More students take Easter Revision courses than ever before. A key factor was the abolition of January A-level exams, but the ever-upwards pressure on good university places continues to put a premium of getting A grades rather than anything lower.

Figures show a 4 per cent increase in Ucas applications for undergraduate entry to UK universities in 2014. The total number of applicants has recovered well since the drop two years ago due largely to the increase in tuition fees at that time to £9,000 per annum.

Throughout this period, A-level revision courses have grown in demand, especially at Easter time when schools and colleges offer intensive specialist weekly sessions.

The reasons for the continuing growth and popularity of structured Easter revision are two-fold. Firstly, there are students who are not particularly proactive in their learning and study habits and these courses are the best way of making them complete some organised revision two months before it’s too late. Secondly, they also suit good students aiming for top university courses who are opting for what they see as a relatively cheap insurance policy against failure. This later group is not prepared to leave anything to chance, wanting to make doubly sure that they achieve their university offer grades.

However, a new factor has come into play this year. Chris Kraft, principal of Duff Miller College, is convinced that demand for revision courses will increase in 2014 for a specific reason. He explains: “The removal of the annual examination session for the first time this January will have a massive impact on both Lower and Upper Sixth pupils. For the past decade, schools had become strategic about entering students early for A and even A2 modules in the January session. If they performed well, they could concentrate on fewer paper for the June. If they didn’t do as well as planned, they had the chance of a second attempt in the summer. Now they only have one shot at A2 modules and a maximum of two attempts at AS papers.

Joel Roderick, academic registrar of Oxford Tutorial College, agrees. He has noticed another group turning to Easter revision courses owing to the demise of the winter exam session: “In the past, post-A-level students would have done resits in January and then gone off on their gap months. They are now having their gap over autumn and winter before returning in March for Easter revision courses prior to resits in June.

Kraft also notes that students’ strategies for revision are changing. “In the past, students would cherry-pick individual modules for Easter courses, since they had already achieved high enough scores in the other modules. Now they are enrolling almost exclusively for the whole AS or A2 subject, sometimes both.

Lower Sixth students have another relatively recent complication when they apply to university, according to Mike Kirby, principal of Ashbourne Independent Sixth Form College He says: “Many of the Russell Group universities are asking applicants to detail their exact AS modular score rather than simply giving A and F grades, etc. Students must maximise their actual marks in the Lower Sixth and they only have one chance to do this now in the summer session. This is helping to drive demand for exam-based, intensive revision courses.

Whatever the reasons for the increasing popularity of these courses, intensive work in a small group, focusing on exams and led by an enthusiastic and experienced teacher 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 for students.

Weekly courses generally cost in the region of £500-600 per A-level subject and £400 for GCSE (around £200 more if residential). Booking tends to take place earlier these days, so the best advice if you want a reputable structured course is: don’t leave your enquiries until the end of term. Find out more about Easter revision with CIFE