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There are two routes to studying Arabic

  • as a Modern Foreign Language (MFL)/Second Language
  • as a First Language

Students who are reasonably fluent might be tempted to do the First Language route to avoid the difficulties of arranging the speaking and listening assessments. However the First Language exams are aimed at native speakers and academically are much more difficult than the second language/MFL.

Anecdotally those doing the First Language route do considerably worse than those taking the second language/MFL route, even if they then go on and excel at A level (Second Language). Unless a real native speaker it is advised to consider the second language/MFL route

Edexcel GCSE Arabic (Modern Foreign Language)

Edexcel GCSE Arabic

  • Exams from: June 2019
  • Available in June
  • Specification code: 1AA0
  • The qualification is offered as higher or foundation tier

Questions across all four language skills are set in common contexts, addressing a range of relevant contemporary and cultural themes. They are organised into five themes, each broken down into topics and sub-topics. The five themes are: 1. Identity and culture 2. Local area, holiday, travel 3. School 4. Future aspirations, study and work 5. International and global dimension. All themes and topics must be studied in the context of both the students’ home country and that of countries and communities where Arabic is spoken. For listening and reading assessments, the majority of contexts are based on the culture and countries where the assessed language is spoken. Students may also refer to the culture of the assessed language country/countries or communities in the speaking and writing papers. It is, therefore, important that students are exposed to materials relating to Arabic-speaking countries throughout the course.

How do I find an exam centre for the Speaking Assessment?

Members of the HE Exams group have used the following exam centres, amongst others:

Ayesha Community Education - Muslim education centre in North London

London Brookes College, Hendon, for this exam.

Contact Edexcel who may be able to help. They have a database of centres which accept external candidates online, but this doesn't tell you which ones will take candidates for Speaking Assessments specifically. However, Edexcel should hold this information as, when a school registers its own candidates for this exam, they ask it to specify if it will also accept private candidates.

Local adult education colleges may offer evening classes in Arabic, and if so, may be willing to accept private candidates for exams.

If there are no schools or colleges near you which offer GCSE Arabic and will accept you for the Speaking Assessment, you can bring in your own tutor to do the Speaking Assessment. This should not require too much effort on the part of the school but you are likely to need to do some persuading to get them to consider the idea.

Another exam centre option would be to travel to London, where Campbell Harris in Kensington or Pascal's College in Beckenham offer oral exams for GCSE foreign languages.  You would need to locate an Arabic tutor who would go to the exam centre to do the speaking assessment.

CIE Arabic - Second Language IGCSE

Cambridge IGCSE Arabic - Foreign Language (0544)

"This is designed for learners who are learning Arabic as a foreign language. The aim is to develop an ability to use the language effectively for purposes of practical communication. The course is based on the linked language skills of listening, reading, speaking and writing, and these are built on as learners progress through their studies. 

The syllabus also aims to offer insights into the culture and civilisation of countries where Arabic is spoken, thus encouraging positive attitudes towards language learning and towards speakers of foreign languages.""

First Language Arabic : Edexcel International GCSE

This specification is aimed at students who speak Arabic as a first language.

See the Specification and support materials on the Edexcel Arabic - First Language IGCSE page.

There is a dedicated textbook for this course:

Edexcel International GCSE Arabic 1st Language Student Book by Prof Eltayeb Ali Abusin et al. The answer file can be downloaded from Edexcel. 


Arabic Language Educational Books have textbooks at cheaper prices than Amazon, including a range aimed at the Edexcel GCSE syllabus.

On the exam board page for your chosen exam, look at 'Resources' or 'Teacher Support Material' for , eg, Editable Schemes of Work, which can be very useful.

The Examiner's Reports can also be downloaded from the exam board sites, and are particularly useful for this subject in explaining what the examiners are looking for.