Home educated young people take exams as private candidates which involves selecting an exam board with suitable courses and finding an exam centre. State schools don't generally let young people who aren't registered pupils go in to sit exams. Many home educating families opt to take IGCSEs also known as International GCSEs because of the difficulties of arranging to sit GCSEs.
In December 2022 the JCQ list of centres accepting private candidate entries was updated for the 2023 series and can be found here. JCQ notes that the number of centres has increased from 144 to 184. "Centres that are not on the list may still be willing to accept private candidate entries, and we will keep the list open for any late additions."
The JCQ list is specifically for GCSEs (ie NOT IGCSEs although they MAY help with IGCSEs if you ask) also A Level (here just called "GCE")
The main exam boards or awarding bodies for IGCSEs are Pearson Edexcel and CIE. More exam centres are registered with Pearson Edexcel though this does not necessarily mean that the centre will accept private candidates for IGCSEs.
Where a candidate requires any special arrangements such as extra time, use of word processor, scribe, rest breaks etc, this is known as "Access Arrangements". My page on Access Arrangements is here
Home educated candidates can spread exams over several years. Some home educating families find it is not necessary to take as many exams as children do in school and there may be flexibility or non-standard entry where colleges understand more about the applicant's background. Home educators also tend to begin exams earlier. In some cases it's been possible for home educated young people to sit exams as external candidates in private schools. Home educating families tend progress through the course material by self-study working through recommended textbooks. Families can also set up their own tutor groups.
The reason why home educators tend to use centres which are already up and running rather than setting up their own registered exam centre are to do with the rules for becoming an exam centre
At the end of November 2022, Ofqual issued guidance on contingency arrangements (which it described as "ensuring the resilience of the qualification system") for Summer 2023, saying "In the unlikely scenario that exams are cancelled in summer 2023, students’ grades would be determined by their teachers, using a Teacher Assessed Grade (TAG) approach similar to that used in summer 2021 ... TAGs would not be used to award a grade when exams take place." TAGs are of course very problematic for private candidates. The consultation response noted that "private candidates should register with a centre to sit exams in 2023 in the usual way" adding "In the unlikely event that exams are cancelled, the DfE would consider options to support private candidates and explore ways to encourage centres to work with them."
Ofqual published guidance in May 2022 to help awarding organisations comply with their obligations under Equalities Law. An accessible assessment will not include any irrelevant features that make it more difficult for some learners than others to demonstrate what they know, understand and can do to the required standard. Awarding organisations should use accessible and appropriate language; use clear and consistent layout; use source material, context, images and colour in ways that do not disadvantage students; consider how Reasonable Adjustments could be made to the exam or assessment to make sure disabled students are not disadvantaged. Read more here
In March 2021 JCQ released a list of centres which agreed to take private candidates for GCSEs (ie NOT IGCSEs, although they MAY help with IGCSEs if you ask) also A Level (here just called "GCE") This is the first time such information has ever been collected by JCQ. The list was further updated in December 2021. NB this is not an exhaustive list.
https://online.pembrokeshire.ac.uk/exams/ Pembrokeshire College. See also the wiki Science A Level page. How can you get science laboratory experience, or conduct practical science investigations, from home education? This page is for KS4 (GCSE-level) and beyond, with ideas for workshops, residential courses, and how to approach practical work from home-edm see the wiki page http://he-exams.wikia.com/wiki/Science_Practicals
Faregos Exam Centre run by home educators for home educators, Hampshire + Home education Exams tutor groups, Hampshire and Hampshire/Berkshire border.
Home educated young people aged 14-16 in England are able to attend college and the Government will pay for the course. However, GCSEs are mostly not available. Read more here