Firstly I’d like to say that exams are mostly not compulsory nor really necessary, there are many ways to do life and the regular school system is just one of them. Should the child (or parent) feel they need paper qualifications similar to regular school leavers, there are ways. So how do homeschooled kids sit exams? Here are a few different ways, some global, some country-specific.
As you can see from the information below, just about anyone can sit exams, any time they like. I never saw any need to push my homeschooled children to sit exams, but they did decide to take them, and they passed with great grades.
Sitting exams was just another life experience for them. Something else in which we could fully support them, practically, financially, emotionally and through continuing to be their educational facilitator as needed. They benefited from the experience, but sitting exams can be hugely expensive. Exam entry fees are high, it cost us thousands of dollars to sit exams as a homeschooled child.
But I wasn’t paying private school fees from 4 to 18, so I think we won there!
I hope that after reading some of the information below the general public will stop stressing about exams and realise that life can be lived – your way.
How do we homeschool? We’re eclectic, relaxed, unschooling, worldschooling, wildschooling, homeschoolers. If that’s even a thing.
We use homeschool workbooks sometimes, we read national curriculums but have never bought a boxed curriculum, we believe that travel is education (see #traveliseducation on Instagram ) and we have used online learning resources and courses, but never distance ed.
We dabble with project-based unschooling and find what works for our kids. For their highschool exams we used on online school and because of exam cancellations they sat exams online. It is not usually possible to sit exams online.
This post is not a complete guide, other pathways exist.
Table of Contents
How do Homeschooled Kids Sit Exams ?
School Kids in the UK sit GCSE exams around 16 years old (I sat mine at 14 and 15 – not bragging, just illustrating that it’s flexible). This is not compulsory and, in fact, many adults sit GCSE exams.
You can usually gain more paper qualifications at any time, for fun or as needed.
It’s pretty easy to do this, you just register, pay your money and sit the exam a year or two later – is the usual scenario. The Scottish Higher is a GCSE equivalent. GCSEs normally cover a broad spectrum of subjects but students do have some choice in which to take.
In the UK A levels and AS levels are usually taken at 18 years old. I took mine at 17 and went to university at 17. Homeschooled kids can sit A level exams. Students can enter as independent candidates at many exam centres. A-level courses are also available through online schools.
If I were to fully home school A levels, I would look into the curriculum, purchase the relevant textbooks and just dive in with my child. Older kids sitting A levels should be motivated enough to not need much guidance. We find tutors useful sometimes. To find tutors we use Outschool.
These ages for taking exams are not set in stone. Again, adults can sit them easily. School students normally sit a small handful of A-level exams selected to suit ability and future career predictions. I took Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.
Certain A levels may be required for certain university courses.
Other exams exist in the UK that can create a diverse portfolio of formally recognised qualifications. Some are vocational. Find more information on qualification types in the UK here.
GCSEs and A levels are the usual stepping-stones for the mass of school leavers heading into tertiary education. Alternate entry pathways do exist and homeschooled kids have been admitted to universities globally based on non standard systems. As for mature students, alternate entry pathways exist.
For instance, here is the mature student entry information for Oxford University. Note that factors other than paper qualifications can be taken into account .
I find the US education system baffling, but I found this report on Khan Academy regarding US college applications for homeschooled candidates. It even tells how to put together a report and transcript and states a commonly shared fact – colleges like homeschooled students – “many admissions offices actively seek out homeschoolers. “
On this site, we interview homeschooling families all over the world to see what homeschooling looks like in many locations. If you’re looking for US-based homeschoolers, try our contributor from Houston Texas.
The Australian education system is different from the British, very different. You can see the structure of the recognised levels here. O levels (GCSEs) and A levels aren’t a thing in Australia, instead, school students sit for a Senior Secondary Certificate of Education.
