All apprentices must take an independent assessment at the end of their training to confirm that they have achieved occupational competence. Rigorous, robust and independent end-point assessment (EPA) is essential to give employers confidence that apprentices completing an apprenticeship standard can actually perform in the occupation they have been trained in and can demonstrate the duties, and knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) set out in the occupational standard.
EPA can take a wide range of forms – it can include assessment methods such as an observation in the workplace, written tests and interviews. It must include a minimum of two separate assessment methods.
It is the employer’s decision to put an apprentice forward for EPA, once they are confident that their apprentice is ready. The employer may, at their discretion, consult with the apprentice and/or training provider(s). An independent third party, who has not been involved in the training or employment of the apprentice, and has no other conflict of interest, will deliver the EPA. The independent third party will need to be an organisation that is registered on the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s (ESFA) Register of End-Point Assessment Organisations (RoEPAO) for that apprenticeship standard.
You need to set out your requirements for assessment of occupational competence in an EPA plan. The EPA plan is published online and end-point assessment organisations (EPAOs) will use it to develop assessment tools (such as tests, banks of case study scenarios, controlled observation checklists and professional discussion specifications) and deliver the assessment. Because of this, your EPA plan needs to be written clearly and be comprehensive enough to enable different EPAOs to consistently design assessment tools that are valid, reliable, manageable, affordable and accessible. There must be no room for misinterpretation. This is important as it ensures that all apprentices are judged robustly and fairly to the same level and against the same criteria, no matter which organisation delivers the actual EPA. EPAOs are required to deliver the EPA as it is set out in the EPA plan. This is a condition of them entering and remaining on the RoEPAO.
This page of the guidance sets out the EPA requirements that your EPA plan must comply with in order to allow for high quality assessment of occupational competence and how to develop the EPA plan. The guidance then covers each required section of the EPA document, explaining what information should be included and why. This is to ensure that it can be used by EPAOs, employers, training providers and apprentices to understand how any apprentice undertaking a particular apprenticeship standard will be assessed.
You need to complete and submit a draft end-point assessment (EPA) plan using apprenticeship builder. The only exceptions to this are below, where you should submit a ‘word’ version of a document via the relevant submissions portal:
Your RM must confirm that your EPA plan is ready for consideration before you submit it.
Subject to the successful outcome of the pilot, we aim to roll out the EPA stage of the new template to all trailblazer groups shortly after the 11 April deadline, and will update this guidance to reflect any such decision as soon as it has been made.
Our requirements for an apprenticeship standard EPA are detailed in the left hand column of the table below. The information you provide will need to cover these requirements. The actions in the right hand column indicate how we will test your draft EPA plan against these requirements.
End-point assessment requirements
How will this be tested?
Deliver valid and accurate judgements of occupational competence. The assessment methods must be fit for purpose and appropriate to the content of the occupational profile. They must include a mixture of valid assessment methods that will lead to a synoptic EPA that truly measures occupational competence. This is underpinned by having at least one synoptic assessment method.
✔ Evaluate the assessment methods proposed against the occupational profile, duties and KSBs to determine whether the assessment methods, if taken together, will ascertain full occupational competence has been reached
✔ Evaluate whether there is sufficient information in the EPA plan for the EPAOs to develop and deliver valid assessment tools
Produce consistent and reliable judgements - the assessment methodology and tools used must ensure that employers can have confidence that apprentices assessed in different places, at different times, by different assessors have been judged in the same way and to have therefore reached the same standard of occupational competence.
✔ Check that the assessment methodology and tools required will optimally assess the stated KSBs
✔ Check that the description of assessment methods contains enough detail for different EPAOs to develop and deliver comparable assessment in different places and times
Ensure independence of the organisation delivering the assessment and of the individual assessors making assessment decisions. For integrated degree apprenticeships the organisation does not have to be independent but the individual assessor must be.
✔ Check that the EPA plan clearly sets out how independence will be ensured for both the organisation and individual assessors
Apprenticeships should be graded using at least one level (merit or distinction) above pass for the EPA as a whole.
✔ Confirm that the EPA plan includes at least one grade above pass and that these are appropriately described, clearly showing what an apprentice would need to do to achieve each grade
✔ Confirm that the outcomes of assessment methods are graded sufficiently to ensure the EPA can be graded appropriately
✔ Confirm that a grading exemption has been granted where appropriate
Feasibility, manageability, and affordability within the constraints of funding policy.
