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Private Candidates and Teacher Assessed Grades

As students across the country (and even the globe) are working on producing the best possible evidence to support their Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs), thousands of students who have taken non-traditional routes to achieve their qualifications as private candidates, have been left wondering what they do can to ensure they get their hard-earned qualifications this year.

Following the announcement of exam cancellations in the UK, many exam boards also chose to move to a TAG system for their international equivalents to ensure that qualifications were comparable and international students following the British curriculum were not unfairly disadvantaged. As part of the OFQUAL consultation it was announced “private candidates should be assessed in a similar way to other students, by a recognised exam centre using a range of evidence. This evidence could include taking the exam board provided assessment materials in a suitable form. Centres will be asked to assess candidates based on what they have studied, and allowed to conduct assessment remotely.”

Although it is commendable that private candidates have been considered in this year’s consultation when so many were left stranded last year with little opportunity but to defer, yet again many private candidates are struggling to find centres, especially if they have not taken a course through a distance learning provider but are instead self-taught. Schools are struggling to add additional private candidates to the already mammoth task of assessing internal students, many exam centres that don’t offer teaching are not well equipped to assess students, and without the support of an accredited learning provider it is proving difficult to verify students’ work completed independently.

However, given the additional lead time this year, and increased guidance and support from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) and exam boards, there are options available to private candidates, and JCQ are set to release a list of centres accepting private candidates this year.

This year Carfax College will be providing a centre assessed grade verification scheme to support external candidates and ensure they have the opportunity to gain their qualifications this year. Many students have questions regarding the process, so we have provided an overview of the most common questions received so far:

Who is classed as a private candidate? School age students who have been home educated, adults who have studies independently, students who have studied with a distance learning provider which does not offer exam entries. Some students may also have opted to take additional subjects outside of their school/college.

What options are available to ensure private candidates achieve their qualifications this year? Private candidates must find a registered exam centre who will work with them to assess and submit grades to the relevant exam boards.

What is the assessment process?

This will vary from centre to centre and student to student. Centres will need to gain an understanding of how the private candidates have been studying, what evidence they have already produced, how verifiable any pre-existing evidence is, and how much of the specification content has been covered. This will likely take the form of an interactive assessment or interview with the student. Centres will have considerable flexibility to determine the appropriate range of evidence for their students. In most cases centres will be conducting their own assessments by setting past paper questions, mock exams, and during 1:1 sessions. All interactive sessions may be conducted remotely.

What is the timeline?

JCQ have announced that “to ensure private candidates have sufficient time to make entries, exam boards will be waiving late fees for private candidates up to Monday 26th April 2021.” The deadline to submit grades to the exam boards is 18th June 2021. Many centres will be requiring private candidates to work with them for a number of sessions over as long a period as possible to ensure that appropriate assessment can be completed.

Can I use work I have already done as evidence? Yes, but only if the work can be verified as the student’s own. Before accepting any pre-existing evidence, centres will need to consider the conditions under which it was produced and the level of confidence they can have in its authenticity. Any evidence set and/or marked by a third party should be submitted to the centre directly by the third party along with a supporting statement confirming the conditions under which the assessments were taken, whether reasonable adjustments or access arrangements applied, that the third party is not aware of any potential conflicts of interest (e.g., no personal or family relationship with student or tutor) and that the third part will cooperate with the awarding organisation if needed (e.g. during appeals process). Pre-existing evidence must not be accepted if the centre has concerns about its authenticity. And pre-existing work should be comparable with the quality of work completed under centre supervision.

What about coursework?

For most private candidate specifications coursework is not a requirement. However, exam boards have confirmed that course work, or Non-Exam Assessment (NEA) will not be a requirement, but students should be encouraged to continue working on these pieces of work as they may be considered a piece of evidence and contribute to the final TAG.

What about practicals?

Most universities have dropped the requirement to pass the practical endorsement in A-Level science, and it is still possible for students to gain their qualifications without the practical endorsement. If you would still like to pass this endorsement this year, private candidates will be required to find an exam centre willing to take them for the practical component, which will need to be completed in person. In response to the situation the exam boards have made some changes to the practical endorsement requirements this year. There will be no requirement to complete 12 practicals and no minimum practical requirement at all, however, students must have displayed competency at least once in each of the five common practical assessment criteria (CPAC).

Do I need to complete the entire course before I can get my grade?

Exam boards have made it clear that assessment should only be on what students have studied, and this also applies to private candidates. However OFQUAL have said that “Heads of centres will have to confirm that students have been taught sufficient content to allow progression to the next stage of their education, although we will not set requirements about the minimum amount of content that students must have been taught.”

Carfax College is currently accepting private candidates on its grade verification programme. This will consist of 10 hours of contact time per subject with an expert tutor (either in person or remotely) who will use a variety of assessment techniques and materials as well as verifying reliable pre-existing evidence in order to submit teacher assessed grades.

If you have any questions, would like to learn more about our private candidate grade verification programme or would like to discuss how Carfax College can help you please do contact us by phone: 01865 200 676 or email:


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