Frequently Asked Questions
If you can’t find the answer to your question here, please contact us and we will be pleased to help you.
Do I need qualifications to study with Oxford Home Schooling?
To study GCSEs / IGCSEs with Oxford Home Schooling you do not need any prior qualifications. However, it would be an advantage to have studied the National Curriculum at Key Stage 3 (KS3) level (11-14 years), particularly in the 3 core subjects of English, Maths and Science, before you enrol for GCSEs / IGCSEs. Oxford Home Schooling provides KS3 (Year 7, 8 and 9) courses in English, Maths, Science, History, and Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE).
Our A Level courses require a minimum of 4 GCSEs (or equivalent) to enrol. For A Level English a pass at C grade or above at GCSE level is required. For A Level Maths you need to have passed the higher tier paper at GCSE level (If you have passed at foundation level, then we suggest that you obtain our GCSE higher level course to study alongside the A Level at a cost of £100, but you will not be required to resit your GCSE exam). If you are unsure about whether your qualifications meet our requirements for A Level study, please call us and we will be happy to explain our requirements in more detail.
Is there a minimum age to enrol?
The minimum age to enrol on an Oxford Home Schooling course is 11 years, and for GCSE / IGCSE courses the minimum enrolment age is 13. If you are over 18 years old please contact our sister company, Oxford Open Learning.
Will I need to purchase any books?
Not all of our courses require you to buy extra books, but some GCSE / IGCSE courses may require one or two textbooks (for example, in science subjects) or set texts (in English). Our A Level courses generally contain a list of compulsory and recommended textbooks and set texts which can be purchased from any good book shop, or over the internet. It is important to purchase the right edition of the book because the course may refer you to specific pages of a textbook, so check the ISBN number in the course introduction carefully to make sure you get the right one.
When can I begin studying?
You can enrol on our courses at any time, although if you plan to sit exams (GCSEs, IGCSEs and A Levels) on specific dates there are deadlines for receipt of applications. These deadlines fluctuate slightly each year but remain roughly the same:
- For summer exams, applications for IGCSE or GCSE courses must be received by the previous mid-November.
- For summer exams, applications for full A level courses must be received by the end of the previous September, while applications for one full A Level, an AS only – or an A2 if the AS has already been taken – must be received by the end of the previous September also.
If you have any questions regarding the above deadlines please feel free to call our student advice team.
How long will it take to get my course materials?
We generally dispatch course materials within 7 working days of receiving payment or your standing order form (if you’re paying by instalments). This can take slightly longer – up to two weeks during busy periods such as between September and November – when we receive a lot of applications.
When can I speak to my tutor?
All our courses include dedicated tutor support via telephone and email. All our tutors are fully qualified, experienced teachers. Some teach part-time in schools and so may only be available at certain times during the day, so when your tutor first contacts you (this is usually within 3 or 4 days of you receiving the course materials) it is important to establish when would be good contact times for both of you. If you are studying outside the UK, for example, you might be in a different time zone, and so will need to be very clear about mutually convenient contact times.
Oxford Home Schooling tutors will contact students approximately every 3 weeks. Inbetween these times students are free to contact tutors by telephone and email for help and advice with their studies.
Where do I take my exam?
Although our student advice team is available to provide advice and guidance throughout the process, it is your responsibility to find an exam centre (a local school or college) and book your exams. If you intend taking GCSE or AS / A2 Level exams in June of any given year, you will need to book them by January at the latest. We send out reminder letters to all active GCSE and AS / A2 students in December – complete with details of their exam specifications – and advise them to start making enquiries at nearby schools and colleges. However, the earlier you begin looking for an exam place the better as many fill up really quickly and some close their books before the Christmas holidays. How to find exam centres.
What date will my exam be?
Dates for all exams are published on the relevant exam board’s website. Check your exam specification in the Introduction to your course, go to either AQA – education charity providing GCSEs, A-levels and support or Pearson qualifications | Edexcel, BTEC, LCCI and EDI | Pearson qualifications and then find the relevant series (summer or winter) in the exam timetable. Exam dates are not negotiable even for the holiday of a lifetime or hospitalisation.
What is coursework?
Students often get confused by the difference between the work they do during their course, which is tested by their Tutor-marked Assignments and board-examined coursework or NEA, which is entirely different.
Tutor-marked Assignments (or TMAs) are not coursework, they are progress checks for the student and the tutor. Every course will have several TMAs but they do not in any way contribute towards your final exam grade.