The standard abbreviation for this qualification varies by state, it can be a HSC ( New South Wales) , VCE (Victoria), QCE (Queensland), etc. It is considered to be semi-equivalent to British A level or American Advanced Placement. In some states adults can study for a SSCE ( source)
Each student receives an overal score, there is no specialised study of particular subjects as in the UK’s A levels. This points-based score, the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is what’s used as the main criterion in university admission.
If a student has exam passes from another country, for instance, British GCSEs or A Levels, these can normally be converted into an ATAR score in Australia.
Queensland has its own ranking system called Overall Position (OP). Atar will replace OP from 2020. Please double-check all this for yourself using the links provided, I’m no expert on the Australian educational system.
Australian homeschoolers have and do, gain entrance to courses of their choice at universities as well as at TAFE or other colleges. Homeschooled students can also enroll in Open Learning University subjects. (source)
Homeschooled kids can complete year 11 and/or 12 to generate an SSCE and ATAR score either at school, through distance education, through TAFE, or private college.
Another option is to take courses through My Skills Australia. Some of these are government subsidised for school and homeschool kids. The standard non-subsidised fee is around $2-3000 Au per course.
Through these courses students can build points acceptable to Australian universities. On the website above look under school-based apprenticeships and search for Cert I, II, III and IV courses available by area.
It may be possible to contact university admissions or Faculty direct with a portfolio and negotiate unique entry requirements for that child.
Students can enroll in Open University in Australia (from just 11+) to work toward a degree or accumulate bridging subjects. There really are many ways to do education.
International – Global – Worldwide Exams
Certain examinations and exam boards are recognised and available globally. British GCSEs , in the form of iGCSEs are one such exam.
iGCSE homeschooling was very straightforward with each iGCSE subject covering a very small amount of content. Exam skills are important, kids do need to learn how to pass iGCSE exams. It’s not just about knowing the content. I probably couldn’t have home schooled the iGCSE exam skills as I didn’t know them myself. Things have changed since I passed my exams.
That said, the content was straightforward and the kids could easily cover all content in a year or two, maybe less. The iGCSE exams we took required no practical laboratory work, previous assessed work, nor projects. The grade is (usually) simply based on the final iGCSE exams.
Students need to find an accredited examination centre in which to sit the exam . Pearson Edexcel exams are one example of an iGCSE provider (see below). Many exam centres,m all over the world take independent candidates. Homeschoolers are usually independent exam candidates.
Online schools exist, these are normally fee paying, are pretty expensive and some, like Net School, have their own examination centres.
Online schools are growing in popularity for many reasons, but are basically, school at home. I’ll collect some examples below.
- Net School– UK
Pearson Edexcel International GCSEs ( and other courses)
Open Study College GCSEs, A levels ( and other courses)
Open Universities Australia
I’ve been told that students can enroll from 11 years old in OU Australia, but I can’t find this information on their website as yet.
Open University UK
From what I can see, OU takes students from 13 years of age. There are free courses (below) along with paid courses leading to certificates, diplomas, and various degrees.
Free Open Learn Courses UK
Why Take a Free Open Learn Course
Let the Open University explain that for you here. Hint : There is a free 3 hour course on readyness to study online. It comes with a free certificate of completion. You can also complete quizzes on readyness for particular courses.
I started building this post because I wanted to know what further study, or any study, options were available for my own homeschooled kids. It’s a work in progress and as I find further possibilities I will add them and flesh this post out further.
My own son has already taken a few free, non-accredited open university courses from Australian and UK providers before moving on to iGCSEs through an online school. We’re very happy with this choice.
To save this post to Pinterest to easily reference it later ( I will be adding more information) use the Pinterest image below.
I’d known for years that alternate entry pathways existed and that a school-based education was in no way essential for university admission but when I started really researching, the number of options blew me away. Life is full of possibilities and it does seem that online schooling is gaining ground fast. This is exciting news, bringing huge advantages and freedoms for kids and families. So if you’re worried that your homeschooled child won’t be able to get into university or college – just start reading some of the resources above. As always, educate yourself, don’t believe the hype.