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Audio of the Exams and college information page.

Exams and other options.

Please note this page primarily covers England, with some of the information being relevant to Scotland and Wales.


Exams and college access are just 2 of the options for your Home Educated teenagers.

Read on to understand all of their options.

Exam access

The following is just a brief outline about provision for exams, please read the Home Education Wiki site for LOTS more information and join one or more of the Facebook exams and alternatives groups.

Home Educated children, can in most circumstances, access exam provision.

Whilst exams are not the be all and end all of life, and they’re not even compulsory, many people still feel that they are important in order to access university or specific careers.

  • IGCSEs tend to be the popular option amongst home educators, as there is an option that contains no coursework or practical element.

  • International GCSEs commonly known as IGCSEs are available to students of any age, anywhere in the world, they are not online exams, they are sat the same way a GCSE is sat in an exam centre/school.

  • Though GCSEs no longer involve assessed coursework, subjects such as the sciences, computer science and English language have practical classroom assessed elements. These practical elements make them near impossible to sit as a normal GCSE. The IGCSE option has an extra exam paper instead of an assessed practical.

  • Subjects such as art are possible but can be costly and difficult to access, there are however a small number of providers. 

  • iGCSE and GCSE carry the same weight within education and work.

  • If you decide to take the exams route you could contact local home educators or your local authority EHE advisor and ask if they know any nearby exam centres. If this is not fruitful then you could contact the exam board directly as they may know of a centre that accepts external candidates. Home Educators can also phone local secondary schools and colleges themselves to ask if they will take an external candidate. 

  • Be aware that just because an exam centre says you can sit a specific exam, it is your responsibility to check it is suitable to an external candidate. We are hearing a lot of situations where an exam centre allowed the parent to pay for and book a GCSE science exam but didnt inform the parent that the exam board would refuse to grade it as the practical assessments were not assessed. This is why subjects like science should be sat as an IGCSE instead. 

  • You can book one or more exams at a time, usually the cut off point is February to apply for the summer exams, but do check.

  • You will be liable for the full cost of the exam and any administration fee this can range from £40 to many £100’s per subject, early research will help you be prepared.

  • Once you have found an exam centre and know which exam boards they offer access to, you can look at the exam board syllabus to choose which you will do. You will need to make sure your child studies the appropriate syllabus for that exam board as each exam board will have different content (and sometimes an exam board offers different versions of the same subject). Each exam board will have the syllabus outline available to download for each subject. You can cover the syllabus content via books, websites or a tutor. 

  • There is no minimum age requirement and Home Educated young people often find doing one or two exams one year,  then doing a couple more the year after is preferential over studying for two years to sit 10 or more exams in one go. Check the entry requirements for college etc, 5 GCSEs are usually adequate.

  • In Scotland try approaching local community high schools or private schools to see if they will be happy to be your SQA presenting centre to allow you to sit exams. They may also let you access courses and resources. You can consider taking IGCSEs as an option or look at vocational courses.

  • Alternatives to taking GCSEs as external candidates include 14-16 college, remember this is usually an entry level course and may or may not include maths and English at the lowest level.  Some apprenticeships will allow you to do a resit maths and English GCSE, but usually requires you to have done most of the work already. Remember to always speak with the venues to confirm.

  • If your child has access requirements needing to be arranged it is important to talk to the exam centre in plenty of time to discuss these. There may be the option to pay extra to sit the exam in a room with no other exam candidates, or have a scribe etc, this is your responsibility to arrange with the exam centre. Do not assume they will arrange things and always get confirmation in writing of the arrangements. 

College access

Many colleges offer a 14 to 16 provision, sometimes as a stand alone home education offering, other times with children who were unable to attend school anymore, these courses are usually a combination of vocational and academic subjects. Some offering maths and English alongside other courses. Where the courses are full time, the student is no longer considered EHE.

Parents should take note, that the child has to be age 14 before 31 August in the year in which they enroll at a participating college – unfortunately, a child who turns 14 in September, can only attend college the following year. For many colleges they expect the child to have been Home Educated for at least a term before applying to college.

Every college offers different courses and access, always check before relying on it as an option.

Other options

Other options to consider could be:

  • Functional skills qualifications

  • Entry to college (usually studying entry level, functional skills or level 1 or 2) at 16 with no GCSE’s qualifications alongside ‘resit’ maths and English (sometime a full English and Maths course may be available). At 16 with GCSEs a child would usually be studying a level 3 course.

  • Apprenticeships (though do check if GCSEs are a prerequisite).

  • Open University (or similar), check their entry requirements for specific modules. 

As always, it is up to you to find out whether something is a viable option locally and to determine if it is suitable for your child.

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