HE Exams Wiki

See also:

Starting Home Education in Yrs 7-9

Starting Home Education in Year 10

It isn't easy to switch to home ed for yr 11. It is important to be realistic. Doing the same 11 GCSEs as were originally planned for when the child was in school, in May/June next year, probably isn't feasible.

Considering Home education for Qualifications is a good place to start for an explanation of the differences between taking exams in school and taking them through home education and a look at your options.

If you are starting/considering in yr 11 a few important things to be aware of if you want to do exams

  • Exam centres - You will be responsible for finding an exam centre and making arrangements to register for exams. It is getting harder to find centres, as some centres are closing doors to private candidates, especially following the covid upheaval of 2020. If you want your child to take an exam in a summer sitting, you will need to be finding out about exam centres in the previous autumn, and probably registering for those exams in January of the year your child wants to sit the exam, although some exam centres will have earlier deadlines.
  • Financial costs - home educators pay for exam costs as well as any courses, tuition or books. £150 per subject just to sit the exams is about average, but can be quite a bit more.
  • Changing syllabus/subjects -one of the difficulties of starting home education in the middle of the GCSE years, is that home educated children can't always take the same exams as school children. You are likely to have to switch syllabuses, possibly drop some subjects and even delay exams by an extra year. If you want your child to take exams at the same time as their schooled peers, you will need to make those changes quickly.
  • If your child is entitled to Access Arrangements in exams, it may be quite tricky to arrange for these in a new centre with only a few months' notice.

Possible ways to make it work -

  • Speak to the school ask if they would they be able to act as an exam centre and help with the practical aspects so you can stick to the same specs? Possibly even keep on school roll so exams are financially covered and they help with work.
  • If you've already deregistered and the school won't help/you don't want to ask, then would you consider taking an extra year over GCSEs? Going to college at 17 isn't unusual. It would buy you time to research decisions and reduce stress. Your child could do some exams this year and some next.
  • Focus on fewer key subjects. What do they want to do next ? What do they need to get them on to the path they want?

This isn't meant to put people off, but leaping into home education for the last year of school isn't straightforward, so do your research. Read this wiki and ask questions on the HE exams and alternatives group, if you are not sure about something.

Where to start[]

The Quick Start Guide gives an overview to what to do, if you want your child to take traditional qualifications through home education

Make sure you are aware of the difficulties certain subjects and exam boards may cause. The following links may help.


Exam Boards



Doing different subjects or different specifications of the same subject may seem madness at this stage but depending on the number of subjects they are studying then it is doable. Most home educators study a GCSE from scratch in a school year. Home ed gives you the freedom to make decisions on subjects to suit your child. This is tailoring their education to their needs and that is a good thing!

While those discussions are going on you need to find an exam centre and check which boards/specs you can sit, their costs and when you need to book the exams - see below.

Then for the subjects you are doing you decide which specification you want to do if you need/decide to change - the subjects area of the wiki will help compare options. You can download specification from the exam board websites which tells you what to cover.

Finally, decide how to study - books, tutors, courses, online resources, combination. Some subject pages on the Wiki include resource lists or ask for advice on the HE exams and alternatives group. You might also be interested in this page, although many will have booked up and started before September - Distance Learning Providers. However, a motivated child with an organised parent to assist can often manage with the textbook for the subject and exam resources from the exam board website.

It is worth finding your local HE group (FB search home education and town/county) some groups arrange group tuition and if not you might find a friendly local prepared to chat over coffee and give some moral support. Otherwise, there are quite a few subject-specific Facebook groups for home educating parents, where other families with experience and expertise are available to give information and advice. Get recommendations for good ones from the HE exams and alternatives group.

There are no rules as to which GCSEs should be taken and when in home education. It is a requirement to have a pass at 9-4, or be studying towards that, in Maths and English for 16-19 college funding and they are listed as a requirement for most jobs. However, the formal qualification route isn't right for all students and you might want to look at alternative qualifications. You may also find some helpful information on future options on our sixteen plus page.

Exam centres[]

You need to find out where your child can sit exams. The first stage if starting in year 11 would be to ask the school you are removing your child from if they would be willing to enter your child as an external candidate. This may allow you to stick with the same specifications.

If that is not an option then best place to start is here - finding an exam centre

Be aware that it is often normal for home educators to travel some distance to access an exam centre.

Advice for contacting exam centres.[]

Are you booking your exams for the first time? If you have an exam centre nearby, who is able and willing to enter private candidates, then chances are that the way has been paved for you by other home-educating families.

Sadly however, every year some exam centres decide that the hassle is no longer worth it and close the doors to HE families. Definitely been and increase in this post Covid. There is rarely much, if any, profit to be made by the exam centres in these cases.

