ICT, Computing, Computer Science and other qualifications Edit

Home-ed students can take IGCSE Computer Science, IGCSE Information and Communications Technology (ICT), or the European Computer Driving Licence, a practical qualification.  They do not usually take GCSE in ICT because it can be difficult to arrange to do the controlled classroom assessment (new coursework) element.  The closest alternative is the Edexcel International GCSE (IGCSE) in ICT, which has a practical exam lasting three hours in addition  

You may also be interested in some of the vocational IT-related qualifications and certificates that are available:

ICT versus Computer Science Edit

Note that ICT and Computing or Computer Science have different emphases.  Here is an outline of the differences from the 

Computing At School Project

“Computer Science is the study of the foundational principles and practices of computation and computational thinking,  and their application in the design and development of computer systems.    It is a subject discipline, on a par with Maths or Physics.

Information and Communication  Technology (ICT) focuses on the creative and productive use and application of technology and  computer systems, especially in organisations.  We take ICT to also include Information Technology, Applied ICT, Digital Literacy and Skills, and e-safety, across the curriculum.  “

(much more useful info in the full article)

Here is a nice analogy, from ‘Computing At School’:

Computing is complementary to, but quite different from Information and Communication Technology (ICT). ICT is about the use of computers and their applications. Computing is about their design and implementation. To use the analogy of a car:

ICT is the equivalent of teaching how to drive a car, and how to navigate it. Once basic skills have been learned (how to use the clutch), the emphasis is on appropriate choice of destination, how to drive safely, how to develop a good route to the destination, how to choose which car is the right vehicle. Everyone should be able to drive, and similarly every student should possess basic ICT skills, and some knowledge of how to use them.

Computing is the equivalent of teaching automotive engineering: how the clutch works, how to design new cars, and how to maintain existing ones. Computing is more than just programming, which in the car analogy would be the equivalent of metalwork.

Not everyone needs to know how to design or maintain a car. Similarly, only a subset of (able) students will want to study Computing, just as only a subset want to study work in the automotive or related industry.

Some good discussions of the differences from students’ viewpoints on The Student Room

Do you need a GCSE or A-level qualification to study IT at university? Edit

Not for all courses, although certainly for some.

I looked at some university entrance requirements for computing and found that it was not necessary to have taken an A-level in either ICT or Computing, although maths was essential.  This may vary between universities, but for instance, to do 

Computer Science at Oxford:

"Do I need to have done Computer Studies or Information Technology at A level?

No. Though these subjects are relevant, the way Computer Science is studied at University level is quite different from the way it is studied at school.

Also relevant are the A level Maths modules in Discrete Maths or Decision Maths; but again, the way we study these topics at University level goes far beyond what you will have done at school, so it's no particular advantage to have done these modules. On the other hand, if the sort of questions raised by these topics excite your interest, then perhaps Computer Science is the subject for you."

Edexcel International GCSE in Information and Communication TechnologyEdit

The new Edexcel IGCSE ICT graded 9-1 has its first exams in Summer 2019.

Edexcel International GCSE in Information and Communication Technology (9-1) 4IT1 .

Exam code: 4IT1

Exam available: Summers only, starting Summer 2019

This specification includes a practical exam so you would need to find an exam centre willing to arrange use of a computer for that.

  • Paper 1 : written exam, 1h30 minutes . Paper entry code 4IT1/01
  • Paper 2: Practical test, 3 hours using a computer and printer. Paper entry code 4IT1/02 
    Teaching materials from Edexcel, including a Scheme of Work, lesson plans and a getting started guide.

HE Exams Yahoogroup tipsEdit

The following comments relate to the old specification, 4IT0.

"I'm finding it quite confusing trying to work out how to go about doing the IGCSE in ICT. ..I can find the textbooks but I don't understand how to go about the course work and find out if there's a practical part to the exam. Has anyone managed to do this ?"

Responses from the HE-Exams list:

The Edexcel book for the old A*-G specification was [Edexcel IGCSE ICT by Roger Crawford], published by Pearson and available from Amazon. It looks comprehensive but is certainly not the most exciting textbook.

IGCSE Computer Science, was Computer StudiesEdit

Cambridge IGCSE Computer Science 0478 is popular with external candidates as it has written exams only, with no practical assessment. This means that any CAIE exam centre which accepts external candidates should be able to take you for this exam.

Cambridge IGCSE Computer Science (9-1) (0984) has the same content and exams but graded 9-1. You need to specify which version you want when entering your exams.

