GCSE resits: Five ways to support your students

With the November resit series just a couple of months away, this teacher shares her advice for helping students to pass the second time around

Lauran Hampshire-Dell

GCSE resits: Five ways to support your students

Every September, teachers can be found preparing new and inspiring content for their upcoming classes but how do you prepare for the students who have been there, done that, and are now back for resits

Here are five ways to make the most of the eight weeks before the November exam series.

Focus on the golden number

Although students are awarded grades between 1-9, it’s not helpful to focus on this scale in the resit classroom. Often, there are emotional responses attached to these numbers: students see them as a benchmark of their failure; a barrier they can’t overcome.

Instead, avoid 1-9 and find the golden number – this is the total number of marks that means a student has definitely passed – for example, scoring 80 marks across the two AQA English language papers means the student has definitely scored a 4. 

There are marginal gains that students can make across each paper to get there, and the number itself becomes a tangible goal.


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Write less, talk more

The time-sensitive nature of having resit students can mean that teachers feel pressure to just churn out past paper after past paper every lesson. But, actually, slowing down and going pen-free is more likely to improve outcomes.

Spend time on the gaps where students drop the most available marks, unpick those mark schemes and answers, and don’t be afraid to spend whole lessons explicitly modelling the steps it takes to produce a higher-mark answer. I normally follow this up by setting another of the same question as homework and asking students to identify where they have met the criteria that will get them those valuable marks.

Keep it simple

One of the amazing things about being a teacher is that a subject is never really “completed”: you can stretch students endlessly to help them achieve those highest grades and encourage them to study beyond the curriculum.  

However, with resit students, our energy is best spent keeping the content and processes simple, clear, repetitive and focused. Removing any extraneous and unnecessary detail will allow your students to flourish within comfortable boundaries and, over the eight weeks until exams, you will see them begin to extend themselves as their confidence grows.

Time management

One key phrase I always try to embed in my students is “you shouldn’t be the first person writing”. While we always remind students to plan before answering, often the reality of the clock sends them into a panic spiral in which they try to get through the questions as quickly as possible.

Try actively practising this in the classroom: timed annotation and writing drills, attempting the papers backwards to start with the high mark questions, and speed planning are all valuable routes into teaching students not only how to plan but, more importantly, how they can do it without losing any time.

Praise the marginal gains

Notice the tiny things and praise them – picking up one mark across a few questions, planning before answering, showing their working out or using writing structures without prompts are just some of the signs that show your students are listening to your advice.

Finally, don’t forget the journey your students have already been on over the past two years. They’ve had endless ups and downs to navigate and, by the time they get to you, their motivation and self-confidence will likely be low and their desire to give up high. Working with resit students is a privilege that not every teacher gets to experience, and we have an opportunity to help shape their outcomes and show them that their only limit is their own efforts.

Lauran Hampshire-Dell is a teacher and tutor

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