HE Exams Wiki


69pages on
this wiki
Add New Page
Comments0 Share

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.

Both English Language and English Literature are available as IGCSEs. Home Educated students usually take the options without coursework or Speaking and Listening assessments because of the difficulty in finding an exam centre prepared to do this for external candidates. For the same reasons, the current GCSE English is not a realistic option for external candidates, although some home-ed students take a part-time college course to obtain GCSE English. For more on this option, see the FAQ - college for 14-16 year olds.

New 9-1 GCSEs in English and English Literature will be first examined in 2017. In theory both will be available to external candidates as there is no longer any Controlled Assessment writing project. However, GCSE English will still involve a compulsory speaking assessment, even though this won't contribute to the final grade. Very few exam centres will do this for private candidates, so GCSE English will probably continue to be impractical for those who are not enrolled in a school or college. However, English Literature GCSE will be available to us for exams from 2017.

For college at 16-19, students who don't have GCSE English at grade C or above now have to continue studying English until they reach that level. IGCSE English meets this criteria; if you have a C at IGCSE then you do not have to continue studying English. Please see #16-19 Funding Criteria and English qualifications .

English LanguageEdit

Here is a helpful summary of English Language options, from tutor Catherine Mooney:

This is just written from my experience of the various English Language IGCSE specifications that we have (i.e. the exam-only options that don't feature coursework). I should say that they are all about 80% identical to each other so these differences I have noted in my experience of teaching them should not be regarded as deal-breakers:

Cambridge (CIE). This is a popular choice however in my experience it can be quite challenging (more so than the other specs) because SOME of the writing tasks are quite complex.

Edexcel Spec A. This is my favourite specification. It has two exams. To do this you need to be familiar with an anthology of fiction and non-fiction pieces (available online). The exam always features two pieces from the anthologies which are reprinted in full in the exam paper, so you don't have to memorise anything. This takes a huge chunk of the 'unknown' element out of the exam.

Edexcel Spec B. This is perhaps the easiest of all the specs because such a high proportion of the marks are awarded for straightforward comprehension style answers. However the grade boundaries are higher than for Spec A (so it's harder to get the C grade in other words) and at 3 hours long is it a bit of an endurance test.

AQA 8705 IGCSE (Certificate in English). This consists of two exams, which are very straightforward, however students have to do a speaking and listening component. Although this can be recorded at home, it is a bit of a hassle by all accounts.

I do hope this is helpful. I must add that this is just my own opinion from my teaching of the various specifications over the years. I am sure other people have different experiences to report - however I hope this is helpful in some way.
Catherine Mooney Tutoring

Edexcel Edit

Edexcel do two different English Language options at IGCSE - Specification A and Specification B. They also offer an Edexcel Certificate for state school pupils, which is IGCSE Specification A plus a compulsory speaking/listening element, whereas the Edexcel International GCSE (IGCSE) does not.  As it is likely to be difficult for private candidates to arrange to be tested in the speaking/listening element, most home-ed candidates using Edexcel take the IGCSE rather than the Certificate.

Specification AEdit

Edexcel IGCSE English Specification A

  • Two written papers - paper 1 is 2hr 15m, paper 2 is the 'Alternative to Coursework', 1hr 30m
  • Anthology of written material provided for preparation beforehand. This anthology is used for Edexcel IGCSE English and English Literature.
  • Specification from 2012 is current spec, with first exams in 2012.
  • Previous specification for teaching from 2009, ie exams from 2011, is virtually identical so good for practice.
  • Earlier specification is English 4355; still useful for practice for comprehension pieces, and some of the anthology pieces are the same. Past papers via Edexcel search for English 4355

From the Edexcel page on the current specification:

This specification ..covers a broad range of reading and writing.

The Edexcel Anthology for International GCSE English Language (A) and International GCSE English Literature covers the reading requirements of the course, and is for use throughout the course and in the examination.

