Legal references on this page apply to England.


exam hall

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.

science lab Pembrokeshire College

Some home educating families find that 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

Here is a link to Ofqual Exam Procedures Review Service including a link for private candidates, updated February 14th 2022.

Home Educators Exams Wiki
Home Educators' Qualifications Association + HEQA Webinar Get Started with Exams as a Private Candidate, 1 hour webinar, April 2022.

Ofqual Guidance for Developing and Designing Accessible Assessments

Ofqual published this guidance in May 2022 and says should 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

Illness/Grade Boundaries Summer 2022 Exams

On April 11th 2022 the Department for Education published this guide https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2022/04/12/everything-you-need-to-know-about-covid-measures-during-exams-this-summer/ addressing what students should do if they feel unwell or receive a positive Covid test result while taking their exams.

See also Letter to Exam Centres from Ofqual, May 13th 2022, plus https://schoolsweek.co.uk/ofqual-reveals-how-exams-in-2023-will-look/ https://schoolsweek.co.uk/ofqual-reveals-how-exams-in-2023-will-look/

Ofqual Student Guide March 2022

On March 8th 2022 Ofqual published its Student Guide to exam arrangements 2021-22.

Advance Subject Information February 2022

On February 7th 2022 the exam boards released the promised advance subject information ahead of exams in Summer 2022. This Ofqual page contains links to each board. See also DfE Education Hub post

See also JCQ Advance Information Summer 2022 FAQs for Exam Centres plus JCQ Advance Information Summer 2022 FAQs Students, both published February 3rd 2022.

JCQ Centres List Private Candidates December 2021

On December 17th JCQ updated its list of centres willing to take private candidates and confirmed that past papers from Autumn 2020 would be published on all exam board websites on January 18th 2022.

JCQ FAQ Private Candidates November 2021

JCQ has published this useful FAQ re 2022 exam arrangements, scroll to page 3 for specific information about private candidates.

Ofqual Update November 2021

On November 11th 2021 Ofqual published this open letter re 2022 exam arrangements to private candidates. It can be read as a web page and does not need to be downloaded. It applies to all exams regulated by Ofqual ie GCSEs, A Levels, Vocational Qualifications etc but NOT to IGCSEs.

It is strongly recommended that private candidates also read this page as well because it has a lot more detail for private candidates even though they are not flagged up as the focus of the page.

  • Sitting exams in person, Summer 2022
  • Less of the syllabus to cover OR advance notice of exam content
  • Backup plan for Teacher Assessed Grades if face to face exams have to be cancelled due to covid
  • How backup plan might work for private candidates, several options

It is expected that candidates will sit exams in exam centres as used to happen before covid. However, the exams will NOT be exactly the same as pre-covid because covid has reduced the teaching time. Therefore depending on the subject, there will EITHER be optional topics and content OR towards the end of study time, the exam boards will provide some advance information about what will actually be included in the exams. The advance information will not be published until February 2022. Private candidates will not have to wait longer than other candidates as they can either get the details from their registered exam centre or check exam boards websites. More details can be found here or here.

Ofqual says that if exams have to be cancelled, contingency arrangements will need to be in place. For SCHOOLS this will involve candidates having already sat mini-exams which can form the basis of Teacher Assessed Grades [TAG].

Ofqual suggests that PRIVATE CANDIDATES can EITHER mirror the school contingency arrangements as above, and confirm with their exam centre right from the start that they will be sitting mini-exams periodically to serve as backup for Teacher Assessed Grades [TAG] in the event that Summer exams do have to be cancelled OR alternatively, if private candidates have NOT already sat the mini-exams over an extended period, they can arrange to do so in a more compressed timeframe AFTER exams are cancelled.

In other words, private candidates looking for a centre where they can sit exams in Summer 2022 are NOT restricted just to those centres which would run the mini-exams throughout the study period for the purpose of Teacher Assessed Grades if exams had to be cancelled.

