Home Education: How to Choose an Exam Board

Home Education:  How to Choose an Exam Board


You might be wondering what an Exam Board is and why you need one. This video will explain what an exam board is, what exam boards do, and what you need to look out for when choosing one. An exam board is an organisation that creates exam papers and mark schemes. They are responsible for issuing exams, marking them and analysing the results. In the UK exam boards are also responsible for awarding qualifications to students such as GCSEs, iGCSEs, A-levels and also vocational qualifications. There are a number of exam boards in the UK but the main ones are AQA, Pearson Edexcel, WJEC (who are the Welsh Board), CCEA (who operate in Northern Ireland), OCR, and CIE (who are an international exam board). Each exam board publishes their own specification or syllabus for each subject that they offer. The specification or syllabus is a guide which outlines the main components of the subject including the content that should be taught and how it will be assessed. Specifications do vary from exam board to exam board but that doesn’t mean that one board is necessarily any easier or more difficult than another. If we take iGCSE maths for example, you might find that there is more algebra in one specification and more trigonometry in another. Or perhaps one board favours multiple choice style questions whereas another one emphasises questions requiring longer written responses. Some exam boards offer subjects at multiple tiers. For example, your child might be have a choice of a higher exam paper or a foundation exam paper whereas other exam boards might only offer one tier which suits all candidates and includes the full range of grades from 9 to 1 In these cases, students often have a number of papers to sit per subject. All exam boards have support resources available on their website such as past exam papers with mark schemes and sometimes examiner’s comments. and most also have accompanying textbooks to support your child during their studies. You can find grade boundaries on their web pages too. These indicate the minimum number of marks needed to achieve a particular grade in a given subject and can be very helpful when trying to grade past papers for your child. Bear in mind that your child will be registered as an external or private candidate and not all specifications will be available to you. You can find out which ones are available by checking the specification you are interested in or contacting the exam board if it’s not clear. It might also be useful to know that your child doesn’t have to use the same exam board for all of their subjects. The most important thing is to choose a specification that plays to your child’s strengths and one which you will enjoy teaching if you’re intending teaching your own child rather than using a personal tutor. To recap, you can choose from a number of different exam boards operating in the UK. No one exam board is any easier than another. Choose one that has a specification that suits your child. Remember that you can use more than one exam board. To receive a FREE reminder sheet accompanying this video, or if you’d like more help choosing an exam board, any aspect of home education in the UK, or information about study support or personal tutoring, send an email to [email protected] I guarantee a personal response to each and every email. You can also keep abreast of what’s going on in the world of exams by following HelpforHomeEducators on Facebook. Have fun!

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