Changes to exam rules for 2015/16

Written by: Jugjit Chima | Published:
Photo: iStock

Jugjit Chima outlines some of the key changes to examination rules and regulations for the 2015/16 academic year

As the latest round of qualification reforms are being implemented within schools and colleges, it can be easy to overlook the annual amendments that are made to exams regulations by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).

Unlike many academic changes, the awarding organisations, via JCQ, respond to issues relating to the conducting of examinations on a regular basis.

Exams rules and regulations are amended each year to ensure that the examination system in England, Northern Ireland and Wales is consistent and robust, and the envy of jurisdictions across the world.

The work done by JCQ and the awarding organisations in maintaining rigour around examinations is something which is largely unseen but critical in ensuring that examinations are respected and hold value both at home and abroad.

The JCQ produces a range of documents which provide clear guidance of what is – and isn’t – acceptable when it comes to the conducting of exams. These are sent in hard copy to each exam centre (school/college) and are available online, including information on General Regulations, Access Arrangements, Reasonable Adjustments and Special Considerations, and lnstructions for Conducting Examinations.

Exams office staff are aware of this, but what about other staff within school? The head of centre, senior leadership team and SENCO are also required to be aware of the various JCQ documentation.

So, what has changed for the 2015/16 academic year? Below is a summary of the changes in Instructions for Conducting Examinations, including where these can be located in the JCQ booklet (this does not include the changes to Access Arrangements, Reasonable Adjustments and Special Considerations).

Opening question paper packets

To avoid potential breaches of security an additional member of centre staff must check the time, date and any other paper details before a question paper packet is opened (paragraph 1.9, page 6 and paragraph 11.1, page 29).

Where a candidate requires a computer reader or a question paper on coloured/enlarged paper (and approval has been granted via online Access Arrangements), centres are permitted to open the question paper packet in the secure room within 90 minutes of the published starting time for the examination (paragraph 1.10, page 7).

Supervised breaks

Candidates must remain under formal examination conditions during the short supervised break (paragraph 2.9, page 10).


Candidates must clear anything stored in their calculators (section 3, page 13).


Centres must ensure appropriate accommodation exists to support the size of the cohorts they are teaching (paragraph 5.1, page 14).

An alternative site arrangement now includes a hospital which is a non-registered centre or the candidate’s home. Centres should carefully note the contents of paragraph 5.3 (paragraph 5.3, page 14).


A training session must be held for any new invigilators. An update meeting must be held for the existing invigilation team (section 6, page 17).

A teacher who teaches the subject being examined, or a senior member of teaching staff who has had overall responsibility for the candidates’ preparations for the examination cannot act as an invigilator during the examination or on-screen test (paragraph 6.3, page 18).

A training session must be organised for invigilators and those facilitating an Access Arrangement (paragraph 7.6, page 20).

Separate invigilation

A candidate may only take their examinations under separate invigilation within the centre where he/she has an established difficulty (paragraph 8.6, page 24).

Bilingual dictionary

A bilingual dictionary must not be used in GCSE English literature, geography, history and religious studies examinations due to the assessment of spelling, punctuation and grammar (paragraph 8.2, page 21).


Prohibited potential technological/web-enabled sources of information now include iWatches (SmartWatches). Reference to an iWatch is also now made within the JCQ Information for Candidates documents and the JCQ No Mobile Phone poster (paragraph 11.1, page 29).

Candidate names

Candidates must be instructed to write their name exactly as it appears on the attendance register – except for Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) exams (paragraph 12.3, page 31).

Collecting scripts

When collecting scripts, invigilators must check that the names on the scripts match exactly the details on the attendance register (section 20, page 40).


With the switch from a modular to linear examination system it is very possible that the changes listed above will not be seen in many schools until next summer. However, it is important that key staff (not just the exams officer) are aware of the amendments to the rules and regulations, and that planning is in place to ensure that changes are implemented successfully.

  • Jugjit Chima is one of the founders of The Exams Office, an online support tool for exams officers and data managers. Visit

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