Functional Skills - Useful information and FAQs

Qualification specifications

English Mathematics ICT
Entry Level 1 Entry Level 1 Entry Level 1
Entry Level 2 Entry Level 2 Entry Level 2
Entry Level 3 Entry Level 3 Entry Level 3
Level 1 Level 1 Level 1
Level 2 Level 2 Level 2

Transfer of achievement for the Functional Skills English components

Transferring the achievement of your learners to NCFE couldn't be easier. It's available to learners who've achieved individual components within their Functional Skills English qualification with another Awarding Organisation (AO) who wish to complete their qualification with us.

All you need to do is complete the attached form and send it to your Customer Support Assistant or to [email protected]. Alternatively, you can call us on 0191 239 8000 for more information.

Transfer of Achievement Request form

For further information, support and guidance on Functional Skills please click on the links below:

Functional Skills Essential Guide

Ofqual Functional Skills Criteria

NCFE Assessor Instructions and Guidance: Functional Skills Controlled Assessments - Entry Level

NCFE Assessor Instructions and Guidance: Functional Skills Controlled Assessments - Speaking Listening and Communication Level 1 and 2

Here are some key websites to help with your Functional Skills delivery.

1. Skills Workshop

Resources include:

  • resources for all Functional Skills subjects from pre-entry through to Level 2
  • contextualised resources covering a range of sectors
  • guidance on exam technique
  • guidance on individual learning plans
  • guidance on staff development

2. Excellence Gateway

Create a login for free and type ‘Functional Skills’ into the search box.

You can access a range of resources including:

  • case studies
  • schemes of work
  • lesson plans
  • industry reviews and reports
  • news and events

Functional Skills - FAQs

We have the full suite of Functional Skills qualifications live.  For a good overview of information for each subject we have summary sheets available on the website:

English

ICT

Mathematics

What support is available to me before I decide I’d like to deliver Functional Skills with NCFE?  

 We have dedicated website pages giving all the information you need for our Functional Skills offer including all the support we have available. If you want a full overview of how our Functional Skills qualification works you can book our Functional Skills Training. Our Business Development Team will be more than happy to meet you to talk through your requirements and explain your steps. You can request a support visit prior to gaining approval, one of our experienced External Quality Assurers will be happy to visit you and offer advice on what processes are needed. The best way to find out who is available is by contacting your Customer Support Assistant.  If your query doesn’t warrant a visit you can always contact our dedicated Functional Skills team at our head office on 0191 239 8000.

We’d like to choose our own scenarios for the live assessments, is this possible?

No, unfortunately not. These will be live assessment materials which all centres need to use and we can’t change these for individual centres as this does not fit with the regulatory criteria. We prefer to take the pain out of assessments and provide you with the tasks making the process easier to manage. There is an option to contextualise our internal controlled assessments and please look at the guidance provided with materials.  External assessments can’t be adapted. 

What if we’ve only one learner ready to sit the Speaking, Listening & Communication – who can play the other roles?

Tutors and others from their peer group as long as they are not scheduled to sit the same assessment at a different time.

How do you quality assure the controlled assessments?

The controlled assessments are internally quality assured by you and External Quality Assured by NCFE depending on your Direct Claims Status.

Can a Tutor also be the Assessor of a group of learners?

Yes as long as they’re qualified, however the Assessor cannot be the Internal Quality Assurer.

Do we have to send the controlled assessments to NCFE for marking?

No, we supply the mark schemes in the pack sent out and your Assessor/Internal Quality Assurer has to apply the marks. NCFE’s External Quality Assurer  will sample the controlled assessments and ensure the mark scheme is being applied correctly. Any controlled assessment papers sent to NCFE will be returned to the centre.

Some of your assessments are longer than other AOs?

We feel that the times set against our assessments are appropriate to the qualifications and the assessment materials. We have allowed more time for each assessment to ensure learners have the optimum opportunity to engage with the assessment and the source materials and achieve the qualification. However as per any external assessment learners are able to leave the exam early and don’t have to stay there for the full duration. Please see the Regulations for the Conduct of External Assessment for more information.

Can we photocopy the external assessment papers on to yellow paper for dyslexic learners?

No. All our papers must not be copied, viewed by staff or scanned at any point in the process. If you wish to apply for a reasonable adjustment then we can provide the required coloured paper for you with 15 working days notice.

What reasonable adjustments/special considerations are available for these qualifications?

Functional Skills follow the same procedures as normal qualifications when it comes to requesting reasonable adjustments or special considerations. You can refer to our policy herePlease 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.

