Quality assurance - internal (IQA)


This page covers:

  • What is quality assurance?
  • Support for quality assurance 
  • Quality assurance
  • Internal quality assurance (IQA)
  • The role of an IQA
  • Internal quality assurance cycle
  • Possible risks
  • Checking the authenticity of learners' work
  • IQA resources for immediate download

What is quality assurance?

Quality assurance can be defined as a system to monitor and evaluate a product and/or a service. 

It should identify and recommend measures to make improvements to standards and performance, or at least maintain the status quo if everything is working well.

Internal quality assurance (IQA) relates to the monitoring of all the teaching, learning and assessment activities which learners will undertake. The activities should form part of an organisation’s overall quality assurance system.  

Quality assurance is different to quality control which seeks to find problems. Quality assurance seeks to avoid problems, stabilise, and improve products and services.

You can access resources for the IQA qualification here. You can access online IQA modules here.

Support for 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
  • Online CPD modules for IQAs 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 IQA resources and templates.

The following text is adapted from the book in the picture.

Quality assurance

Quality assurance should take place in education and training establishments to ensure the products and services are the best they can be. The product is the programme or qualification that the learner is working towards. The service is everything which underpins the product and supports the learner.

If quality assurance does not take place, there are risks to the accuracy, consistency and fairness of training and assessment practice which might disadvantage learners. Quality assurance should be a continual process with the aim of maintaining and improving the products and services offered.

Internal quality assurance (IQA)

This relates to the monitoring of the full learning journey. This is in addition to quality assurance which should take place to monitor other aspects besides the learning process. IQA monitors the whole process from when a learner commences to when they finish. It can also take place prior to the learner commencing i.e. monitoring the application and interview process, to after they have left i.e. following up on progression.

Internal quality assurers are often supervisors or managers and are naturally responsible for staff, systems and procedures. Some are still working as assessors and performing both roles. That’s absolutely fine as long as they don’t IQA their own assessment decisions, as that would be a conflict of interest. Some smaller organisations might only have one assessor and one internal quality assurer, which again is fine providing they remain fully objective when carrying out their role. Some small teams, i.e. one assessor and one internal quality assurer can swap roles and IQA each other’s assessment decisions. Again, it’s not a problem unless the awarding organisation deems it is. It could be considered a good way of standardising practice, as they will be monitoring each other regularly to ensure consistency. You can work towards a qualification in IQA if you wish or take an online module.

Scroll to the end of this page for resources and templates regarding IQA.

Click here to find out about the external quality assurer's role.

If you are looking for templates which an EQA might use when visiting a centre, such as observing an IQA, you can find them on this page. Scroll down until you see 'Templates and completed examples'.

You can read an interesting blog from TQUK about IQA and sampling here.


The role of an IQA

As a minimum, an internal quality assurer should:

  • plan what will be monitored, from whom and when
  • observe trainer and assessor performance and provide developmental feedback
  • sample assessment records, learners’ work and assessment decisions
  • meet with learners and others, for example, witnesses from the workplace
  • facilitate the standardisation of trainer and assessor practice
  • support trainers and assessors.

Internal quality assurance cycle

Depending upon the subject, the IQA cycle will usually be followed as in the diagram. The cycle will continue to ensure the training and assessment process is constantly monitored and improved if necessary.

Throughout the cycle, standardisation of practice between internal quality assurers should take place; this will help ensure the consistency and fairness of decisions, along with the support given to assessors. Feedback should also be obtained from learners and others involved in the assessment process. 


The IQA cycle can involve the following aspects:

  • Identify the product or service – ascertain what is to be assessed and internally quality assured and why. For example, are learners working towards a qualification or are staff being observed performing their job roles? The criteria will need to be clear, i.e. units from a qualification or certain aspects of a job specification. Learners should be allocated to assessors in a fair way, for example, according to location or workload.
  • Planning – devise a sample plan to arrange what will be monitored, from whom and when. Plan the dates to observe trainer and assessor performance, hold team meetings and standardisation activities. Information will need to be obtained from assessors to assist the planning process, and risks taken into account such as assessor knowledge, qualifications and experience.
  • Activity – carry out the activities such as sampling learners’ work, observing trainer and assessor performance, and sampling assessment records and decisions. This aspect also includes holding meetings and standardisation activities, supporting and training relevant staff and communicating with others involved in the assessment and IQA process.
  • Decision and feedback – make a judgement as to whether the assessor has performed satisfactorily and made valid and reliable decisions. Provide developmental feedback as to what was good or what could be improved. Agree action points if necessary and follow them up.
  • Evaluation – review the whole process of assessment and IQA to determine what could be improved or done differently. Agree action plans if necessary; implement and follow up. Follow any action plans from external quality assurers or others involved in the IQA process. Write self-assessment reports as necessary.

