There is one specification, Edexcel GCSE Astronomy.  It can be taken by external candidates, but it has a practical component that must be signed off by the exam centre.

Solar system

GCSE Astronomy SyllabusEdit

Edexcel GCSE Astronomy (2017)

Specification published in 2017. 

First exams: Summer 2019

Format: 2 written papers, each 1 hour 45 minutes.

Non-Examined Assessment: 2 observations must be completed.

Specification code
Edexcel specification page Click on 'teaching and learning materials' for a set of topic guides, a scheme of work, and a guide to observational skills.

Practical assessment: ObservationsEdit

The candidate has to undertake two observations.  These are not tests - the candidate isn't graded on them.  However, you do have to do them in order to enter the exam. In addition, there are questions in the written exam to test your knowledge of observational procedures.

The head of the exam centre has to sign a declaration that:

" Each candidate has made a contemporaneous record of: 
i. the work that they have undertaken during these observations, and 
ii. the knowledge, skills and understanding which that candidate has derived from those "

You will need to discuss this with your exam centre.  If you can provide externally verified evidence that you have undertaken the observations, they may be prepared to sign the declaration.  For example, you could ask a tutor or official at a local astronomy society to witness you doing the observations, and to provide a signed statement that they have been carried out. You could also have a video and/or photos taken of the candidate doing the observations. You need to satisfy the exam centre that the observations have been done and that they can sign the declaration. Most exam centres won't usually get involved in authenticating practical components like this, so ask nicely, and be aware that they are doing you a favour if they agree.  

There is a description of the range of observational tasks that you can choose between on the Planet Earth GCSE Astronomy page.


Space, Science and Astronomy for Home Educators - facebook group run by Alistair Leith, who also offers a distance learning course for GCSE Astronomy.  However, the group is open to all - you don't need to be doing the course.

Online Astronomy Society Academy - distance learning course for GCSE Astronomy, from Alastair Leith.

Planet Earth - GCSE Astronomy Distance Learning Course.   Popular with home educators, this provider offers a printed course which is posted out to you, with assignments to complete.  The course also guides you through the practical observations and the course provider can assess your notes of observations and confirm to your exam centre that you have undertaken the activity.  The course currently costs £150.

Space FM has evolved from the old site, which covered the old 2008-2016 GCSE specification.  It is no longer tied to the GCSE syllabus, but has lots of useful resources.

PopAstro - the Society for Popular Astronomy . See the Young Stargazers section and a very helpful Forum. Popastro runs yearly meetings in different parts of the country, as well as weekends workshops for beginners.