Research and analysis

The reliability programme: final report

This is the final report of Ofqual's two-year reliability programme, which ran from 2008 to 2010.



The reliability programme brought together a range of experts in public exams, from research organisations to the exam boards, to undertake a range of research activities to better understand exam reliability, and to help Ofqual develop its policy around regulation on reliability.

This report provides a summary of the activities undertaken against the key themes of:

  • generating evidence about the reliability of public examinations
  • reviewing the theoretical and practical approaches to measuring and understanding examination reliability
  • understanding the public perception of unreliability in examinations, and investigating how best to share information about reliability
  • developing Ofqual’s policy on dealing with examination reliability in its regulatory work.

This report provides summaries of each of the 20 major pieces of work undertaken in the project, including:

  • studies of exam reliability in national curriculum tests at key stage 2 (tests for 11 year olds in English, science and mathematics), GCSEs and A levels, as well as consideration of the reliability of teacher assessment and workplace qualifications
  • investigations into the different statistical methods which can be used to look at exam reliability
  • how information about exam reliability is currently provided to the public in the UK and other countries
  • investigations of the English public’s perception of unreliability in exams
  • advice to Ofqual on whether and how it should regulate for reliability in exams