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Ofqual - Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation

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Information for:

Qualifications and assessments in England and Northern Ireland

qualifications and assessments

We regulate at all levels, from the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) of the National Curriculum up to higher-level vocational qualifications equivalent to a PhD. These assessments and qualifications are collected into separate systems (or frameworks): the National Curriculum and the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)/National Qualifications Framework (NQF). Higher education qualifications, such as degrees, are the responsibility of the Quality Assurance Agency.

Qualification reform - recent announcements

A number of reforms to GCSEs and proposed reforms to A levels have been announced in recent months. For GCSEs, while additional marks are to be given for accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar and all exams are to be sat at the end of the course, these changes have not been introduced in time for the exams being awarded this summer.

The Government has recently announced an intention for universities to be more involved in the A level system. We welcome this, and will be consulting on how this could work.

To find out more about what is happening with GCSEs read our frequently asked questions or more detailed information.

We also have more information about what is happening with A levels.

We have already taken some action to address concerns about GCSE science. Read more about GCSE science exams this summer.

We have also published up to date information on accreditation of GCSE Geography specifications.

Qualification types

General qualifications

Find out more information on the different types of qualification:

We have also published a range of individual qualification guides to help students and parents understand more about the qualifications on offer.

View the qualification guides.


Vocational qualifications

Student flower arranging

We regulate vocational qualifications (VQs) in England and Northern Ireland. Vocational qualifications are designed to allow learners to learn in a way that suits them, and give learners the skills that employers are looking for.

Read more about vocational qualifications.

How qualifications fit into the framework

A qualification is intended to show employers, teachers and learners what someone has learnt and can do as a result of that achievement.

Click the diagram to the left to find out more about the key characteristics of recognised qualifications.

Read more about comparing equivalent qualifications.

Key dates

Important dates in the education calendar can be found in our key dates section.

View a list of key dates

National Curriculum and Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) assessments

The National Curriculum sets out the learning objectives for everyone educated at a maintained school, from the age of 5 up to age 16. The EYFS specifies the learning and development requirements for children from birth to five years old.

We have specific duties to keep under review all aspects of National Curriculum and Early Years Foundation Stage assessments in England. We refer to these as National Assessment arrangements.

Read more about National Assessment arrangements.

Qualification frameworks

Qualifications and Credit Framework

The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) is a structure that clearly shows how the different types of qualifications interrelate and allows credit from assessments to be transferred flexibly between qualifications.

We work with the government, the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) and awarding organisations to agree this framework. We're responsible for regulating QCF qualifications and assessments to maintain standards.

Find out more information about the QCF.

National Qualifications Framework

In England qualifications have traditionally been defined by the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), which included all general and vocational qualifications accredited from 1997. The NQF consists of Entry level to level 8, describing the difficulty of qualifications at each level. Many qualifications are being transferred to the Qualifications & Credit Framework (QCF), which uses a credit based system to recognise qualification size and gives a more flexible approach to learners' needs.

Find out more about the NQF.

European Qualifications Framework

The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) is an overarching qualifications framework that links the qualifications of different countries together. It acts as a translation device to make qualifications easier to understand across different countries and systems in Europe.

Ofqual in partnership with CCEA is the National Coordination Point for the EQF. The NCP provides guidance and understanding on how national qualifications frameworks relate to the EQF.

Read more about the EQF.

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