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How to find a centre Edit
Check if there are any centres in your area which will accept external candidates for a particular board before you commit to a syllabus. For CIE in particular, some have to travel many miles to a centre and this may affect your choice of syllabus.
It is best to try to register with an exam centre *at least * six months before the exams are due. If your child has Special Educational Needs and you are asking fire Access Arrangements then you will need to start much earlier.
It is possible to enter much later, even up to a week before the exam, but exam board fees rise sharply for late entries, and you risk not being able to find a convenient exam centre. The fee you will have to pay comprises the exam board entry fee (currently about £28.50 for GCSEs and £38.50 for Edexcel IGCSEs, £48 for CIE IGCSEs for 2015 ) plus an administration fee for the exam centre, to reimburse them for the inconvenience. The admin fee varies hugely, from around £25 at some centres to over £150 at others.
Check the list of exam centres which have been used by home educators. People don't always add their exam centres to the list so neither is a complete list of home-ed-friendly centres, but it's a good start. It is also worth asking on the HE-Exams group in case anyone knows of another centre in your area which has not yet been added to these lists.
If these approaches do not bear fruit, you will have to put in some legwork. First of all, please read up on FAQs from Exams Officers. Being well-prepared can make all the difference between being rejected out of hand, or being accepted. Check the lists of centres available to private candidates on the exam board sites. Now, just because a school appears on that list it doesn't mean that they will accept private candidates generally - it can just mean that they have in the past, or may have allowed a current student to take an extra qualification. It does mean, however, that it is worth asking. It is also worth asking local schools even if they are not listed as having taken private candidates before. Often people find that independent schools are more willing to accept private candidates.
If you're aiming for Edexcel IGCSEs then the school does not need to be one which offers IGCSEs to its own students in order to take private candidates. If the school is registered with Edexcel for GCSEs then they can accept candidates for IGCSEs too. They just put in the exam code in their online entry system. It is possible that the school might not be aware of this but you can ask them to contact Edexcel, who will confirm it for them.
If the school does not have any other students sitting the same IGCSE as you want to sit, they may have candidates sitting another exam at the same time, eg a GCSE in another subject. In that case, the private candidate can usually sit in the same room and share an invigilator. If the exam centre does not have anybody else taking an exam on that day then you would normally be asked to pay for an invigilator (or can offer to do so if they just look lost and say "But nobody else is sitting one that day..."). Sometimes home educators have provided an invigilator from their group to do this, and one enterprising group of parents volunteered to be regular invigilators for the school's own exams. Schools often struggle to find reliable invigilators during exam season, so this is one way to develop a good relationship with the exam centre.
It can take some legwork and speaking to quite a few schools to track down a centre, but people generally do find somewhere.... very occasionally people have travelled and stayed near the centre for the exam period, but this is rare.
Exam centres are under no obligation to accept private candidates; it creates extra work for them and may involve some disruption to their schedule or difficulties for the school. They are entitled to charge an admin fee which compensates for this to some degree, and that fee varies hugely - from £15 per subject at some schools to over £150 at others.
Independent Schools and Colleges Edit
One parent comments:
Often, independent schools and colleges are your best bet for finding an exam centre near you. When I was looking in the South West, I emailed every independent secondary school within an 80 mile radius! Of these, about five responded positively. The website for the Independent Schools Council lists every independent school by area.
You can find a list of some independent schools which offer IGCSEs on the Schools_using_IGCSEs page.
Private Exam Centres Edit
Private, or Independent, exam centres are businesses which specialise in organising exams for external candidates. They are not schools, but are often tutorial colleges offering intensive or after-school tuition. The premises are often small and you are likely to sit exams with a small number of other candidates, so they are ideal for students who are school phobic.
Usually the cost of taking an IGCSE at a commercial centre is more than £125 per subject, but fees vary widely. At some centres it is over £200. Because exam candidates are their core business, private exam centres are often prepared to take on candidates which other centres turn away - eg modern foreign language orals, GCSE English speaking tests, and A-level science practicals, Access Arrangements.