JCQ Centre List Private Candidates, Autumn 2021

Released August 2021 https://www.jcq.org.uk/private-candidates/

Student Guide to Awarding and Appeals Summer 2021

August 2021: Ofqual Exam Procedures Review Service The EPRS is an Ofqual process to look at the procedure an exam board followed. It will not review the student's work and cannot change the grade, but it can ask the exam board to look at the appeal again if it thinks the exam board made a mistake when it issued the grade, or when it considered the appeal.

Ofqual rolling update

JCQ Guide Appeals 2021 published June 2021 + outcome guidance consultation June 2021 + DfE FAQ Appeals June 2021.

Ofqual April Blog and Guidance

Ofqual blog published April 22nd 2021 https://ofqual.blog.gov.uk/2021/04/22/quality-assurance-for-gcse-as-and-a-level-information-for-schools-and-colleges/

Ofqual guidance teacher assessed grades, updated April 27th 2021. "Submitting data and evidence This section has been updated following confirmation of the detailed arrangements for external quality assurance."

JCQ Centre List Private Candidates, Summer 2021

On March 31st 2021 JCQ released https://www.jcq.org.uk/private-candidates-summer-2021/ which containes information about exam centres prepared 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")

Please note that the government is clear that centres can conduct remote assessment so it will not be necessary to travel to the physical exam centre or even to live nearby.

This is the first time such information has ever been collected by JCQ

HEQA useful link: https://heqa.uk/page/2021-private-candidate-arrangements/

JCQ Guidance Private Candidates March 2021

On March 26th 2021 JCQ published guidance on determination of GCE grades which incorporates AND SUPERSEDES the previous Interim Guidance on private candidates from JCQ. Information about private candidates can be found on pages 40 -45.

See also https://www.jcq.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Summer-2021-Private-Candidates-FAQs-FINAL.pdf

Some references may be found on this page

Consultation Autumn Exam Series 2021

Consultation Autumn Exam Series 2021 announced March 17th, closes April 9th 2021.

Private Candidates Support Grant 2021

On March 15th 2021 the Department for Education announced a grant of £200 for centres supporting private candidates.

"Centres will receive information from JCQ in the week beginning 15 March about how to be included on the list. Once the list is published at the end of March, private candidates will be able to use the list to find an exam centre."

From the same link as above: "International GCSEs and A levels are not eligible because these are not regulated by Ofqual". An earlier blog post from Ofqual explains more about this situation.

Private Candidates Summer 2021

Private candidates discussed at the Education Committee, March 9th 2021, transcript here https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/1837/html/

I responded to the the Ofqual consultation launched on February 25th 2021 focusing on the arrangements for private candidates, particularly where the candidate has NOT used a distance learning provider or a tutor already working in conjunction with the exam centre.

Information in Parliament about Centres March 2021

HANSARD LINK column 998.

Ofqual Consultation 2021

On February 25th 2021 the Department for Education confirmed arrangements for exam grades in Summer 2021 stating "There will be a clear and accessible route for private candidates to work with a centre to receive a grade this year, at the same time as other candidates. Exam boards will provide centres with clear guidance on the evidence they can use to assess a private candidate. A list of available centres will be published shortly and, we are working with the sector to ensure there are sufficient centres available and at a similar cost to a normal year."

It can be seen that this depends entirely on the exam centre going the extra mile.

Ofqual has a further short-run technical consultation on the precise implementation of the new policy proposals, closing on March 11th 2021.

Functional Skills 2021

Arrangements for Functional Skills 2021 exams can be found here. Please note that Functional Skills grades will NOT be based on teacher assessment.

Special Needs Access Arrangements special accommodation in exams eg extra time, reader, scribe, rest breaks, modified paper. http://www.dmurphytutoring.co.uk/blog/access-arrangements-in-examinations BLOG ON ACCESS ARRANGEMENTS AND PRIVATE CANDIDATES, FEBRUARY 2016. See also http://www.senmagonline.co.uk/index.php/component/k2/item/151557-access-arrangements and this webinar (November 2016)


A growing number of home educating families opt to take IGCSEs also known as International GCSEs because of the difficulties of arranging to sit GCSEs. The main exam boards or awarding bodies for IGCSEs are CIEc and Pearson Edexcel. More exam centres are registered with Edexcel though this does not necessarily mean that the centre will accept private candidates for IGCSEs.

