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Booking exams with NEC

Non-exam assessment

For many of our online distance learning courses, you’ll have to sit exams to get your qualification. Although our courses are designed to be completely flexible as far as your study timetable is concerned, exams are governed by the awarding organisation for the qualification.

Our GCSE and A level courses are offered in conjunction with leading UK examination boards, and just like taking your examinations at school or college, exams are strictly controlled, and can only be sat on certain dates, and at registered exam centres.

Some of our other courses are offered in partnership with professional awarding bodies, and also require you to complete some assessed assignments or a portfolio of work, but don’t necessarily require that you sit formal exams. 

As an approved centre we are able to cover both exams and non-exam assessment:

  • Written exams
  • Oral exams
  • Coursework
  • Practical science endorsements
  • Spoken language endorsements

Our specific course information pages will tell you what’s required for your course.

If you have any questions or want to find out more about booking exams with NEC, contact our friendly team and we’ll be happy to share our expertise to help you make the right choice.

For some A level and GCSE subjects, non-exam assessments (NEAs) are included. NEA may refer to coursework or an endorsement and includes:

  • Coursework
  • Practical science endorsements
  • Spoken language endorsements

For example, if you’re studying A level English or A level History, in order to achieve the qualification you’ll need to complete NEA coursework as well as sitting the written papers. 

Subjects which include a practical or spoken language endorsement are reported separately on certificates and don’t contribute to the A level or GCSE grade.

If your chosen course includes an NEA element, call us free on 0800 389 2839 and we’ll be happy to share our expertise to help you make the right choice. You can also view or download a free copy of our PDF guides for more details.

A level science practicals at home

Your exam place guaranteed

At NEC, we understand that finding an exam centre and making sure you’re correctly entered can be stressful. That’s why we offer a guaranteed exam place for our students at one of our partnership exam centres. 

By choosing to take your exams at one of our partnership exam centres you can be confident that the application process will be seamless. All of our centres work hard to provide a professional and friendly service, which is valued very highly by our students.

Find an NEC partnership exam centre near you

We have partnership exam centres all over the UK, in:

Bolton, Cambridge, Coventry, Gravesend, Oxford, Swindon, Ashton-under-Lyne (Greater Manchester), Fareham (limited places available), Stockton-on-Tees (limited places available), London (limited places available).

If you wish to sit your exams in one of these partnership centres, our student support team can arrange this for you. 

Once you’re enrolled on your course, you’ll find more information about exams on our student portal learn@nec.

Choosing your own exam centre

You don’t have to use one of NEC’s partnership exam centres. If you decide not to use one of our centres you can enter privately with a centre of your choice. 

If you choose to do this, it’s important that you understand you are fully responsible for making sure you’ve entered the correct exams. If you’ve booked privately, the support NEC will be able to offer you should any issues arise will be very limited. 

We recommend that you book your exams at least six months before the exam session starts. Private exam centres will have their own exam entry deadlines which are likely to be earlier than those listed by the awarding organisations.

Oral exams for modern foreign languages

GSCE and A level courses in modern foreign languages include oral exams as part of the exam assessments. 

If your course includes an oral exam we can guarantee you a place at a number of our partnership exam centres.

If you are thinking about using a private exam centre remember to check that they can deal with all aspects of the assessment, including orals, as your exam entry can’t be split across two centres.

Exam fees

The cost of sitting your exams is not included in your course fee. This is because the cost of sitting exams varies depending on your choice of exam centre and whether your subject involves oral exams, coursework, spoken language endorsements or practical science endorsements. 

You should also bear in mind that you will need to make your own travel arrangements to attend your exam.

We try to keep our exam fees as low as possible and we will be always upfront about the costs. As an NEC student you’ll be able to find a full list of exam fees on learn@nec.

Or you can contact us to find out more about the exam fees you’re likely to have to pay.

Find out about the exam boards we work with

Many of our courses are run in conjunction with AQA and Pearson Edexcel, two of the UK’s major awarding bodies. Both have useful information for private candidates on their websites.

