SQA publishes Candidate, and Centre Malpractice Data for session 2016-17

27 February 2018

Under our statutory duty as the regulator for National Qualifications in Scotland, SQA has published information on malpractice in the 2016-17 academic session.
 
In addition, and for the first time, we are publishing data on SQA’s approach to managing centre malpractice. The data covers SQA activity across all qualification and centre types and across all assessment methodologies in 2016 and 2017.
 
Dr Janet Brown, Scotland’s Chief Examining Officer said, ‘SQA has a duty, in the interests of fairness and equity for all candidates, and to maintain the integrity and standards of our qualifications, to investigate where concerns of malpractice are raised. 
 
‘Any kind of malpractice is totally unacceptable. We will continue to work with our centres, the teaching profession, and our markers and invigilators, to ensure that our approaches to malpractice are applied.’
 

National Qualifications 2016-2017 - Candidate Malpractice Data

The number of candidates accused of malpractice while sitting SQA examinations in 2017 – including National 5, Higher, and Advanced Higher – remains extremely low.
 
In 2017, penalties were applied in 183 cases - 0.036 per cent of the total number of entries (512,145). External awards were cancelled in 113 cases. Revision of marks – where candidates’ papers were re-marked omitting the section(s) where malpractice was attempted – was applied in 15 cases. Warnings were given in 55 cases. 
 
In 2016, penalties were applied in 169 cases - 0.033 per cent of the total number of entries (516,652). External awards were cancelled in 126 cases. Revision of marks – where candidates’ papers were re-marked omitting the section(s) where malpractice was attempted – was applied in 10 cases. Warnings were given in 33 cases. 
 
What does SQA and its centres do to prevent malpractice? 
 
SQA works closely with its centres to prevent malpractice and provides detailed guidance to them on preventing, identifying, and reporting cases of malpractice.
 
Every school or college where candidates are sitting SQA examinations is provided with two explanatory booklets for candidates: Your Exams and Your Coursework.
 
Your Exams offers advice on how candidates should conduct themselves in exams, including avoiding malpractice. 
 
The booklet details prohibited items which must not be taken to a candidate’s allocated seat in an examination. These include: mobiles, tablets, smartwatches or any other device which can be used to access or store information; music/digital devices; calculators (except in specified subjects); dictionaries (except in specified subjects); cases (such as calculator or pencil cases); books, notes, sketches, paper of any kind, or any other prohibited item. 
 
The guide informs candidates about improper conduct in the exam hall and includes notes on plagiarism and collusion. It reminds candidates that penalties may be applied, and that all cases are investigated.
 
Your Coursework provides advice and guidance for candidates on creating and submitting the coursework components of their courses and includes sections on avoiding plagiarism and collusion. It sets out the penalties for malpractice and indicates that all cases are investigated.
 
Guidance is provided to all exam invigilators, who are appointed by SQA and led by a Chief Invigilator in each school or college. Invigilators are required to be vigilant to any potential malpractice. Invigilators are advised how to deal with candidates found with prohibited items during an exam or candidates whose conduct is inappropriate - and how to report such candidates to SQA.
 
Before each exam they brief candidates on unauthorised items, and remind them of their responsibilities within the exam hall and the consequences of any malpractice.
 
For noting: Penalty definitions
 
a. Warning - Warning given to a candidate that will be taken into account should there be any future breach of SQA rules.
b. Warning with Revision of Marks - Marks awarded are revised in cases of collusion and plagiarism in the candidate’s work.
c. Cancellation - Cancellation of external award. 
 
The full report, National Qualifications 2017 - Candidate Malpractice Data, is available here.
 

Centre Malpractice Data – 2016-17

 
As the national awarding body in Scotland, it is very important that SQA, its centres and other key partners work together to protect the credibility of the qualifications system. Concerns that assessment standards may not be applied consistently can put the value of SQA qualifications at risk, and negate the hard work of learners.
 
Ensuring fairness of assessment is fundamental to SQA’s purpose and is the cornerstone of the qualifications system on which learners depend. It includes preventing and addressing malpractice in the design and delivery of SQA qualifications and assessments.
 
SQA logs all concerns that are raised and reports on them irrespective of the outcome.
 
In 2017, a total of 108 concerns were logged, 75 of which were raised in connection with National Qualifications, with 33 raised in connection with Higher National and Vocational Qualifications. Fifty-seven of the concerns were identified by SQA, with a further 51 identified in other ways. Of the 76 that were investigated to a conclusion, 51 led to a finding of malpractice.
 
In 2017, SQA began to categorise all identified cases of malpractice by principle finding. Of the 51 cases of malpractice, 34 were found to be ‘assessment conditions not applied — level of direction’, where SQA identified instances where candidates had been given more support than the specific qualification assessment arrangements allow.
 
In 2016, 66 concerns were logged, 46 of which were raised in connection with National Qualifications, with 18 in connection with Higher National and Vocational Qualifications, and two out-with these groupings. Thirty-eight of the concerns were identified by SQA, with the remaining 28 identified in other ways. Of the 32 that were investigated to a conclusion, 18 led to a finding of malpractice.
 
When a finding of malpractice is made SQA has a range of measures available to safeguard the integrity of certification. These include:
 
a. A written warning
b. Application of required actions to enable certification to proceed
c. Withdrawal of approval to offer specific qualifications
d. Withdrawal of centre approval status
 
The full report, SQA Centre Malpractice Annual Report 2017, is available here.