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Finding an exam centre - HE Examinations

Finding an exam centre

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This site has been put together by people on the HE-Exams Yahoogroup that discusses the practicalities of gaining formal qualifications as a home-educated young person. Return to Main_Page.


How to find a centre

It is best to try to register with an exam centre around six months before the exams are due. 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 around £35 for IGCSEs) 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 (below) on this Wiki for exam centres which have been used by home educators, and also the HE-Exams Yahoogroup exam centre database. 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.

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.

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.

Case Study: Finding an Exam Centre

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:

This past 2 weeks I have received SIX positive replies to my letters offering to accept my daughter for her exams, with quotes ranging from £37.50 to £75 per exam, all so reasonable, helpful and local.

My daughter is taking some exams this June and some more next June. The only places I had been advised of, after asking my local home-ed groups, were all approx £150 to £175 per exam and they were not local enough for me when you add on the price of petrol or trains.

I initially wrote 10 letters to local schools that I had heard had previously accepted private candidates or that I had seen on current and old lists. I addressed the letters to the Exam Officer and I got 10 negative replies.

This time I addressed 20 letters to the Head (find the name on the website). I included a longer, personal letter about our reasons for Home Ed, what my daughter was studying, what she hoped to achieve, a timetable of the exams she wanted to take this year which included, subject, board, spec code, exam code, date, am/pm and duration of exam. Also a table of the exams for next year which included, subject, board, spec code and how many papers. I fully explained that all exams were only written and needed no coursework. I gave the extortionate quotes as above and stated that these were too expensive and too far away and it would limit the amount of exams my daughter would be able to take if we had to pay these prices. I appealed to their kindness in helping my daughter achieve her goals. I said I appreciated that this would be a big commitment on their part and that I fully understood that their own students must come first. I explained that my daughter would be well behaved and quiet. I gave my address, email and phone number. I also included the FAQ for exam officers and I think it made a big difference.

All in with the printing of the letters and FAQ and 20 1st class stamps it cost just under £20 and I have had a 25% success rate and will save hundreds of pounds in fees.

I really can't believe the difference from the first 10 letters all "no"s, to the last 20 letters and such a great response. I really can't stress enough that addressing the letters to the Head of School (by name) made a big difference, even though it was the exam officers who got in touch with me; 4 out of the 6 said that they had had a discussion with the Head and decided to allow my daughter to sit. Also 3 out of the 6 said that the FAQ was very useful and the school we are now using this year said that she didn't realise how easy it was to register for CIE and that she will now have that in place for us for next year. Even though I registered with the first school that offered, as I had no idea so many would respond positively, I personally thanked all the other schools and they said they were happy we had found a place and that they would be happy to let her sit next year if we needed them.


Exam Boards

OCR Guidance for Private Candidates

Please note that the lists of centres are often inaccurate. People often resort to phoning round all the schools and colleges in their area to find out if they will take external candidates.

Independent Schools and Colleges

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.

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


South West


Exam Centres Accepting Private Candidates for GCSE, IGCSE and A Level Please feel free to add new information or fix incorrect information.

  • Bristol - 3A Tutors

Can accommodate all boards and all subjects including orals and practicals. They charge a lot more for exams than the schools do. 1A High Street, Staple Hill, Bristol, Avon BS16 5HA 0117 910 9931 http://www.3at.org.uk/info.php?p=2

  • Bristol - St Katherines

Near J19 of M5

  • Bath - Monkton Combe School

The exams officer is Gill Newnham, who is very supportive of home educators and is really helpful. Church Lane Monkton Combe, Bath, Avon BA2 7HG 01225 721 102, contact Gill on newnhamg@monkton.org.uk
Monkton Combe School website

  • Cornwall

Truro High School for Girls. Contact Jean Rice on JRice@trurohigh.co.uk

  • Devon - The Small School, Hartland (North Devon)

The school is registered with AQA, EDEXCEL, OCR, Cambridge International and WJEC, and is able to offer examinations at GCSE, iGCSE, and both AS and A2 at GCE contact Paul Wilkinson (Exams Officer) by e mail smallschoolexams@yahoo.co.uk, or telephone 01237 441 672

