HE Exams Wiki
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Arranging exams as a home educator can be a tricky process. There is a lot to get your head around. These pages will guide you through the process. If you are completely new to exams you might want to jump back to our 'new to HE or exams' section. If you feel you have got an understanding of the jargon and issues then go to our Quick Start Guide.

How do I know what exams my child should sit?

Firstly, exams are not compulsory! You and your child need to decide what is right for them in terms of numbers, qualifications and subjects.

  • Those looking at GCSE level qualifications should read our IGCSE page.
  • The subjects pages provide lots of help and support as to options for each subject.

How do I register to take an exam?

You deal with the exam centre, not the exam board. Each exam centre will have its own procedures for making entries see Making entries and sitting exams for what information the exams officer will need.

For summer exams, most exam centres take entries in December and January, though later entries are usually possible at a price. However, although you will not formally make your entries before this, it is wise to find an exam centre as early as possible. Ideally, when you are ready to begin studying for a qualification, make informal enquiries of local centres before you buy any materials, as their preferred exam board may influence your choice of syllabus. To do this, see Finding_an_exam_centre; you may be more likely to get a positive response if you do so in writing, ie by email.

If there is a convenient local exam centre but it only uses one exam board (eg Edexcel, AQA, OCR, CIE), then you may decide to limit your choices to their syllabuses. However, there is nothing to stop you travelling further afield to a different exam centre for one subject if you much prefer their syllabus.

Plenty of families do start a course and then look for an exam centre nearer the time. If you want to sit exams in the summer of next year, it would be sensible to start looking for an exam centre in the autumn term beforehand. Depending on where you live, you may have to travel sometimes candidates stay overnight nearby to avoid a morning rush, if they live many miles from the exam centre.

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and Access Arrangements my child needs extra time, a scribe or a computer can this be done?

Yes, home-ed students can still have access arrangements (AAs) if they have special educational needs, but it can sometimes be difficult to arrange as it involves extra work for the exam centre. Please see the page on Access Arrangements for the latest situation. Private candidates simply do not have a right to extra time etc. unless it can be arranged through an exam centre.

This can be very expensive and, depending on the AA required, very difficult. It's not fair. It is one reason why families of children with SEN may find it easier to arrange a part-time college course for them to take exams; in this situation, the college should deal with all arrangements and costs.

This is also a good reason for considering very carefully whether removing children with SENDs from school just prior to exams where Access Arrangements are already in place is the best decision.

Schools do not have to take private candidates in any situation and the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 do not compel them to offer access arrangements to private candidates, so our approach to exam centres has to be one of asking for a favour, rather than demanding a right.

Should I take all my GCSEs at one sitting?

Some take two or three exams a year over two or three years. Some study just a couple, while others study ten at once and sit them at 16. Because of the cost, many prefer to stagger the exams.

Taking your first public exams can be a steep learning curve; you'll learn how you perform in this situation, how revision works for you, and you'll need to focus on exam technique. You are learning how to sit exams as well as learning your subjects. Pupils in school usually gain this preparation through having internal school exams, end of year exams, to accustom them to the experience. It can be hard to replicate this from home education, so it can be helpful to take one or two qualifications first, and your others at a later sitting. This allows you to learn from your experiences and means you don't have all your eggs in one basket.

This situation is different for A-levels as some universities base offers on three taken at the same time, especially for the most competitive courses.

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