Did anyone watch breakfast news this morning with teenagers opening their GCSE results? Gosh, I felt for them! Getting results, I think, is nerve-wracking and I’d never have the confidence to do it knowing people were watching me! The headline across the page was along the lines of ‘Teenagers get GCSE results today’. Well, I’m not a teenager but I was with them today, getting the result of an iGCSE I did in May!
Until just a few years ago, I hadn’t heard of iGCSEs but they’re basically the same level/breadth of knowledge as GCSEs except for an international twist in the learning material. As well as students around the world studying for them, there are schools in the UK where they predominantly offer them to their year 11s rather than GCSEs. Quite a few of the subjects are based purely on the end of course exam with no coursework, making them ideal for private students like me.
Now, there are two ways of studying for these.
The sensible way! Many students go to adult education classes or enrol with a correspondence school where they work through the materials and have a tutor. They have homework to complete, sit past papers, etc. and really knuckle down to a programme of study. Certainly correspondence schools can charge a few hundred pounds per subject and then learners have to find a centre where they sit the exam.
The Sarah way! I found out a couple of years ago that there are exam centres where they accept external candidates and you can pay to just turn up to do the exam(s). On top of this, you’d need to buy the text book (which you can buy secondhand and then sell on once you’ve passed if it’s the same spec) and you can download past papers for free. Also, there are websites like BBC GCSE Bitesize that have quizzes, etc. for lots of subjects. You can also buy revision exercise books, etc. but I just stuck with the basic text book. This is a MUCH cheaper way to study!
Two years ago, I did iGCSE travel and tourism as there was no coursework. Instead, I had 2 exams, each about 1.5 hours long. I have to say that I would not have done as well if I’d done it when I was 16 but life experience, eh! You learn stuff through TV, reading, etc. and you find that this knowledge really helps when sitting exams. Despite doing lots of postgrad study for many years, I didn’t get a single grade A when I was 16. I just wasn’t focused or that academic…..I much preferred being heavily involved in sport and all things music-related. I’m not a natural learner and I have to work hard. So when I got grade A for travel and tourism, I was ecstatic! With it being a late booking, I had about 3 weeks of revision to do.
Roll forward to this year. Despite having a date for the iGCSE business studies exam in my diary for about 3 months, it was 3 days before that I realised I hadn’t done any revision whatsoever! I’d kept noticing the date in the my diary and thinking “Oh, yes. I must get round to revision“!! So, instead, I had 3 days (during which time I was still working) to cram and so getting the grade B this morning was, on reflection, not bad going at all!
I did the exam at a centre in Bromley, south east London but there are places all over the world that you can do what I’ve done. What I really liked is that there were about 10 of us in the room….a stark contrast to years ago when me and 3 others (who’d gone to adult ed classes) sat our GCSE double science exams in a hall with 300 year 11s! These private centres are far smaller……and just make it feel less scary.
It’s never too late to study! There are loads of subjects out offered by Cambridge and EdExcel exam boards and you can see on the course specification whether the course is open to private/external candidates too. What next? Well, today’s iGCSE now means I have 13 and you can’t stop on that number, can you?! So, either geography and psychology next. I’ve got the books ready! And one day, I’ll get that elusive grade C for history….which is on my bucket list! My knowledge of history of shocking so that grade C would mean the earth!
Are there any subjects you wish you’d studied at school? Do you fancy opening up your results this time next year? It could be you!