How NEC partnership exam centres help with NEAs

When you enrol with an exam centre for subjects requiring non-exam assessments, the exam centre will be responsible for all aspects of the NEA. This includes supervision, authentication, marking and following all administration requirements specified by the awarding bodies. 

By enrolling with NEC you are safe in the knowledge that as an approved centre we can offer a complete service to students. We are able to deal with all aspects of NEA subjects from supervision and authentication through to examination.

We are also able to offer practical and spoken language endorsements through a number of our partnership exam centres for our students.

Where an endorsement is attached to your A level or GCSE, exam centres can only accept your entry if they are willing to provide you with the opportunity to complete the endorsement. So if you are planning to find your own exam centre privately, you may find that centres willing to accept you are harder to locate.

NEC guide to A level English non-exam assessments

If you’re taking A level English Language or English Literature you’ll need to complete an NEA as well as taking your exams (there is no NEA for the AS). Your course materials and personal tutor will help you prepare for the NEA. The NEA makes up 20% of the overall A level marks and you must complete it in the same year as you sit your exams.

The NEA for A level English Language is ‘Language in action’ and consists of an investigation, original writing and a commentary.

The NEA for English Literature is ‘Independent critical study: texts across time’, and consists of one extended essay and a bibliography.

Download the full NEC guide to A level English non-exam assessment here.


If you choose to find your own exam centre, you may find this difficult, as the entering centre will have the responsibility for supervising, authenticating and marking the NEA, and will also need to follow all requirements specified by the awarding organisation.

With NEC’s partnership exam centres, you won’t have this issue as we are able to deal with everything from supervision to examination.

NEC guide to A level History non-exam assessments

If you’re taking A level History you’ll need to complete an NEA as well as taking your exams (there is no NEA for the AS). Your course materials and personal tutor will help you prepare for the NEA. The NEA makes up 20% of the overall A level marks and you must complete it in the same year as you sit your exams.

Download the full NEC guide to A level History non-exam assessment here.


If you choose to find your own exam centre, you may find this difficult, as the entering centre will have the responsibility for supervising, authenticating and marking the NEA, and will also need to follow all requirements specified by the awarding body.

With NEC’s partnership exam centres, you won’t have this issue as we are able to deal with everything from supervision to examination.

NEC guide to A level Science practical skills endorsements

If you’re taking A level Biology, Physics or Chemistry, your exam centre must give you the opportunity to do the practical endorsement, which involves 12 practicals in total (usually taken as three sessions of four practicals. This is reported separately on your certificate, and doesn’t affect your A level grade. You can still pass the A level even if you don’t pass the endorsement.

Download the full NEC guide to A level Science practical endorsement here.


Some of NEC’s partnership exam centres can accept entries for the practical endorsements. You don’t have to sit your written exams at the same centre as you do your practicals – just talk to us when making your application and we’ll make the necessary arrangements.

NEC guide to GCSE English spoken language endorsements

Entries for GSCE English Language automatically include the endorsement, and all examination centres accepting entries for GCSE English Language have to give you the opportunity to do the endorsement. You can choose not to do it – it won’t affect your overall GCSE grade.

Getting your endorsement involves preparing a spoken presentation on a specific topic, taking around 10 minutes to deliver. You’ll be videoed making your presentation.

Download the full NEC guide to GCSE English spoken language endorsement here.


Whilst getting the endorsement isn’t compulsory in order to pass your GCSE, we’d always recommend that you do it, as it could be a requirement for applications you make in the future. If you sit your GCSE English Language without it and then discover you need it later, you’d have to retake the whole GCSE – it can’t be added on afterwards.

Several of NEC’s partnership exam centres offer you the opportunity to do your endorsement there, the guide specifies which  – and it’s important to be aware that you must do your endorsement at the same centre where you take your written exams. 

Additional information

Pearson Edexcel provides some useful advice for private candidates taking subjects with an NEA element. Visit the Pearson Edexcel website to find out more.