Preparing for GCSEs

guidelines for home-schooling parents
keen to secure a Christian classical education for their children


Study recommended: 4 years, 5 hours per week (incl. lesson time).

Exam board: OCR. View specification for the new 9-1 GCSE syllabus. The Entry Code for our students sitting this exam in 2018 is J282E.

Henle First Year Latin Preliminary textbooks: The best introduction to Latin for Catholic students aged 11 upwards is Henle First Year Latin (with accompanying Grammar) by Fr Robert Henle SJ. Although the focus is on classical Latin, it provides a useful introduction to ecclesiastical Latin as well, including a line-by-line presentation of the Pater Noster and Ave Maria. Perfectly paced and packed full of exercises, its 500 pages normally take two years to complete. Take a peek on Amazon. Don't be put off this superb series by the American ordering of the grammatical cases. It takes only a few minutes to learn how to read the layout in a British manner, and pupils learn this simple skill right at the beginning of our course. Cover all four volumes if you really wish to get to grips with Latin. Broadly speaking, they map to the British exam system as follows:

NB. These books can also be purchased in digital form from Google Books.

Exam-preparation textbooks: In their final year, students will prepare for the GCSE exam (course J281) using the following texts:

Set Texts: Students for the exam in 2018 prepare texts in the Anthology from the following authors:

Ancient Greek

Study recommended: 3 years, 5 hours per week (incl. lesson time). It is best to wait until children have completed at least one if not two years of Latin before starting Ancient Greek. This will allow them to grasp the novelties of classical grammar (conjugations, declensions, etc) before embarking on a new language. Don't be deterred by the strange-looking Greek alphabet; children love learning the Greek letters and will quickly master them.

Exam board: OCR. View specification for the new 9-1 GCSE syllabus. The Entry Code for our students sitting this exam in 2018 is J292A.

Textbooks: We use the following textbooks:

Students should also download the Defined and Restricted Vocabulary.

Set Texts: Students for the exam in 2018 prepare the texts in the Anthology from the following authors:

Typing Greek: Type Greek is a free online tool for typing Greek. Enter one of the symbols ( ) \ / = | after letters to add breathings, accents or iota subscripts. Copy the text into a word processor to preserve it. For those who own a copy of Microsoft Word, there's also Antioch Greek, an add-in that allows you to type Greek directly into a Word document. For light educational use I suggest waiving its $50 registration fee and suffering the slight inconvenience of using the unregistered (but perfectly legal) edition.


Study recommended: 3-4 years, 5 hours per week (incl. lesson time). Students should have mastered basic arithmetic and know their multiplication tables thoroughly by the age of 11.

Exam board: Edexcel. You may choose either the well-established International GCSE or the new 9-1 GCSE (Higher), which is now just as challenging.

Textbooks: We begin our course with Maths for Edexcel: Specification B, and then go on to use Mathematics for Edexcel IGCSE (seen right).

Calculators: Each pupil will require a scientific calculator. The most suitable model is the Casio fx-85GT Plus. Watch the video tutorials on YouTube. I use the PC emulator software for the Casio fx-83/5GT models in our classes. Graphical calculators are also permitted in the Edexcel IGCSE exams; see the A-Level page for my recommendations.

Further Mathematics

Study recommended: 1 year, 7 hours per week (incl. lesson time). Before commencing with this course students should have completed their ordinary GCSE Maths studies and have obtained (or be expected to obtain) at least a grade 7 (or A under the old scheme).

Exam board: Edexcel. Specification for 2018 exams. Specification for 2019 exams and onwards.

Textbooks: We use Greg Attwood's Edexcel IGCSE Further Pure Mathemathics book (on right). Also useful is this IGCSE Further Mathematics website.

Calculators: For students who hope to go on to study A Level maths, this would be a good time to invest in a graphical calculator. I recommend the Casio CG50 (Prizm). The TI Nspire CX is also a good choice, although I don't use this in class. See my A Level page for further details.

English Language

Study recommended: 2-3 years, 4 hours per week (incl. lesson time). Children should be reading frequently, widely and inquisitively from an early age. Nothing else will prepare them for the exam so well as this.

Exam Board: Edexcel International. All the mainstream GCSE syllabuses now mandate controlled assessment. However, the Edexcel International IGCSE continues to provide an exam-only route.

Textbooks: Edexcel offers two new specifications for their IGCSE exam. Both specifications are covered by the textbook IGCSE English Language Student Book (Specifications A and B).

Specification A requires students to have a good knowledge of the pieces contained in its downloadable Anthology. The Anthology is also printed in the student book. A Teacher's Guide is available for download.

Specification B may be preferred by some parents. It is based on the original 'O' level syllabus and gives more weight to the traditional disciplines of grammar, spelling and punctuation. There are no Anthology selections to be prepared, so all the passages presented in the exam will be in the nature of unseens. Assessment is via one written exam paper only, but it is a long one - three hours! This specification also has its own Teacher's Guide.

The new 2016 syllabus, to be first examined in 2018, may be found here.


Study recommended: 3-4 years, 4 hours per week (incl. lesson time). Since French is a Romance language (i.e. one that derives from vernacular Latin) and conjugates its verbs in a similar way to Latin, there is much to be said for not commencing French until one has completed at least one if not two years of Latin.

Easy French ReaderExam Board: Edexcel. See their IGSCE specification.

GCSE French, Complete Revision & PracticeTextbooks: For beginners, we start off with Macmillan's Mastering French, supported by ImTranslator, an excellent text-to-speech (TTS) facility which will allow pupils to listen at home to all the book's dialogues in French. After that we proceed to the Easy French Reader (shown left) to get pupils reading French with fluency. Many of its sections are recorded on the accompanying CD; the unrecorded sections can be listened to on ImTranslator.

To prepare directly for the IGCSE we use CGP's Complete Revision & Practice and Exam Practice Workbook. Finally we review the IGCSE past papers.

Websites:  Websites that are particularly good at assisting with pronunciation include FrenchSpanishOnline and ielanguages. The Wikibooks French Language Course is also recommended.