HE Exams Wiki

For Arabic, you can choose GCSE Arabic as a Modern Foreign Language, or IGCSE Arabic (First Language). You would expect, Arabic (First Language) to be considerably more difficult.

Edexcel GCSE Arabic (Modern Foreign Language)

Edexcel GCSE Arabic has no coursework, but does have speaking and listening assessments.There is also a Short Course GCSE in Arabic, where you take only the Reading and Writing papers.  This is a GCSE-level of difficulty but half the content.  It would demonstrate ability in a language but might not satisfy college requirements for a full GCSE. for the full GCSE.

The full GCSE has four papers:  

  1. Listening and Understanding
  2. Speaking
  3. Reading and Understanding
  4. Writing

Listening Assessment

Paper 1 (5AR01) Listening and Understanding in Arabic. 45 minutes + 5 mins reading time

A recording is sent to the centre, available as a CD and a download. There is a written paper and students have 5 minutes to read the paper before the track starts. There are pre-recorded pauses and each section is played twice.

Source: Edexcel administrative information for centres

Speaking Assessment

Paper 2 (5AR02) Speaking in Arabic

8-10 minutes – equally divided across both tasks

For the Speaking Assessment, a teacher or tutor who can speak the language is needed. They do not have to mark the assessment, but simply ask questions and have a conversation with the candidate, and record it. The recording is sent off to Edexcel for marking.

Edexcel administrative information for centres contains lots of information - the elements which are also of interest to the candidates are copied below, but do look at the original document if you want more guidance.

Extract from Edexcel Information for Centres

Centres must conduct the tests between 07 March and 15 May 2014. (DATES FOR 2015 NOT YET AVAILABLE BUT LIKELY TO BE SIMILAR)

Centres are expected to timetable all speaking tests in any one language on the same day or where numbers are large on consecutive days.

All tests and registers are to be despatched to examiners no later than 15 May 2014.

Structure and Timing of Tests

Students must undertake two separate speaking tasks, each linked to one or more of the prescribed themes:

Media, travel and culture

Sport, leisure and work

Students must include both of the following task types:

Picture-based discussion OR presentation with follow up questions

Students must engage in a discussion related to a picture (or other visual) that they have chosen or give a presentation (1-2 minutes maximum). They then respond to a series of linked follow-up questions and answers. Teachers should ensure that they ask questions which are sufficiently challenging to maximise student performance. However, it is important that teachers do not inform students in advance about the specific questions that they intend to use in the live assessments and do not rehearse specific individual assessments.

General conversation This enables students to demonstrate they can present information and give opinions as well as interact effectively with another target language speaker. Students must be given an opportunity to respond to unpredictable language and it is, therefore, important that teachers do not prepare a specific list of questions with their students in advance.

Accommodation As quiet a room as possible is required for the tests.

Only one candidate is to be examined at a time. Normally, no other person other than the teacher conducting the test and the candidate should be present in the examination room.


  • Candidates may choose, if they wish, to give a brief introduction to

their chosen theme for the general conversation in order to make a confident start. However, candidates must demonstrate the ability to 13 interact with the examiner and should not merely deliver a pre-learnt monologue. The length of the introduction will depend on the ability of the students. However, in no circumstances should it exceed two minutes.

  • Candidates may bring into the examination room brief notes

(A5 sheet of paper with bulleted notes – 30 words maximum and up to five small drawings on an A5 sheet of paper) Any notes are a prompt only and should not be read out.

  • Candidates should be discouraged from preparing in advance lists of

question and answers in a predetermined order. Such cases are usually obvious to the examiner and may result in adverse marking.

  • Each task should last approximately 4-5 minutes. Teacher-examiners

should ensure that this timing is adhered to as the examiner will not credit anything after the 5 minute mark has passed.

  • If a question is not understood after one repetition/rephrasing move on

to another question - further attempts may just confuse or discourage the candidate. Try to link questions. Listen carefully to the candidate's answers and relate subsequent questions to the information acquired.

  • Never correct a candidate's language, however inaccurate, during a test.


Reading and Responding Assessment

Paper 3 (5AR03) Reading and Understanding in Arabic

55 minutes

Use blue or black ink. No dictionaries are allowed in this exam.

Source: Edexcel administrative information for centres

Writing Assessment

Paper 4 (5AR04) Writing in Arabic

1 hour

You are required to use blue or black ink.

Bilingual dictionaries are permitted.

Source: Edexcel administrative information for centres

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.