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Chemistry Qualifications - Options Edit

Home-ed students take IGCSE Chemistry exams rather than GCSE because the GCSE involves Controlled Assessments.  Exam centres are very reluctant to take external candidates for these as it is time consuming and bureaucratic.The International GCSE (IGCSE) Chemistry substitutes "Alternative to Practical" questions for these assessments, and so consists of written exams only.  The 'Certificate' qualifications below are simply IGCSEs for UK state schools.

Edexcel IGCSE / Certificate Chemistry, AQA Certificate Chemistry, and CIE IGCSE Chemistry are available for private candidates.

CIE IGCSE Chemistry Edit

CIE IGCSE Chemistry (0620) is a long-standing option.

  • Three papers: a 1h Alternative to Practical, a 45 min Multiple Choice and a 1 hr 15 Theory paper. 
  • Multiple choice and theory are taken back to back (so effectively 2 hours), but the multiple choice element does assist someone who's not used to long exams, or producing long written answers.  
  • CIE science IGCSEs are tiered, so all the difficult questions are in one paper if you do Higher tier. Foundation tier can earn you grades C-G and Higher tier can earn grades A*-C. If you score below the C threshold on Higher then you get ungraded.

Edexcel International GCSE / Edexcel Certificate Edit

  • 2 papers, paper 1 is 2 hours and paper 2 is 1 hour. Paper 1 is the same as the chemistry paper of Double Award Science.
  • Single - tier entry, so both difficult and easier questions are scattered between the two papers and you don't have to choose which tier your child will enter. You can get the full range of grades by sitting the two papers.
  • Alternative to Practical questions are scattered between the two papers. 

Qualification code is 4CH0 for the IGCSE and KCH0 for the Edexcel Certificate. Usually the same exam paper has these two different codes on the front.

Edexcel IGCSE Chemistry Subject Page 

The exam board's website is usually the best place to find past papers - most of them keep the most recent past paper password-protected for exam centres only, but you can download others and mark schemes, examiners' reports etc, freely.  Just search, eg, "edexcel igcse chemistry" and it is easy to find - 

For Edexcel IGCSE, you will need to look at the IGCSE Chemistry from 2009 AND the IGCSE Chemistry from 2011.  The changes were very minor and the past papers from the 2009 spec are good practice for the 2011.  You can also practise with questions from the older, pre-2009, spec; if you do the past papers from the most recent spec first, you can then go through the older ones and pick out similar questions.  Sometimes the time allowed and total marks are different, so what we do with old papers is look at the overall marks and overall time, work out how many minutes are available per mark, and then put together a few practise questions with the appropriate time limits.  I know it may seem obvious, but you don't have to do a whole 2 hour paper in one go either.  It is, of course, helpful to have a couple of mock exams the exact length as the real thing, but otherwise, it may fit your family better to chop it up into several half-hour chunks. 

Textbooks for Edexcel IGCSE Chemistry Edit

Edexcel IGCSE chemistry student book by Jim Clark has been highly recommended by many.  The author has his own website where he offers all the answers PLUS [additional support to home -ed parents].  Pearson Edexcel also provide the  [answers to all questions] as a free download.

Collins Edexcel International GCSE Chemistry Student Book by Chris Sunley et al. This series has received good reviews from home-educators, but note that answers are not provided to the exam-style questions; these are in the Teacher Pack, which costs £98!! However, Collins have generally been helpful recently when members have contacted them asking for a copy of the answers. (18/08/15 - I contacted Collins by email who instantly replied to my email enclosing the answers for both Chemistry and Physics textbooks. RB - file uploaded here: please click on the PDF below.)


Hodder: Edexcel International GCSE Chemistry and Certificate Practice Book, by Robert Wensley (2013) - for IGCSE and Certificate. Recommended by a home-educator, who wrote: "They are full of exam style questions and detailed guidance on how to answer to gain the most marks.". The only drawback is that the answers have disappeared from the Hodder site. Hodder provided them for our group member and the files are available below.

