Accreditation Routes - One minute guide

Choosing a subject, syllabus and exam board

For students taking exams, such as functional skills, GCSEs, IGCSEs or Advanced Level Qualifications, we advise some careful research to familiarise with the details of the syllabus to be studied. 

We recommend that students contact examining boards directly to consider the choice of syllabus and to enquire which exam centres in the local area cover the chosen/preferred syllabus.

Find the contact details/links for the main examining bodies on our elective home education guidance page.

Where to take any exams? Exam Centres

Students will need to find an exam centre that accepts private candidates. It may be worth contacting local secondary schools / colleges to ask if they will accept private candidates. We recommend the Joint Council for Qualifications private candidates which will allow you to find an exam centre accepting GCSE and GCE (AS and A Level) candidates by entering home postcode, type of qualification and exam board.

It is up to individual schools or colleges whether they choose to accept private candidates. It is the responsibility of candidates to find a school or college for all syllabus units/components studied.

Even if schools/colleges have previously taken external candidates, it is advisable to email them directly to check that they are still happy to accommodate particular request/needs. Students will be responsible for all/any costs related to exams, including all administrative costs.

The local area Elective Home Education Advisor may be able to help you with which schools and colleges in the locality are known to take private candidates. There is no guarantee that known exam centres will offer external candidate placements year on year as circumstances change. The earlier you contact centres, the better, so that your entry can be assured (see key dates below).

What if students need help to access exams? Access arrangement

Students who have a physical and/or learning disability and who may require special arrangements to access exams (for example reader, a scribe, extra time, or modified papers, such as Braille versions), will need to discuss this with the exams officer at the chosen exam centre, when making initial enquiries.

Where the arrangements involve school/college resources, it will be entirely the decision of the school or college whether to accept an external candidate entry. Students will need to provide appropriate evidence – this is usually a report from an accredited professional, which is recent and relevant. Students will need to source and pay for any reports.

It is advisable to discuss commonly accepted evidence requirements with the chosen Awarding Body and Exam Centre. If students have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), this is one form of information that may be requested. Health/medical information and reports may also be helpful, be prepared to source/share these, if required.

What are the key dates/deadlines for taking exams?

Summer exams take place in May and June. Exam Boards offer exams at other times during the year and this will be indicated on their website. Students will need to contact chosen exam boards to check the dates when particular subjects are scheduled. It is not possible to list all dates for all exam boards on this guide as they vary considerably – Students will need to carefully check the exam timetables published on the exam websites and ensure that there are no clashes with other exams chosen.

  • November (in year before exams taken) - download an annual calendar of key dates, deadlines for entries and results dates from the AQA exam board website
  • Autumn term (November to December in the calendar year before exams taken) - ensure evidence compiled to support any access requirements – update reports from involved services as soon as possible
  • December/January - register exam entry with the exam centre students have reliably sourced (JCQ): this must be by early February at the latest as late fees will apply if students delay entry beyond February and these fees will increase if not registered by April (most organisations have an application cut-off date by Mid-April [the JCQ exam entry deadline is late April] and students will not be able to apply for summer exams after this date)
  • May/June – continue to consult with exams officer at chosen centre, sit exams
  • August – collect results: students to discuss (with chosen exam centre) the timings and protocols around exam result collection for external candidates
  • November (after exams taken) – certificates are generally available by mid-Autumn term

When and how to apply for a post 16 course or college place?

Young people in the UK must continue in some form of education or training until their 18th birthday. They should follow a study programme that supports them to prepare for adulthood and progression into work or further study.

We encourage young people to explore their future options around career choices, and continuing their education and training, from around the age of 14. It is advisable to approach local colleges during Key stage 4. (Years 9 to 11)

Some colleges offer courses for home-educated 14 to 16 year-olds and colleges can be a helpful source of information re exam entry. Students can find out about local colleges from our Elective Home Education Advisors - or by visiting college websites.

Most colleges have open days and events which home-educated young people are very welcome to attend. Your area Elective Home Education Advisor can help you with local college information, if required. The National Careers Service are a useful source of information when planning and considering future course and career options available on the National Careers advice website.

Further Readings

We recommend students refer to ‘Exams in 2022 – Everything you need to know’ for accessible, straightforward, current and reliable information on the exams landscape.

Exams Wiki for Home educators has some useful information to supplement the information provided.