What do you need to know before you contact the exam centre? How do you make the entries? This page talks you through the practicalities. If you will be sitting your exams in the next few months or weeks, jump to the Exam Day page.
If you've read this page but still have questions - Join the HE Exams community to get support from fellow home-educators. There is a Facebook group: Home Education UK Exams & Alternatives,
Have you found an exam centre to accept you as a private candidate? If not, see Finding an exam centre first.
- 1 Get confirmation in writing at an early stage
- 2 How to make your exam entries
- 2.1 Exam Codes
- 2.2 Exam Timetables
- 2.3 Candidate Details and Identification Numbers
- 2.4 Proof of ID
- 2.5 Payment
- 2.6 Access Arrangements
- 2.7 Diplomacy!
- 2.8 Exam Entry Deadlines
- 3 Ask for a Statement of Entry
- 4 How will you get your results?
- 5 Preparing for The Exams, Exam Day, and Results!
Get confirmation in writing at an early stage
Once a centre has agreed to accept you, double-check that they will be able to provide the exams or services you need. Sometimes misunderstandings occur, or for other reasons people find that an exam centre cannot provide what they'd hoped for. It's best to confirm by email what the centre will be able to provide, especially if you are asking for anything potentially complicated like speaking or practical exams or coursework arrangements, or if your child needs access arrangements eg extra time.
If you make arrangements by phone, follow up with an email to confirm that they will be able to provide this. If there are problems, it's best to find out sooner than later. For example:
"Hi - just wanted to check that I'd understood correctly that your exam centre will be able to provide the Speaking Assessment for GCSE English. As we discussed on the phone, I would like to enter my son for the following exams next summer:....."
How to make your exam entries
1. Make sure you are crystal clear about the exam code for the papers you want to sit. These are found on the specification document that you download from the subject page on the Awarding Body (exam board) website. Often you will find them on the subject pages of this wiki. If in any doubt, ask for help on the Home Ed UK GCSEs, Exams & Alternatives Facebook group.
If home educators are able to find answers to our own queries in our own community then we:
- a) appear more professional to the exams officers, and
- b) make taking private candidates less work for the exams officers, so that they are more likely to do it in future.
2. Check the date that the exam is scheduled - see exam board's timetable, published on their own sites. It is usually easy to find simply by searching, eg, "CAIE IGCSE timetable summer 2019". If you get stuck, ask on the HE Exams group.
Exam clashes are not the end of the world.
As long as you are taking both exams in the same exam centre, the exams officer will normally still be able to arrange for you to take both exams. You may be kept in isolation after one exam has finished, and take the next after a short break. However, exam clashes are very difficult to manage if you're using different centres for each exam.
Candidate Details and Identification Numbers
3. Email the exams officer, giving the exam code and date, candidate's full name and date of birth, and a candidate identification number if you already have one. Here are the things you'll need to tell them:
Name on certificate
This should be the candidate's legal name. If it's different from their everyday name then let the exams officer know and be clear which one is to go on the certificate.
If the candidate has taken any UK public exams before then they should have a candidate identification number already. It's important to let the exams officer know that the candidate already has a number, even if you can't track it down yet. You can find this on the Statement of Entry or the Results slip from the previous exams. For some exam boards you can also find the candidate number on the exam certificate. AQA, OCR and Eduqas do this, for instance, but Edexcel don't at time of writing.
UCI: this is a 13 character ID that you would have been issued with for previous exams, eg 108925671297Y.
If the candidate hasn't taken any UK public exams before, a candidate number will be allocated to him or her by the exam centre, and this is used to make a UCI. Don't worry - this will all make sense later. All you need to know for now is - if these aren't the first exams, let the exams officer know.
You may be asked if your child has a ULN.
The candidate identification number will be either a UCI (Universal Candidate Identification) number, or a ULN (Unique Learner Number). This is a new ID number for the government's pupil database, the Learning Records Service. ULN s are now issued for all state school pupils, but they are not needed for private candidates. (give that link to your exams officer if they are unsure about this).
Often, home-educated students won't have a ULN as these are usually only generated by state schools for their own pupils. Occasionally the centre will generate one for you, but it's not necessary & involves extra admin. If you don't have a ULN then a UCI will be automatically generated by the system when the exams officer does your entries.
Proof of ID
4. The exams officer must see photographic proof of identification.
Usually they request a current passport, so if the candidate doesn't have one you will need to ascertain what they will accept instead, eg bus pass, other photocard.
The JCQ rules specify that the exams officer must see photo ID for private candidates. You need to bring this photo ID to every exam.
I don't have a passport, or it's out of date!
Don't have a passport? You can usually use the Private Candidate Identification form from AQA, even if you're taking exams with another board. This form is attached to photographs which have to be countersigned by a professional who knows the candidate - it can be a doctor, minister of religion, head of an educational institution, your employer, etc.