Exam code for the 9-1 exam: 0984

Exam code for the A*-G exam: 0478

CIE Computer Science IGCSE 0478 had first exams in 2015.  It is available to private candidates (syllabus p7), and is assessed by written exam only. There are two papers and "pre-release material" is made available to centres around 6 months before the exams.  You would need to check how this would be made available to you - probably through your exam centre as the exam boards generally prefer you do deal with the centre where possible. If you have trouble getting hold of it, please ask for help on the Home Education UK Exams & Alternatives facebook group, or the HE Exams Yahoogroup.

There is a Facebook group for computer science IGCSE, run by Julia Roebuck from Learntec, but you don't have to be using the Learntec courses to join. 

OLD SPEC CIE Computer Studies IGCSE Syllabus and info - the old syllabus, 0420, had an 'alternative to coursework' paper which was the route for external candidates.

The dedicated textbook for the new syllabus - [Cambridge IGCSE Computer Science by David Watson and Helen Williams was published late, in spring 2015, and contained various typos. The content of the CD-ROM which was supposed to come with the book can be downloaded from Hodder Education.

If you purchased the original textbook for CIE Computer Science (aka Comptuer Science, from the typo on the spine), you may be able to get the new, updated version sent to you free of charge from: Joan Cooke, Customer Service Advisor , Childrens and Education Departments, Hachette UK Distribution. Tel: 01235 827827 Email:

It appears that the change to the content of the course is fairly minor - the main change is in the structure of the exam, which has become all written exam-only, so ideal for private candidates.  This means that textbooks for CIE Computer Studies should cover most of the material.

There appear to be only minor changes to content according to the newsletter update (below), but do check this yourself on the syllabus - 

  • Practical work on Arrays is now needed.
  • Theory sections: Systems Lifecycle is no longer required
  • New topics: Computer Ethics (syllabus p14, section 1.5) and Hexadecimal Numbers (syllabus p10).

The Cambridge GCSE Computing MOOC has a section on Ethical, Environmental and Legal considerations, which would probably be helpful for the Computer Ethics section. It also has a big section on hexadecimal numbers, in the module on "Representation of data in computer systems", and a whole section on Arrays under the Programming module. The syllabus is very specific about what you need to know.

Changes to Syllabus from Computer Studies to Computer ScienceEdit

Cambridge Syllabus Update for Schools Newsletter, p32:

Cambridge IGCSE Computer Science, Syllabus 0478

"From June 2015. Previously named ‘0420 Computer Studies’, this syllabus has been reviewed to bring it up to date and to allow learners to begin the development of their computational thinking and programming skills. 

Teachers are advised to read the whole syllabus before planning their teaching programme. As ‘Computer Science’, this syllabus now shares the same name as the AS/AL syllabus (formerly AS/AL Computing), indicating the firm links and progression between these syllabuses.

This syllabus has a new syllabus code: 0478.

Changes to syllabus content

  • One new practical topic introducing the concept of arrays and so enabling learners to develop programming solutions for real world problems. 
  • Two new theory topics: ‘Computer ethics’ and ‘Hexadecimal numbers’.
  • One topic removed: ‘Systems life cycle’. 

    Changes to assessment

  • All components are externally assessed. 
  • Both papers contain short answers and structured questions. There is no choice of questions. No calculators are permitted on either paper. 
  • Paper 1 ‘Theory’ is now: 1 hour 45 minutes; 60% weighting; 75 marks. 
  • New Paper 2 ‘Problem-solving and Programming’: 1 hour 45 minutes; 40% weighting; 50 marks. This paper replaces Paper 2 ‘Coursework’ and Paper 3 ‘Alternative to Coursework’. There are pre-release materials for Paper 2 ‘Problem-solving and Programming’ for candidates to complete practical tasks. 20 of the marks for this paper are from questions set on the pre-release material. Teachers are expected to incorporate the pre-release material tasks into their lessons and give support in finding methods and reaching solutions. 
  • There is no coursework. 
  • The syllabus aims and assessment objectives have been clarified. 

Hexadecimal NumbersEdit

From the syllabus p10:

1.1.2 Hexadecimal

Candidates should be able to:

  • represent integers as hexadecimal numbers
  • show understanding of the reasons for choosing hexadecimal to represent numbers 
  • convert positive hexadecimal integers to and from denary
  • convert positive hexadecimal integers to and from binary
  • represent numbers stored in registers and main memory as hexadecimal
  • identify current uses of hexadecimal numbers in computing, such as defining colours in Hypertext 
  • Markup Language (HTML), Media Access Control (MAC) addresses, assembly languages and 
  • machine code, debugging

Computer EthicsEdit

From the syllabus p14, s1.5:

Candidates should be able to:

  • show understanding of computer ethics, including copyright issues and plagiarism
  • distinguish between free software, freeware and shareware
  • show understanding of the ethical issues raised by the spread of electronic communication and 
  • computer systems, including hacking, cracking and production of malware


From the syllabus p16, s2.2:

2.2.2 Data structures; arrays

  • declare the size of one-dimensional arrays, for example: A[1:n]
  • show understanding of the use of a variable as an index in an array
  • read values into an array using a FOR … TO … NEXT loop

Resources for CIE Computer Science IGCSE Edit

There is a Facebook group for computer science IGCSE, run by Julia Roebuck from Learntec, but you don't have to be using the Learntec courses to join. 

