This article, written in March 2013, explains the pressures which are making more students than ever turn to Easter Revision courses.

On Thursday March 7th 2013, for the last time ever, results were published for pu­pils who took A-level exams in January. This so-called retake session will not happen again without a further change in government policy, with AS and A-level exams now only taking place annually in June. This has led to increased demand for Easter revision courses, since students are re­alising that they must maximise their chances this summer.

Although most providers of revision courses traditionally enrol most of their students after today's results, CIFE colleges report that registrations are generally already up by 15 per cent to 20 per cent compared to the end of February last year. Steve Boyes, principal of MPW College in London, explains why: "The disappear­ance of the retake 'safety net' has certain­ly had an effect, with schools and parents driving home the point to pupils. But there are other significant factors at play. The main reason for the continuing growth and popularity of structured Easter re­vision is that very good students aiming for top university courses are opting for what they see as a relatively cheap insur­ance policy against failure. They aren't prepared to leave anything to chance and they want to make doubly sure that they achieve their university offer grades".

Clive Denning, principal of London's Duff-Miller College, agrees. "Marginal improvements in a subject can have a signif­icant effect on the grade you can achieve, and that can make all the difference to your university entrance prospects. The word has been spreading for years that a good revision course can really pay off, and there are some really sophisticated offerings available nowadays."

This autumn, universities will be able to accept as many students with ABB grades as they wish, whereas last year this threshold was AAB. Boyes believes that this is encouraging students to make an extra effort to achieve a previ­ously unattainable goal. He adds: "There is a growing feeling among sixth formers and their parents that intensive study in the Easter holidays is well worth the cost and effort if it means you get the grades to get you into a better university course, which in turn will lead on to a better job and career prospects.'

Intensive work in a small group can fill important gaps, develop exam aware­ness and give plenty of practice and feed­back on what examiners want. Above all, it gets the revision process firmly under way and establishes a real feeling of mo­mentum and confidence. Boyes stresses: "The best courses are the ones that tackle the hard topics that students struggle with on their own. They break the back of the revision process and help them see the wood from the trees when faced with difficult exam questions:'

On the other hand, there may be a much simpler explanation for the popularity of organised revision courses. Mike Kirby, principal of Ashbourne Independent Sixth Form College, puts it bluntly: "In my experience most A-level students are not particularly pro-active in their learn­ing and study habits. So these courses are the best way of making them look at themselves in the mirror and at least complete some organised revision two months before it's too late".

Courses generally cost in the region of £400 for 15 hours' A-level tuition and £300 for GCSE. This site lists the CIFE colleges offering Easter courses, and also gives some useful advice about choosing the right Easter course and how to revise.

Based on an article written by James Wardrobe and published in the Independent (i) newspaper on 7 March 2013