Key subject aims:

  • To develop the ability to read, understand and respond to material from a variety of sources, recognising and appreciating themes and attitudes and the ways in which writers achieve their effects
  • To develop students' understanding of the spoken word and their ability to participate effectively in various speaking and listening activities
  • To develop students' ability to construct and convey meaning in written language, matching style to audience and purpose.
  • The Edexcel Anthology for International GCSE English Language (A) and International GCSE English Literature is provided for use throughout the course and in the examination. You can download it for free from the subject homepage.

Specification BEdit

Edexcel Specification B

One 3-hour exam, no anthology, ie no literature content.

From Edexcel's site:

This specification is based on the former GCE O level in English Language, and retains the requirement for a wide vocabulary and accuracy in the use of grammar, punctuation and spelling, while encouraging the student to acquire a range of skills through the study of lively and relevant source material.

Key subject aims:

  • To read a range of material from a variety of sources, including literary material, non-literary material and media
  • To read for a variety of purposes with understanding and enjoyment
  • To use written English for a variety of purposes, such as narration, argument, giving instruction and information, imaginative writing, making reports and demonstrating understanding of content, paying due attention to the appropriateness and quality of written expression.

English tutor Catherine Mooney says:

"Less text analysis is required (at least of a literary kind) and there is only one 3 hour exam. For students wishing avoid an anthology (Edexcel A) and some of the complexity involved in the Cambridge (CIE) IGCSE course, this could be a very workable alternative. "

Spec A or Spec B? Edit

Spec A is almost identical to the Edexcel Certificate English, which is used in state schools, with the addition of a Speaking and Listening Assessment. Spec B is based on the old O-level syllabus.

A member of the HE-Exams group asked for opinions on Spec A versus Spec B - did Spec B involve less emphasis on how writers created their effects?  What about the length of the exam papers?  Here are some of the responses (reproduced with the permission of the authors):

My daughter opted for Spec B this summer just gone. She’d already done an English Lit IGCSE which she hadn’t enjoyed. She’d enjoyed the texts themselves but really objects to having to answer essay questions in such a formulaic way. She got quite bolshy about it and it was a struggle to persuade her to do a great deal of work. She managed a C, which we were very pleased with considering!

So when it came to English language there was no way she was going to do Spec A! I don’t think it is a cop out and it’s most certainly not second best – it’s just a different style of exam. It’s actually very much like the old O-Level that I sat many years ago. There is still some consideration on the way writers create their effects but it is emphasised less and seemed, to my daughter and I, to be quite straightforward. In one past paper, for example, there is a question which asks ‘In the first three paragraphs, the writer gives an account of an activity he took part in. What did the writer feel when he was told to jump?’ and then goes on to ask ‘In your own words, describe two of the writer’s thoughts and feelings after he has jumped.’ It’s testing straightforward comprehension really.</p>

It would be useful for you to download the past papers available from the Edexcel website and go through them with your daughter. She can then see what she feels about them.

My daughter found the first section (Comprehension) and the third section (choice of three essays) the easiest. For this third section we identified which types of essay come up (descriptive, argumentative, narrative etc) and she worked out which she was best at, plus a ‘reserve’ one in case her favourite style didn’t make an appearance. She hates argumentative/discussion types (the very ones I’m best at!) so she didn’t bother practicing those. She concentrated on narrative and descriptive essays. We brushed up a few techniques she wasn’t so clear on, like paragraphs, and looked at how best to use similes, metaphors, adjectives and so on. Also how to construct your essay, how to have a beginning, middle and end. You one have one hour for each section, which isn’t long when you have to come up with a story from scratch, so we brainstormed ‘How to come up with an idea’. We used O Level papers too for more examples to try.

The middle section is ‘guided writing’ where you write an essay based on the topic of the two texts given. DD found this the most tricky to get to grips with, but practice papers and examiners reports helped us understand how to answer them.

If you’re unsure as to whether your daughter could sit for 3 hours, perhaps you could do a practice paper under exam conditions in the local library? Keep one of the past papers back so that she hasn’t seen it, use the rest to practice answering the kinds of questions that come up (use the examiners reports - they have some really useful tips about how the questions are best answered).

