First, what exactly does “exam centre” refer to?

Some parents believe they can bring an examiner to their chosen place or walk into the local school during exam time. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. A so-called “exam centre” is a location that is approved, licenced and equipped to both hosts and invigilates an official exam like GCSEs and A-Levels.

It would be best if you took the time to understand where your nearest exam centres are and that you contact them in advance about your child’s exam candidacy.

Where can I find information about my local exam centres?

The best-choice exam centres near you are most likely to be local schools and community colleges, but there may be other options as well. Some websites like this from the Oxford Learning College offer excellent advice and even suggestions for GCSE and A-Level exam centres. Your local council will also be able to advise you should your local school be unable to accommodate private candidates.

“Private candidate” is the term typically used to describe home schoolers taking the exams. Since students attending the local public schools will have assigned candidate numbers related to their school, a different designation is applied to home-school candidates.

When should I begin my search?

A common mistake is securing the exam centre far too late. The best time to inquire and secure a place in an exam centre is in January of the year your son or daughter plan to take the tests. So, for instance, if they were planning to take their GCSEs during the summer of 2021, then in January 2021, you should start sorting the exam centre.

What else needs my attention when it comes to exam centres?

There are certainly some important things to remember when thinking about exam centres. It would be best if you furnished yourself with as much information as possible so that nothing about these crucial assessments falls through the cracks:

1. Know your local centres

Take the time to explore what centres are available in your local area, not only how many there are but where they are in relation to your home address. It is not something you will find in yellow pages, though, so you may have to contact the council or check the council website for the information you need.

2. Make contact early

As we mentioned above, the best time to contact is January, when the spring term begins. This is one job you do not want to procrastinate over. In general, starting with the local school makes sense.

3. Have a backup plan

Always have a “Plan B.” By this, we do not mean register simultaneously at two centres, but rather have other centres in mind just in case. The ideal centre will be your local school, of course, but should the local school, for any reason, be unable to accommodate you; then it is good to know where else you can turn.

4. Keep track of dates and follow updates from your centre

Do not just scribble them on a post-it when you get confirmed exam dates at your confirmed centre. Make sure it is visibly and prominently displayed in calendars to remind you of upcoming exam dates. Not only the dates but the times of the exams. Many students have rued the day they thought the Maths paper was in the afternoon, but it turned out to be in the afternoon.

If your centre offers any e-mail or SMS reminders, make sure you are signed up to them. We are sure the reminders will be irritating at the time, but you will be glad in the long run that no exams are missed.