Advice is often given that, because English and Maths are such vital subjects, they should be taken last of all, to ensure the best possible grade. Others advise that younger children are quite capable of getting top grades, if they are skilled in the subject and keen to sit the exam.
My own experience of helping home educated children prepare for the CIE English IGCSE is that some 13 year olds have done very well, attaining As and A*s, whilst others can really struggle to achieve a C at that age. This is an individual decision, but the following questions may help you to decide.
There are there are some key factors to take into account when making this decision about your child’s readiness.
How are your child’s skills? Are their writing and reading skills excellent? Good. They will need to be. If your child has a Specific Learning Difficulty, going for an exam early, even with Access Arrangements in place, may be very unwise.
How extensive is their vocabulary? Do they have the ability to express their ideas with a variety of appropriate and precisely selected words? If not, perhaps a delay of a year or two, whilst they work on widening their vocabulary may be helpful.
Can they read between the lines? Do they know the difference between literal meaning and implied meaning? If not, they won’t be able to achieve the best marks in a task testing comprehension of reading. If your child is a very literal, ‘black and white’ thinker, perhaps leaving the exam until later might benefit them, while they develop more linguistic experience.
How is their emotional maturity? Some of the extracts included in English exams expect a degree of maturity which your child may not yet have developed.
How experienced a reader and writer are they? Have they read plenty of good quality literature, especially classic fiction? If they are inexperienced readers or writers, their own writing may be too simplistic, cliché-ridden and unoriginal. This will impact their grade.
Lastly, do they have sufficient life-experience to draw on? The English IGCSEs depend on this. They are written for students in Year 11 and are based on the assumption of certain life experiences common to that age group. One exam question set recently, for example, required students to describe the atmosphere in the crowd before a large sporting event or music concert. If your child has never attended either, they would need to try to imagine the details of such an event, which could compromise their ability to give a realistic account. The composition section of any English exam will have questions such as this, based on the same assumptions of common life-experiences.
Hopefully, considering these questions will help you to make a decision!