Core aim: Aligns to an existing occupational standard(s) and enables entry to the aligned occupation(s) (including providing entry level competence with the requirement for further learning/training in work to reach full occupational competence).

Qualifications in this category may be approved under section A2D5 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (ASCL 2009).

The appropriate test for this category is the ‘alternative approval test’ (in section A2D5 (3) of the ASCL 2009) which is met in respect of an occupation if:

  • a standard is published under section ZA11 for the occupation, and
  • the Institute is satisfied that by obtaining the qualification a person demonstrates attainment of as many of the outcomes set out in the standard as may reasonably be expected to be attained by undertaking a course of education.

This category will also be subject to the ‘employer demand test’ (in section A2D5 (3) of the ASCL 2009) which is met if:

  • in respect of one or more occupations if the Institute is satisfied that there is, or is likely to be, demand from employers in the occupations for employees who have obtained the particular qualification.

Qualifications in this category will be required to achieve the following purposes:

The qualification will enable students to acquire the knowledge, skills, and behaviours relevant to developing competence in an occupationThe extended version* of the qualification will also provide students with the opportunity to develop a broad knowledge of the occupational route to underpin their study of the occupation specific knowledge, skills, and behaviours’The qualification will provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate transferrable employability skills which underpin their technical competenceThe qualification will provide employers with reliable evidence of a student’s attainment against occupational standard KSBs which form the minimum requirements for entry into occupation.Where identified as required by employers, the qualification will differentiate student achievement to support selection decisionsThe qualification will form part of a (re)engaging, flexible, course of learning which will motivate students looking to enter into, and progress within, the occupational area

*DfE Group 2




1. Draft Assessment Requirements

Assessment: criteria - what your application must demonstrate

  • All applications provided to IfATE must demonstrate.
  • That the assessments in the qualification are agreed by a suitable range and number of employers as fit for purpose to assess the content defined within the qualification.
  • That the qualification successfully balances the requirements of manageability, validity, reliability, comparability, and minimising bias.
  • That assessments meet with requirements set out by Ofqual within their General Conditions of Recognition and relevant qualification level conditions. IfATE will have regard to Ofqual’s feedback on the submission when making our approval decisions.
  • That the assessments in the qualification suitably cover the breadth of the qualification outcomes and provide a holistic opportunity for students to demonstrate occupational competence.
  • That the qualification, as a minimum, operates a pass/fail grading structure and that the grade boundaries or descriptors have been agreed with employer input.
  • That, where modularity exists, there is evidence that the use of modular assessment does not compromise a student’s ability to demonstrate holistic competence in the occupational area. Any modular approach must ensure that any combination of modules (if there is optionality within the qualification structure) covers the range of the KSBs in the related occupational standard.
  • That the applicant has in place suitable arrangements to ensure assessment standards are maintained over time.
  • That the submitted sample assessment materials suitably reflect the applicant’s ability to deliver the approaches described within the assessment strategy.


Assessment: documents - what you will provide

Applicants must submit an assessment strategy and sample assessment materials which substantiate their approach to the assessment design, delivery and awarding of the qualification.

Assessment strategy

Applicants must provide an assessment strategy explaining the choices that have been made in the development of the qualification, as well as their approach to its ongoing monitoring.

There are three key properties of effective assessment strategies:

  • a coherent and logical narrative
  • the use of argument and justification with evidence
  • a focus on the fitness for purpose of the qualification

Assessment strategies are required to cover the following aspects of the qualifications design and maintenance arrangements:

  1. Qualification purpose
  2. Content
  3. Assessment design
  4. Assessment delivery
  5. Marking / assessing performance and standardisation
  6. Attainment and reporting
  7. Standard setting and maintenance
  8. Qualification monitoring

Full details of the proposed requirements for assessment strategy documents can be found in Ofqual’s level 2 consultation.

