Quality assurance - external (EQA)


This page covers:

  • What is external quality assurance?
  • Support for external quality assurance 
  • What does the role involve? 
  • Ofqual
  • Risk ratings
  • Possible risks
  • Areas where malpractice could occur in centres
  • EQA resources for immediate download

What is external quality assurance (EQA)?

External quality assurance seeks to ensure that assessment and internal quality assurance activities have been conducted in a consistent, safe and fair manner.

The process must take place on behalf of an awarding organisation (AO) for each accredited centre which offers their qualifications. This is to ensure the learners who have been registered with them have received a quality service, and that the assessment and IQA decisions are valid and reliable. 

If you deliver and assess qualifications which are certificated via an AO, an external quality assurer (EQA) will visit or carry out a remote verification to sample learners' work and assessment records. They will maintain their own records as proof of what they have done, and also complete the AOs report. Examples of EQA records (as templates) and completed examples are available in the resources section at the end of this page. Just scroll down until you see AT020 and E9008.

Scroll down this page to access a downloadable leaflet and checklist to help centres prepare for an EQA visit. (Ref I9018 £1.50).

Support for external quality assurance 

  • A reading list for quality assurance can be found by clicking here.
  • Resources to support teachers and learners of the qualifications can be found by clicking here
  • Information regarding quality assurance qualifications can be found by clicking here.
  • Videos can be seen by clicking here.
  • Scroll to the end of this page for downloadable EQA resources.
The following text is adapted from the book in the picture.

What does the role involve?

External quality assurers will monitor a centre's processes and practices to ensure they meet all awarding organisation, qualification and regulatory requirements. However, the EQA role is not just about ensuring compliance, it's also about supporting centre staff, and giving advice and guidance to help them improve.

It's important to keep in touch throughout the year with your EQA and build up a good working relationship with them. Don't wait to ask any questions or to inform them of any changes until they visit, as problems could occur in the meantime.

An EQA should be up to date with the qualification content and the requirements for teachingassessment and IQA, as well as any relevant regulations. It’s also a good thing if the EQA is currently delivering and assessing the qualification themselves, so they can appreciate things from both sides.

Learners, when they successfully complete a qualification, will receive a certificate with the awarding organisation’s name on, as well as the centre name. Therefore, the EQA must ensure everything is in order, or their reputation, as well as the centre’s, could be brought into disrepute. 

Scroll to the end of this page for resources regarding EQA.



Ofqual approves and regulates awarding organisations (AOs). AOs need to comply with their Online Handbook. This sets out certain conditions which AOs must ensure their centres adhere to. Examples include managing conflicts of interest, identifying and managing risk and dealing with malpractice. Unfortunately, practice does differ between EQAs and AOs, however, at least this document goes some way to ensuring certain standards are maintained. If you work with several AOs, you may wonder why some differ and why they don’t all standardise their practice when they expect centre staff to.


Risk ratings

Risk ratings, see the table as a guide, are often used when an EQA completes their report and sanctions are recommended if something is wrong. 

However, if you are given an action point that you do not feel is right, ask your EQA ‘where does it say that I have to do that?’ If it’s not written down in the qualification specification or relevant regulatory documents, it can’t be enforced. It can however be added to the report as an improvement point. 

An EQA can only recommend a sanction if things are not right, it’s the awarding organisation who will have the final say.

Possible risks

As an external quality assurer only samples activities, there is the possibility some aspects might be missed, however, EQAs are very thorough and often get a 'sense' of what is not right.

There are risks involved and these should be considered when planning an EQA sampling strategy. For example, a high turnover of staff or certificates claimed in short periods of time.

An external quality assurer (EQA) should look out for:

(in alphabetical order)

  • appeals and complaints
  • achievement (or not) of previous action and improvement points
  • assessment methods used and types of evidence provided by learners
  • assessor expertise, knowledge and competence, whether new, experienced, qualified or working towards an assessor/IQA qualification (staff should have appropriate job descriptions and partake in CPD)
  • assessors (or teachers/trainers) who assess the same subject but with different groups of learners
  • authenticity of learners’ work
  • case-loads and pressures of work placed upon staff, for example, expected targets to be met, funding based on achievements, staff having unclear roles 
  • changes to qualifications, standards, documents, policies and procedures, and records
  • language barriers
  • locations and distance of learners, assessors and internal quality assurers
  • numbers of learners and how quick (or how long) they take to achieve
  • possible plagiarism by learners
  • previous risk rating of the centre
  • reliability of witnesses, if used, and how they are supported
  • turnover of staff
  • type of qualification or programme being assessed, problem areas or units
  • use of appropriate holistic assessments and recognition of prior learning 
  • whether evidence and records are manual or electronic
  • whether the learners have been registered with the awarding organisation and when (an external quality assurer should not sample from a learner who is not registered).

