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Taking An Extra GCSE Outside Of School: Everything Private Candidates Need to Know

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Did you know you can take a GCSE independently of a school set-up? Did you know you can take them at any age, at any time at an exam centre of your choosing? Did you know private candidates don’t have to be home-schooled? And did you know that you can take GCSEs in subjects such as Astronomy, Film or Bengali? Maybe you already knew this but don’t know where to start? Fear not! We’ve gathered everything you need to know in one place.

Student taking a GCSE outside of the classroom

The typical amount of GCSEs

Most students take between 5 to 9 GCSEs at the end of Year 11 having studied for 2-3 years. The “core subjects” of English Language, Maths and Sciences will be compulsory, and schools may have their own mandatory subject “blocks” such as humanities and modern foreign languages. Most Sixth form colleges, apprenticeships and employers will require at least 5 passes at grade 9 – 5.

Why should I take a GCSE privately?

There are a number of reasons why taking a GCSE privately could be the right choice for you:

  • The school doesn’t offer your preferred subject, can’t justify running the course due to lack of interest or it doesn’t fit with the logistics of your timetable.

  • You are bilingual and you want to have this recognised with a formal qualification.

  • You are an adult wanting to retake or upskill, broaden horizons in terms of employment or higher education or simply embrace a new challenge.

Whatever your reason for choosing the private route, it needn’t be a daunting experience. It is more straight-forward than you think.

Learner considering private GCSE entry

What subject is right for me?

If you are going to the effort of gaining an extra qualification then make sure it is a subject you won’t begrudge spending time studying. Choose something that

  • you are passionate about

  • you are likely to excel at and/or

  • you’re already knowledgeable about

Make sure you do your research. Read the exam specifications thoroughly to get a sense of the topics covered. Find vlogs or blogs where others share their experiences of the course.

Be realistic. You also have to consider that subjects like Design Technology, Drama or Engineering might not be feasible on your own and without specialist resources. But there is a huge selection of GCSE subjects out there. . We’ve gathered together just some of subjects that less commonly available at schools and colleges to inspire you.

Do I have to teach myself?

Going it alone completely isn’t advisable to anyone other than experienced adult learners with access to learning and revision resources. But the level of outside tuition and support is very much down to maturity, experience and pre-existing knowledge. If you want guidance and tuition every step of the way, there are online course providers to take you through the content. If you’ve decided to take a language which you already speak in your household, you may only need some outside guidance about the structure of course and the workings of the mark scheme. A flexible option is tutoring. Depending on your needs and your budget, Titanium Tutors have highly experienced and qualified tutors for a vast range of subjects

When do I take my exam?

Each exam board sets their exam dates and these predominately take place in May/June. You can find the correct dates and times for your chosen exam board and subject under the key dates section of AQA , Pearson, Eduqas and OCR

You need to consider what else will be going on in your life during that period. For example, a student in Year 9 or 10 will have more time and breathing space than a Year 11 who will be taking all their GCSEs across that period. If you are an adult learner, try to forecast work or family commitments and plan ahead accordingly.

Where do I take my GCSE as a private candidate?

As soon as you find out the date of your exam, you need to book a space at a local exam centre promptly so as not to miss out. It is strongly recommended you book at least six months in advance.

You can find your nearest private exam centre or you can search for public centres that offer your exam. These are schools or colleges you can contact directly. AQA and Pearson allow you to search centres by region. OCR directs you check the Joint Council of Qualifications. Eduqas advises you contact your Local Education Authority.

What do I need to book my exam?

You will need to provide the following information:

  • Your full name

  • Your date of birth

  • Your address and contact details

  • Your Unique Candidate Identifier (You can find this on the statement of results of exams you’ve previously taken or, if this is your first exam, check with your school’s Exams Officer)

  • The exam code for the paper/(s) you will be taking. (Take care to check this is correct!)

There are fees for sitting a GCSE exam privately which will be payable at the time of booking. Be prepared to pay on average £100 or more for a single exam. However, prices can vary do consider this is you have several centres to choose from. The fee is non-refundable so this is all the more reason to ensure you have the correct date in permanent ink on your calendar!

What do I need with me for my exam?

You will need

  • a valid photo ID e.g. a passport

  • black ink pens

  • pencils

  • erasers

  • a clear, transparent pencil case or bag.

Check with exam centres and exam boards for a list of what you need. You may need subject-specific equipment such as a calculator or a protractor. Choosing to take GCSE independently should be an enjoyably challenging and enriching experience. Should you decide to go for it, we wish you the best of luck. And remember – we're here if you need us!


Blog Post Crafted by Jenny

Jenny is a Deputy Company Manager, co-managing our Admin Team.

She studied Theatre Studies at Rose Bruford College and got a First Class BA Hons from University of Manchester, before going on to teach Drama in schools.

She loves chilli con carne and a cup of tea, but not together, and is quite confident she could beat you at scrabble.



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