad to earn your degree?

Many students think that studying abroad is too expensive.

Well, it depends on where you go.

Many universities in European countries such as France, Germany, and Scandinavian countries charge only several hundred euros per year. And they may have the course requirements that you are able to fulfill.

In addition, studying abroad will give you the opportunity to experience different cultures and view the world from a different perspective. This is also a very valuable skill that employees seek in today’s globalized economy. There are some interesting truths about university life which you may want to learn about too!

If none of the options satisfy you and you are still aiming for that Ivy League degree, then you will need to retake the A-levels, either as a private candidate or as a JC2 student.


4. You can join the workforce.

In an extreme case, you may join the workforce.

However, this is not advisable in the competitive global economy, and especially if you plan to stay and work in Singapore, as the competition is especially fierce.

Pre-university education will not land you a high paying job. And there is really no good reason to settle since many polytechnics will accept students based on O-level results.

And having any kind of degree or diploma under your belt will open up many more doors for you.

However, in some cases, financial restrictions prevent students from pursuing their degree. In this case, it may be wiser to enter the workforce as a strategic move to gather some money.

After you have done that, you may go back to school and get the degree to advance your career.


Need more advice? Read other related articles:
How to prepare for A-level Physics Practical Exam Questions
Ultimate Guide to Economics Tuition in Singapore - 32 Listings
6 Key Strategies to Score A for GP
How to score A for H2 Chemistry A level

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.