Article in Summary

Better students take Easter Revision nowadays. Students in 2012 are much more likely to be hunting A grades than just trying to avoid a fail. The article looks at case histories and explains the pressures which have driven the surge in demand for Easter Revision courses.

Article in detail

Revision courses run by independent schools and sixth-form colleges during the Easter holi­days have been around for at least 30 years, but, as explained below, the type of student who attends these intensive one week A-level and GCSE courses has changed a great deal in recent times.

According to Chris Kraft, principal of Duff Miller College in Kensington, which has run intensive one-week Easter revision courses since the 1980s,"there is less demand from weaker students aiming to turn potential failure into a low pass grade. The typical A-level students on this type of course nowadays are well-taught in their subjects and already understand the content and concepts required. They are heading for a goodish grade, but in order to get above a B they need to learn how to jump through the hoops set by the examiners. They are usually bright and well-motivated, but need much greater exposure to past paper ques­tions, including under timed condi­tions."

Mike Kirby, principal of Ashbourne College, a specialist A-level and GCSE college, agrees. "The vast majority of those who come on our Easter revision courses are able stu­dents, with good predicted grades, who need someone else to kick-start and organise their revision. If we put the appropriate amount of pressure on them in April they respond well and can keep up a higher work-rate until the June exams. We don't get many E-grade students trying to improve to Ds anymore."

Luis Pinto went to Duff Miller last April to do a physics revision course and says: "I wasn't scoring well in my practice exams at school. I was only predicted a B/C grade, so my parents were quite worried. The revision course really helped me with exam technique and showed me exactly what kind of answers the examiners were looking for. In the end I scored an A, so I'll definitely be taking East­er courses again for my A2s this year."

The intensely competitive nature of admission to top university cours­es has also seen a growth in numbers of what Kraft calls "the well-oiled high-flier" who has been predicted A or A* grades at A-level but needs to make sure. With the 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. James Bar­ton, course director of Easter revision courses at MPW College, also in Kensington, said this week: "We see a lot more students than five years ago who are at the top end of the spec­trum. They have been predicted A grades and see these extremely exam-targeted, technique-driven courses as invaluable in helping them to secure As and A*s."

Early signs indicate that demand will be strong for Easter revision courses again this year. Sally Powell, principal of Collingham College, reported there had been double the number of sixth-formers enrolled on their one-week courses in the Christ­mas holidays. "Most students seem to have decided that only good universi­ty degrees are worth striving for in the, current economic climate," she says. "They are rejecting the old idea of 'Oh well, I'll in somewhere if I drop a few grades'. However high their predicted grades, there is a greater urgency than there used to be to get the best grades they can."

Kirby agrees that economic pres­sure is driving students not only to aim for the more sought-after univer­sities, but also for more vocational courses that will lead more easily to jobs after graduation. "It is no sur­prise that by far the most popular Easter revision subject is mathemat­ics, followed by the sciences, then economics and business studies."

This pattern is partly explained by the difficulty of grouping together students from different schools on a revision course who are studying a wide variety of options in, say, history or English literature. Nevertheless, Powell says that last Easter her English literature teachers managed to cover 60 different texts over three weeks in individual tuition.

Courses cost between £350 and £500 a week (around £120 more if residential). There are many inde­pendent sixth form colleges, the best of which are members of the CIFE. Some major public schools run day and residential cours­es, or you can approach a private tutor or agency that has been recom­mended by a satisfied previous stu­dent.

Most importantly, don't leave your enquiries until the end of term - the best courses fill up fast!