✔ Use our experience of other EPA plans to check whether the assessments can be practically delivered within the defined constraints and to the specified scale at reasonable cost
Enables EPAOs to make reasonable adjustments for conducting an EPA in compliance with equality legislation.
✔ Check that none of the assessment methods proposed make it impossible to make reasonable adjustments
✔ Provide EPAOs with high-level guidance on making reasonable adjustments
You need to complete and submit a draft end-point assessment (EPA) plan using apprenticeship builder. Details of how to use apprenticeship builder are contained within it, along with links to our requirements.
The only exceptions to this, where you may either use the apprenticeship builder or submit a ‘word’ version of a the document via the relevant submissions portal are:
If you are not part using apprenticeship builder, you still need to follow the EPA guidance and use the document section headings below for your EPA plan.
You can find details of what to include in each of the sections of the EPA plan below.
Any information provided for the occupational standard that is relevant to the EPA plan will be auto-populated in the EPA plan part of apprenticeship builder. However, if you completed your occupation proposal and occupational standard on pre-March 2018 forms, the information provided will not be pre-populated in the EPA part. This means there is additional information that you will need to provide at this stage. In these circumstances, you will need to look at our guidance relating to the ‘occupation proposal' and ‘occupational standard’ stages. Your RM can also advise you on this.
Before you start, ensure you all know and understand the requirements for EPA. Your RM can go through the requirements using our EPA requirements presentation.
Your RM can arrange attendance for representatives from your group to attend a cross-group EPA workshop; or run a bespoke EPA workshop for your trailblazer group. The aim of these workshops is for a small task and finish group, with RM support, to work on the detail of the EPA plan before sharing with the rest of the group for comment. To speed things up, we will ask attendees to think about key questions before workshop. Looking at other recently published EPA plans may also be useful. However, avoid coming to meetings with pre-conceived ideas about the structure of the EPA.
You may want to consult widely on the EPA plan to give employers and other relevant organisations who have not been directly involved in your trailblazer group an opportunity to input. Guidance on consultation is here. Whilst good practice, consulting organisations beyond the trailblazer group membership on your EPA plan is not compulsory. You will need to leave some time to reflect on any comments you receive and build in any changes you then want to make to your EPA plan.
During the EPA development stage , if you wish to provide additional evidence to inform our final funding band recommendation, you also need to obtain training provider and EPAO quotes. You need to ask them to provide quotes using the Apprenticeship Training Delivery quote form. You then attach these quotes along with your completed Apprenticeship Training Plan form when you submit your EPA part of the template. You should bear in mind that you will need to allow enough time for training providers to give you quotes.
The gateway part of the EPA plan outlines the requirements that need to be met in order for the employer to put forward their apprentice for EPA. It ensures that all apprentices have completed the mandatory aspects of the occupational standard and any work that underpins specified assessment methods; and that employers believe an apprentice is occupationally competent at the point they pass the gateway.
The EPA takes place at the end of the apprenticeship after all the on-programme training has been completed and after the gateway has been passed. It should only start once the employer is confident that the apprentice is occupationally competent, that is, working at or above the level set out in the occupational standard and ready to undertake an EPA. The employer may seek input from the apprentice’s training provider(s) in making this decision, but the decision must ultimately rest with the employer.
The EPA plan must set out any gateway requirements to be completed or achieved before an apprentice can undertake an EPA. This section of your EPA plan must cover:
The EPA plan must only mandate or reference the exact qualifications that have been agreed for inclusion in the occupational standard. It must not include content that is not included in the occupational standard.
Work completed prior to the gateway can be used to support an assessment method, but cannot be an assessment method in its own right. This includes logbooks, portfolios or similar that are completed during the apprenticeship, and may be useful tools to support assessment methods, for example a presentation.
Within apprenticeship builder, information for creating the gateway section comes from various places. There is a ‘gateway’ section relating to each assessment method you add to the EPA plan, which specifically sets out what the apprentice must have completed over the course of their apprenticeship in order to facilitate that assessment method (for example a portfolio). Other information relevant to the gateway will be taken from the section relating to mandatory qualifications (if applicable). Requirements relating to English and mathematics will automatically be added to the EPA plan depending on the level of the apprenticeship standard.
