Summer examinations: A checklist for schools

Written by: Jugjit Chima | Published:
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Hello, I have an interview tomorrow for exam officer role at the college and I have been searching ...

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The summer 2017 exams series officially starts on Monday, May 15. As schools make their last-minute preparations Jugjit Chima offers a final checklist to help

With the summer 2017 examination series almost upon us, schools and colleges across the country are in the final throes of preparations – this includes supporting students, informing parents of their responsibilities, accommodating access arrangements, preparing exam rooms as well as adhering to exam rules and regulations as set out by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) and the various awarding bodies.

Candidates should expect to sit their examinations in conditions which allow them to perform to the best of their ability and, therefore, it is important that schools and colleges help their students in this regard while also adhering to JCQ and awarding body regulations.

The onus for ensuring the successfully delivery of examinations in the coming weeks falls upon several members of staff – not just the exams officer. The head of centre, senior leaders, SENCOs and subject leads all have a role to play in the coming weeks.

As a “last-minute” checklist, here are some areas which you should ensure are addressed in your centre:

Question papers and exam materials

Question papers and any associated exam resources in secure storage should ideally be organised into date and session order enabling simple checks against a centre’s master exam timetable to be made to ensure all materials have arrived prior to exam dates.

If any erratum notices arrive, affix them to the relevant sealed question paper packet(s) to ensure they will not be overlooked at the time of the exam.
During exams, look out on a daily basis for any urgent alerts (emails/correspondence/phone calls) from awarding bodies that might highlight, for example:

  • Problems with exam papers.
  • Recall of exam papers and issue of replacement papers.
  • Further issue of any erratum notices.
  • Changes to examiner/marker details.

Attendance registers

Attendance registers should be safely stored, in date and session order for ease of access and daily preparation for exam sessions.

If, as a result of making amendments to final entries, an updated attendance register is provided by the awarding body, confidentially destroy the original and replace with the update. Where amendments may be made, and an updated attendance register is not provided in time, either make handwritten changes on the attendance register or use a centre MIS-generated version providing all the required details.

You should note the instructions for completion of the attendance register for withdrawn or transferred candidates.

Preparing for each exam day

Draw up a checklist of key tasks to be undertaken each exam day and reminders of how to deal with unplanned events that may arise on a daily basis.
All exam rooms, including those for a candidate under separate invigilation, must be prepared to the required standard. Each exam room should be set up as required, including the following:

  • The required JCQ exam room posters must be displayed outside each room for the attention of candidates.
  • Appropriate seating arrangements must be in place for the type of assessment taking place and the seating plan must record the arrangements.
  • The centre number and exam start and finish times must be displayed for all candidates to see.
  • No related reference material must be displayed in the room and no unauthorised materials should be introduced into the exam room.
  • A clock must be visible to all candidates; where more than one clock is provided, these must be synchronised.
  • A copy of JCQ’s Instructions for Conducting Examinations 2016-17 (in main exam rooms) and the attendance register should be available for invigilator use.
  • Ensure an incident log is provided in every exam room (and make sure that the process for identifying candidates in exam rooms is known and understood by invigilators and that centre staff understand the rules around the people present in exam rooms).

The JCQ inspection

Be prepared for your JCQ inspection. An unannounced centre inspection will normally take place at least annually. The inspection will report on the examination arrangements for general and vocational examinations and assessments. Arrangements inspected include the centre, exam room arrangements including invigilation and supervision, security of examination materials, and other issues such as access arrangements information and required policies/procedures.

The JCQ regulations state: “It is the responsibility of the head of centre to ensure that his/her centre ... allows all venues used for examinations and assessments, paperwork and secure storage facilities to be open to inspection. JCQ centre inspectors will identify themselves with an appropriate letter of authorisation/card. The inspector must be accompanied throughout his/her tour of the premises, including inspection of the centre’s secure storage facility.”

Access arrangements

Ensure that all paperwork and logistics are in place for access arrangements candidates. Candidates should be made aware of the arrangements that are in place for their exams and assessments, and any exceptions where these will not be applied.

Compile a list of all access arrangement candidates and their needs to support production of your master exam timetable. Identify candidates, where relevant for invigilators, on seating plans.

Confirm that the facilitators and invigilators supporting and supervising candidates are trained and identify your centre process for dealing with last-minute temporary or emergency arrangements.

Where required, evidence needs to be provided on file. Where relevant, the file for each candidate should include:

  • A print-out of the approval from AAO (Access Arrangements Online).
  • A signed data protection notice.
  • Appropriate evidence of need and normal way of working.

At the start of the exam:

  • Give JCQ memory aids (or your centre-customised versions) to relevant facilitators in exam rooms.
  • Ensure appropriate cover sheets are provided which must be completed by the facilitator and, where required, signed by the invigilator.
  • For GCE and GCSE, pre-populated cover sheets must be printed from AAO.
  • For other qualifications covered by JCQ, cover sheets should be printed from the JCQ website.

