Turning education and skills policy into practice

Examination assessments

We help certification agencies produce high-stakes examinations. Our work covers school age qualifications – mathematics, English, science, etc. and qualifications for older learners in vocational settings. We also work with professionals such as accountants and medics to help them produce better examinations.

AlphaPlus is a leading consultancy in the design and development of high-stakes examinations for certification agencies in the UK and overseas. We support their work from the initial concept of an assessment through the specification and question-and-task writing, trialling and performance analysis, to live use and monitoring.

We have developed high-stakes on-paper and on-screen assessments for the government organisations of all four UK countries, as well as for many public and private sector awarding bodies and professional certification agencies. In the UK, these include GCSEs, A Levels, technical vocational qualifications, adult English and mathematics qualifications, and certification for trades and professions. AlphaPlus is retained by several awarding organisations in the UK to write public examinations and to design evidence-based skills assessments. We also provide training and capacity-building activities to help certification agencies develop their own teams’ skills and capacity.

Our team of specialist educational statisticians undertakes the analytical aspects of assessment performance management. This team also provides support to regulators and government for programme monitoring of national assessments.

Example projects

Client: UK awarding organisations    
Projects: English, mathematics and IT Functional Skills exams
We have developed many of the leading AOs' offers (qualifications and assessments) for Functional Skills and the basic skills units in English and Mathematics.  This work grew from our work for the Regulator and DfE on the evaluation of the introduction of Functional Skills, and previous work on Basic and Key Skills (and their equivalents in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland).

Client: Awarding organisations
Projects: Qualification and assessment development
We have worked with AOs to develop new vocational qualifications and assessments for schools, colleges and workplace learning in areas as diverse as new media, employability, maths and English (Functional Skills), technology, engineering, health and beauty, business studies, construction, creative arts and hospitality.

We have also worked on academic qualifications including GCSEs and A Levels, supporting changes such as the move to linear, changes to grading approaches, consideration of options for tiering, comparability of specification content and balance, etc.

Client: UK professional certification bodies
Projects: Professional support

We work with a number of medical and accountancy bodies to support their professional standards and certification processes, helping them to ensure that their services to current and prospective members follow international best practice, and are fair and reliable.

Client: National College for Teaching & Leadership, The Teaching Agency
Projects: Development of English, mathematics and ICT tests for Newly Qualifying Teachers

NCTL and its predecessors have worked with AlphaPlus (and its partner, BTL) to develop these skills assessments since around 2003.  The assessments are delivered on-screen using parallel balanced forms and employ a range of innovative on-screen testing techniques. Newly qualifying teachers were required to pass assessments in each of the three subjects prior to obtaining Qualified Teacher Status.

Client: Saudi Arabia Ministry of Labour
Project: Daroob (“pathways”) project – design of on-screen examinations and workplace assessments
We are working as part of a publicprivate partnership to provide assessments for workplace learners taking short vocational courses, typically as graduate conversion courses.  The qualifications cover knowledge and skills assessments in a range of vocational subjects, assessed using a combination of computer-based testing and observation based skills assessments.

Client: Welsh Government
Project: Feasibility of online testing

Pupils in Wales take on-paper monitoring assessments each year from years 2 to 9, and the data from these assessments supports teachers with diagnostic information and provides national monitoring information for the Welsh Government.  AlphaPlus is undertaking a feasibility study of the prospects for online testing including detailed consideration of how the existing on-paper human-marked questions could be delivered in an on-screen computer-marked setting.

Client: Welsh Government
GCSE scrutiny

Working for the Welsh Government, we have undertaken annual scrutiny work on a number of key qualifications in Wales to establish whether standards in these qualifications are appropriate.

Client: DFE Standards and Testing Agency
Projects: Item writing
The STA produces the summative tests in English and maths that English schoolchildren take at the end of year 6.  AlphaPlus has written items for the reading tests.

The Qualification design and development team

Visit the team profile page for more information

John Winkley

Sarah Maughan

Tom Mitchell

Gavin Reynaud

Andrew Boyle

Clare Dowland

Zak Horrocks

Adaora Okechuku

Gillian Whitehouse

Professor Roger Murphy

John Hamer


John Winkley, Director

0161 238 4928