Examination boards in the United Kingdom

Examination boards in the United Kingdom (sometimes called awarding bodies or examining groups) are the examination boards responsible for setting and awarding secondary education level qualifications, such as GCSEs, Standard Grades, A Levels, Highers and vocational qualifications, to students in the United Kingdom.

Broadly speaking, the UK has (and has always had) two separate school systems: one for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and one for Scotland. As a result, two separate sets of exam boards have developed.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Unusually, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have several exam boards, with schools and colleges able to freely choose between them on a subject-by-subject basis. Currently, there are six exam boards available to state schools:
  • AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance)
  • CIE (University of Cambridge International Examinations)
  • CCEA (Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment)
  • Edexcel
  • OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations)
  • WJEC (Welsh Joint Education Committee)
Though the exam boards have regional roots, they are all nationwide, though the CCEA is not very active outside of its native Northern Ireland. Most offer a range of qualifications, though not all boards offer every qualification in every area (Edexcel, for example, offers a great deal of vocational qualifications, while the WJEC is the only board to offer A Level Film Studies). Schools and colleges have a completely free choice between the boards, depending on the qualification offered. Most schools use a mixture of boards for their GCSE qualifications, with a similar situation existing at A Level. (It is worth noting that a school using, say, OCR for GCSE History is perfectly free to pick a different board for A Level History.)

There is just one exam board in Scotland, the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority), which offers all Scotland's qualifications.

Examination boards working together
The UK's examination boards sometimes work together. For example, they sometimes offer qualifications jointly or share training materials for common parts of specifications.

The JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications) is a common voice for UK exam boards. The JCQ is made up of AQA, CCEA, City & Guilds, Edexcel, OCR, SQA and WJEC. Among its roles, it devises standard rules for exams and publishes statistics.

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