  • Exeter - The Maynard School, Exeter

All boards, all subjects except practicals http://www.maynard.co.uk/

  • Gloucester - Brockworth Enterprise School

The exam officer is Phil Vaughan. They do at least ICT IGCSE (including practical) Mill Lane Gloucester GL3 4QF 01452 863 372 www.bes.gloucs.sch.uk

  • Gloucester - Mill brook Academy

Do at least IGCSEs

  • Ilfracombe - Ilfracombe Arts College

Edexcel and CIE IGCSEs at cost. Ilfracombe Arts College, North Devon EX34 9JB Tel. +44 (0)1271 863427 Contact Margaret Holman <mholman@ilfracombecollege.devon.sch.uk>

  • Ilfracombe - Ilfracombe School

Charge for the paper and £10 admin for the year.

  • North Somerset - Sidcot School, Winscombe BS25 1PD

IGCSEs http://www.sidcot.org.uk/contact/ Apparently no longer taking private candidates.

Taunton - Richard Huish College

South Molton - West Buckland School Only charge for the paper (£36 per subject)



Faregos Home Education group has established its own exam centre in Fareham, Hampshire.

Contact Diane Dyer on exams@faregos.org

Wessex Tutors is an examination centre for AQA, Edexcel, OCR, WJEC and IGCSE. IGCSE costs £150 PER SUBJECT Wessex Tutors will accept private/external candidates for most of the following examinations: AQA - GCSE and A level, Edexcel - GCSE/IGCSE and A level OCR - GCSE and A level. We accept private candidates for Edexcel A level modern language orals. We cannot accept private candidates for science practical exams.


  • Wareham - Purbeck School

Edexcel GCSE and IGCSE but not CIE Mark Taylor - MTaylor@purbeck.dorset.sch.uk Costs about £50 per exam, including invigilation.

  • Wimborne , East Dorset - Queen Elizabeth School

Accept external candidates for some exams.

South East


Campbell Harris - a private tutorial college and independent exam centre in W6. Written exams, any board. Speaking and Listening assessments for IGCSE languages. Also offers courses and practical assessment for A-level sciences. Has been used by many home-educating families over the years and is highly recommended. Current costs (2014) are £125 per IGCSE including exam board fee, and £225 for IGCSE languages including Speaking and Listening tests.

Duff Miller Private tutorial college in South Kensington SW7.

David Game college W11. Written exams only - see Private Candidates

North London - Vale Farm Learning Hub, Vale Farm Sports Centre, Watford Road, Wembley HAO 3HG

Tel: 0208 908 123

"My son is doing his IGCSEs there now and we are very happy with it and they are not as expensive as some of the private colleges in central and north london (£110 per exam) The room they use is a decent size and plenty of desk space. The Learning Hub is within the sports centre."

Pascal's College Beckenham, BR3 (South London)- all boards, IGCSEs and GCSEs including Controlled Assessments and language Speaking and Listening Tests, A-level science practicals, GCSE science practicals, and half-day science practical courses. Charges £75 per written paper (including exam board fees) and £150 per GCSE controlled assessment.

Corelli College in Kidbrooke, SE3. Written exams only, usually works out at about £75 per IGCSE.

Nightingale Centre, Orpington, BR6 - £75 per GCSE (whole exam) and £100 per IGCSE. Pupil Referral Service so may be able to assist with special needs and access arrangements. Very quiet and calm - small exam room. Welcome to come and look round the centre before registering (or after) so that it seems familiar.

Wimbledon - Southfields Academy SW18 5JU - formerly Southfields Community College

Hendon - Brookes College info@londonbrookescollege.co.uk http://www.londonbrookescollege.co.uk/ourexaminationcentre Edexcel centre Charges £140 per subject

Sydenham School, Lewisham - no current information.


  • Brighton & Hove - Steiner School

Some people have taken AQA Modular Maths GCSEs there as external candidates Contact details: http://www.brightonsteinerschool.org.uk/contact.html

  • Shoreham-by-Sea - Lancing College

They cover all the examining bodies. Cost £70 per IGCSE subject in 2011 £60 for both papers in English language with CIE. Contact Pat King, exams officer: pbking@lancing.org.uk

In Newhaven, East Sussex, Tideway School 01273 517601. Exams officer, Fran Mortimer is very helpful.