Sample assessment materials (SAMs)

Applicants are required to submit sample assessment materials (SAMs) which cover the entirety of the assessments a student would be required to complete in order to obtain the qualification.

Any SAMs submitted must be no more than 2 years old and assess mapped knowledge, skills, and behaviours within the occupational standard(s).

For qualifications with a single pathway, IfATE only require one complete set of SAMs, per qualification. Where a qualification contains multiple pathways, applicants are required to submit additional SAMs for each pathway.

  • Sample assessment materials must include:
  • sample question paper(s) and/or task brief(s)
  • associated mark scheme(s) and/or assessment criteria (for example, marking rubric) for each question paper/and or task brief
  • a specification content coverage record for each assessment, where applicable
  • unit/module grade descriptors, where applicable


Assessment: Supporting guidance for applicants

Assessment Design

Technical qualifications should prepare students appropriately to enter, and progress in, skilled employment, and so assessment should be used to promote competence in relation to the occupational area covered by the qualification.

Holistic assessment in a technical context is achieved when a student is required to draw on outcomes from across a range of qualification content, demonstrating their learning within assessments that employers have validated are suitable to establish competence in relation to a given occupation.

Assessment design should therefore take opportunities, as appropriate to the occupation, to holistically assess how far students are competent across the breadth of the outcomes covered by the qualification. Consequently, the use of compensatory approaches are discouraged, if this could result in students achieving a pass for the qualification having failed to demonstrate sufficient competence for one or more of the occupational requirements. Where compensation is applied, awarding bodies must explain, within their submission, how their approach to compensation does not compromise a student’s ability to demonstrate occupational competence.

Where qualifications are designed with several assessments available at multiple points throughout the qualification, IfATE believe there is a particular risk that these may assess (and that students could develop) a fragmented rather than holistic understanding of the occupational area. In such situations, IfATE think it is particularly important to ensure students can make effective connections and draw together knowledge, skills and/or understanding from across the occupational requirements. Where possible, IfATE believe that assessments should also seek to incorporate key occupational behaviours, assessing these as part of the wider assessment construct.

Awarding bodies may decide that a modular approach to assessment is appropriate to the purpose of their qualification.  If taking a modular approach, awarding bodies must ensure that assessments group content coherently, generating tasks which are representative of actual industry requirements.

When delivered correctly, modular approaches to assessment can provide several benefits to students. IfATE has identified the following primary benefits of adopting a modular approach to assessment:

  • a modular approach can allow students to be assessed regularly throughout their course of study, with achievement acting as a motivator for continued study
  • a modular approach to delivery may provide additional flexibility for adult students

These benefits must be considered alongside the requirement for students to develop competence within the occupational area(s) to which the qualification relates. It is IfATE’s view that the achievement of small tasks in isolation is not sufficient for a student to demonstrate competence within the occupational area, as it removes the requirement for students to holistically demonstrate their learning across the breadth of the occupational requirements.

IfATE also expect modularity to be used to support flexibility within a defined qualification structure and not to promote undue levels of optionality. It is IfATE’s view that a high level of optionality within a qualification is likely to lead to students not being required to cover occupational requirements sufficiently or consistently, thus reducing employer understanding/confidence in the competence being delivered by the technical qualification.


The achievement of a technical qualification is intended to signal to employers that a student has achieved a level of competence suitable to perform a job role or function within the occupational area. As a result, the requirements for a pass grade must be set accordingly and IfATE expect that awarding bodies set out their approach as part of their submission.

IfATE acknowledge in some occupations; employers may value the ability of a qualification to differentiate student achievement (for example, when comparing candidates). In such cases, IfATE encourage awarding bodies to differentiate grading above the pass grade if employers have indicated this is valuable to them for recruitment purposes.

To maintain comparability between their own qualification offers, IfATE suggest that awarding bodies consider adopting a consistent grading scale approach within their qualification offer.


Published 10 Jan 2023
Last updated 10 Jan 2023