The other possible downside of this Spec is that it’s all unseen. You really don’t know what you’re getting, which can be nerve wracking. However, if your daughter has good English skills and ‘gets’ how to handle the questions then it can be a good choice. My daughter only practiced for a few weeks prior to the exam (she has really good English skills naturally) and came out with an A* so it was a good decision for us. I’m not sure which will be the best option for my son though who is not anywhere near as much a natural…but we have a couple of years to decide for him!<p>I hope that helps :o) J.

Another comment:

We did spec A which has the anthology questions, which I think has a couple of benefits.  Firstly, the student gets to study several examples of different kinds of writing, both fiction and non-fiction.  They get to see what good writing looks like and learn how it’s done.  This can help them learn the techniques of good writing which they can then, hopefully, incorporate into their own writing.  Secondly, it means that there is one question on each paper which they can prepare for.  The anthology questions are quite straightforward and if you study it thoroughly and do plenty of practice questions beforehand, then they should be able to handle these questions.   The down side of this, however, is that it is a lot of work, but if you have two years, then you have plenty of time.

On paper one, section A contains a previously unseen piece of non-fiction followed by four questions.  If the student has got to grips with the various writer’s techniques through study of the anthology, then this section should be quite straightforward.   If your daughter struggles with producing her own descriptive, informative or persuasive writing, and finds it hard to order her thoughts on paper in a short time frame, then spec A might be preferable because there are fewer marks assigned to these skills and more marks allocated to the questions that can be prepared for.  On the other hand, if she hates literature and prefers doing her own writing, then spec B would be preferable. Another difference to consider is the length of the exam.  Spec A has two papers:  2 ¼  hours and 1 ½ hours.  Spec B is one 3 hour paper.   Which would suit your daughter best?  Do you have a long distance to travel to the exam centre? Either way, if you are preparing for this over two years, you don’t have to commit to one or the other just yet, because there is a lot of overlap between the specs.  You could get the textbook published by Pearson : Edexcel International GCSE English Language,  work through it and see how your daughter gets on, try some past papers, and then decide. A.

From Catherine Mooney, English tutor:

I agree with everything that A has said here.  Spec A does give you an opportunity to prepare, it is true, and the  anthology pieces are reprinted in full in the exam paper (if they are  used). Spec B can be a bit of an endurance challenge with that 3 hour  paper, but a higher proportion of the marks are awarded for those very  straightforward comprehension-style questions.

I suggest you have a look at the exam papers themselves, together with  your daughter. This will make the differences very clear. Hope this is helpful! Catherine -
Return to Main_Page

CIE (Cambridge International Examinations ) IGCSE English Language Edit

Home-ed students usually take English - First Language (0500) NB: THis speciaifcation is NOT changing. It will still be available for HE candidates for the foreseeable future.

There are two options for external candidates:

  • Core route - eligible for grades C-G only - Papers 1 and 3
  • Extended route - eligible for grades A*-G - Papers 2 (Extended) and 3
The Coursework option, Paper 4, is not usually available to external candidates simply because it is difficult to find a centre willing to accommodate it.

The same goes for the Speaking and Listening components, 5 and 6. 

CIE course syllabus and past papers

From that page:

"Cambridge IGCSE First Language English is designed for learners whose first language is English. Cambridge IGCSE First Language English learners develop the ability to communicate clearly, accurately and effectively in both speech and writing. They learn how to employ a wide-ranging vocabulary, use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, and develop a personal style and an awareness of the audience being addressed. Learners are also encouraged to read widely, both for their own enjoyment and to further their awareness of the ways in which English can be used. Cambridge IGCSE First Language English also develops more general analysis and communication skills such as synthesis, inference, and the ability to order facts and present opinions effectively."

A tutor and former home educator's comments on CIE First Language English:

'Although, at first glance, this English exam might seem more difficult and complicated than either of the Edexcel options, I have found that it has aspects which make it very useful for some students.

Firstly, it offers opportunities to learn several different forms of writing, and tests reading ability too. This is a strong advantage for students who are also studying other writing-type subjects at IGCSE level or who intend to study essay subjects at A Level.

