November 24, 2015

What is the difference between the Awarding Bodies?

Does the Awarding Body you use for your qualification matter? What is the difference between the awarding bodies and what should you look out for?

Portrait Of Mature Students On Further Education Course

Awarding Bodies (or Awarding Organisations “AOs” as they call themselves) are the institutions that are responsible for issuing nationally recognised qualifications. They are approved to offer qualifications by the relevant government organisation: Ofqual in England and Northern Ireland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) or Qualifications Wales

Historically these outfits have been referred to as Exam Boards, and in fact the press often still call them that. The term Exam Boards is somewhat misleading as the vast majority of modern qualifications for adults don’t actually involve taking an exam in the traditional sense. Candidates are more often required to undergo assessments such as practical tests, assignments, coursework, interviews, projects and case studies.

Such assessments are usually undertaken at approved centres such as training companies, colleges, and workplaces. These centres are “approved”, i.e. given permission, by Awarding Organisations to enrol learners and assess them. Carlton Training, training provider, is an example of an approved centre.

Many older Awarding Organisations take the form of traditional charities charging fees to cover their expenses but newer ones are often private companies intending to make a profit in the commercial world. They are all regulated in the same way.

As such all Awarding Organisations offering the same qualification are required to operate to the same minimum standards and have to ensure that they have systems in place to check that the qualifications they offer are only awarded to people who have met the proper requirements.

Many of the differences between Awarding Organisations lie in the areas of expertise, working practices and reputation.

What is your Awarding Body’s Expertise?

Some Awarding Organisations also have historical links to particular subject areas and are regarded by people in their industry sector as more widely recognised then others. For example for all our teacher and instructor training qualifications we are a City & Guilds approved centre.

The Reputation of your Awarding Body matters

City and Guilds is not only the largest and longest established Awarding Bodies in the UK, it also has historical links to the field of teaching qualifications for adults – indeed for many years practically the only route to gain an adult teaching qualification was to do so via City and Guilds. This historical reputation continues, with City and Guilds remaining widely recognised as awarding robust qualifications in this field.

Awarding Organisations – Working Practices

Day to day working practices also vary amongst different Awarding Organisations, as you would expect between different outfits run by different people with varying histories, resources and expertise. Some Awarding Organisations offer their centres dedicated support staff, advice, guidance and access to experts in the field, others provide a much more basic service leaving it up to individual approved centres to devise how best to meet their requirements.

This does not mean that Awarding Organisations just leave centres to their own devices; all AOs have methods of checking that centres are assessing candidates correctly and that the fundamental requirements are being met. Some do this by regular physical visits to centres, including unannounced visits, others carry our remote sampling by checking candidates’ work and the assessments made by the centres and others use a mix of both.

Awarding Organisations also vary in their demands on assessors and candidates to gain qualifications, some insist on a set, prescribed, format for questions, timings and tests whilst others have overall learning outcomes or targets that can be met a variety of ways.

It is well worth finding out more about the Awarding Body your training provider uses, to make sure they satisfy your requirements for a quality qualification.


Some useful links:


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