Last updated

Formation1996 [1]
Type Examination board
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Region served
Official language
Sir David Melville CBE
Parent organisation
Website www.edexcel.com

Edexcel is a multinational education and examination body owned by Pearson. Pearson Edexcel, the only privately owned examination board in the UK, [2] and part of Pearson plc, is a portmanteau term combining the words Education & Excellence. It regulates school examinations under the British Curriculum and offers qualifications for schools on the international and regional scale. Edexcel is the UK’s largest awarding organisation offering academic and vocational qualifications in schools, colleges and work places in the UK and abroad. It is also recognised internationally. [3] Edexcel has been the focus of significant controversy following repeated leaks of GCSE and A-level examination material over consecutive years.

Multinational corporation Corporation operating in multiple countries

A multinational corporation (MNC) or worldwide enterprise is a corporate organization that owns or controls production of goods or services in at least one country other than its home country. Black's Law Dictionary suggests that a company or group should be considered a multinational corporation if it derives 25% or more of its revenue from out-of-home-country operations. A multinational corporation can also be referred to as a multinational enterprise (MNE), a transnational enterprise (TNE), a transnational corporation (TNC), an international corporation, or a stateless corporation. There are subtle but real differences between these three labels, as well as multinational corporation and worldwide enterprise.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Pearson plc UK examination board and publishing company

Pearson plc is a British multinational publishing and education company headquartered in London. It was founded as a construction business in the 1840s but switched to publishing in the 1920s. It is the largest education company and was once the largest book publisher in the world. In 2013 Pearson merged its Penguin Books with German conglomerate Bertelsmann. In 2015 the company announced a change to focus solely on education. Pearson has a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It has a secondary listing on the New York Stock Exchange in the form of American depositary receipts.



Edexcel was formed in 1996 by the merger of two bodies, the BTEC (Business & Technology Education Council) and ULEAC (University of London Examinations and Assessment Council). [1] In 2003, the Edexcel Foundation (the charity which managed the board) formed a partnership with Pearson plc to set up a new company called London Qualifications Ltd, which was 75% owned by Pearson and 25% by the Edexcel Foundation. [1] London Qualifications Limited changed its name to Edexcel Limited in November 2004, and is now known colloquially as Edexcel and formally as Edexcel Pearson - London Examinations.

In 2005, Edexcel became the only large examination board to be held in private hands, when Pearson plc took complete control. [1] Edexcel subsequently received investment from their new parent company.

Edexcel also offers IAL, known as International Advanced Levels. It is offered only to schools outside the UK. [4] It is considered by the UK NARIC (the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom) to be of a comparable standard as the GCE Advanced Level. [5] In addition, Edexcel provides the Edexcel International Diploma (ID) which involves the study of 4 A-Levels (3 full A-Levels and 1 AS-Level in either General Studies or Global Development). [6] [7] The British curriculum offered by the Edexcel International board is among the most taught at International Schools along with the curricula offered by Cambridge International Examinations and, the International Baccalaureate Organization. [8]

Incorporated Examination Boards

The Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) is a provider of secondary school leaving qualifications and further education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Whilst the T in BTEC previously stood for Technical, according to the DFE (2016) it now stands for Technology. BTECs originated in 1984 and were awarded by Edexcel from 1996. Their origins lie in the Business Education Council, formed in 1974 to "rationalise and improve the relevance of sub-degree vocational education".

East Anglia region of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

East Anglia is a geographical area in the East of England. The area included has varied but the legally defined NUTS 2 statistical unit comprises the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, including the City of Peterborough unitary authority area. The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the East Angles, a tribe whose name originated in Anglia, northern Germany.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.


