Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Preparation for exams

Just as we Catholic Home educators enter Hilary Term (using Oxford term names means we can have the same length terms- about 5 weeks! Ha) the exam possibilities for May/June 2013 will be looming over us.

There is a separate section on the blog which briefly discusses examinations but as this is an opportune time I thought I would write about it and also ask others to possibly comment with their own advice and support for others...

A few blog readers have made contact with me which is uplifting and interesting and one of the main questions is exams and where/how/when to take them?

Obviously as home educators one must decide, along with the child, the best age for them to sit the exams but how one goes about it can be quite a mine field, well, it certainly was for me when we started off on this journey.

The best way of doing it is to firstly find out where your child can sit the exams as without some where to take them everything else is pointless. It will be a case of ringing round a few local schools and colleges to inquire if they accept external candidates? And/or the local home education group may be able to point you in the right direction.

I cannot recommend enough the Home education Yahoo exams group;

No question is ever left unanswered on there!

A majority of home educated children take the IGCSEs namely because there is no coursework requirement but also because they are of a higher and more in depth standard.

Only some private schools and some tutorial colleges will accept external candidates to sit exams, especially IGCSEs.
No state schools will allow one to sit the IGCSEs as they do not offer them, but one can sit the GCSEs which require no course work in state schools like Maths.

So, one needs to make sure the child can sit the exam and what board the place offers- usually the boards are; CIE, Edexcel, OCR or AQA. These are the most popular boards and most frequently used.

So, in a nutshell;

*For the May/June sittings one will need to enter their children (usually) by February 2013.

* Seek a school/college/tutorial college to sit the exams at.
From personal experience it will be easier and best for the child if it is as near as possible.

* Make sure you know exactly what boards they offer and then check the syllabus and make sure it all tallies.

If, for example, your local school are using the Maths GCSE Edexcel course then you can go ahead and purchase the relevant text books and use past papers from the Edexcel site.

* Most local schools (private or state) will be far cheaper than a specialised tutorial college. This is usually because they are just charging for sitting the exam whereas these colleges can increase their prices to extortionate amounts as they know people will pay. (This may be the only option however if one wants to sit a particular exam and no where else offers it.)

Here in Oxford we are very lucky as the local home educators use a very prestigious school, St Edward's. in which to sit an array of exams and they charge only £40 per exam. If a child is taking 4+ you can imagine this can add up to a small fortune...

* Usually the exams officer of the school will advise and help and send you the appropriate forms, so contact them first.

* The timetables for the May/June exams will be available from about February on each exam board so you can check the dates. If any clash then the school will sort this out for you by keeping the child isolated. (This happened three times with Ben last year- it was tiring but he was free to walk around the grounds and eat!)

Any additional advice is most welcome and many prayers for the forthcoming exam applications!

May the most Holy Family keep our dear children ever in their Prayers!


  1. A friend of mine who is an English Teacher has mentioned that there is a move from the Govt to make sure only the Bacculaureate in English will be accecptable pretty soon.
    I sometimes laugh when I remember Ken Robinson's speach in which he says of education, "well of course we want to raise standards, why would we lower them?" Yes, why is it happening? it's so wasteful.

  2. Thank you for this!

    I wonder where your friend heard this piece of news.

    When our younger children are at exam age they probably will have scrapped them all anyway...

    The whole system is flawed- how on earth can one be assessed by a couple of exams their knowledge of a subject?! Crazy world! and such a battle for our children.