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This highlighted that exam boards’ marketing strategies and materials could mislead people taking and using new qualifications, if, for example, they implied qualifications are of a different standard to that required. The report identified a number of risks in this area but concluded:
while all the above mentioned risks are possible, we did not uncover evidence pointing to any of these risks materialising or about to materialise. We also consider that it is in Ofqual’s power to pre-empt these risks or at least limit their effect by appropriate regulatory intervention.
Another potential risk was confidential information about assessments could be given out at events, undermining standards and public confidence in qualifications. We introduced new and revised regulations to guard against that possibility in September 2013.
Since 2015 we have asked subject experts to attend a sample of exam boards’ marketing and support events for their new and reformed subjects at GCSE, AS and A level.
In the views of the subject experts, the events fulfilled their intentions. The subject experts did not feel they were being overtly sold the qualifications and course leaders did not inappropriately compare the specifications or sample assessment materials of different exam boards. The information gathered in this exercise did not so far suggest any breach of our conditions by the exam boards.
Our subject experts did not generally raise any concerns about the quality of information provided.
There were potential concerns that there could be an advantage for teachers who attended the training sessions. This was most evident in subjects where the specification had not been accredited. The risk may have been mitigated by the publication of sample assessment materials. These had not always been available at the time of the events.
Our subject experts did not report that qualifications were portrayed as ‘easier’ or ‘harder’ than those offered by other exam boards. There were few references to other exam boards.