Homeschooling with Cambridge

Cambridge matric is one of the options for South African high school homeschool students to get a matric certificate with university exemption. Cambridge Assessment International Education is part of Cambridge Assessment, Europe’s largest assessment agency and a department of the University of Cambridge. The curriculum is highly rated across the world because of its emphasis on deep engagement.

In South Africa most students do two courses: 

  • IGCSE (grade 10 – 11) takes 18 months – 2 years to complete and is for students from 14 – 16 years of age. This is the same as grades 10 and 11 in local schools although the subject content is different. Your student will take 7 subjects on this level.
  • Following this, South African high school students do the AS Levels (grade 12) normally from about 16 – 19 years of age. This is also an 18 month – 2 year course and is the equivalent of Grade 12 in South Africa and is recognized by the South African Matriculation Board as the equivalent of Senior Certificate subjects (NQF4) passed at the Higher Grade, which is a necessary requirement for University Entrance. Your student will take 5 subjects on this level.

A levels is optional in South Africa. To achieve the equivalents of A Levels the South African student needs to complete a Grade 13, but most students do not take this option as it is not necessary for matric exemption and university exemption. The Full A-Level course is only required for students wishing to enroll at an International University that requires this qualification. It is incumbent on the student to ascertain from the tertiary faculty for course entrance requirements. In many respects only the AS-Level is needed.

South Africa is Cambridge Administrative Zone 3: You are in administrative ZONE 3 and so please ensure that the Timetable and the Cambridge Guide to Making Entries booklet you receive have ZONE 3 clearly marked and are colour coded GREEN. See Cambridge Exam for details. 


Cambridge Primary: Grades R to 6 (Key stage 1 = gr.1-2; Key stage 2 = gr.3-6)
Cambridge Secondary 1/ Lower Secondary: Checkpoint – Grades 7, 8 and 9 (Key stage 3)
Cambridge Secondary 2/ Upper Secondary: IGCSE – Grades 10 to 11 (Key stage 4)
Cambridge Advanced: AS-Levels is Grade 12 and A-Levels is Grade 13 (Key stage 5 / College / Sixth form)

Cambridge Primary (ages 5-11)

Typically for learners aged 5 to 11 years, it develops learner skills and understanding through the primary years in English as a first or second language, Mathematics, Science, Cambridge Global Perspectives and ICT.


Stage 1 is started in Grade 1 (in the UK this is at age 5; in South Africa at around 6). Cambridge Stage 1 English however does not include any Phonics. You might thus want to get extra Phonics workbooks whether it be Cambridge or Letterland or a South African publication like Simply Phonics published by Trumpeter. There are no recommended Readers either. You could use the Usborne Guided Readers (our favorite) or even Read With Biff, Chip & Kipper published by Oxford University Press. Again, it’s about personal preference – all these readers (and many others) are available from online book suppliers or your local Bargain Books.

For a child transitioning from CAPS it is often recommended to select English one level down (iow select Stage/Level 2 for a child in Grade 3). Stage/Level 3 Maths would generally be a good fit for a Grade 3 child that does not find Maths extremely challenging. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can select books according to your child’s strengths and weaknesses so as not to frustrate him/her. You move onto the next Level when the previous is mastered regardless of the time of year.

Various publishers offer texts for these subjects. Some are endorsed by CIE (see their website for a list) and others not. Some publishers offer a Teacher’s Resource, Learner Book and Activity Book (which, for Maths and Science, sometimes has the option of Challenge – more difficult – or Builder – for struggling learners). If finances are really tight you could get away with the Learners Book only, though the Teachers Guides in Maths really enhances the curriculum and the Activity Book provides extra practice.

Jot down the names of books you’re considering from the list on the CIE website and search for them on the curriculum suppliers’ websites listed below. You can also go directly to some Cambridge suppliers’ websites (e.g. Schoolsuppliers or Homeschoolbooks) just to browse what they offer. You don’t need to only use endorsed texts as external examinations are currently not available to homeschoolers for Primary (and even if they were, I would not use them). Find something that appeals to you & works for your family. The best way to do this is by either viewing extracts or samples of the texts online on the supplier’s website or alternatively at Amazon (UK) or even better still by paging through an existing homeschooling family’s books.

(Sourced from:  Adele Breedt from the Facebook Group: Cambridge Primary Homeschooling  gives very good advice on starting Cambridge for Primary Homeschooling.)

Cambridge Checkpoint (ages 11-14)

Cambridge Lower Secondary is typically for learners aged 11 to 14 years, grade 7 to 9. It provides a flexible framework for developing skills and understanding in English as a first or second language, mathematics, science, Cambridge Global Perspectives and ICT Starters. Make sure you use Cambridge endorsed resources. For endorsed resources and lists of material see the Lower Secondary Resource List

*Cambridge Lower Secondary Checkpoint tests have been designed to assess learners at the end of Cambridge Lower Secondary.  They are available in English, English as a second language, mathematics and science, and give valuable feedback on learners’ strengths and weaknesses before they progress to the next stage of education. It is optional for homeschoolers to do the Checkpoint Tests, it is not compulsory. It can be very useful to make sure your child has mastered the content.

