Retakes – what are they and how do you prepare for them?

For many students, retakes are an unfamiliar and slightly scary process. In this blog post we will answer the question “what are retakes?” and explore how they work, before discussing how to choose if they are right for you and how to prepare for them. The key point is that retakes are an amazing opportunity for you to reach your full potential, and we can help you through it!


What are retakes?


Retakes allow a student who is unhappy with their original results to redo one or more of their subjects and core components. You have the option of resitting just your exams, redoing your IAs, or both. It is also possible to redo your extended essay. The IBO will award your diploma based on your highest scores so there is no risk attached to retakes! You are allowed to take each subject a maximum of three times in three separate exam sessions. 


Generally, students choose to do retakes in the next exam session. For those who sat their original exams in May, this is the November session and vice versa. However, you do not have to do this. If you feel that you will not be prepared for the next session you can choose to retake them a year later to give yourself more time to prepare!


Choosing if retakes are right for you


Choosing to do retakes can be a difficult decision. If you are unhappy with your results and looking at doing retakes, it’s a good idea to consider the impact that it will have on your university options. 


If you have missed a university offer, reach out to the admissions office to find out what their opinion on retakes is. Some universities are happy to accept you if you meet the original offer in your retakes. However, others will require you to reapply. 


If you are applying for universities in the Northern Hemisphere that begin in September/October, applications are generally due in January. This may allow you to do retakes in November and apply with your results which could strengthen your application. You may also be able to further strengthen it by using the rest of the academic year to get experience in your chosen field.


For students looking at universities in the Southern Hemisphere who took the May exams, November retakes are likely to allow you to start university in January as planned. 


For many students, retakes are an opportunity to grow and gain life experience that is invaluable when they begin university or work. However it’s important to know that there are other options, such as the process of ‘clearing’ in the UK, which will allow you to begin your university studies this autumn. 


Preparing for retakes


The first step in preparing for exam retakes is identifying what went wrong in your original exams. Were your study methods ineffective? Did you run out of time to revise? Did stress get the best of you in the exam room? By identifying what prevented you from reaching your goals you can start to figure out the best way to change that for your retakes.


A good place to start is by looking at the syllabus for each subject you are retaking. Think of them as a checklist and use highlighters to mark points that you are confident with, not sure about, and ones you don’t understand. When you make your plan, prioritise the areas that you have marked as ‘not sure about’ and ‘don’t understand’. 


Once you know the topics that you need to focus on it’s time to figure out when you’re going to revise them. Generally, it’s a good idea to start with the topics you are least confident with. A really useful tool is GetRevising, a website which will make a revision timetable for you. It lets you block out times when you have other commitments. Additionally it lets you specify when you want to start studying each subject/topic. 


The final step


The final step is the most important – start studying! Retakes are your opportunity to take everything you learnt from your original exams and put that into practice. If you are feeling lost, aren’t sure where to start, or are struggling to understand concepts, consider Lanterna’s free resources and Online Private Tuition. Most schools don’t provide support to students doing retakes. Lanterna’s elite tutors can help you figure out the best way to approach retakes while making sure that you understand everything that you need to know! 


Through the entire process, it is essential to remember that this is a massive opportunity. You have the chance to reach your true potential with the knowledge that you gained from sitting your original exams. Keep your goals in mind and focus on the opportunities that retakes will create!

Share article links