As Edexcel is the only privately owned examination board in the UK, questions have been raised on whether the examination board is acting in the best interest of students, or solely as a profit making business, due to the wide range of Edexcel-endorsed text books published by Pearson, the international multi-billion company which owns the board. [9]


In 2007 it was reported that teachers using Edexcel Music examinations were allowing students to listen to confidential listening paper CDs several days before the examination, by abusing the trust given by the exam board to only check for technical issues. Other exam boards do not allow the practice of checking discs, with AQA specifically instructing teachers not to open the packages containing the CDs before exams. [10]


In 2014 the loss of an A-Level Core Mathematics C3 Mathematics exam being delivered to an international school in Amsterdam led to a replacement paper being published for the Summer examination series; however, 60 students in the UK took the original paper due to it mistakenly being handed out in two UK and two overseas centres, while the replacement paper was taken by 34,000 students. The replacement paper was criticised for including questions that were not present on the syllabus, and that the students taking the original paper would be unfairly marked. [11]



In June 2015, students across the United Kingdom who had taken an Edexcel GCSE Maths paper expressed anger and confusion over questions that "did not make sense" and were "ridiculous", mocking the exam on Twitter. [12] [13] [14] On a Sky News segment, presenter Adam Boulton answered one of the paper's 'hardest' questions with a former maths teacher. [15] [16] As a result, GCSE students across the UK signed a petition made by a candidate requesting that the exam board lowers the grade boundaries as the examination was too hard.

Gender representation

An additional petition was started by a 17-year-old student requesting to "Ensure the representation of women on the A-Level Music syllabus." The petition asks that music composed by women be added to the Edexcel A-Level Music syllabus which "has a total of 63 different set works from a variety of musical genres and eras." After six days, the petition had over 1,800 signatures and was featured in The Guardian . [17]


Question duplication

In June, Paper 3 of the Mathematics GCSE (Higher Tier, 1MA1/03) appeared to contain an exam question which was published in an AQA (another British exam board) Further Mathematics textbook. The exam question had the same diagram, values and answer as the question in the textbook. Pearson Edexcel said that they were investigating how this might have happened. [18] [19]

Exam Difficulty concerns from Students

After students sat the Paper 2 of the new specification Mathematics A-Level (9MA0), many students complained online expressing that the difficulty of the exam was too high and unlike anything seen in past papers. One online petition to lower grade boundaries was signed by thousands of users. Before results day, Pearson Edexcel released a video addressing students about the difficulty concerns, and mentioned that independent experts did confirm that the exam was "fair and valid". They acknowledged the first two questions of the exam were more difficult than anticipated, and also claimed that they would make "small adjustments" to "improve the experience" of the exam for future students. [20]


Further controversy ensued after the Paper 3 of the new specification Mathematics A-Level (9MA0/3H - sat 14 June), appeared to have been accessed by someone who, late in the night before the exam sitting, posted on Twitter that they would sell a copy of the exam paper for £70. Pearson Edexcel launched an investigation after becoming aware that some scribbled out images of the exam paper were circulated online prior the exam sitting, and found one centre (out of thirty-eight possible suspect centres in one geographic location), who were visited at a very short notice, to have committed a serious and "possibly criminally motivated" security breach of the A-Level maths paper. Students expressed frustration about the incident; BBC News reported that students believed the incident could have the potential to affect their results. [21] [22] Pearson Edexcel stated that they have "well-established processes to ensure fair and accurate results" and that "grade boundaries will not be affected". [23] On 17 June Edexcel stated that the compromised questions could be removed from the overall assessment, as well as undertaking additional statistical analysis to identify irregular result patterns for particular centres or students. [24] About 60,000 students are affected in this incident. [25] Two men aged 29 and 32 have been arrested on 24 June on suspicion of theft. The men have been released under investigation while inquiries continue. [26] Ahead of results day, it was revealed that 78 students who were suspected of being at an advantage from malpractice, would have their results witheld. This is the largest amount of candidates to be witheld results from a single malpractice incident. [27]

Extremely Low A-Level Mathematics Grade Boundaries

After a leak of the A-Level Grade Boundaries ahead of results day, it emerged that in order to pass the new specification Mathematics A-Level (9MA0), candidates needed to score 14% (43 marks out of 300) to pass. [28] OCR (another British exam board) also had similarly low grade boundaries. After these extremely low grade boundaries added flavour to many news headlines, Ofqual said that they were conident the grade boundaries this year were "sound", so shifted their focus onto the previous year's grade boundaries for the new Mathematics A-Level for the 2,000 students who sat it after studying it for one year. Ofqual said "We want to understand why the grade boundaries were so different between the two years.", and had called the significant shifts in boundaries "unusual". None of the exam boards decided to re-open the 2018 award, after being asked to look at them again by the regulator. This could potentially result in students who sat the new specification Mathematics A-Level (9MA0) in 2018 having their results changed. [29] [30] [31]

Related Research Articles

In the United Kingdom, the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification, generally taken in a number of subjects by pupils in secondary education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. State education in Scotland does not use GCSEs, instead its Scottish Qualifications Certificate operates National / Intermediate exams at the equivalent level, however, certain private schools in Scotland offer GCSEs, and the proportion of Scottish pupils taking GCSEs to facilitate admission to English universities is increasing.