Cambridge IGCSE (ages 14-16)

Cambridge Upper Secondary builds on the foundations of Cambridge Lower Secondary, although learners do not need to complete that stage before this one. Cambridge IGCSE is the world’s most popular international qualification for 14 to 16 year olds. It is recognized by leading universities and employers worldwide, and is an international passport to progression and success. Developed over 30 years ago, it is tried, tested and trusted by schools worldwide.

Cambridge IGCSE was first examined in June 1988 (introduced for first teaching in September 1986). At the same time the GCSE was introduced in the UK. Cambridge IGCSE assessment takes place at the end of the course and can include written, oral, coursework and practical assessment. This broadens opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning, particularly when their first language is not English. In many subjects there is a choice between core and extended curricula, making Cambridge IGCSE suitable for a wide range of abilities.

Grades are benchmarked using eight internationally recognized grades, A* to G, which have clear guidelines to explain the standard of achievement for each grade. Cambridge IGCSE examination sessions occur twice a year, in June and November. Results are issued in August and January.

Keep in mind that not all international subjects can be taken and written in South Africa (Zone 3). Check with your Exam Center what subjects are available to you as a homeschooler and private candidate.

What is the difference between IGCSE Core and IGCSE Extended?

To take into account differing abilities, there is a choice between Core and Extended curriculum papers in some subjects. The Core curriculum is within the ability range of a large majority of students. It provides a full overview of the subject and is targeted at students expected to achieve grades C to G. The Extended curriculum has been designed for the more academically able. It is targeted at those expected to achieve grades A* to E.

Find out more about IGCSE Core and IGCSE Extended

Cambridge AS & A-levels (ages 16-19)

Thousands of learners worldwide gain places at leading universities every year with Cambridge International AS & A Levels. The syllabuses develop a deep understanding of subjects and independent thinking skills.

Cambridge offers a choice of 55 subjects and schools can offer them in almost any combination. This flexibility means schools can build an individualized curriculum, and learners can choose to specialize in a particular subject area or study a range of subjects. Not all subjects are available in South Africa, and also not all are available for homeschoolers/ private candidates. 

Cambridge International A Level is typically a two-year course, and Cambridge International AS Level is typically one year. Some subjects can be started as a Cambridge International AS Level and extended to a Cambridge International A Level. Find out more about the different Assessment Options

Cambridge International AS & A Level develops learners’ knowledge, understanding and skills in:

  • In-depth subject content
  • Independent thinking
  • Applying knowledge and understanding to new as well as familiar situations
  • Handling and evaluating different types of information source
  • Thinking logically and presenting ordered and coherent arguments
  • Making judgements, recommendations and decisions
  • Presenting reasoned explanations, understanding implications and communicating them logically and clearly
  • Working and communicating in English.

Find out more about the choice of 55 subjects  for AS & A levels. Find teaching resources for  Cambridge International AS and A levels.

Keep in mind that not all international subjects can be taken and written in South Africa (Zone 3). Check with your Exam Center what subjects are available to you as a homeschooler and private candidate.

Cambridge Study Advice

Here are some practical tips from Erica Hugo as posted on the Facebook group, Cambridge SA Homeschool Support, on 3 May 2020:

This is what you need to do irrespective of what resources and approach you choose:

  • STEP 1: Decide on subjects.
  • STEP 2: Know where you are going – download the IGCSE syllabus at CIE.
  •  STEP 3: Get AGE APPROPRIATE RESOURCES that help you reach your end goal.
  • STEP 4: Focus on mastery learning – get to understand all the concepts mentioned in the syllabus.
  • STEP 5: Retell/Make study notes/mind maps on what you have learned.
  • STEP 6: Make study notes of the syllabus NOT the textbook. This is very very important. Children are tested on the syllabus content NOT the textbook.
  • STEP 7: Make sure you can apply your knowledge. Practice past papers using your notes. If you need to look something up, update your notes. There are usually 2 papers. The first one of the 2 is usually easier and establishes knowledge. Older papers are also easier than more recent.
  • STEP 8: If you cannot answer the paper go back and study the syllabus more.
  • STEP 9: Exam training. Practice the 2nd paper. This is usually long questions. You need to learn to read the questions i.e. know the difference between describe and explain. Then you need to learn to speak correctly – what you meant to say and what you said can be different. Do get a knowledgeable person to mark the papers and give you feedback if you are unsure.

Cambridge Exams

Private candidates (Homeschoolers)

If you don’t attend a Cambridge school, you can still enter the exams as a private candidate. 

First, you will need to find a Cambridge school in your country that accepts private candidates and register with them to take Cambridge exams. You are responsible for making your own arrangements with the school and must liaise directly with them – not with Cambridge International – if you have any exam-related queries, such as special arrangements.