Board-examined coursework now known as NEA (non exam assessment) is only required for certain subjects at GCSE and A Level. IGCSEs do not require coursework. Where included, coursework is very important as it can contribute up to 20% of your final marks and thereby substantially influence your grade.
It is very important that students recognise the difference between TMAs and board-examined coursework.
Who marks my coursework?
Your NEA/coursework is marked by your OHS tutor and this marking is then checked or moderated by a senior person at AQA. Tutors also have to work under very strict rules about how much help they can give you with your coursework, and how many TMAs they have to have seen before they can sign to confirm that the work is your own. This is known as “authentication” and you cannot submit coursework for marking unless your work has been authenticated by your tutor.
How much do exams cost?
The cost of any exam consists of two parts; the exam board fee, which is fixed and is published on the relevant AQA or Edexcel website, and the administration charge, which can be whatever the exam centre thinks is appropriate. Therefore the cost of a GCSE can vary from about £50 in a centre which feels it is offering a community service to £150 in a Private Tutorial College in central London. It is always worth shopping around.
Where do I find exam entry codes?
The Introduction to your course will tell you the name of the exam board you are studying under and the specification code. Other names for this are syllabus number, entry details or component code. You will also find unit numbers / codes (for GCSE Science and A levels) detailed here as well. It is essential that you establish this information before contacting an exam centre as they will not be pleased if they have to trawl through all the different options for you. Always check with your Student Adviser if you are unsure.
Why do some exam centres refuse to help Private Candidates?
There are dozens of reasons for this, but the most common is that the exam officer / school has had a bad experience with private candidates in the past.
Oxford Home Schooling has a very extensive database of centres who have helped our students in the past and who know that we try to minimise the amount of work they will be involved in. We have nearly 40 guaranteed centres spread around the UK, who we will know will do their very best to help our students and hundreds of others who may help. However, things change every year and it is entirely the exam centre’s choice whether to accept you or not.
If you follow our guidelines you will give yourself the best chance of getting a positive response, but please do not put their help in jeopardy by being ill-informed, rude or demanding. If a centre says that they cannot help for any reason at all then please accept it gracefully. It will do no good to tell them that they must because they are on the Oxford Open Learning or exam board lists.
Can I study from abroad?
Yes you can! Bear in mind that you will need to pay additional postage and packing fees for sending course materials outside of the UK, though. Unless you have a UK bank account (to set up a standing order) your fee must be paid in full before the start of your course. You may need to come to the UK to sit exams if you are studying for GCSEs or A Levels, so be aware of this. You may also need to sit more than one exam paper, and these may be on different days. IGCSEs can be taken at test centres worldwide.
What’s the difference between GCSE and IGCSE?
- IGCSE exams do not include coursework which contributes marks to the final GCSE grade
- IGCSE exams can be taken abroad, whereas the GCSE exams may only be taken in the UK
- As national qualifications, the GCSE and the IGCSE are on a par and fully recognised for acceptance on to A Level or other courses. However, you are advised to check with any professional body or further education institution to which you are thinking of applying (e.g. for PGCE or nursing) to see whether IGCSE qualifications are accepted.
I sent my tutor a TMA a month ago and haven’t had it back yet. When should I expect it?
You should have had it back by now! Hopefully you’ve kept a copy just in case it’s gone astray in the post. Your first point of call should be to check with your tutor that they have received it and when it was returned to OHS. If this has happened, then check with the Oxford office to see if it has been received there.
I have had my pack for several weeks but haven’t heard from my tutor yet. What should I do?
Please call your Student Adviser, who will remind your tutor that you are awaiting his call. It also gives us a chance to make sure that your tutor has received your details.
I have changed my mind about the subject I want to study. What do I do?
Call your Student Adviser. Depending upon how long you have had your pack we may be able to change your course free of charge.
I wish to cancel my course. How do I do this?
If you have decided that this is not the right type of course for you you may cancel your course, in writing, within the first seven days of having received it. You then need to return your materials to us within the following 21 days. This is at your own expense and we would advise that you return the materials by a traceable service, as this is your responsibility until we receive the materials here in Oxford. Once we have received the materials, in good condition, we will organise a refund cheque to be sent to you. If you required your materials to be delivered abroad, the additional postage charge will not be refunded.
I don’t want to cause trouble for my tutor but I’m having difficulty relating to them and don’t understand what they are trying to tell me. What can I do?
Call your Student Adviser and explain the situation. We may well be able to change your tutor or solve the problem for you so that your tutor realises that they are not getting the point across to you clearly.