Online A Levels and Science Practicals

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

New Style GCSEs and A Levels

New GCSEs will be graded 9 to 1, rather than A* to G. Grade 9 is the highest grade, set above the current A*. The grades were given for the first time in 2017 results for specifications that first started teaching in 2015. By 2019, all GCSE results will be using the new system.

Alternative Qualifications and Courses

links to Access to Music Crest Awards (Science); John Muir Awards (Environment, conservation); Smallpeice Trust (Engineering, short residential courses); University of Kent Space School (Astronomy, short residential course); University of Leicester Space School; ASDAN awards

Exam Centre Run By Home Educators

Faregos Exam Centre run by home educators for home educators, Hampshire + Home education Exams tutor groups, Hampshire and Hampshire/Berkshire border More

Compulsory English and Maths 16+

The Department for Education has recognised that IGCSEs will count as equivalent "for the foreseeable future." Please see the letter from the Minister for Skills and Equalities here (pdf here)

Students must study maths and/or English as part of their programme in each academic year. This applies to students aged 16 to 18 (and 19 to 25 with an education, health and care (EHC) plan) who do not hold a GCSE grade 9 to 4, A* to C (a standard pass grade) or equivalent qualification in these subjects doing a programme of 150 hours or more, which started on or after 1 August 2014.

GCSE Condition of Funding Exemption

Students with SEND exemption
"Where a student with SEND does not hold a GCSE grade 9 to 4, A* to C or equivalent qualification in maths and/or English, an institution may decide that it is not appropriate for them to study for a GCSE or a stepping stone qualification. In this case, in addition to the student’s EHC plan, the institution must hold an evidenced assessment that the student is not able to study these subjects. All exemptions must be considered on a case by case basis. There is no blanket exemption for whole institutions."

Home Education 14-16 College Funding

Home educated young people aged 14-16 in England are able to attend college and the Government will pay for the course. http://edyourself.org/articles/14-16collegeFAQ.php

Open University for Under-18s

Some home educated young people under the age of 18 take courses with the Open University and obtain sufficient credits either to continue with a full OU degree or to apply to a bricks and mortar university. Funding has changed in England. More information here
Tamsyn Fortune Wood: OU as route to Birmingham City University
Home Education Exams Wiki: experiences of Open University
Open University Policy Under 18s
OU Fees
Alex Dowty: OU as route to Oxford

Link Reference

This article is http://edyourself.org/articles/exams.php. The following links to other websites are contained in the article, displayed as citations to aid you in printing the document.

  1. the rules for becoming an exam centre http://www.jcq.org.uk/exams-office/general-regulations
  2. Home Educators Exams Wiki http://he-exams.wikia.com/wiki/HE_Exams_Wiki
  3. this webinar http://ehe-sen.org.uk/exams.php
  4. Pearson Edexcel. http://www.cie.org.uk/programmes-and-qualifications/cambridge-secondary-2/cambridge-igcse/
  5. the wiki Science A Level page http://he-exams.wikia.com/wiki/Science_A-levels
  6. http://he-exams.wikia.com/wiki/Science_Practicals http://he-exams.wikia.com/wiki/Science_Practicals
  7. links to http://edyourself.org/articles/hesfestalks2014.php#14-19
  8. More http://edyourself.org/faregos.pdf
  9. http://edyourself.org/articles/14-16collegeFAQ.php http://edyourself.org/articles/14-16collegeFAQ.php
  10. Tamsyn Fortune Wood: OU as route to Birmingham City University http://www.home-education.org.uk/articles/article-open-university.pdf
  11. Home Education Exams Wiki: experiences of Open University http://he-exams.wikia.com/wiki/Open_University
  12. Open University Policy Under 18s http://www.open.ac.uk/students/charter/essential-documents
  13. OU Fees http://www.open.ac.uk/courses/fees-and-funding
  14. Alex Dowty: OU as route to Oxford http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/Migration/article187261.ece