Additionally, the variety of the tasks, some short and some longer pieces of writing, over the two papers, actually is an advantage for some students with learning challenges. So far, none of my dyslexic students (those with some access arrangements in place) have failed to achieve at least a C grade. At first, this surprised me, but I believe that this is a result of there being a few different ways for them to demonstrate their best across the various tasks. If they find one particularly difficult, then it’s not too much of a problem. I’ve found that candidates on the autistic spectrum also have a good chance of doing well. The questions are usually clear and straightforward. Those who dislike writing about literature need not fret too much about it, as the question in the exam which deals with this is only 7-10 % of the marks. For stronger candidates, there is the option of the Extended Paper, which stretches them and provides the chance for the top grades. With the experience of this exam behind them, they tend to go on to do well at A Level study. - Dorothy Murphy'

Resources for CIE English Edit

This is the textbook which matches the most recent specification and is endorsed by CIE

Another possible textbook

Hodder Cambridge IGCSE English First Language Workbook 3ed by John Reynolds. There are good practice questions for all parts of the exam plus really good suggestions for tackling each section. 

Marion Cox's textbook has been recommended by several home educators, and her Teacher's Resource book is excellent: Cambridge IGCSE First Language English Teacher's Resource (Cambridge International IGCSE) by Marian Cox 

Home Ed English Yahoogroup set up for home educating parents to share ideas and resources:

AQA Certificate English (IGCSE) Edit

This is an IGCSE-style qualification which is called a "Level 1/2 Certificate" because of issues over the IGCSE title. It is OFQUAL-accredited, which means it can be used by state schools.

AQA Certificate English specification and info

  • The first examination was June 2012 so you will not find any past papers from before then.
  • Exams in Summer only each year
  • Speaking assessment is compulsory, worth 10%
  • Two x 2hr written papers

The speaking assessment for the AQA Certificate is, in theory, easier for external candidates to arrange than those offered by CIE or Edexcel. This is because the other exam boards require the exam centre to mark the speaking task itself, whereas for AQA Certificate English, the speaking assessment can be conducted by any qualified teacher (including a private tutor), is recorded on a USB stick and is submitted to AQA with the written papers for marking along with an authentification sheet signed by the supervising teacher. Therefore it is not, in theory, much additional work for the exam centre to accommodate this. In practice, the problem is likely to be getting this across to the centre as the exams officer may assume that this is like the other speaking assessments.

Return to Main_Page

Speaking Assessments Edit

OFQUAL currently insists that English Language qualifications taught in state schools contain a Speaking and Listening component, in order to attract funding and league table points.  Home-educated students cannot usually find exam centres willing to do the Speaking and Listening Assessment.  A state school can accept external candidates for a non-OFQUAL-approved qualification, and it does not obtain state funding or league table points from external candidates in any event.  Therefore home-educated students do not have to take the Speaking and Listening components.  You can take them if you wish, and if you can find an exam centre willing to accept external candidates for them - but generally people don't.  Further- and Higher-education establishments are generally just as happy with the regular IGCSE. In schools, the speaking assessment is considered an "easy win" for most students, but it is generally more trouble that it is worth to arrange for external candidates. If you do wish to take an English qualification with a speaking assessment, the one which is most accessible for external candidates is the AQA Certificate English, as the exam centre does not have to mark the speaking assessment itself. Instead, a tutor or teacher records the student's speaking assessment, and the recording is submitted to AQA with the written exam papers, on a USB stick.

English Literature Edit

Current GCSE specifications for English Literature involve coursework (Controlled Assessment), which most exam centres will not administer for private candidates. Instead, home-educated students take International GCSE English Literature.

The new 9-1 GCSEs in English Literature will be exam-only, with no controlled assessment, and so will be available to external candidates. The first exams will be in 2017.

Do you need a separate English Literature qualification? Edit

Is it necessary to do separate exams in English Language and English Literature?  What if you want to study English Literature at sixth form?