Some syllabuses or options are not available to private candidates, and this is detailed in the specific syllabus under the ‘availability’ heading. The school name will not appear on certificates issued to private candidates. See directory for a registered Cambridge school or exam center in your area


1. Cambridge Education Overview Brochure –  The aim of this document is to communicate clearly to school leaders, teachers, students and parents what lies at the heart of a Cambridge education. It is vital that Cambridge students can be confident that their qualifications will be understood and valued throughout their education and career, in their home country and internationally.

2. Cambridge International Examinations: CIE is the Exam board and local examinations syndicate for Cambridge International. It is now known as Cambridge Assessment:

3. How do I get university exemption in South Africa:

4. University recognition in South Africa with Cambridge:

5. Universities in South Africa’s Requirements:

6. Article from Imago Education on “Obtaining a South African university exemption using Cambridge”: SA Matric Exemption with Cambridge

7. Cambridge International and Universities South Africa have produced a joint publication which details the minimum requirements to gain exemption for entry to South African universities: Universities South Africa brochure
(PDF, 657KB)

8. Find out more information about the recognition of Cambridge qualifications in Destination South Africa (PDF, 274KB) – their detailed guide to the application process which also features Cambridge student success stories.

Past Papers:



Teach Cambridge at Home:

Facebook Group: Homeschooling in South Africa (5000+ members):

Facebook Group: Homeschool Exchange South Africa (2nd hand educational material)

Facebook Group: Cambridge International Examinations

Facebook Group: British Council

Facebook Group: CIE@homeSA

Facebook Group: Cambridge Tutoring

Facebook Group: Cambridge SA Homeschool Support:

Facebook Group: Cambridge Homeschooling Community in South Africa:

Facebook Group: SA Cambridge Homeschool Books:

Facebook Group: Cambridge Primary Support for SA Homeschooling Families:

Tutor Support

There are a number of Distance Colleges / Online Schools / Virtual Schools that offer distance education with tutor support

How can I find a Cambridge online school?

If you think an online education is right for your child, you can find a list of registered Cambridge online schools here. This includes schools that work with us fully online, and schools that have a physical campus but also offer fully online learning.

Here are a few options that are popular with the SA homeschool community:

See this comparison between Cambrilearn and Teneo:


As a private candidate / homeschooler it is impossible to take Art & Design as a subject and to write the Cambridge exams at a CIE exam center. However, there is a different route available: OCAD Arts is an UK online Cambridge school that offers Art & Design as an IGCSE and A levels subjects. They also offer Art & Design Animation. You write the exams through different exam board and it is a Cambridge IGCSE or A levels equivalent. It is not currently recognized by USAf and the South African Matriculation Board, although it is widely accepted in the UK for university entrance.

The courses are OFQUAL regulated, see – The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation is a non-ministerial government department that regulates qualifications, exams and tests in England and, until May 2016, vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland. Colloquially and publicly, Ofqual is often referred to as the exam “watchdog”.

See for courses available through OCAD Arts.


This will absolutely depend on how you homeschool, what service provider you use and what tutor support you need. Some homeschoolers are able do it themselves – with minimal expenses (only exam fees and textbooks) – by downloading the syllabus from the CIE website and through self-study. This is ONLY an option for experienced homeschoolers that are strong independent learners. Most students need a service provider and tutor support to pass the exams.

According to SA Homeschoolers the approximate total costs for obtaining a matric are as follows: Cambridge = R30,000+ (IGCSE & AS exam fees)

It takes approximately 3 years to complete a formal Cambridge qualification, 2 years for IGCSE (gr. 10-11) and 1 year for AS-levels (gr. 12). A-levels are not required by local South African universities. These are exam costs only and excludes textbooks, classes, laboratory work for Science, online school fees/ service provider, tutor support etc.

According to Cambrilearn (sourced on 4 April 2023) the cost of homeschooling will depend on the curriculum, platform, student level and the subjects you select. The homeschooling costs for the Cambridge Curriculum will be influenced by the following factors:

  • Selected platform and its fees
  • Textbooks
  • Exam fees

The costing provided below is for illustrative purposes only, and will vary depending on the number of subjects, the examination venues, and the textbook formats you’ve elected to buy (eg. digital copy vs. printed textbook). 

Primary School homeschooling costs

Annual online homeschooling fees for Cambridge primary stage students range between R10 700 and R30 581 per year for three subjects. Textbooks will cost between R1 700 and R3 400 and at this level there are no additional examination fees. 

High School homeschooling costs

Annual online homeschooling fees for lower secondary stage students range between R38 330 and R60 565 per year for six subjects. Textbooks will cost between R6 600 and R8 300 and there are no additional examination fees for Lower Secondary years 1 and 2. 

Annual online homeschooling fees for IGCSE students range between R41 350 and R82 600 per year for six subjects. Textbooks will cost between R5 000 and R6 650 and, depending on the examination center, exam fees range between R16 629-R33 260 collectively.

AS Level homeschooling fees

Annual online homeschooling fees for A Level students range between R29 135 and R62 520 per year for four subjects. Textbooks will cost between R6 650 and R8 315 and, depending on the examination center, the subject, and the exam type, exam fees range between R16 630-R33 260 collectively.