Areas where malpractice could occur in centres

(in alphabetical order)

  • an internal quality assurer overruling an assessor (perhaps due to pressures to meet targets) when the assessor did not pass the learner
  • assessment records being completed and signed when assessments did not take place
  • certificates being claimed for learners who do not exist, or who have not yet completed
  • dates of commencement and achievement not agreeing with those that the learners state, or as noted in records
  • dates on centre records not matching those when the activities took place
  • learners’ work and supporting records which are not available, belong to someone else, or have missing items
  • minutes of meetings being produced when they didn’t actually take place
  • signatures on documents not matching those of the people concerned
  • standardisation records being completed for activities that did not take place.

Please remember, an EQA is there to help and support you. Never be afraid of asking them anything, either during their visit, or by getting in touch with them between visits.

If you wish to find out more about the EQAs role, you can take the unit: Understanding the principles and practices of externally assuring the quality of assessment. This is a knowledge based unit for anyone who wishes to know about the theory of external quality assurance. You do not need to carry out any external quality assurance activities to achieve this unit.

There's an interesting blog from TQUK about how to become an EQA here.

EQA resources available for immediate download

Checklist to help centres prepare for an EQA visit (£1.50)
(Ref I9018)


4 pages of information regarding an EQA visit, along with a checklist of what to prepare in advance of the visit.

Information Leaflet - Key Concepts and Principles of External Quality Assurance (£1.50)
(Ref E9002)
6 pages covering:  •Why should EQA take place?  •The functions of EQA  • Working for an awarding organisation  •  EQA cycle  •  Key concepts of EQA  •  EQA rationale  •  Key principles of EQA  •  Role & responsibilities of an EQA  • Regulations, Policies and Procedures  • Reading list  • Website list  

Information Leaflet - Planning EQA activities (£1.50)
(Ref E9003)
7 pages covering:  • Aspects to consider when planning  • EQA strategy • Sample plans  • Managing risk  • Planning EQA activities  • Resources  • Technology  • Reading list  • Website list

Information Leaflet - Carrying out EQA activities, making decisions and giving feedback (£1.50)
(Ref E9005)
8 pages covering: • EQA activities  • Issues affecting visits  • Making a decision: observing practice, sampling assessed work, remote sampling  • Risks  • Malpractice  • Agreeing action and improvement points  • Feedback  • Different feedback methods  •  Giving feedback  • Reading list • Website list

Information Leaflet - EQA records (£1.50)

(Ref E9004) 

3 pages covering:  • Record keeping • Examples of EQA records  • Reasons for keeping EQA records  •  Data Protection  •  Confidentiality   • Reading list  • Website list

(See below for blank templates and completed examples) 

Templates – A set of EQA Records (in Word) (£3.50)
(Ref AT020)

Can be used by EQAs who do not have their own EQA record system

9 templates in Word (with instructions) which can be used by an EQA to maintain records of activities with individual centres. They can easily be amended to suit your own requirements. Includes: Centre record & contact log, Visit and sample plan, IQA observation checklist, Observation checklist - Training delivery, Observation checklist – Assessment, Assessor interview checklist, IQA interview checklist, Learner interview checklist, Witness interview checklist. 

Completed examples are available to purchase below Ref: E9008

Completed example of a full set of EQA Records (£4.00)
(Ref E9008)

9 pages of completed examples of: Centre record & contact log, Visit and sample  plan, IQA observation checklist, Observation checklist - Training delivery, Observation checklist – Assessment, Assessor interview checklist, IQA interview checklist, Learner interview checklist, Witness interview checklist.

A set of blank templates in Word is available to purchase above: Ref AT020

  • A reading list for quality assurance can be found by clicking here.
  • Resources to support teachers and learners of the qualifications can be found by clicking here.
  • Information regarding quality assurance qualifications can be found by clicking here.
  • Videos can be seen by clicking here.

  • More resources are available,

    click here for details.