Scottish Qualifications Authority public body responsible for accrediting educational awards in Scotland

The Scottish Qualifications Authority is the executive non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government responsible for accrediting educational awards. It is partly funded by the Education and Lifelong Learning Directorate of the Scottish Government, and employs approximately 750 staff based in Glasgow and Dalkeith.

AQA organization

The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance(AQA) is an awarding body in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It compiles specifications and holds examinations in various subjects at GCSE, AS and A Level and offers vocational qualifications. AQA is a registered charity and independent of the government. However, its qualifications and exam syllabi are regulated by the Government of the United Kingdom, which is the regulator for the public examinations system in England and Wales.

The Advanced Extension Awards are a type of school-leaving qualification in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, usually taken in the final year of schooling, and designed to allow students to "demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills to the full". Currently, it is only available for Mathematics and offered by the exam board Edexcel, who renewed their specification in 2018.

OCR is an examination board that sets examinations and awards qualifications. It is one of England, Wales and Northern Ireland's five main examination boards, and has been dogged by controversies concerning inaccuracies in its work, ever since its formation.

The International General Certificate of Secondary Education is an English language based examination similar to GCSE and is recognized in the UK as being equivalent to the GCSE for the purposes of recognizing prior attainment. It was developed by University of Cambridge International Examinations. The examination board Edexcel and OxfordAQA also offer its own versions of International GCSEs. Students begin learning the syllabus at the beginning of Year 10 and take the test at the end of Year 11. Unlike pre-2017 GCSE, coursework of any kind is not a compulsory component.

The Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) was a subject specific qualification family, awarded in both academic and vocational fields in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. CSE examinations were set in the years 1965 to 1987 inclusive. This qualification should not be confused with the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education which is the school leaving qualification in India. Also, in some African and former British colonial countries there is to this day a qualification named Certificate of Secondary Education based on the original and former British variant. Also, the CSE should not be confused with the African qualification CSEE.

Free-standing Mathematics Qualifications (FSMQ) are a suite of mathematical qualifications available at levels 1 to 3 in the National Qualifications Framework – Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced.

GCE Advanced Level Subject-based qualification conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education

The A Level is a subject-based qualification conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education, as well as a school leaving qualification offered by the educational bodies in the United Kingdom and the educational authorities of British Crown dependencies to students completing secondary or pre-university education. A number of countries, including Singapore, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritius and Zimbabwe have developed qualifications with the same name as and a similar format to the British A Levels. Obtaining an A Level, or equivalent qualifications, is generally required for university entrance, with universities granting offers based on grades achieved.

Advanced Level (A-Level) Mathematics is a qualification of further education taken in the United Kingdom and occasionally in other countries as well. In the UK A-Level exams are traditionally taken by 17-18 year-olds after a two-year course at a sixth form or college. Advanced Level Further Mathematics is often taken by students who wish to study a mathematics based degree at university.

GCE Ordinary Level subject-based qualification conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education

The O Level is a subject-based qualification conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education. It was introduced in place of the School Certificate in 1951 as part of an educational reform alongside the more in-depth and academically rigorous A-level in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Those three jurisdictions replaced O Levels gradually with General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exams over time. The Scottish equivalent was the O-grade. The O Level qualification is still awarded by CIE Cambridge International Examinations, the international counterpart of the British examination Board OCR, in select locations, instead of or alongside the International General Certificate of Secondary Education qualifications. Both CIE and OCR have Cambridge Assessment as their parent organisation. The Cambridge O Level has already been phased out, however, and is no longer available in certain administrative regions.

Pearson Language Tests is a unit of the Pearson PLC group, dedicated to assessing and validating the English language usage of non-native English speakers. The tests include PTE Academic, PTE General, and PTE Young Learners. These are scenario-based exams, accredited by the QCA, Ofqual, and administered in association with Edexcel, the world's largest examining body.