Temporary or last-minute emergency arrangements can be put in place at exam time, although approval, where required, must be sought.
If the need becomes apparent just before the start of an exam, keep the candidate under supervision until the appropriate arrangements are put in place.

Preparing your invigilators

Invigilators must be clear on their role and must follow instructions where relevant to the role of the invigilator particularly when:

  • Preparing for the examination.
  • Starting the examination.
  • Dealing with emergencies.
  • Ending the examination.
  • Collecting the scripts.

Invigilators need to fully understand the exam(s) taking place in the room they have been allocated to and should be briefed accordingly prior to each exam session on:

  • The required question papers, other exam materials and exam stationery.
  • The duration of the exam/exams.
  • The attendance register and incident log.
  • The seating arrangements/seating plan.
  • Any different instructions relating to any access arrangement candidates in the exam room.
  • Any other appropriate instructions or information.

Ensure that invigilation ratios are maintained at all times and that sole invigilators have means of summoning assistance “without leaving the examination room and without disturbing the candidates”.

Dealing with irregularities/emergencies

Centres must be aware of how to deal with the following situations:

  • Candidate requires an emergency access arrangement(s) at the time of the exam.
  • Candidate arrives for the exam and is clearly unwell or extremely distressed.
  • Candidate is absent from an exam.
  • Candidate arrives late/very late for an exam.
  • Candidate is suspected of, or committing, actual malpractice in an exam.
  • There is a major disruption in the exam room (including emergency evacuation).

Dealing with malpractice

Invigilators must be aware of how to deal with incidents of malpractice/suspected malpractice. They must record what has happened and, wherever possible, remove and keep any unauthorised material that a candidate may have in the examination. If necessary, the invigilator should summon assistance.

The head of centre:

  • Must report to the awarding body as soon as possible all cases of suspected or actual malpractice in connection with the examination. Form JCQ/M1 Report of Suspected Candidate Malpractice – must be completed.
  • Has the authority to remove a candidate from the examination room, but should only do so if the candidate would disrupt others by remaining in the room.
  • Has a duty to monitor and report potential malpractice by invigilators and centre staff to the awarding body as soon as possible.

Packing and dispatching scripts

Scripts should be packaged and dispatched as soon as practically possible after the exam. Check that any additional loose sheets or additional answer books are inserted in candidates’ scripts and that fully completed cover sheets are inserted into the scripts of access arrangement candidates, where a cover sheet is required by the arrangement, unless an individual awarding body issues different instructions. For word processed work and cover sheets, follow any instructions issued by the individual awarding body.

Check the attendance register has been fully completed for each exam and include in the package with the scripts.

Only scripts (in the order they appear on the register) and the completed attendance register should be included in the plastic envelope. Nothing else should be sent to the examiner/marker. Any follow-up reports (JCQ VLA, M1 forms etc) should be sent directly to the awarding body.
Don’t forget that a completed attendance register must still be sent to the examiner/marker even where no candidates attended the exam (in effect, a nil return).

Results day and post-results enquiries

Ensure candidates are made aware of the post-results services that will be available to them and your centre’s Internal Appeals Procedure.

There are currently two main services provided – Enquiries about Results (EARs) and Access to Scripts (ATS):

  • EAR services offer clerical re-checks, marking reviews and moderation reviews. An appeals process is offered where a centre or private candidate is dissatisfied with the outcome of an EAR and can provide appropriate grounds for appeal.
  • ATS services provide access to marked exam scripts.

Fully research the information provided by JCQ and awarding bodies to understand what is involved in each of the services provided.

Determine relevant dates relating to post-results services for the qualification(s) in question. Collate information from awarding bodies on their post-results services deadlines, fees and charges. There are no common fees, these are individual to each awarding body. You will need to identify your centre’s policy regarding fees.

Using the information gathered on the post-results services available for the exam series and the associated deadlines, fees and charges, prepare centre-specific guidance for candidates and staff in preparation for results day.

Then identify your internal deadlines for EARs and ATS to be requested to ensure awarding body external deadlines can be met.
Consider preparing a standard form to collect enquiries/requests, required candidate consent/permission and relevant fees.

Submission of EAR and ATS requests must be made online via the individual awarding body secure extranet site – ensure you have log-ins (username and password) to access these secure systems.

  • Jugjit Chima is one of the founders of The Exams Office, an online support tool for exams officers. Visit You can read Jugjit’s previous articles for SecEd via

Further information

Hello, I have an interview tomorrow for exam officer role at the college and I have been searching to read about role and exam preparation. As I am not an exam officer at this moment but would like to become one, this article has been very helpful. I feel more confident now if I am asked about exam organising procedures tomorrow. Thank you. Zara Handley
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