What is Edexcel? Your guide to the GCSE exam board

As part of a new series on the UK's exam boards, Tes answers questions about the history of Edexcel and its current work

Tes Editorial

Edexcel, owned by Pearson, is the only privately owned exam board in the UK

What is the Edexcel exam board?

Edexcel – the name being a portmanteau of “education” and “excellence” – is one of the largest awarding bodies in the UK alongside AQA. It is the qualification brand name for publishing and education company Pearson.

It offers a variety of courses and qualifications for 14- to 19-year-olds, but is largely used for GCSE and A-level qualifications in the UK (as well as some vocational ones, including NVQs and Functional Skills).

There are several examination boards that are able to set and award qualifications, such as GCSEs and A levels, to pupils in state schools and colleges across the UK. 

All exam boards follow strict guidelines from Ofqual (the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) to regulate standards and ensure parity, but the layout, content and format of exams varies from board to board.

Schools and colleges, therefore, have a choice of which exam board they will use for each subject, and must look carefully at each specification to decide which awarding body and qualification they will choose. Decisions can be based on the amount of papers, weightings of units and ratios of written exams to non-exam assessment, as well as on the specific content covered by the course. 

Who owns Edexcel?

Although it was initially established as a charitable organisation, Edexcel is now owned by Pearson and is the only privately owned exam board in the UK. The company is overseen by a board, which regulates standards and monitors the overall running of the company.

How long has Edexcel been around?

Edexcel was originally formed in 1996, following the merger of the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) and the University of London Examinations and Assessment Council (ULEAC), which administered GCSEs and A levels. 

By 2005, Pearson had taken over the awarding body and continues to use the name of Edexcel as its main qualification brand. Although the name Edexcel has only been around for just over 20 years, ULEAC's heritage stretches back through several mergers of examinations boards to the University of London Extension Board founded in 1902.

What subjects does Edexcel cover?

Edexcel offers qualifications in around 50 subject areas, including the core subjects of maths, English and science. However, there are more than 300 choices of topics or subjects attached to the various work-based and NVQ competency qualifications, and Edexcel is a popular choice for BTEC and NVQ qualifications.

What is Edexcel’s appeals process?

Edexcel offers a variety of RoMM (Reviews of Marking and Moderation) services depending on the query or concern that a centre (or candidate) might have. In the first instance, concerns relating to clerical errors, general procedures and the awarding marking can be explored using Edexcel’s ATS (Access to Scripts) service.

This free service allows centres to view candidates’ scripts (unannotated but numerically marked) in order to determine whether or not they believe there has been any inaccuracies in the application of the mark scheme or indeed errors relating to general procedures involved in the marking process.  

If centres are dissatisfied and believe there has been an error made by the board, they may request a review of marking or moderation, which will be carried out by a senior examiner.

In line with the guidance from the JCQ (the Joint Council for Qualifications), centres can still request an appeal, following a review of marking or moderation, on the grounds of unfair or inaccurate application of the mark scheme or marking procedures, or may dispute decisions regarding malpractice or special consideration.  

These appeals must be made within 30 days of a review outcome and approved by the headteacher or principal in order to be considered. If the centre/candidate is still dissatisfied with the final judgement, they can apply to have their case heard in a meeting with the Pearson appeals panel.

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