NCFE’s Guide to Functional Skills External Assessments

NCFE offer an on-demand assessment model for our Level 1 and 2 Functional Skills assessments, available as paper-based or online.

Learners can sit their assessments as soon as they’re ready, and their assessment papers will be marked and results issued 6 working days from the receipt of the papers at NCFE.

Centres must adhere to the Regulations for the Conduct of External Assessment when carrying out these assessments.

You can find our sample papers by clicking on the links below and the times allowed for our external assessments are also listed. We have recently released some new sample assessments that reflect the transition our assessments have gone through.  We have made some changes due to customer feedback and the recent Ofqual thematic review.  The samples are identified by NEW in the filepath.  The older samples are still excellent resources for your learners to use in preparation for their external assessment. 

*Please note our paper based ICT external assessments are carried out on a PC/Mac, the paper element is the question booklet. For the paper based external assessments, there are pre-release data files that you need to install ahead of the learners assessments.

Below is a brief guide to our requirements for external assessments. This is not an exhaustive list, so for full guidance refer to the Regulations for the Conduct of External Assessment.

Booking your external assessment:

  • you can book your paper based entries through the Portal for online assessment you can book that directly on the online assessment system
  • for paper-based external assessments you need to enter learners at least 10 working days before the assessment date. You can enter them less than 10 working days if you use our fast track entry service for a small fee
  • for online assessments if you have registered your learner through our portal then your learners will show 24 hours later on the online assessment system. If you have not registered the learners through the Portal you can create them as a pirate learner direct on the online assessment system
  • if you have learners who have special assessment requirements, you should look at our Reasonable Adjustments and Special Considerations policy. Please also refer to our new Guidance on Accessing Reasonable Adjustments for details of what you can put in place to allow all learners fair and equal access to assessment. If you need to make a request you can fill in the form.
  • if you need to cancel or change the date/time/location of an external assessment you’ve scheduled with us, contact your Customer Support Assistant straight away.

Running your external assessment:

  • upon receipt of the external assessment papers they will be in a sealed bag, these papers should be stored in a secure storage facility until the day of the assessment
  • for online assessments the key codes for learners should be stored in a secure locker until the learner is ready to commence their assessments
  • the external assessment room should be set up in accordance to the Regulations for the Conduct of External Assessment. When the room is ready the Invigilator should then remove the papers from sealed bag and set up for learners 
  • the invigilator should issue instructions to the learners in accordance to Appendix A in the Regulations for the Conduct of External Assessment
  • an Invigilator, meeting the requirements in the Regulations, should be present at all times during the assessment and ensure no malpractice or collusion occurs
  • ensure you have all the correct material available for your learners ahead of the date of the external assessment, for confirmation of what is required for each subject please refer to the "What you need" page.

Returning your external assessment papers

  • upon completion of the external assessment the Invigilator must ensure ALL papers are collected before learners leave the room
  • the Invigilator must complete the Invigilator’s register ensuring all information is complete and correct. They must then put the Invigilator’s register with ALL the papers and seal in the envelope NCFE provide
  • all papers must be returned within 24 hours of the external assessment taking place by special delivery/secure courier
  • if the external assessment papers are not all returned, or the register is incomplete or any other discrepancy is found the results will be put on hold until resolved. Once resolved the 6 working day turnaround will begin
  • ensure you have all the correct material available for your learners ahead of the date of the external assessment, for confirmation of what is required for each subject please refer to the "What you need" page.

What support is available?

To get yourself started with Online Assessment, we've created 3 separate manuals which are aimed at members of staff involved with different stages of the Online Assessment process.

undefined Online Assessment User Guide - Installation

undefined Online Assessment User Guide - Administration

undefined Online Assessment User Guide - Invigilation

The technical requirements to run the system are included in the registration form below and we also have a copy to print off if you need it.

undefined Technical Specifications

NCFE also provide Invigilation Training for all external assessments, including the online assessment, covering all the applicable regulations, centre responsibilities, Invigilators role and malpractice. Find out more and sign up to Invigilation Training.


Please be aware unlike other AOs we require all our papers to be returned as they are on demand live papers, this also requires that only the learners should view the papers.

NCFE reserves the right to observe the external assessment process, without prior notification, to confirm our Regulations are being adhered to.