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What about exams?

It is important to decide what examinations your child will be taking. This may be based on your child’s future aspirations. For example:

  • Does your child wish to go onto college and if so what course would they like to do
  • What do they want to do beyond statutory school age

If you can identify what path your child wishes to take, then you will be able to determine what exams they will need.

Children and young people who are home educated and sitting exams are private candidates. You will need to contact an exam centre to register your child as a private candidate to sit their exams. Please be aware you will be charged for examinations and you may also be charged an admin fee by the exam centre.

Summer 2021 examinations

The guidance on awarding qualifications in summer 2021 published on 25 February 2021, states that “private candidates will be assessed in a similar way to other students, by a recognised exam centre using an adapted range of evidence, which includes taking the exam board provided assessment materials in a suitable form. Centres will be asked to assess candidates based on what they have been taught. They will be allowed to conduct assessment remotely if necessary.”

Private candidates will need to work with a recognised exam centre to receive a grade.

The Joint Council for Qualifications has published a searchable directory of examination centres that take private candidates for summer 2021. It has also published FAQs for private candidates for examinations in summer 2021.

Directory of examination centres for summer 2021

FAQs for private candidates summer 2021

You can enter your postcode into the directory to find exam centres near you. You can also filter the results by qualification type and awarding body. From the list of results you can filter further by subject.

See the centre links below for more information, including whether they are offering remote assessment.

Private candidates should register with a centre before 26 April 2021. This is to avoid late entry fees and to allow enough time for assessment. Existing private candidates do not need to re-register.
The Department for Education is providing funding for centres and asking centres to charge candidates the same cost as a normal year.

Exam specifications and exam boards

If you would like your child to continue with GCSE courses begun in school, it would be helpful to find out which exam boards the school followed. You could then carry on with the same boards so that no prior learning is wasted. You’ll also need to be clear about whether your child should be entered for higher or foundation tier. Higher tier is more appropriate for candidates predicted to achieve grades 4–9 and foundation for candidates expected to achieve grades 1-5.

Once you’ve identified the exam boards, you can refer to individual board websites for lots of free guidance, including subject specifications. These tell you about the information your child needs to know and the skills and understanding he or she needs to have in readiness for sitting the exams.

Many GCSEs taken in schools and colleges include coursework or assessments which have to be marked by teachers or assessors. For this reason many home educating children take iGCSE (i=international) examinations. This type of GCSE is exam based only and does not include any course work or assessments.

Here are a few exam boards that offer iGCSEs:

Be aware that many schools and colleges do not appear to be affiliated or registered with the Cambridge (CIE and OCR) boards. They are therefore unable to offer examinations with these boards.

Study aids

You can buy textbooks and workbooks that complement particular exam boards. These are available through reputable bookshops or online.

You can also download and print off past exam papers with mark schemes from many of the exam board websites. These may be useful for exam practice or to consolidate learning and understanding.

Where to take examinations

As home-educated, your child will be sitting the exams as a private, external candidate and you’ll need to arrange entry with an exam centre. You can approach your child’s old school, with candidates accepted at the discretion of the headteacher. Our Services to Home Educators team can also provide details of exam centres who are able to accept external candidates.

So that your child is entered in good time, it is sensible to make enquiries from the autumn before the summer of exam sitting and certainly no later than January. Clarify your child’s subjects, boards, tiers and any special access requirements at the earliest opportunity. You’ll need to contact the exams officer and pay the exam board entry fee plus separate administration fee.

Further information

You may also find the links below helpful for support:

Or you can email the Services to Home Educators team:

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