This section of the EPA plan should set out the assessment methods which will be used to assess the apprentice, and will ensure that all apprentices are tested using the same assessment methods in a consistent and comparable way.
The EPA you specify in the EPA plan must include at least two different assessment methods and at least one of these must assess the KSBs in the occupational standard synoptically (that is, it tests some knowledge, some skills and some behaviours). In the example below, the observation is assessing some knowledge, behaviours and skills. It does not need to assess every KSB because these will be covered by other assessment methods.
KSB to be assessed by this ASSESSMENT method
Knowledge K1-K6 and K9.
Knowledge K7-K8 and K10; Skills S1-S8; Behaviours B2-B4 and B7
Skills S9-S10; Behaviours B5-B6 and B9
In developing your EPA plan, you should aim for a mix of assessment methods that will deliver the most valid assessment of an apprentice’s occupational competence across the occupational standard with each assessment method assessing a distinct sub-set of KSBs.
Consider how you judge performance of your employees in this occupation in your workplace and how you might assess someone applying for a job in this occupation in your organisation; this will help you to identify the best assessment methods.
Go through each KSB in turn and consider which assessment method would be the best one to assess competence against it. This exercise will help you determine if the assessment methods are right and/or sufficient. Check each KSB is mapped to an assessment method.
This section of the EPA plan should describe how you want each assessment method to be delivered and provide EPAOs with parameters (for example setting out how long apprentices will be given to undertake tasks, or how many questions they will be asked in an interview) within which they should work when developing and delivering assessment. This will help ensure that all apprentices undertake comparable EPA. Giving parameters to assessment methods is important as otherwise some apprentices could be given unfair advantages, have to face additional assessment burdens or be measured against a different standard of competence. Apprenticeship builder will ask for key assessment method parameters when this section of the EPA plan is being written.
Consider if the assessment methods require anything to be agreed or produced before the EPA period, for example agreement of project title, collation of portfolio. These will become gateway requirements (and be entered in the gateway section of the plan). Identify any parameters for the gateway requirements, for example who needs to agree the project title or what a portfolio must contain.
Determine the length of the EPA period, ensuring it is long enough for all the assessment methods to be completed.
Different assessment methods
Our assessment method guides provide more information on each different assessment method: what it is, what it is suitable for, what it is not suitable for and what detail you should include in your EPA plan.
Assessment methods (or components of assessment methods) can be:
A portfolio of work completed during the apprenticeship, either before or after the gateway, cannot be used as an assessment method in its own right. However, it can be used as the basis for an assessment method, for example an interview that draws on evidence contained in the portfolio, in which case the interview (and not the portfolio) will be assessed as part of the EPA. In this scenario, the portfolio can be collected at any point during the apprenticeship. Where the portfolio needs to be compiled during the on-programme phase (pre-gateway), it must be detailed as a gateway requirement (against the assessment method it will support) to ensure that all apprentices complete it.
Direct evidence of occupational competence is the most robust, independent source of information available to the assessor. Appraisals from peers and managers should not be used as an assessment method in their own right because they do not represent the opinion of the independent assessor. However, they could be used as part of a portfolio. Self-reflective accounts should not be used as either an assessment method or as part of a portfolio, as they are not a valid form of (summative) assessment.
In many cases, a practical observation in the workplace will be the most valid means of assessing whether an apprentice is occupationally competent and should ideally form part of your EPA. The high validity of the practical observation assessment method means it should be the first assessment method that you consider. However, there will be some occupations where this is not the case, either because the skills are not explicitly observable, or because the work takes place over a longer timeframe than it would be feasible to observe. In these instances, you will need to consider using a simulated work environment instead, and consider alternative assessment methods if this is not viable. You should also consider combining types of assessment methods to improve the effectiveness of the assessment – for example, a practical test combined with a follow-up question and answer session will allow the candidate to demonstrate a wide range of KSBs.
Some points to consider when choosing the right mix of assessment methods:
You should consider whether the EPA could be conducted in the workplace or at an assessment centre. In making these decisions, you will need to think about feasibility; the appropriateness and safety of conducting observations in all workplaces that apprentices may work in; whether test centres will be readily available across the country; and apprentices with access requirements.