Cambridge GCSE Computing MOOC - free online course

CIE Computer Studies IGCSE Blog- established by the author of the textbook for the old specification, this blog has some additional material and the author responds to questions via the comments facility.

Support Material for CIE IGCSE Computer Science - listed on the CIE site.

Learntec offer KS3 and IGCSE Computer Science courses made by home educator Julia Roebuck. They have had extremely good reviews from users on the exams support groups.

Btecs - Vocational Qualifications Edit

Vocational qualifications in IT, including Btecs, are available as Awards, Certificates and Diplomas. Btecs work much more like the world of work - you are 'managed' and get regular feedback from your tutor, and have the opportunity to re-draft assignments, as you would at work. In many ways Btecs assess consistency and hard work rather than ability to memorise. 

Usually you have to attend college to take Btec courses because of the emphasis on coursework. Some can be completed and assessed via online distance learning, though you will have to pay for this. This is a recent development, which means that the online companies offering such courses don't have much of a history or many online reviews to help you decide whether they will be good value.

Btecs and other vocational qualifications are commonly divided by size and level. An 'Award' is the smallest size (in terms of number of hours to study), next up is a Certificate, then a Diploma (roughly one year full-time), then an Extended Diploma (2 years full-time). So Certificate/Award/Diploma tells you how big the Btec is, and then you look at the Level to tell you the difficulty. BTec Nationals are Level 3 - A-level standard. BTec Firsts are Level 2, ie a 'good' GCSE at grade C or above, and Level 1 is Foundation level, ie GCSE at D-G. 

Pearson (Edexcel) has brought out a policy on distance assessment, so it seems that they do have a framework in place for certain qualifications to be delivered and assessed remotely.

Kandu-IT Btecs from home Edit

Kandu-IT offer distance learning courses and assessment for Btec Level 2 and Level 3. This means you can do the full Btec from home, which is very unusual.

Review from home educator Sandra A: Edit

"My son studied with Kandu IT for a number of years gaining a Level 2 Btec (Certificate) in Computer Engineering and then a Level 3 Btec Diploma in ICT Specialist Systems. I can assure you that the company is completely reputable and genuine. Our tutor, Scott Mckenzie, and his father (Vince) could not have been more helpful and supportive. Nothing was too much trouble and they had endless amounts of patience. Student support was very, very good !! They were very supportive of home education..we found them brilliant for what we needed (and as a total non-techy, I learnt a lot too !)."

Kandu IT also offer a free online IT Technicians course, with a completion certificate - may be a nice intro to try if you're considering this sort of thing."

Other Btecs from Home Edit

Tecol offer several Level 3 Btec Certificates to be completed and assessed online,  though we have no further information about this company at present.

ECDL - European Computer Driving Licence Edit

Lots of home-educated children have taken ECDL, primarily because it is an IT Qualification which is easier to arrange testing for than GCSE or IGCSE ICT.  It is the 'European Computer Driving Licence' and is internationally-recognised (as part of the ICDL or International Computer Driving Licence).  It is a vocational qualification which shows that you can competently use a computer in a productive way. Lots more detail about ECDL in general, and how to find a test centre, on the ECDL page

The National Careers Service says the following about ECDL:

"The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) is a Europe-wide qualification in basic computer skills. If you have passed ECDL, employers know you have the skills to carry out the main tasks on a computer. The ECDL is the first qualification in personal computing skills to be recognised throughout the European Union. And it looks great on your CV!"

Also consider: Edit

iDEA - Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award scheme, from the Duke of York. Free, certified online programme that you can work through at your own pace.

Resources for ICT, Computer Science etc.. Edit

Learn Programming - great directory of free online courses aimed mostly at teenagers, from Bebras, which organises coding challenges for teens.

iDEA - Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award scheme, from the Duke of York. Free, certified online programme that you can work through at your own pace.

[BBC Bitesize ICT] - also useful for Computer Studies.  Revision and test activities for specific topics.

[Cambridge GCSE Computing MOOC] - free online course with tests and activities.

Other Resources etc via the Facebook Group IGCSE Computer Science and ICT

Learntec offer KS3 and IGCSE Computer Science courses made by home educator Julia Roebuck. They have had extremely good reviews from users on the exams support groups.