Malpractice

Now more than ever learners need SQA and partners to work well together in the design and delivery of a portfolio of credible qualifications, with a strong, fair and consistent national standard.

Ensuring fairness of assessment, which includes preventing and addressing malpractice in the design and delivery of our qualifications and assessments, is fundamental to our purpose, and is the cornerstone of the qualifications system on which learners depend.

Where concerns of possible malpractice arise, they must be dealt with, by SQA and by others, sensitively, robustly and above all fairly. These can be difficult situations for the individuals involved. SQA is always focused on maintaining the integrity of certification and ensuring fairness for those involved, particularly any candidates affected. All allegations of malpractice must be investigated consistently, fairly and impartially.

Our Information for Centres document:

  • explains SQA's definition of malpractice, giving examples in a range of contexts
  • describes the arrangements that we expect our centres to put in place to minimise the risk of malpractice
  • explains how we expect concerns of malpractice to be handled, if and when they arise

Malpractice: information for centres (425 KB)

Reporting suspected malpractice concerns to SQA

SQA takes all concerns of suspected malpractice very seriously. They will be considered very carefully and sensitively by our team of experienced staff.

There are different ways of reporting your concerns to us.

Candidate malpractice

  • breaching the security of assessment materials in a way which threatens the integrity of any exam or assessment - including the early and unauthorised removal of a question paper or answer booklet from the examination room
  • breaching the defined conditions of an assessment (e.g., completing work outside of controlled conditions)
  • collusion - working collaboratively with other candidates beyond what is permitted
  • copying from another candidate
  • frivolous content - producing content that is unrelated to the assessment
  • misconduct - inappropriate behaviour in an assessment room that is disruptive and/or disrespectful to others. This includes talking, shouting and/or aggressive behaviour or language in the examination room
  • offensive content - content in assessment materials that includes vulgarity and swearing that is outwith the context of the assessment, or any material that is discriminatory in nature (including discrimination in relation to the protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act 2010). This should not be read as inhibiting candidates' rights to freedom of expression.
  • personation - assuming the identity of another candidate, or a candidate having someone assume their identity during an assessment
  • plagiarism - failure to acknowledge sources properly and/or the submission of another person's work as if it were the candidate's own
  • prohibited items - possessing items that candidates must not have with them at their allocated seat in the examination room because they can give an unfair advantage, including (but not restricted to): mobile phones; electronic devices such as an MP3 player, iPod, tablet, smartwatch or any other device that is web-enabled or stores information; books, notes, sketches or paper; pencil case; calculator case; calculator or dictionary (except in specified assessments) - unless approved by SQA as part of an assessment arrangement

If you suspect that candidate malpractice has occurred, you can report this to:

General enquiries about NQ candidate malpractice concerns can also be emailed to investigation.enquiries@sqa.org.uk

Concerns that relate to internal assessments marked by the centre should be referred to the head of centre in the first instance. If you feel you are unable to do this, you should refer your concerns to SQA at qav@sqa.org.uk

Candidate Malpractice Report for 2018-19 and 2019-20 (130 KB)

Centre malpractice

  • managers or others exerting undue pressure on staff to pass candidates who have not met the requirements for an award
  • deliberate falsification of records in order to claim certificates
  • excessive direction from assessors to candidates on how to meet national standards
  • failure to assess internally-assessed unit or course assessment work fairly, consistently and in line with national standards
  • failure to comply with SQA requirements in the preparation, quality assurance and submission of estimated grade information
  • failure to apply specified SQA assessment conditions in assessments, such as limits on resources or time available to candidates to complete their assessments, including any amendments to permitted conditions
  • misuse of assessments, including repeated re-assessment contrary to requirements, or inappropriate adjustments to assessment decisions
  • failure to recognise and apply appropriate measures to manage potential conflict of interest in assessment or quality assurance
  • failure to apply appropriate processes to ensure fairness in the provision of assessment arrangements
  • failure to comply with SQA requirements in relation to appeals processes
  • insecure storage, transmission or use of assessment instruments, materials and marking instructions, resulting in a breach of assessment security
  • failure to comply with requirements for safe retention of candidate evidence, and safe and accurate maintenance of assessment and internal verification records
  • failure to comply with SQA's procedures for managing and transferring accurate candidate data
  • failing to register candidates within a qualification's accreditation period
  • making late registrations to the awarding body for qualifications in their lapsing period
  • requesting late certification of learners after the certification end date
  • for all SQA qualifications, failure by a centre to promptly notify, investigate and report concerns of potential centre malpractice to SQA
  • failure to promptly notify SQA of a finding of centre malpractice, maladministration or an equivalent or similar finding by another awarding organisation
  • withholding information about circumstances that may compromise the integrity of any SQA qualification or the credibility of SQA
  • failure to notify SQA promptly if another awarding body removes approval from the centre, regardless of the reason given for this withdrawal
  • failure to take action required by SQA or to co-operate with an SQA investigation into concerns of malpractice
  • for qualifications subject to regulation by SQA Accreditation, Ofqual or Qualifications Wales, failure by a centre to notify, investigate and report to SQA concerns of potential candidate malpractice

If you suspect that centre malpractice has occurred, you can report this to:

To help us investigate your concern, we need as much information from you as possible.
The information we need to investigate your concern is:

  • centre name
  • subject name
  • date the incident occurred
  • details of individuals involved
  • nature of the concern

Without the information listed above we may not be able to fully investigate your concerns.

Centre Malpractice Report 2019 (227 KB)

Centre Malpractice Report 2020 (232 KB)

Coursework Authenticity - a Guide for Teachers and Lecturers

An overview of the area of authenticity, plagiarism and collusion, and how it applies to coursework that is submitted to SQA for marking.

Contact details

We understand that you may wish to remain anonymous. However, if you do not provide SQA with your name and/or contact details we may not be able to fully investigate your concerns. If you do provide us with your name and/or contact details, we will always seek your consent before providing your details to a third party, unless legally obliged to do so.

SQA manages investigations of potential centre malpractice discreetly, and we will normally discuss the progress and outcome of a centre malpractice investigation only with the head of centre or their nominee.