You should also consider the use of technology – online tests, video conferencing and e-portfolios can all be very effective and reduce the time and cost involved. You also need to think about practicality and accessibility, to ensure that assessment methods are equally accessible to large and small employers and apprentices with access requirements (for example, offering a paper alternative to an online test or vice versa may help to increase accessibility or allowing EPAs to occur in a location that has been adapted for an apprentice’s needs).
You should decide whether you want an apprentice to move onto the next stage of the EPA if they have failed an assessment method. You should also consider if you wish the employer and/or apprentice to know whether the apprentice has failed one assessment method before progressing through the EPA.
You need to think about cost when you are choosing the number and type of assessment methods and setting the requirements. For example, multiple-choice tests tend to be more efficient to deliver as they can be marked cheaply compared to open answer questions (though they will have relatively high set-up costs). On the other hand, more open test questions may allow assessment of higher-level knowledge or skills in more depth. Also, consider the associated activities in delivering EPA (for example, the time an assessor spends preparing to deliver the EPA, marking, the costs of standardisation and moderation). If you decide to use an expensive assessment method, this should be because it is the most valid assessment method available.
This section of the plan must set out how grades for individual assessment methods will be awarded and how those grades are combined to determine the apprenticeship standard grade.
Apprenticeship standards should have at least one grade above a pass, to recognise exceptional performance across the occupational standard, for example, ‘pass and distinction’ or ‘pass, merit and distinction.’ A pass must represent full occupational competence in the occupation, with higher grades representing greater proficiency in the KSBs in the occupational standard.
You should use the grading terminology ‘fail’, ‘pass’, ‘merit’ and ‘distinction.
Apprentices must pass each assessment method of the EPA to achieve a pass overall. For example, in an EPA that has an observation and test, apprentices must pass both to achieve an apprenticeship standard pass. Therefore, a fail in any one assessment method will result in an apprenticeship standard fail.
We would normally expect all individual assessment methods to have a grade(s) available above pass i.e. merit and/or distinction, with achievement of such determining if a grade above pass is awarded. However, the absolute minimum is that at least one individual assessment method must be graded above a pass. If only one assessment method is graded above a pass, it must be the synoptic assessment method (the one that assesses some knowledge, skills and behaviours). In an EPA with a synoptic project and test, the project could be graded fail, pass, distinction, with the test only graded fail, pass. In this example, performance in the project alone would determine whether an apprenticeship standard distinction is awarded.
For each individual assessment method you must include clear grading descriptors in your EPA plan. These set out what is required of an apprentice to achieve each assessment method grade that you specify (including fail where necessary). When setting out the grading descriptors, check that they are sufficiently detailed to ensure consistent interpretation. Avoid using words open to interpretation, such as ‘good’, ‘excellent’ or ‘in-depth’ without examples of what these mean. Grading descriptors should arise naturally from your criteria for performance against each duty.
In core and option apprenticeship standards, each option will require its own grading descriptors for each assessment method. This is to reflect the fact that apprentices in different options, will demonstrate core KSBs and option KSBs in accordance with their option’s occupation. For example, equine grooms will all need to have KSBs related to working with horses, but apprentices working in different settings (options) will demonstrate these quite differently. Assessment methods that are related to core KSBs, which and are not affected by the occupational option, can be used for apprentices working in different options
Discuss and determine how many grades will be used (for example ‘pass, distinction’ or ‘pass, merit or distinction’), but be prepared to change this decision if the chosen assessment methods do not distinguish sufficiently between apprentices to make the jumps between grades meaningful.
Group the duties and KSBs tested by each assessment method into ‘themes’ (that is to say, put them into areas of duties or KSBs to be assessed). For each theme, identify what will be demonstrated by the apprentice in that assessment method to show they are occupationally competent (specifically, state what will using particular KSBs look like in reality). Read through the pass descriptor to check that they can be applied consistently and describe an employee who is occupationally competent
For the next grade above a pass (merit or distinction), determine what the apprentice will need to demonstrate for each ‘theme’ in each assessment method in order to prove they are working at a higher level of competence than those working at pass grade. Do not introduce new duties or KSBs, as these should be present in the pass grade. Read the grading descriptor for this grade against that for the pass grade to determine that they are covering the same area of the occupation but require an apprentice to demonstrate a clear difference in quality of performance. If using a second grade above a pass (for example a distinction), repeat the approach above (but consider this grading descriptor against the previous two grading descriptors).
