Don't know where to start with taking exams from home education? Start here! First of all there is a list of simple steps. We also have personal experiences of how other home educators got started. Our Jargon Buster will help with unfamiliar terms. Once you've got up to speed, please Join the HE Exams community to get support from fellow home-educators.
How to get started
1. Make a realistic plan.
- You do not have to take as many subjects as school pupils do. Trying to do 5+ subjects in a year would be quite challenging to organise and study for.
- You can spread them out. You can start early, or finish later.
- You cannot usually just carry on with all GCSE courses started in school, as some exam syllabuses can't be taken by private candidates.
- How many do you actually need? Look at local college admissions requirements, and work back from there. Often you only need 6 at grade C / 4 and higher, including English and maths, to do A-levels, or 4 to do Btecs.
- More GCSEs may keep options open and can matter for competitive courses like medicine.
- You don't have to complete GCSE-level exams at age 16; you can take longer if you need to. See the FAQ
- You don't have to do GCSEs at all; there are some Alternative Qualifications, or consider part-time College at 14+.
- If you don't really want to home-educate but your child is too unwell for school or is refusing to go, have a look at EOTAS first. Don't deregister until you've exhausted other options.
2. Decide which subject you want to do first
Look at the page for your chosen subject on this wiki. This will tell you which specifications/ syllabuses are available to home educators - for some you can do the GCSE or the IGCSE, while for others (eg English language, sciences) the IGCSE is the only option for most people. Each subject page also lists textbooks and other resources. We have a list of Subjects covered by this wiki. Your choice of syllabuses will be limited by which boards nearby exam centres cover. For example, have a look at the subject page for English to see what your exam options are for English language and literature, coursebooks, etc.
3. Find an exam centre
As an external (private) candidate, you take GCSEs, IGCSEs and A-levels at an exam centre, which can be a school or a private exam centre dedicated to external candidates. You take the exam under exam conditions, at the published time of the exam, usually alongside other candidates. The exam syllabuses you can choose will depend on which exam boards your exam centre uses.
See if there are any exam centres recommended by home educators near you on our Finding an exam centre page. Even if they are listed as taking external candidates, email them just to check they still do.
If your child might need extra time or help to enable them to sit exams, start reading up on Access Arrangements at least a year before you plan to sit exams.
4. Decide how you want to study for the qualification
You can study independently from textbooks and online resources, or use Distance learning providers or tutors. For general questions about taking qualifications from home education, see our Frequently Asked Questions page - including taking GCSEs at college at 14+, choosing an exam board, questions about regulations, etc.
5. Make your entries with the exam centre
You deal with the exam centre, not the exam board. The exam boards won't take entries direct. When you're ready to make entries, see 'Making entries' for what you need to tell the exam centre. The homepage of this wiki takes you through all the commonly requested options - how you make entries, how to prepare for exams, what happens after age 16, case studies of home-ed students and their paths to uni or work, etc. Scroll down the page and see what there is.
Advice to newcomers from other home educators
Simple Guide to GCSEs by Sally S - a home-educating mother explains how her family did it.
Gillian's Home Ed Exams Experience - happy update and advice when all the results were in.
Personal Experiences of Home Educators - a page full of 'case studies' of routes to university or work via home education and taking qualifications.
Please do add your own experiences here or in the comments box below. It's easiest if you set up a Wikia account to edit - it only takes a moment and is really easy.