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Which subjects can you take GCSEs in from home education? What's the alternative, if the GCSE isn't accessible? Do you have to sit Maths and English? How many subjects should they sit? Which should you start with? Which are easier? - this page tries answer some of the FAQs about subjects.

For more information about specific subjects visit the A-Z list of subjects which has links to a page for each subject where you can find out what the options are for home educated candidates.

Which subjects can you take from home education?

Some ordinary GCSEs are difficult for home ed students to access because they include "non-exam assessments", ie some form of practical or coursework.

Academic subjects affected by this include GCSE sciences, GCSE geography, and GCSE English Language, because of their practical, fieldwork and speaking components. For these, most home educators opt for International GCSEs (IGCSEs) instead (See an explanation of IGCSEs for background).

Practical GCSE subjects, such as Physical Education, Dance, Drama, DT, Film Studies, Food Tech, Art and Music are also difficult for home ed students to arrange, because they have a controlled assessment/practical/coursework component and there is no IGCSE alternative without similar issues. Some of these have been or are being attempted by groups of home educators, but they are much more complicated to arrange than exam-only subjects. Home ed students often find alternative ways of studying and gaining qualifications in these subjects. See the subject pages (linked below) for more information, and the Alternative Qualifications page for non-GCSE options.

How many subjects does my child need to sit?

Legally the answer is none. GCSEs (or equivalents) are not compulsory.

In practice it depends on what they want to do next. It is possible to do A-levels from home, but if your child wants to go to sixth form or college to take further qualifications, they may need to meet their criteria. Look ahead to where they would like to be in a few years time, and check what GCSE requirements there are to get onto the course. What do local sixth forms and Further Education colleges require for their courses at 16-19? For example, many want you to have 4 or 5 GCSEs at a C / 4 or above to study a Level 3 Btec, and 5 or 6 to study A-levels.

If they don't know what they want to do in future (many teens won't) look at what will keep the most doors open.

Each college or school is entitled to set whatever entry requirements it wants, and it varies. Some are flexible in their requirements, recognising that home-educated students don't face a level playing field in access to qualifications, but others are not. There is no substitute for checking directly with the institutions. Students who don't have GCSE of grade 4+ (or a recognised equivalent) in Maths and/or English are required to study them alongside their course as a condition of funding for full time 16-19yo college placements.

The Uni Guide - How important are my GCSE grades? has some useful pointers.

Do you need GCSE English and Maths to get into college?

NO, you have an absolute right to education at 16-19 regardless of your qualifications. HOWEVER, you don't get to choose what sort of education that is so it may not be the college or course you'd prefer.

If you haven't got GCSE or IGCSE English and maths at grade C or above by age 16, you will have to continue studying them at 16-19 alongside your other courses. This is a government requirement to try to get extra teaching in these core subjects for those who need it. More details on the IGCSEs and 16-19 college funding page. Because colleges have to timetable in these maths and English classes, you may be restricted in the courses and levels you can study if you haven't already passed these subjects.

Depending on the college/course they may accept Functional Skills Level 2 instead of GCSE/IGCSE Maths and English. They do not have to though so you need to check for the specific course if they will.

Either English Language or Literature will meet the funding criteria. Although for many courses, University and jobs English Language is listed as the requirement.

Many jobs and courses at university require a maths and English Language GCSE pass, regardless of what other qualifications you have.

Even if you don't take any other GCSEs from home, getting a pass in maths and English will open up more options at 16-19 and beyond.

How do I decide on which subjects to take?

Choose subjects which will allow your child to progress on to the path that they want to, or if they are not decided on a path choose those that keep doors open and those that interest them. Look at college and university course requirements.

Maths and English Language are the most commonly listed requirements. English Literature is only usually listed as a requirement for studying English or sometimes essay heavy subjects. A science (and usually this means either Combined Science, Biology, Chemistry or Physics) can be a requirement for some careers or courses.

Through home education you have much more flexibility and choice over the subjects. There are some practical ones, such as Music, PE, Art, which are difficult to do as home educators but we are able to choose from a wider selection of non-core subjects than may be available in school eg Astronomy, Sociology, Environmental Management. Explore the A-Z list of subjects at the bottom of the page

Which subjects are easiest?

There is no answer to this one. All GCSEs/IGCSEs are considered of equal standing.

In reality some subjects are more content heavy than others and/or need analytical essay writing skills - which can make them seem harder. English Literature and History are two which are largely considered ones on the tougher side.

Subjects with mostly shorter mark answers on the exam papers are often considered easier. As are subjects such as Environmental Management or Business which have a lot of relation to the real world. Sometimes subjects can feel easier if you have already studied a related subject where there is overlap.

Different students will find different subjects 'easier' and interest in the subject plays a large part in that.

Which subject is best to start with?

Again no right answer to this one and the approach taken varies amongst home educators.

One popular approach is to start with a subject that the student is interested in but which isn't essential to future study. Almost as a tester. Leaving maths and English and the subjects that are required for college entry until later.

Others like to get the core subjects out of the way or start with their child's strongest.

Another popular approach is to start with exams with shorter mark questions like sciences and leave subjects like history and English that benefit from maturity and analytic skills until later.

If a subject is needed for A level it is a good idea not to have too long a gap between sitting the exams and starting A levels. Being able to show recent study can be important.

There is no right approach. You need to decide what will suit your child.

Do home-educated students have to do the EBacc?

No. The government wants state schools to ensure that pupils take GCSEs in a range of core subjects known as the EBacc. A student who gets good passes in all of them is said to have an EBacc. This is a school performance measure and isn't a requirement for individual students.

There is no obligation for individual students to take exams in all of these subjects. It's a requirement for state schools to offer the exams, not for children to take them. Schools won't be able to get a top rating from Ofsted unless they offer GCSEs in these subjects. Therefore, it should not affect home-educated students. As it doesn't specify which of history or geography, and which particular modern language, there will not be a core set of skills or knowledge which are expected in further education or employment beyond English, maths and science to some level.

What GCSEs do universities require?

Most universities have some basic GCSE requirements to demonstrate basic maths and literacy skills, regardless of what subject you're applying for usually a C/4 or above in maths and English. Look at the entry requirements for each course. It is common for 5 GCSEs at C/4 to be specified, or alternatives. A few of the most competitive courses like medicine and veterinary science may specify 8 GCSE grades A/A* - 7 or higher.

By the time a student applies to university she will usually have predictions for A-levels or other Level 3 qualifications, and perhaps some AS-level results. These are more relevant than your GCSE results. Universities may use your GCSE results as an initial screening tool, but if you flag up on your UCAS application that your circumstances were unusual, they can take this into account.

Russell Group Informed Choices - is a very useful site as to what top level universities may require. Information on GCSE requirements can be found towards the bottom of this page. There is no longer any university which requires you to have a modern language GCSE as a universal requirement. UCL used to specify this, but now says that if you do not have a language GCSE you must take a language module alongside your degree studies.

Where can I find out more?

For more information about specific subjects visit the A-Z list of subjects. Other useful pages may be the IGCSEs and Exam Boards pages.

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