  • Crowborough - Beacon Community College

They are signed up with Edexcel and CIE but say that Edexcel is easier for them.

  • Brighton - Lancing College

At least IGCSEs Pat King - exams@lancing.org.uk

  • Epsom - Cornerstones

01372 742940


(See also London for Bromley/ SE London centres)

  • Gillingham - Mid Kent College

They charge £80 per IGCSE/GCSE.

  • Maidstone - Mid Kent College

They charge £80 per IGCSE/GCSE.

  • Tonbridge - Hayesbrook School

Do science, carrying out the controlled assessment exam at their centre too. Contact Barbara Dunn

  • Sidcup - Bexley Adult Education College

Offer a range of GCSEs for HE students 14+ Also run classes to allow you to achieve the controlled assessment component of some subjects (£8/hour) http://www.adultedbexley.co.uk/SubjectHomeEd1.html

  • Canterbury

Edexcel, CIE , and AQA. They are also registered to take A level candidates. The fee for sitting the exams is £65 for all GCSE IGCSE levels and £125 for A levels. Please send all enquiries to: lisapowyc@aol.com

  • Faversham - Queen Elizabeth Grammar School

IGCSEs (including ICT practical)


St Edwards School in Summertown, Oxford, will provide IGCSE exam sittings for external candidates. It's the cheapest centre in the area, and the one most local home-edders use. Cost around £55 per subject plus £10 per exam session (i.e. £10 for all exams done in a summer sitting). They can do Edexcel and CIE. The exam centre will do their best cater for access requirements if you have the appropriate evidence.

Exams officer David Moore is very friendly, relaxed, and used to home-ed families.

  • Oxford - Greene's Tutorial College

Expensive, but very good service.

  • Banbury - Chenderit School

The exams officer is Mrs Sue Henn At least English Lang and Lit, History and Biology (IGCSE). Exam fee, about £35 plus a £15 admin charge. The £15 is not per exam, just per booking.

Hertfordshire / Bucks

  • St Albans


The venue is small and the kids felt comfortable; if you have a child who has school related issues they should be comfortable here. Will accommodate most boards and papers. Local home-educators have been using this exam centre for many years. Some really like it and recommend it and others have had bad experiences, such as lack of information and even being entered for the wrong exam or given the wrong exam paper. As with any exam centre, you need to double-check all entry details, and ensure your child knows to ask for help if they think there is a mix-up on the day.

East Anglia


Norwich Hellesdon High School are very accommodating and have the nicest and most helpful exam officer.


All boards. Efficient. £125 per summer I/GCSE, £135 winter (lower numbers so invigilation costs higher). http://www.hrsfc.ac.uk/privateCandidates.aspx


  • Ely - The Kings School

They say they will try to accommodate any requests, we've sat exams from CIE and OCR so far.


  • Shropshire

We phoned the LA and, although they tried incredibly hard to refer us back to Edexcel, when it became clear that I was happy to stay on the phone all day insisting that Edexcel had referred us to the LA they gave a huge sigh and passed me onto Family Services, who were very sympathetic and passed me onto the Schools Effectiveness Unit, who were extremely sympathetic and phoned schools in the area, until they found an exam officer who would help. As it turns out, we cannot sit Edexcel exams at this school as they are not a registered centre – but we are sitting two AQA GCSEs there. Meantime, we discovered a local private school who are an IGCSE centre who are happy for us to sit the IGCSEs there. Both schools will be charging at cost – we have been given the ball park figure of no more than £60 per exam.

  • Warwick - Warwick School

No longer taking external candidates

  • Leicester - Regent College

Take a look on their site to see which boards and exams they offer. Contact Exams Officer - Jo Cost is £30 per exam (no matter how many papers) for the first exam and £28 for subsequent exams

  • Lincoln - Lincoln Priory


  • Mansfield - Queen Elizabeth School


  • Dronfield - North Star UK


North West

  • Manchester - Tuition College

Edexcel and AQA

  • Chorley - Jay-Em Dance Studios - can do aqa/edexcel and are really friendly (and small!) contact through www.jayemstudio.com
  • Ormskirk - Ormskirk School

Contact Jane Covey

  • Fleetwood - Rossall School

Mr Asher 01253 774258) there was very helpful. They do a non coursework English exam there. Also do O levels.

