Assessment And Quality Assurance

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Assessment and quality assurance

The general principle we apply to quality assurance of all our qualifications is that assessment must be:

To maintain rigorous and credible national standards, all assessments must be valid (which means that they really assess the skills and/or knowledge they set out to assess) and assessment decisions must be reliable (which means that candidates can be confident that assessment decisions are being made consistently).  Centres need to ensure that the application of assessment tasks is practicable, that is, they make the best use of human and physical resources and time.  The process which we use to make sure that the delivery of our qualifications is valid, reliable and practicable is called 'verification'.

Another part of our job is to ensure that the national assessment system is based on design rules which ensure a coherent and consistent approach.  There are various aspects to this, however, the ones about which you are likely to hear include validation of National Qualifications and Higher National qualifications, and accreditation of SVQs.

Internal assessment and verification

Internal assessment is where a centre decides whether candidates have achieved the standards for the qualification which they are attempting.  This is done by using assessment instruments that are either devised in centres or developed by SQA.

All SQA qualifications which are wholly or partly internally assessed are subject to internal verification.  This is an element of our quality assurance framework which is designed to ensure that centres are making consistent and accurate assessment decisions in accordance with the assessment criteria defined in our qualifications.

Your centre will have devised its own internal verification processes and will have a set of procedures to ensure that assessment decisions are made consistently.

External verification

External verification is carried out by SQA-appointed staff, and is the means by which we check that qualifications are being delivered to national standards.  It focuses on the validity of the centre's assessment instruments, how they are applied, and the reliability of the centre's assessment decisions.

All SQA verifiers are experienced practitioners in education and training and in the subject which they are verifying.  We train them as SQA external verifiers and monitor their work to make sure they consistently apply national standards of assessment.

Verifiers always begin from the premise that schools have made assessment decisions correctly and that the purpose of the verification exercise is to confirm the centre's decisions.  They assume that all candidates entered for the same qualification are assessed to a common standard - ie that your centre's internal verification is operating effectively.  We do in fact check that this is the case.

Guidance on Assessment Arrangements for Candidates with Disabilities and/or Additional Support Needs

SQA is committed to equal opportunities for all candidates, and assessment arrangements should ensure that candidates have fair opportunities to show that they can achieve the standard required for our Units and qualifications.

Your centre will have in place arrangements to ensure equality of access to qualification and assessments.  In addition, SQA's publication Guidance on Assessment Arrangements for Candidates with Disabilities and/or Additional Support Needs, is now available to download.

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To order copies of these publications, please contact SQA's Business Development & Customer Support Team by e-mail:, or telephone: 0303 333 0330.