Decide if you wish to include a fail grade descriptor. If you do, this may be as simple as stating the pass grade has not been reached. If you wish to define the pass/fail boundary more clearly, include fail descriptors that indicate the best level of performance that is insufficient to meet the pass standard (that is it should mirror the pass grade). Be careful not to leave a gap between the two grades; the assessor will need to know on which side on the pass/fail boundary to assign the apprentice.
You may stipulate a pass mark for each grade. EPOAs will have to ensure that this pass mark represents occupational competence as described in the pass grade descriptor. It is vital therefore that the pass grade descriptor clearly sets out what needs to be demonstrated to confirm full occupational competence.
You may wish to weight different assessment methods differently – for example, you may want to give a lengthy practical observation more weight in determining the apprentice’s overall EPA grade than a short multiple-choice test. If no explicit weighting is given to assessment methods, it will be assumed that they have equal weighting. Where weighting is applied, you should think carefully about how this will work in practice and avoid any unintended consequences whereby an apprentice’s overall grade could be skewed by doing particularly well, or badly, in one assessment method. Applying different weighting to assessment methods can make the grading of the whole EPA complicated, so consider how to keep weighting simple and easy to apply by different EPAOs.
Overall EPA grade
The grades from each assessment method must be aggregated to obtain an apprentice’s overall EPA grade. Where all of the individual assessment methods do not have a grade above pass, you must still aggregate the grades together to obtain grades for the overall EPA, which must include a grade above pass. Apprentices must pass each assessment method of the EPA to achieve a pass overall.
If you do not think grading is appropriate in your occupation and cannot grade the entire EPA or at least the synoptic assessment method within it beyond pass/fail, you will need to submit a grading exemption request. Your request must be supported by written evidence, including links to the relevant legislation or professional registration requirements, confirming that assessments are aligned with one of the following:
There is no guarantee that a grading exemption request will be granted. Each exemption will only apply to that particular apprenticeship standard and until it is reviewed. Requests should be made when you submit your EPA plan for approval.
This section of the plan sets out the policy that will apply to apprentices who fail all or part of their EPA to ensure that they have equal opportunity to re-take or re-sit some or all of the assessment.
A re-take involves a need for further learning before an assessment is taken, while a re-sit does not. Funding of re-takes is detailed in the ESFA funding rules. You should outline any re-sit/re-take requirements you have in the EPA plan, covering the EPA as a whole, and also its constituent parts.
Apprentices who achieve a pass grade cannot re-sit/re-take the EPA simply to achieve a higher grade. However, beyond this, you can stipulate conditions for re-sits/re-takes as long as they are fair and justified. For apprentices who do not pass first time, you should consider whether it is appropriate to cap an apprentice’s grade at ‘pass’ where they are re-sitting or re-taking an assessment. Apprentices whose re-sits/re-takes are due to failing the EPA because of extenuating circumstances (for example illness) should have all grades available to them.
An apprentice’s employer decides how many attempts an apprentice may have to pass an EPA.
The EPA should be an independent assessment of an apprentice’s competence. The decision on whether an apprentice has passed their EPA and what their final grade should be, must be taken by someone who has no vested interest in this decision or relationship to the apprentice. This will ensure that all apprentices are treated fairly and helps to maintain trust in the robustness of the EPA system.
EPA must be conducted by an independent EPAO, which must be on the Register of End-Point Assessment Organisations. EPAOs will employ assessors. Your EPA plan must detail the knowledge, skills and experience that you expect assessors to have, in the internal quality assurance section. This information will form part of the basis of the evaluation of applications that prospective EPAOs make to join the RoEPAO. Although it is important that these requirements are robust, they should not have the effect of limiting the market to a specific EPAO or make delivery of the EPA practically unfeasible.
