Exams, Qualifications & Syllabuses


Exams are normally taken on a traditional supervised written basis but there is an alternative to take oral exams individually online at Levels 1-4. Exam sessions can be arranged by any school, club or coaching group running courses. Each candidate will require a board and set at Level 2 and above and at all levels in respect of online exams. If you wish to arrange an exam session, please complete an Order Form for exams on our Order Form: Exams page. Please submit the completed form to IoC and make your payment at least 2 weeks before the exam session. The costs and durations are as follows (candidates are allowed up to 50% extra time for online exams):

  • Level 1: £5 per candidate: 30 minutes.
  • Level 2: £6 per candidate: 45 minutes.
  • Level 3: £7 per candidate: 60 minutes.
  • Level 4: £8 per candidate: 75 minutes.
  • Level 5: £9 per candidate: 90 minutes.

The exam fees listed are the ONLY costs involved in studying these courses and sitting the exams (apart from small additional charges on online exams for postage and the option to use one of IoC's invigilators), unless you would like to order past exam papers or sets of 4 past papers. The Order Form for Past Papers is available on our Order Form: Past Papers page. IoC will send the pack of exam papers by post one week in advance together with guidelines to be followed by the supervising tutor.


After the examination, the completed papers should be posted back to IoC as soon as possible for marking at the address shown in the guidelines. IoC aims to mark the papers at Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 within 2 weeks of receiving the answer papers. At Level 4 and Level 5, this period will be extended to one month. In cases where a candidate has not reached the pass mark, an individual advisory report identifying areas requiring further revision will also be sent. The marking scheme at all Levels will be as follows:

  • 100%
  • Distinction:    80% - 99%
  • Merit:            65% - 79%
  • Pass:             50% - 64%

  • Fail:               Below 50%


Level 1: The Board; the Pieces and their values; Check, Checkmate and Stalemate; Castling; Illegal moves.

Level 2: Notation; Annotation symbols; Checking and Checkmating; Sacrifices; Stalemate; Forks, Pins and Skewers; Doubling Up; the 7th Rank; Overloading; Opening Principles; Attacking and Defending                Pieces; Tournament Chess.

Level 3: From this point, topics are covered in much greater detail. Basic Endgame concepts; Combinations; Tactical ideas; some e4 and d4 Opening theory; more on Attacking and Defending.

Level 4: Advanced Endgame concepts; more Tactics; Positional concepts; more Opening theory.

Level 5: Advanced Opening and Middlegame themes; Advanced Endgame theory involving Combinations of Pieces; Psychology.