Don’t have unrealistic expectations of exam centre officers about giving you excessive support and guidance. Exams officers are not there to give advice about which syllabuses or subjects you should study or what resources to buy. That isn’t their role. Ask those sort of questions in the HE exams and alternatives group.

Please pay it forward to future home-educating families and treat your exam officers with respect and expect to do the necessary decisions around exam choices for yourselves. And if you do get an exam officer willing to go the ‘extra mile’ do make sure they know it is appreciated!

Here are things you might ask/expect of your exams officer.

1) Do you accept external candidates?

2) Which exam boards are you registered for?

3) How much are the exams?

4) When is the deadline for registering?

5) Do you do autumn or winter sittings, as well as summer ones?

If you are planning to do any subjects, which have practicals, coursework or speaking components, do ask about these in plenty of time. Fewer exam centres can facilitate these components.

More reading

Making entries and sitting exams

Advice on studying towards exams[]

Many home educators successfully home educate through exams without tutors or courses. They are not essential for many families or all subjects. You will find some useful advice here - Study Skills. The home ed community offers lots advice, link sharing and moral support through support groups.

There are lots of tutor services/advisory consultants in education, but few with relevant elective home-education experience. You can find some listed on our distance learning providers page.

If you are going to use such services then here are some things to consider:

  • Do they come personally recommended to you by other home-educators; Ideally look for several recommendations, even if you see it linked/advertised on a HE group or on this site. If you are interested in a company search home ed groups - does it get recommendations from a range of people?
  • Their knowledge of specific board/specification you need to enter the exam for. Mainstream tutors sometimes make mistaken assumptions based on their school experience rather than for private candidates. Make sure you know what options (GCSE or IGCSE, exam boards) are available to sit as a private candidates - tutors do not always get this right;
  • What experience do they have with home-educated students (not just after-school students);
  • SEN experience if relevant;
  • Their qualifications;
  • Any professional bodies they are members of;
  • If your chosen specification includes a non-examined assessment (often difficult for private candidates to be entered for) do they have a recognised arrangement for this with an exam centre;
  • DBS checks (NB. this can be relevant EVEN FOR ONLINE ONLY provision as well as in-person tuition);
  • Insurance (for e.g. professional indemnity insurance);
  • Will they offer a (paid) trial session before both sides commit?

It's important to work out WHAT you are studying before you worry about the HOW. You may feel time is tight but pausing to do your research is worth it, It will help avoid potential mistakes.

In the short term you might want to look at our Home Ed resources page which lists lots of helpful resources. These can be used to supplement later on or in the early days to allow you to help work out how your child learns best, their strengths and weaknesses, and their interests. They can help you get started with HE while you take the time to do the research you need around exam specs and study resources.

For the longer term you need to find decide which exam specifications to study and how you will cover the material. If they have started GCSEs in school you may need (or want) to make changes to the subjects and specifications they were studying. Don't be scared by this exam specs overlap in content. It is worth thinking about Home Ed as a new start with a chance to make choices that are right for your child. If you have never thought about exam choices before it can be a scary, overwhelming prospect. Our Jargon Buster is worth bookmarking to help you get familiar with the lingo. Take your time, there's a lot of information available to help.

The subjects page gives you an list of which subjects are possible - we are not tied to school restrictions on timetabling or EBacc so lots of flexibility. Some very practical subjects are very difficult though.

So for some subjects it is much easier for home educators to arrange exams for International GCSEs (IGCSEs). But that doesn't mean we have to do IGCSEs for all subjects, GCSEs are just as doable for many subjects. This page will help explain IGCSEs.

Then you need to know which exam specification to follow. The exam boards page explains different awarding bodies and some tips on choosing between them.

The most important thing when deciding on an exam board is to go for one you can arrange the exams in - so it is good to check what local exam centres can facilitate. Best to ask for each subject as centres might not offer all options. The finding an exam centre page will help. Read the information rather than jumping straight to the list at the bottom as there are tips on where else to look and how to approach centres.

You do not need to stick to all IGCSEs or the same exam board. Decide which is the best specification for each subject - read the spec, compare exam papers, consider practical issues (number of papers/length of papers/how often offered), look at resources available (books/courses). You don't need to make this decision for all subjects at the start.

The individual subject pages have links to the specifications, links to past papers, links to resources and more advice. They are in the process of being updated so not all pages are as organised as others but it's getting there.

Then you are ready to decide how to study.

This page helps with advice on self studying. The subjects pages have links to resources (and often links to answers) and past papers. If you want a course (most of us self-study for at least some subjects so they are not a requirement) there is a list of Distance Learning Providers here, search on here for the provider before signing up to read past comments, we have a weekend business post that you could check out.