It depends. The real gatekeeper for entry to many courses and jobs is GCSE or IGCSE English Language, and the only situation where a separate English Literature qualification is likely to be important is if you wish to study English Literature at a higher level. Some A-level English courses are combined literature and language, while others are literature-only. Some colleges specify that applicants need GCSE or IGCSE English Literature. Others have been more flexible. If it's important to you child to have the option of studying English A-level then contact local colleges to find out what their requirements are.

One family's experience:

"My daughter did CIE English Language IGCSE. She got an A*.
She decided English Lit IGCSE would be too tedious and she read  and studied a range of literature of her own choice and wrote essays on short reflections on them. (internet gives plenty of ideas for essay titles..). She created a portfolio of work ready for her application to 6th form. As it was, they were not concerned to see it.. just talked to her and were quite happy to have her study AS and A2 English Lit with them. She is doing very well and is markedly better read than most of her peers!   The good grade in Eng Lang was significant....she needed a B for the 6th form in that and I think the A* was persuasive when she did not have Eng Lit too."

English Literature Specifications Edit

CIE English Literature

Edexcel International GCSE English Literature

AQA Certificate (IGCSE) in English Literature

Note that the Edexcel Certificate (as opposed to the Edexcel International GCSE) and AQA Certificate in English Literature both have a choice of exam-only or exam plus  optional coursework component, so both qualifications are available to private candidates should you prefer to take the Certificate rather than the International GCSE.

New GCSEs for exams from 2017 Edit

New GCSEs in English Literature available to external candidates include:

Pearson Edexcel GCSE English Literature from 2015

CIE English Literature IGCSE Edit

The specification most commonly taken by home-ed students is :

English - Literature (0486)

Possible textbooks for CIE Literature

By Russell Carey

By Mark Pedroz

Edexcel IGCSE English LiteratureEdit

Edexcel International GCSE English Literature

Past papers for Edexcel IGCSE / Certificate English Lit from Jan 2015

Dedicated textbooks for Edexcel IGCSE English Lit:

Edexcel IGCSE English Literature Student Book with ActiveBook CD

How many texts to study?Edit

In the spec of Edexcel English Literature 4ET0/01 there is one question to answer from the section on Drama, one from the section on prose. Within these sections there are several books to choose from, and there will be two questions per book on the paper.

It seems that online courses focus on one book from each section, which would still give a choice of two questions per section. But what if you study study two books per section, therefore giving a choice from 4 questions, not two, per section - is this too much work?

Reply from Catherine Mooney, English tutor:

This question often crops up and here's my six penn'orth! I always suggest that my students study one prose and one drama, because in the  time available you are going to be able to go into far more depth than if you were to study two. There is nothing to stop anyone studying/  reading for pleasure, of course, but for the purposes of bringing your understanding of a text up to the pitch you need for IGCSE exam, why  double the workload? There are always two questions for each text on the exam paper, so isn't as though you're not going to get a choice.

Revision is also more onerous if you study 4 texts, as is past paper practice. I also feel that in the exam situation, when you have to  choose between two texts and therefore 4 questions, it adds to the stress of the situation rather than alleviating it. It eats into time,  too, having to weigh up which of 4 questions you can best do justice to what you've learned.

When people study a text for an exam they can be put off it for life! So that's another reason to minimise what you study and spend the time you WOULD have spent studying two extra texts, actually enjoying English (going to the Globe and seeing a play, or something nice!). Reading for recreation can get forgotten in the exam hurtle!

Comment from a member of the HE-Exams group:

My daughter did Edexcel IGCSE English Lit last year. (We used Catherine Mooney’s course.)  She did most of the work in a year, and we found it plenty of work to cover one novel, one play and the poetry anthology in that space of time.    

Return to Main_Page

16-19 Funding Criteria and English qualifications Edit

This issue is now resolved as regards home-ed students who have obtained IGCSE English

New funding guidelines for state sixth forms and Further Education (FE) colleges mean that students who do not have GCSE English and Maths at Grade C or above, or a specified alternative qualification at the same level, have to attend classes in those subjects while working towards the GCSEs.  The rationale was the independent Wolf report into post-16 education, which recommended this to ensure that FE colleges continued to provide maths and English teaching to students who were not yet capable of a good pass.

