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Exams are not the only option

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

Read on to understand all of their options.

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.

Exam access

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.

  • 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.
  • IGCSEs tend to be the popular option amongst home educators, as there is an option that contains no coursework or practical element.
  • Though GCSEs changed in 2017 to no involve no 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 options has an extra exam paper instead of an assessed practical.
  • iGCSE and GCSE carry the same weight within education and work.
  • If you decide to take this route you could contact local home educators or your local authority’s EHE advisor and ask if they know any nearby centres, or offer any support with exams. 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.
  • 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.
  • You will  need to make sure your child studies the appropriate syllabus for that exam board. 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,  then doing a couple more the year later 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.

College access

Colleges in England sometimes admit children aged 14 or 15 who are being electively home educated, to take courses on an infill basis by arrangement with the local authority or with the parents/carers. Not all colleges offer this, it is at the discretion of the college whether to accept pre-16s.

The ‘14 to 16 centres’ will offer a combination of vocational and academic subjects. They aim to attract students of all abilities who want early access to more practical forms of learning and/or wish to train for a technical profession or trade and who wish to study in a college environment.


The courses that EHE students can do, are not limited to the 14-16 provision from the college, but can include any course at any level (though some may have prerequisites) as long as they are on a Part Time basis. 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 on 31 August in the year in which they enrol 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

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.