Gov­ern­ment help with Numer­acy and Maths GCSE

I know this page is headed ‘How to take the exam as a pri­vate can­di­date but I feel I must point out that you might not have to go it alone. This is straight from a gov­ern­ment website:

Eng­lish and math qualifications

These are some­times called ‘Skills for Life’ or ‘basic skills’ qual­i­fi­ca­tions. They’re based on national stan­dards recog­nised by employ­ers and col­leges. A range of qual­i­fi­ca­tions are available.

You can take an Eng­lish and math qual­i­fi­ca­tion if you:

Are over 16

Have left com­pul­sory full-time education

Have Eng­lish and math skills below level 2 (GCSE) standard

Sub­jects available:

Qual­i­fi­ca­tions are avail­able in:




Eng­lish for Speak­ers of Other Lan­guages (ESOL)

Qual­i­fi­ca­tion levels

Qual­i­fi­ca­tions are avail­able at the fol­low­ing levels:

Entry level (ICT is only avail­able at this level)

Level 1

Level 2 (GCSE)

Click here to go to the Gov­ern­ment web­site.

You can even ask for an adviser to ring you back at a time con­ve­nient to you! See here. This ser­vice is for Eng­land only– but the page pro­vides links to ‘Skills Devel­op­ment Scot­land’ and ‘Careers Wales’.

Pri­vate Can­di­date Information

Indi­vid­u­als want­ing to take the exam on their own (inde­pen­dent of a school or col­lege) are known as pri­vate can­di­dates. There are a few tasks pri­vate can­di­dates need to complete :

1. Select an exam­i­na­tions board (assess­ing body)

In Eng­land there are 3 boards to choose from:-

AQA (Assess­ment and Qual­i­fi­ca­tions Alliance)


OCR (Oxford, Cam­bridge and RSA Exam­i­na­tions)

All of the exam boards fol­low the same syl­labus and work together to ensure that they are fol­low­ing the same stan­dards. This should mean that it makes no dif­fer­ence which exam board you choose. How­ever there has been a lot of con­tro­versy about this. Some teach­ers have argued that some exam boards ques­tions are more straight­for­ward than oth­ers. For my maths chal­lenge I will be sit­ting the AQA exam to be con­sis­tent with my daughter’s school.

2. Find a local exam centre

You need to find a local exam cen­tre that is will­ing to accept pri­vate can­di­dates. All of the exam boards have guid­ance for pri­vate can­di­dates on their websites:

AQA: Tele­phone 0844 209 6614

Edex­cel: Tele­phone 0844 576 0027

OCR: Tele­phone 01223 553998

The process for find­ing a local exam cen­tre varies between exam boards. For exam­ple AQA pub­lishes a list via the link above whereas for Edex­cel you are required to e-mail a request. If in doubt I would rec­om­mend using the tele­phone num­bers listed. I found that the exam boards were very helpful.

3. Decide when you are going to sit the exam

Maths GCSE is nor­mally taught over 2 years, how­ever it should be noted that most can­di­dates will be sit­ting a num­ber of exams at the same time. If you are a mature stu­dent just sit­ting one exam and/or have pre­vi­ous rel­e­vant knowl­edge you may require less time. In my case I orig­i­nally tar­geted June 2011. I’ve since found out that the Maths GCSE syl­labus changed from Sep­tem­ber 2010 (I’ll blog about this soon) and the first sit­ting of the new exam will be in June 2012. My chil­dren will be taught the new syl­labus and since I’m tak­ing the exam in order to sup­port them, I have set­tled on June 2012.

4. Apply at your local cen­tre and pay the fees

Your local cen­tre will make the appli­ca­tion for you to sit the exam. You will need to go to the cen­tre in per­son with proof of iden­tity (for exam­ple cur­rent pass­port or dri­ving license) and the appro­pri­ate fees. The exam board requires a fee (approx £30 for GCSE’s) but the local cen­tre may require an addi­tional admin. fee (this will vary between exam cen­tres). The infor­ma­tion required by the exam centre/exam board may vary between exam boards. I would rec­om­mend con­tact­ing your local exam cen­tre to check the require­ments before you go to the cen­tre. In addi­tion there are clos­ing dates for entries to all exams. I will be in contact with my local cen­tre at least 6 months before my exam date.