The assessor must be independent and will make the final grading decisions, subject to moderation by the EPAO. Your EPA must be designed so that no organisation or individual connected to the apprentice, or who has been involved in the management or training of the apprentice, can be their assessor (that is to say there must be no conflict of interest). The assessor must not be employed by the same organisation as the apprentice or by their training provider. The approach you describe in your EPA plan must clearly deliver an impartial result. You must clearly describe how independence will be achieved for all employers, regardless of their size.
Assessing degree apprenticeships - integrated
The EPA must still deliver an impartial result – the assessor must be independent of the apprentice and their employer and, wherever possible, the assessor must come from a third party organisation, for example, a professional body or another employer. If this is not possible, they may be sourced from within the same University/HEI but must be occupationally competent, meet any other conditions for assessors and not have been involved in the on-programme delivery, ideally coming from a different department within the University/HEI.
The role of employers
Because employers have an important role in assessing competency, they have a key responsibility at the gateway in signing off the apprentice as ready to undertake EPA. It may be appropriate for an employer to be present during part of the EPA, for example, to provide technical information. This could be as a member of an interview panel but they must not make or influence decisions on whether the apprentice has passed the EPA. This decision must be made by the independent assessor.
Equally, where a work-based project forms part of the EPA, it may be appropriate for the employer to be involved in agreeing the scope of this project to ensure that it adds value to the business. However, the EPAO would also need to agree the scope of the project to ensure that it is comparable to other projects and meets all the requirements of EPA for the apprenticeship standard. Consider the scale of the apprenticeship and whether it would be more expedient for the EPAO to produce project specifications that employers can use to devise projects that meet EPA requirements, rather than the EPAO signing-off each individual project.
The role of professional bodies
There may be a small number of situations where only one body is able to award professional status because, for example, they have a legal responsibility or act as the regulator for that profession or there is some other statutory requirement (for example, the role of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency in the case of Able Seafarer). In these cases, it may be possible for this body to be named in the EPA plan (subject to the specific wording of its Royal Charter). Even if an organisation is named in this way, it will still also need to apply to be on the RoEPAO once the EPA plan has been published if it wishes to be an EPAO.
If the EPA needs to be conducted by someone who has an appropriate level of professional registration from a relevant professional body, you should make these requirements clear in the EPA plan, and you will need to provide a letter of support from the professional body, confirming that they require this for professional registration alignment.
This section of the plan sets out what measures an EPAO should take to quality assure their delivery of EPA and ensures that all organisations providing EPA across an apprenticeship standard have the same quality assurance measures in place.
Each EPA plan must set out measures for internal quality assurance that each EPAO will need to undertake to ensure quality and consistency. This must include assessor experience, qualifications, training, and checks.
The Internal quality assurance (IQA) is carried out by the EPAO. It involves making sure that it is undertaking individual assessments correctly and is assuring others (including funding bodies and employers) that it is running (including applying reasonable adjustments), standardising, marking and reporting the outcome of the assessments properly.
Robust IQA measures to ensure the EPA is applied consistently must include:
This section of the plan allows you to nominate a body to provide evaluations of the quality of apprenticeship assessments for this apprenticeship standard.
It is needed to support improvement and ensure that there is consistency of quality and approach to EPA across an apprenticeship standard, regardless of which EPAO has delivered the EPA.
You will need to nominate a specific organisation and provide written confirmation that they are willing and able to provide this service, including their contact details. EQA needs to be independent and we will not approve organisations that are on the RoEPAO or have similar conflicts of interest to act as EQA providers. This includes separate organisations operating within the same group structure.
The EQA organisation you choose will subsequently be asked to provide us with details of their proposed EQA approach. Further guidance on what EQA organisations will need to provide is available on the EQA webpage
The four possible approaches to EQA are:
Arrangements are being reviewed for the transition to Office for Students (OfS) and introduction of the HE regulatory framework from the 2019/20 academic year.
Detailed guidance on the EQA process is on the EQA webpage.
You need to complete and submit a draft occupation proposal, occupational standard or end-point assessment (EPA) plan using apprenticeship builder.
The only exceptions to this are below, where you can submit a ‘word’ version of a document via the relevant submissions portal:
You will need to attach any supporting evidence if required, for example: the funding evidence forms; professional body/employer organisation letter agreeing to undertake EQA.
Your RM must confirm that the EPA plan is ready for consideration before you submit. Subject to this, you can submit your template at any time and we will consider it after the next submission deadline date.