The Secretary of State for Education has now confirmed that IGCSE English will meet the requirements, both now and following the introduction of new GCSEs.  Home-educated students with IGCSE English will not be expected to attend resit classes. Please see the Department for Education guidance for more details, but in brief - home educators do not need to worry about this any more.

Here is the relevant extract from the guidance:

Qualifications equivalent to GCSE grade A* to C in maths and English for the purposes of prior attainment
IGCSEs for the purpose of recognising prior attainment Level 1/Level 2 certificates, commonly known as regulated IGCSEs and unregulated IGCSEs in maths and English count as equivalent to GCSEs for the purposes of recognising prior attainment in the 16 to 19 maths and English condition of funding.

Students who hold regulated or unregulated IGCSEs in maths and English at grade A* to C will not have to continue their study of these subjects when they enter post-16 education, both now and in the future following roll out of new GCSEs from September 2015.

This letter from Nick Boles MP, then Minister for Skills and Equalities, confirms the situation; please see the Wolf Report page on edyourself for more background.


Please join the HE-Exams Yahoo! email groupfor the latest information or to discuss this further if you run into any problems with colleges who are not aware of the status of IGCSE English.

Textbooks Edit

Dedicated textbooks for Edexcel IGCSE English Language:

Edexcel IGCSE English A & B Student Book with ActiveBook CD

Dedicated textbooks for CIE IGCSE English Language: by Julia Burchell, Mike Gould, Geraldine Dunn, Steve Eddy, Keith Brindle

- lots of exercises for practice.

NEWLY AVAILABLE: Kat Patrick's revision guide based on her online crammer at Dreaming Spires Revision. The only revision guide that covers the current spec since Summer 2015. Ebook and (soon) print-on-demand paperback:

Course Providers and Other Resources Edit

Richard Marriott English Tutor

English and English Literature Tuition KS3, GCSE and A level

Head of Department and Examiner

Top Results

I offer:

·       free trial session;

·       expert knowledge and skills;

·       help with coursework;

·       examination revision;

·       sample answers to show how it’s done;

·       homework set and marked weekly;

·       weekly reports emailed to parents and tutees to help you track progress.

Why choose me?

I have taught English for over thirty years, beginning my career at RGS Newcastle. For most of that time I have been Head of Department, first at Wycombe Abbey then the Kings’ School where I was then appointed Assistant Principal with responsibility for whole school assessment. I am passionate about Literature and passionate about results. I retired from full time teaching to work freelance and am currently lecturing to schools and sixth forms and offering revision sessions. I have examined with both OCR and AQA. I have a record of excellent results, including coaching many students for Oxbridge entry and admission to top universities in this country and the USA. I am equally experienced with dyslexia and other learning difficulties.

Lessons are inspirational, enjoyable and targeted at your level.

One-to-one tuition is bound to raise your grades.

Telephone: Richard on 07812 742 164 or 01435 661321

Or email:

Catherine Mooney Tutoring - English Language and English Literature correspondence course by a home-educating parent, for CIE or Edexcel boards.  Also offers correspondence courses in essay writing for ages 8 and up.

Dreaming Spires English tutor Dr Kat Patrick is a home-ed parent and also an examiner for CIE board's IGCSE English course.  She runs online English Literature courses on a variety of themes, some historical, some aiming towards qualifications, and has a Facebook page for her students. See also in "Textbooks" above for her revision guide.

Dorothy Murphy Tutoring - a home-ed parent and qualified and experienced English teacher and former examiner for several boards, Dorothy has been running groups for home educated teens for IGCSE Language and Literature English in Oxon and Bucks for several years. This Facebook group discusses all aspects of English in the home education context. This Facebook group is for sharing resources and links related to IGCSEs in English Language and Literature.

Little Arthur - Long established course provider for a range of subjects

Return to Main_Page

Also on Fandom

Random Wiki