Homeschooling with Cambridge

Cambridge Assessment International Education prepares school students for life, helping them develop an informed curiosity and a lasting passion for learning. CIE is part of the University of Cambridge.

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. Prestantia, 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 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 recognised 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.

Find out more about Cambridge IGCSE subjects.

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 & A Levels.

Cambridge Study Advice

Here are some practical tips from Erica Hugo as posted on 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 Cambridge International

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

If you don’t attend a Cambridge school, you can still enter our 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


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.

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

How do I get university exemption in South Africa: CIE Destination South Africa

Also see University recognition in South Africa with Cambridge: CIE University recognition in South Africa

Universities in South Africa’s Requirements:…/203545221-Admission-requirements-f…

See PDF Higher Education South Africa Brochure

British Council:

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

Article on how to apply to South African Universities:

Applying to SA universities infographic: applying-to-university-infographic

Frequently asked questions from EduAnywhere: Frequently Asked Questions


Past Papers (including Checkpoint):



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

Teach Cambridge at Home:

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 and tuition, such as:

Wingu Academy

The British International Distance College


CL Education

Clonard Education

Theocentric Christian Education

My Online Schooling

International Virtual School

Wolsey Hall Oxford


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.