Why do we have to return all papers, other AOs allow us to shred them?

To allow us to offer on demand assessments and 6 working day results turnaround we’ve removed the requirements for marking windows to allow centres to sit their assessment when they want! To do this we keep a live bank of papers and to ensure the integrity of the papers is not compromised we need all papers, including the blank papers, returned to us so we can account for them.

For the ICT qualifications do learners need access to email, printer and the internet?

Yes if they’re doing paper based as it’s an essential requirement of the qualification. You will need a printer available so the learner can print off their work and securely attach it to their question book.  If you choose to do online this is built in to the assessment so you wouldn’t need additional access to email, printer and internet. You will also need to set up the pre-release data files for your test before the learners start the external assessment.

If a learner is sitting an online assessment and the computer crashes or loses internet connection what can we do?

Our online system contains a resilience caching feature that means the exam is temporarily downloaded on to the computer system so if the computer loses connection the learner can continue uninterrupted and you can upload the answers once connection is restored. If the computer crashes the information is also saved and once the computer is restarted the learner should be able to start from where they were when the computer went down.

 What about sample papers?

There are up to 3 sets of sample papers per level per qualification available on the website for every live qualification.  We will continually add to these over time.  There are also practice assessments available on our online assessment system.

Can I get pass marks for the assessments? 

NCFE don’t release details of pass marks for live Functional Skills assessments. The sample mark schemes on our website have pass marks on so you can practice with your learners. 

Do you give personal feedback for the learners if they fail the assessment?

We now offer personal feedback to individual learners and cohorts of learners . There is a charge for this service, please find details here.  If you want a general understanding of where learners are failing you can get our Chief Examiner reports here which are released every 8 weeks.

Can we use PCs during an external assessment for the paper- based Level 1 and Level 2 Mathematics or English?

Yes. The assessments still need to be closely invigilated, and any email and internet access disabled.  We also offer these qualifications via our online assessment system, so that may be a more suitable option.

What if someone does Level 2 Speaking, Listening and Communication but fails their Reading and Writing assessments (or vice versa), can they move down to Level 1 without re-doing the Speaking, Listening and Communication assessment?

No -Initial diagnostics/assessment should be carried out on learners before they start their learning to ensure that they’re entered for the right level. The Functional Skills assessments are summative not formative - learners should only be entered for their test once all teaching and learning has been completed and they are ready to be assessed i.e. ready for the test.  We don’t offer spiky profiles. The learners can sit their assessments in any order and the centre can claim the Speaking, Listening and Communication section when they want. No partial certificates can be claimed for Functional Skills.

Do NCFE release pass rates for their external assessments?

NCFE don’t currently publish pass rates for any external assessment papers.  Our assessment model is different from other AOs in that we operate a live paper bank and mark and release our results each day so our pass rates aren’t fixed to a single paper or cohort as others’ are. This makes it difficult for us to prepare useful and comparable stats as it’s not a like for like comparison. Other AOs have an assessment window which is a fixed point in time with a set assessment paper.

How soon after the external assessment will my results be available?

We issue results for all external assessments 6 working days from receipt of the assessment. For all online assessments this will be from the date the assessment is uploaded to NCFE. For the paper based assessment it will be the date NCFE receives all the paperwork (fully completed and returned).

Can we accept proxies for the Functional Skills? 

Yes but only in certain cases and they’ll be known as ‘achievement transfer’: Where the learner has already achieved one or 2 of the Functional Skills English components from another Awarding Organisation.

The guidance and forms for this process is can be found here.

What occupational competence do I need to deliver/assess Functional Skills?

There are no Functional Skills specific occupational competence guidelines set by the regulator as there were with Key Skills. So each Awarding Organisation has developed their guidelines. To deliver/assess the NCFE Functional Skills qualifications, centre staff must hold (or be working towards) Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), a PGCE or Certificate in Further Education. They should also have demonstrable experience or knowledge of the subject area.

What technical specifications does my PC need to be able to run NCFE Functional Skills online assessments?

To run online assessments with NCFE you will need to apply online and to fully support you we require your systems to be able to meet the technical specifications. If your systems do not meet the specifications this does not mean you cannot run online assessments, it just means that we may not be able to fully support you if your computers do not meet requirements.

Do learners have to wait a period of time before resits?

There’s no official time limit however we’d advise that as these are summative assessments (i.e. learners should only take their test when a centre is confident that they’d pass, they should not be an indication of whether the learner is ready or performing at a particular level) then perhaps they either need to go back and do some more teaching and learning before they resit, or else reconsider whether the learner is actually performing at the level they’ve been entered for.

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