HE Exams Wiki

Home Ed Exams Jargon Buster!

Are there any more terms you don't understand? Please leave a comment below and we'll add it to the list.

You'll find more details on many of these things on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

If you're completely new to taking exams from home education, please see our Quick Start Guide first, then join the HE Exams community to get support from fellow home-educators.

Access arrangements Accommodations put in place to assist students who have special educational needs/disabilities or other difficulties. These can include use of technology such as a laptop or reader pen, extra time, opportunities for breaks during the exams, a separate room, scribe, reader, etc. Students who think they may need such arrangements must discuss their needs with their exam centre as early as possible in the process; some centres are more helpful than others. See Access Arrangements.

A-Level Advanced level. The exams normally taken by students in England/Wales/NI in the year in which they have their 18th birthday [but can be taken earlier or later]. One route to university entry [different universities may specify 2, 3 or 4 A-Level passes for entry to their courses]. See A-Levels from Home Education for more.

AQA an exam board. Popular in schools for their GCSEs and A-levels, but many of their exams can't normally be taken by home educators.

Awarding Body Formally known as 'exam board'.

BTEC a vocational qualification offered by colleges. This can be an alternative route into university. Only a few can be taken by distance learning, though. See our Alternative Qualifications page.

CAIE [Cambridge] an exam board, Cambridge Assessment International Education, formerly known as CIE. Offers IGCSEs which are popular with home educators.

CCEA - Northern Ireland exam board

Edexcel [Pearson] an exam board. Offers IGCSEs which are popular with home educators, as well as GCSEs and A-levels.

Eduqas - a brand of the Welsh exam board, WJEC. Eduqas exams are available at many centres outside of Wales and are popular in schools.

Exam Board A body registered to set and administer the GCSE and IGCSE exams. There are a few different exam boards. When researching exam centres, be sure to check which Board or Boards the centre caters for. This will be the primary deciding factor for which Board's exams you can take. Also, the content and presentation of their exams differs slightly, so students may find they prefer one to the others. However, a GCSE or IGCSE from one board is worth exactly the same as one from any other. The term 'awarding body' is now more commonly used.

Exam centre The place where the student will actually write the exam papers. These may be state or private schools, colleges or specialist centres. No exam centre is required to accept private candidates, and those that do charge a widely varying fee, so ensure that you understand their charges when you book.

Examiners' Report - After each exam is marked, the chief examiners for that subject and that board write a report on how well candidates answered each question. These are really vital reading as they often explain what examiners want to see.

External Candidate: another term for 'private candidate'.

Functional Skills: UK qualifications in English, maths and ICT with a workplace focus. Pitched at Level 1 and Level 2, which means up to GCSE level. Can be an alternative to GCSEs in certain situations. See our Functional Skills page.

GCSE General Certificate of Secondary Education. The exam normally taken by secondary school pupils living in England/Wales/NI. School pupils sit these exams during the academic year in which they have their 16th birthday, but they can be taken earlier or later. For some subjects, these exams involve 'Non-examined assessments' such as speaking tests or practical endorsements, or coursework, and are therefore difficult to arrange outside of a school setting. Exceptions are noted on the “subjects” page.

IGCSE International GCSE. These are designed to be taken by students living abroad and for this reason do not generally involve any compulsory coursework or continual assessment. They are therefore the preferred option for home educated students for many subjects. Accepted by unis in the UK as equivalent to GCSEs - see IGCSE page.

JCQ - Joint Council for Qualifications. The body which oversees administration of most UK school examinations. Joint body formed by the main exam boards.

Marking scheme a detailed explanation of the marks available for each question. This means you can mark past papers without being a subject expert, though it takes a bit of practice. Should be read alongside the Examiners' Report on that paper (see above).

NEA 'Non-examined assessments' elements of a qualification which aren't a written exam, such as speaking tests or practical endorsements for science, or geography fieldwork.

NVQ National Vocational Qualification: offered by colleges and does not involve exam assessment. Not normally available unless you're enrolled in a school/college.

OCR - a UK exam board which offers GCSEs and A-levels.

Past papers Exam papers from previous years, normally available via the website of the relevant Exam Board and vital for revision/practice prior to sitting the exam. See 'Where do I find past papers?'

Practical Endorsement for science exams. Although the new science GCSEs don't have a practical exam, the exam centre still has to sign a statement saying that candidates have had the opportunity to carry out all the core practical activities in the centre. For A-level sciences this is more detailed.

Private candidate A student who sits an exam at a centre where he/she has not attended courses for that subject. Home educated children are usually private candidates(PCs). Not all PCs are home educators, though. Many are school leavers or adults returning to study.

Specifications / Syllabus [specs] An outline of the learning requirements/syllabus and precise exam arrangements for each exam. Different Exam Boards have different specs. One may have a single long paper while another has 2 shorter papers. For certain subjects, there may also be a choice of specs - for example, Edexel English Language has a spec A which involves being thoroughly familiar with a set literature anthology, or spec B, which has no anthology but demands a greater element of original writing. Study specs carefully to decide which will suit you best. Go to the subjects page and click on the subject you want. For each, you will see which specifications are available to home educators, and the pros and cons of each.

UCI (Universal Candidate Identifier ) - a candidate's identification number for taking UK exams. This will be allocated by the examinations officer the first time you take an exam, and you use the same number for all subsequent exams. See 'Making entries and sitting exams'.

ULN (Unique Learner Number) - a different sort of candidate identification number. All state school/college pupils get allocated one, but they are optional for others eg external candidates and independent schools. You don't need one. Most home-educated students don't have them and the UCI is used instead.