If your passport is out of date but you are still recognisable from the photo, the exam centre may accept it as it's for proof of your identity, not of permission to travel. Email them to check. If you find out on the day of the exam that the passport has expired - don't panic! Just turn up with the passport and explain to the invigilator when you arrive. You may have to bring in additional documentation later. It's all solveable.
5. The exam centre may require additional information and may have its own form for you to fill in.
6. Payment is usually required at the time of making the entry.
Once the exam centre has made the entry on your behalf, they have incurred costs such as exam board fees and administration costs, so if you later decide to withdraw from the exam, you will still need to pay some or all of these costs. Failing to do so may lead that centre to refuse to take other home-ed students as private candidates in future.
7. If your child has any special needs for extra time, a scribe, a prompt, or access to a keyboard (known as 'Access arrangements '), you will need to discuss this with the exam centre well before making your entries as they may not be able to accommodate you. They are under no obligation to do so.
Start looking for Access Arrangements early. The centre has to be able to show that it has built up a picture of the candidate's needs over a period of time, so you ideally need to start working with the centre a year or so before the exams.
8. Please be aware that exam officers are under no obligation to take private candidates and that we will, for better or for worse, be seen as representatives of the home education community in our dealings with them. Some exam officers are difficult to deal with and sometimes organisation on exam day is not as good as we would like. It can be difficult to know how to handle this situation when it can be so important to our children, but being confrontational is likely to make things difficult for others. If you are having difficulties with your exam centre, it may be worth discussing on the HE-Exams group as others there may have experience of similar situations.
Exam Entry Deadlines
Exam boards each have their own standard entry deadline. This is usually Feb-March for the summer exam series, although it will change slightly each year. However, exam centres will usually have their own deadline for accepting entries and this will be earlier, to allow them time to complete the paperwork. Often the centre deadline is December or early January.
Note that the entry deadline is not your last chance to enter the exam - all boards accept late entries - but it does incur late entry fees. If you wish to make a late entry and the exams officer at your centre says this is not possible, you can look up the exam board's own last entry dates and then go back to the exams officer saying that the published final entry date is X, and you are prepared to pay late entry fees. It is still up to the exam centre whether to accept your entries. You can try another centre. Commercial centres such as tutorial colleges are likely to be flexible.
Edexcel's online exam entry system can, in theory, accept entries up to a few days before the exam, although fees rise steeply. The 'standard' exam entry deadline is 21 February 2017 for summer 2017 exams, but the centre's own deadline will be earlier. From 22 March, the 'late fee rate' applies, where the standard entry cost is doubled. After 22 April, the 'high late fee rate' applies, and the standard entry cost is trebled. The exam board's own standard entry fee for a single-award exam-only GCSE, eg maths, is usually around £33, and for an International GCSE £40.30 for most subjects, and £62.30 for languages. However, the admin fee charged by your exam centre is likely to be substantially higher than this, because it's the exam centre which has to do most work in accepting your candidacy. Expect to pay at least £100 per subject and in many areas £150.
CIE Exam Entry Deadlines for the Summer exam series; the exams entry 'standard' deadline is usually 21 February and the *final* late deadline 17 April or thereabouts. Check with your exam centre as their own date will be earlier.
Ask for a Statement of Entry
The exams officer will usually send you a Statement of Entry which shows the codes for all the exams entered, plus a UCI or ULN number. A sample statement of entry is shown here.
If your exams officer doesn't send you one, it's best to ask for it so that you can check it carefully, and so that you have the UCI or ULN numbers for your records.
How will you get your results?
Check with the exams officer how they will notify you of your results. Will you have to come into the centre on results day, or will they notify you by email?
Every year on results day the exams group has some desperate posts from people who have no idea how to find out their child's results! If you find yourself in this situation, best to just turn up at the exam centre in the morning - any phone calls may not get through as the exams officer will be very busy. If it's a school, they will be handing out results to their own pupils and you should be able to collect yours at the same time. But check this when you make your entries, and save yourself some worry!
The exam board will not release your results direct to you; you can only make arrangements to collect results through the exam centre. Some boards have online results notification systems, but your centre has to sign you up for it and give you an access code.
On results day, the exams officer will most likely be extremely busy dealing with queries, so you may have difficulty getting hold of them. Knowing in advance how to collect your results can save a lot of stress.
See our Results Day page for how to understand your results slip, what to do if you want to appeal, and more.
Preparing for The Exams, Exam Day, and Results!
Please see our Study Skills page for tips on independent studying, revision skills, online revision and learning aids etc.
See our page on Exam Day for what to take with you, what items you're allowed to have and what might be useful, tips for calming nerves, and more.
See our Results Day page for how to understand your results slip, what to do if you want to appeal, and more.