Past Papers Edit

Collection of older Edexcel IGCSE papers

For more exam papers, you will usually have to look on free exam paper sharing sites - eg 

Freeexampapers.com Chemistry IGCSE page

more up to date exam papers can be found here: Bilal's Ahmed's Blog

Edexcel provide a useful iPad app called 'Edexcel Past Papers' which gives instant, free, access to many past papers.

AQA Level 1/2 Certificate in Chemistry Edit

This specification was available to private candidates from June 2013 (2 papers) and will be discontinued with last exam in 2017.

AQA Chemistry Certificate/IGCSE)

Alternative to Practicals Questions

The Edexcel and CIE specifications includes 'alternative to Practicals' questions, rather than requiring a practical exam. One way to  prepare is simply working through loads of past papers and then carefully reading the mark scheme and examiners' reports afterwards.  The old Edexcel spec is perfectly good for this - in fact you can just get the 'alternative to practical' paper from the old spec (paper 3) and work through that. The change in specification was mainly for structure and there was not a huge change in content.

These questions about changes to an experiment are often straightforward; there are recurring themes, eg whether you can take accurate measurements in the current setup and whether there are any safety issues.

These questions are very similar in both Edexcel and CIE so you can use both for practice.

Chemistry Practicals and Experiments Edit

Many of the practicals recommended in the syllabus can be carried out at home; it is surprising how much can be done with relatively little kit, but you may also find that equipment is often affordable.  For those experiments which you are not able to carry out at home, there are many videos on YouTube.  Many school chemistry classes use videos rather than hands-on practicals for a reasonable proportion of the syllabus.

Some options for gaining practical experience:

  • Work through some of the experiments in the syllabus yourself.  Practical suggestions on how to do it here:

Chemistry Practicals for Home-Ed an edit of the Edexcel Scheme of Work with some notes for home ed families

  • Find a local chemistry tutor and ask them to carry out some experiments with you.  We did this for practicals that I was not confident about, and it worked well.  The tutor would give me shopping lists of chemicals to obtain and worked with what equipment we had or could obtain cheaply and easily.  He enjoyed the chance to do real chemistry rather than helping kids cram!
  • Chemistry Camps and Roadshows run by universities etc, eg [Salters Chemistry Camps] have been very highly recommended by home-ed families. See below.
  • Royal Institution's Young Scientist Centre workshops, and other similar activities at science museums.

Salters Chemistry Camps Edit

Salters Chemistry Camps]

"Students spend three days and two nights at the Host University, staying in the University Halls of Residence, and using the laboratories. They carry out new, exciting experiments, and have the chance to delve into areas of chemistry that are perhaps not covered at school. Further background information is presented through entertaining lectures and (often noisy!) demonstrations. In the evenings, practical work in the labs is put on the back burner, and students enjoy a variety of social activities."

Home-ed parents can nominate children in the same way that schools can, and several home-ed children have highly recommended these camps in the past.  Students should be in Year 10, ie aged 14-15; not sure if there is any flexibility on this.

Also do Salters Festival of Chemistry for  younger children.

Royal Institution Young Scientist Centre Edit

Institution L'Oreal Young Scientist Centre in London, has workshops which involve practical lab work for different age groups.  London home-ed groups regularly organise school sessions there, but you can also book as individuals during their Summer School, for instance.

Supplies Edit

You can get most chemicals and equipment you need for IGCSE level, in small quantities, on eBay. 

Kitchen Chemistry on eBay sells small quantities of chemistry kit spares.

See also the following suppliers of equipment and/or chemicals which have been recommended by home educators:

Paradigm Shift - apparently no longer supplying, but listed here in case they recommence.

Resources Edit

IGCSE Science Courses - Graham Bray is a Director of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) at a large comprehensive school in East Sussex. He initially prepared a set of video courses for a local home ed student with dyslexia who was struggling with reading textbooks. He 'teaches' the whole syllabus in a series of c15minute videos of himself talking through a set of powerpoint animated slides. He now offers 'talking papers' with model answers, lesson plans and checklists. Videos cover each of the 3 sciences and CIE and Edexcel Boards.

Pinterest board on IGCSE Chemistry compiled by one of our members.  

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