  • Blackpool - Arnold School

Contact Dr Treharne

  • Oldham - Hulme Grammar School

OCR, Edexcel, AQA for GCSE and Edexcel for IGCSE. Do not do CIE. They do not offer any exams to private candidates with coursework, practicals or oral components. Enrolment charge of £75 for firs exam plus £25 per additional exam. Also approx £30 exam board fee per exam. Martha.Hulme@ohgs.co.uk

  • Manchester - Cheadle Hulme

No longer take private candidates.

  • Liverpool - Clarendon College Montessori School


  • Wirrall - Birkenhead 6th form college

They offer lots of different exam boards (but not CIE IGCSEs), and recommended that we use Edexcel IGCSEs. Subjects include English, Maths, Chemistry , Biology and History They charge around £50 per subject plus an administration fee of £50 per session. Contact Elaine Christian

Their fees are on their web site. Allows private candidates to sit GCSE practical and science exams, and language Speaking Assessments.

  • Manchester - Flixton Girls School

Any board, any exam. £10/hour invigilation plus cost of papers. Contact Sue Massey.

  • Manchester - The Woodsend Centre

IGCSEs (edexcel) and they do AQA GCSEs and A levels as well though not sure about Cambridge. A medical Pupil Referral Unit. Very small unit so not too much like a school. Contact Judy Cuppello. The cost was about £80 per subject. This includes an invigilation fee and you could be in a room on your own. Exam fee plus £20 plus £12 invigilation per paper.

  • Manchester - Trinity High School

Will take external candidates but only for examinations that they sit, so we did AQA maths AS there (C1 C2 and MS1B) but they don't do A2. They do Edexcel GCSE maths. They only charged us £65 for all three AS maths exam units last year.

  • Penrith - Ullswater Community College

Very helpful. Take external candidates.

North East

  • Halifax - Rastrick Independant School

IGCSE £120 in total for a three paper physics exam

  • Skipton - Craven College

Online courses in Biology, French, German, Italian, Physics, Maths, English

  • Sheffield - Hillsborough College

Do at least Maths GCSE

  • Sheffield - Sheffield College

Offer an online GCSE in English with WJEC Available to ages 14 and over http://www.online.sheffcol.ac.uk/index.cfm?pid=0e7fdfcc-7ef3-409c-ad03-9e68cda5b1b9

  • East Yorkshire - Pocklington School

At least Edexcel and CIE


South Wales

  • Monmouth - Home Ed Partners

GCSEs, with controlled assessments, and IGCSEs Edexcel and WJEC. Waiting to hear if they can use AQA http://www.homeedpartners.co.uk Rosemary, who runs it, is very pro-HE and will look at all sorts of ideas to see if they can be accommodated. The plan is to add things like ECDL and BETECs if it can be done. Courses to lead up to exams are run for regular attenders and distance learners. Candidates can be entered as internal rather than external but would mean they would need to attend some study sessions and not be registered at another centre. This does, however, open up the chance of GCSEs which are not normally available to private candidates e.g. Food Tech and Child Development.

Central Wales

  • Newtown - Coleg Powys

Do IGCSEs at least. Very accommodating. http://www.coleg-powys.ac.uk/

North Wales

  • Moreton School, The Howells in Denbigh and Ellesmere College don't take external candidates.
  • Oswestry - Oswestry School

Do at least Edxecel IGCSEs

  • Conway - Conway Education Centre

Do at least IGCSE Eng Lang spec A

Northern Ireland and Eire

  • Craigavon - Brownlow College

Kieran McKernan, Examinations Officer Brownlow Integrated College Tullygally Road Craigavon Co. Armagh BT65 5BS 028 3834 2121 kmckernan636@brownlowcollege.craigavon.ni.sch.uk

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

http://www.conwayeducation.com/?page_id=488 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: At the moment, as far as I know, you have to go to the tutorial centre in Dublin to do IGCSEs. Please update this if you know otherwise.


Fettes College, in Edinburgh, 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.

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