Ofqual United Kingdom government non-ministerial department

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) is a non-ministerial government department that regulates qualifications, exams and tests in England and, until May 2016, vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland. Colloquially and publicly, Ofqual is often referred to as the exam "watchdog".

Examination boards in the United Kingdom are the examination boards responsible for setting and awarding secondary education level qualifications, such as GCSEs, Standard Grades, A Levels, Highers and vocational qualifications, to students in the United Kingdom.

The General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level, or A Level, is a main school leaving qualification in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It is available as an alternative qualification in other countries.

Additional Mathematics is a qualification in mathematics, commonly taken by students in high-school/for GCSEs which is applied to a range of problems set out in a different format and wider content to the standard Mathematics at the same level.

A high school diploma is a North American academic school leaving qualification awarded upon high school graduation. The high school diploma is typically studied for over the course of three to four years, from grade 9 to grade 12. The diploma is typically awarded by the school in accordance with the requirements of the local state or provincial government. Requirements for earning the diploma vary by jurisdiction, and there may be different requirements for different streams or levels of high school graduation. Typically they include a combination of selected coursework meeting specified criteria for a particular stream and acceptable passing grades earned on the state exit examination.

GCE Ordinary Level (United Kingdom)

The General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary Level, also called the O-level or O level, was a subject-based academic qualification. Introduced in 1951 as a replacement for the 16+ School Certificate (SC), the O-level would act as a pathway to the new, more in-depth and academically rigorous A-level, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Later the complementary and more vocational Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) was added to broaden the subjects available and offer qualifications in non academic subjects. The O-Level and CSE were replaced in the United Kingdom in 1988 by the GCSE and later complementary IGCSE exams. The Scottish equivalent was the O-grade. An O-level branded qualification is still awarded by Cambridge International Examinations in select locations.

Science education in England

Science education in England is generally regulated at all levels for assessments that are England's, from 'primary' to 'tertiary' (university). Below university-level, science education is the responsibility of three bodies: the Department for Education, Ofqual and the QAA, but at university-level, science education is regulated by various professional bodies, and the Bologna Process via the QAA. The QAA also regulates science education for some qualifications that are not university degrees via various qualification boards, but not content for GCSEs, and GCE AS and A levels. Ofqual on the other hand regulates science education for GCSEs and AS/A levels, as well as all other qualifications, except those covered by the QAA, also via qualification boards. The Department for Education prescribes the content for science education for GCSEs and AS/A levels, which is implemented by the qualification boards, who are then regulated by Ofqual. The Department for Education also regulates science education for students aged 16 years and under. The department's policies on science education are implemented by local government authorities on all state schools in England. The content of the nationally organised science curriculum for England is published in the National Curriculum, which covers key stage 1 (KS1), key stage 2 (KS2), key stage 3 (KS3) and key stage 4 (KS4). The four key stages can be grouped a number of ways; how they are grouped significantly affects the way the science curriculum is delivered. In state schools, the four key stages are grouped into KS1–2 and KS3–4; KS1–2 covers primary education while KS3–4 covers secondary education. But in independent or public schools, the key stage grouping is more variable, and rather than using the terms ‘primary’ and 'secondary’, the terms ‘prep’ and ‘senior’ are used instead. Science is a compulsory subject in the National Curriculum of England, Wales and Northern Ireland; state schools have to follow the National Curriculum while independent schools need not follow it. That said, science is compulsory in the Common Entrance Examination for entry into senior schools, so it does feature prominently in the curricula of independent schools. Beyond the National Curriculum and Common Entrance Examination, science is voluntary, but the government of the United Kingdom provides incentives for students to continue studying science subjects. Science is regarded as vital to the economic growth of the United Kingdom (UK). For students aged 16 years and over, there is no compulsory nationally organised science curriculum for all state/publicly funded education providers in England to follow, and individual providers can set their own content, although they often get their science courses accredited or made satisfactory. Universities do not need such approval, but there is a reason for them to seek accreditation regardless. Moreover, UK universities have obligations to the Bologna Process to ensure high standards. Science education in England has undergone significant changes over the centuries; facing challenges over that period, and still facing challenges to this day.


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