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GCSEs and equivalents: practical details

Entry requirements

General education and English language.

Costs and funding

British students and those from countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) are likely to pay little for GCSEs and equivalents, as the British government funds their study, but international students can expect to pay between £3,000 and £7,000 per year.

This cost includes:

  • tuition fees
  • college registration
  • awarding body registration
  • materials
  • exam/assessment fees.

At independent schools, the cost will rise to £1,500–£4,000 per term for day pupils and £3,000–£7,000 per term for boarders.

Bear in mind that students at boarding schools will save on living costs such as accommodation, food and laundry costs.

How to apply

Most courses at this level have no set closing dates for applications, and institutions recruit until courses are full. You should, however, apply early if you want to attend a particular institution.

If you live outside the EEA, you will need a visa to come to the UK to study, so allow yourself enough time to make an application. To find out if you need a visa, visit the visas section of this site or consult the UK Border Agency website.

Independent colleges (which are funded privately rather than by the UK Government) usually provide accommodation to their students. Although many state colleges do not provide accommodation, they will usually help you find somewhere to live. The earlier you apply, the more likely you are to find accommodation near your institution.

Application forms for GCSEs and equivalents are usually relatively simple. You may need to make a brief personal statement and provide references, and you may need an English language qualification to meet entry requirements. See English language courses for more details.

Application timetable

The application process covers a number of steps – for boarding schools this covers a period of two or more years – although the time-scale can vary greatly. In simple terms, it is never too early to start.

In many countries, the academic year runs from January to December, rather than September to July as in the UK. If this is the case in your country, you are likely to be one term behind pupils in the UK of the same age.

For example, GCSE exams are taken in May–July in the UK, while International GCSE (IGCSE) exams are taken in November and December. In this instance, it would be advisable for pupils to enter the UK system in the September following the IGCSEs, rather than try to catch up the lost ground over the year of the GCSE exams.

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