With the Easter holidays having just started for many schools, Carfax College’s Easter Revision programme is now under way. At this time of year pupils flock to the College from far and wide, nationally and internationally, to take advantage of the personalized individual revision courses on offer. Pupils are feeling considerable pressure in advance of the GCSE, A level, pre-U, and IB exams which await them when they return to school for the summer term. With this in mind, they are seeking targeted support to help make sure they are as well prepared as possible.

Many of the College’s regular teaching staff, instead of taking a holiday, choose to continue working over Easter and offer their exam-oriented expertise to revision pupils. Many of the College’s tutors are official examiners for their subjects. The College also brings in subject specialists from other schools in the area. Every pupil has an individual course drawn up for them to meet their personal study needs, with a blend of exam technique and revision of subject content. The College’s unique flexibility allows for more or less any combination of subjects and exam boards.

This year has seen a greater number of pupils with a particular interest in focusing on exam technique at A level. That is hardly surprising, given the considerable uncertainty among candidates about what to expect in the newly reformed A level exams this summer. What is clear is that the new format takes a more synoptic approach to the whole two-year syllabus, so pupils are under pressure to retain and process a larger volume of information than before. As might be expected, there has been greater demand for revision of those subjects in the first round of reforms, which will be examined in the new format for the first time this summer.

Another notable trend has been a marked increase in demand from pupils working towards international versions of the A level qualification. While many of these pupils are studying at schools overseas, an increasing number are coming from schools within the UK (taking the Cambridge International qualification, not the Edexcel version, which is only available outside the UK). At this point in the ongoing overhaul of the exams system, the Cambridge International A level seems to offer a particular balance of advantages: it is a linear qualification, so the much-maligned “pick ’n’ mix” approach to spreading and re-taking individual units is not possible, but, in contrast to the newly “decoupled” UK qualifications, the Cambridge AS level still acts as a “stepping stone” towards the full A level; results achieved after the first year of study count towards the final A level grade, so pupils do not face the pressure of having to sit all their exams in one session at the end of the two-year A level course. It would not be a surprise if an increasing number of British independent schools started to take up the Cambridge International A level for this reason.