Private exam centres have to go through the same accreditation process that schools go through to become an exam centre: materials must be securely stored in a safe inside a special secure room, and exams must be conducted under regulation exam conditions. Some private exam centres are very efficient, while others may struggle with organisational matters because they don't have enough staff. As usual, it pays to ask around the home-ed community and see if one of these centres will suit your needs.
Some examples of private exam centres in our listings: 3A Tutors in Bristol, Campbell Harris in Kensington, Pascal's College in Beckenham, Tutors & Exams in Coventry. There are others - the exam centre listings state if it is a tutorial college or private exam centre, as opposed to a school.
Dealing with Exam Centres Edit
Please be aware that home-ed candidates and their parents may be seen as representatives of the whole home-ed community, and we need to be professional in our dealings with exam officers. Any dispute could lead to that centre refusing to take any more private candidates, so please think carefully before proceeding.
Exam Officers' FAQs - questions an exam centre may ask about taking external candidates, and answers. Essential reading if you are approaching a new exam centre.
Making_entries_and_sitting_exams - for the next step after finding your exam centre.
Finding an exam centre case study: Mea was initially rejected by 10 schools when she asked whether her daughter could sit exams as an external candidate. She tried again with a further 20 schools, giving more information, and had a very positive response. Her experience, together with sample letter, is here.
- Edexcel: information for private candidates and Registering and paying as a private candidate. Note that you should try centres which are listed for GCSEs as well as IGCSEs as, currently, any school registered as an Edexcel GCSE exam centre can also accept candidates for IGCSE.
- CIE: information for private candidates, and 'Find a Centre' search function. Note that you may need to search by multiple towns, eg 'Kent' does not bring up the results for schools in each town in Kent. You need to go through and select each town you might possibly be able to reach from the drop-down list.
Please note that the lists of centres are often inaccurate. This isn't their fault - they ask schools to notify them of changes, but schools don't always remember to do so. A school's policy on accepting external candidates can vary from year to year as it usually requires a community-minded Head , and an Exams Officer who is prepared to put in extra work. People often resort to phoning round all the schools and colleges in their area to find out if they will take external candidates.
The Oxford Open Learning site has a list of all the schools on their books that have accepted private candidates to sit GCSEs in the past.
List of Exam Centres accepting External Candidates Edit
These exam centres have either taken external candidates in the recent past, or have indicated that they would consider it.
Please feel free to add or edit information - we rely on the home-ed community to keep this up to date. It's easiest to edit if you create a Wikia account first, but you could also just leave a comment below and we'll add any centres mentioned to the main list.
- East of England
- London and South-East England
- Northern England
- South-West England - Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, Gloucestershire.
Wales exam centres - separate page.
Wallace College offer all boards at £105 per GCSE/IGCSE subject and language oral exams an extra £90 .
Basil Patterson College offer Edexcel & AQA GCSE/IGCSE.
Fettes College can accommodate some exam takers. It's also worth contacting the exam officers at Merchiston Castle School and St Leonards in St Andrews. All these schools offer GCSEs, which may now be difficult to take as an independent candidate. Fettes also offers some IGCSEs.
Albyn School. Only offers summer series each year. Cannot accommodates practical exams but offers speaking tests in French, German, Spanish and Chinese Mandarin. Boards offered are Edexcel, CIE, OCR, AQA, SQA and from 2017 WJEC.
Northern Ireland and Eire Edit
Craigavon - Brownlow College - Kieran McKernan, Examinations Officer - tel 028 3834 2121, firstname.lastname@example.org. He needs to hear in January for summer entries. He won't help with listening/practical exams, except perhaps Art. They do Edexcel and CCEA (and maybe others but not CIE)
Newtownabbey: The Free Presbyterian School will accept home-educated children. It is a CCEA centre and is currently applying to be an Edexcel centre for IGCSEs.
Belfast - Conway Education Centre Although the website says that they don't help with listening/practical exams, in fact they do. Can provide for any exam board and any exam you want, so far we have only used Edexcel for IGCSE English Lang and Geography. Contact name for them is Brenda.
Dublin - The Tutorial Centre At the moment, as far as I know, you have to go to Dublin to do IGCSEs. Please update this if you know otherwise.
This site has been put together by people on the HE-Exams Yahoogroup which discusses the practicalities of gaining formal qualifications as a home-educated young person.
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