Records must be maintained of all the IQA activities for audit requirements. Examples of IQA records (as templates) and completed examples are available in the resources section at the end of this page. Just scroll down until you see AT006 and I9016.

If the qualification is accredited by an awarding organisation, external quality assurance (EQA) will also take place. 

Scroll down this page to access a downloadable leaflet and checklist: 'Preparing for an EQA visit' (Ref I9018 £1.50).

If you wish to find out more about the IQA role, you can take the unit: Understanding the principles and practices of internally assuring the quality of assessment. 

This is a knowledge based unit for anyone who wishes to know about the theory of internal quality assurance. 

You do not need to carry out any internal quality assurance activities to achieve this unit.

Online CPD modules which cover the content of the unit can be found here.

Possible risks

As an internal quality assurer only samples activities, there is the possibility some aspects might be missed. Imagine this taking place in a bakery, the quality assurer would not sample every item by tasting each product. They would only taste a sample from each baker, otherwise there would be nothing left to sell.

however, there are risks involved and these should be considered when planning an IQA sampling strategy. For example, if an assessor is new to their role their work should be sampled more.

An internal quality assurer (IQA) should look out for:

(in alphabetical order)

  • a lack of confidence by the assessor to make correct decisions
  • a lack of standardisation activities leading to one assessor giving more of an advantage to a learner than another assessor of the same subject
  • a learner’s lack of confidence or resistance to be assessed
  • action points from external reports not being carried out by the target date
  • an assessor not taking into account a learner’s particular needs
  • an unsuitable environment for assessment to take place
  • answers to questions being obtained inappropriately by learners which leads to cheating
  • assessing written work too quickly and not noticing errors, plagiarism or cheating
  • assessor expertise, knowledge and competence not being kept up to date or whether new staff are working towards an assessor qualification. Unqualified staff might need their decisions countersigning. Staff should have appropriate job descriptions and development plans otherwise they won’t know what is expected of them
  • assessors who might be under or over assessing compared to other assessors
  • assessors using leading questions to obtain the correct answers they require
  • assistive technology for learners with particular needs is used wrongly or used to give too much support
  • awarding organisations prescribing assessment methods which might not complement the qualification, a learner’s needs, or the learning environment
  • changes to qualifications, standards, documents, records, policies and procedures: staff need to be kept up to date
  • feedback to the learner which is unhelpful or ineffective
  • high turnover of staff resulting in inconsistent support to learners
  • how quick (or how long) learners take to achieve with a particular assessor
  • instructions too complex or too easy for a learner’s ability
  • insufficient or incorrect action/assessment planning
  • lack of resources or time to perform the assessment role correctly
  • learners creating a portfolio of evidence which is based on quantity rather than quality, i.e. submitting too much evidence which does not meet the requirements
  • learners plagiarising or copying the work of others, or from the internet
  • locations of learners and assessors which might make them inaccessible at times for assessment to take place
  • marking and grading carried out incorrectly by assessors
  • misinterpreting the assessment requirements and/or criteria (by learners and assessors)
  • numbers of learners allocated to assessors is too high, leading to rushed assessments
  • resources and equipment accessibility, availability and safe use
  • time pressures and targets put upon assessors and learners
  • type of qualification or programme being assessed, problem areas or units
  • types of evidence provided by learners e.g. a reliance on too many personal statements which are not backed up by assessment decisions
  • unreliable witness testimonies from the workplace, lack of support to witnesses
  • unsuitable assessment methods i.e. an observation when questions would suffice
  • unsuitable assessment types i.e. summative being used instead of formative
  • unwelcome disruptions and interruptions when assessing, such as noise or telephone calls
  • use of technology and how reliable it is for assessment purposes
  • whether bilingual assessments could lead to any issues, or language barriers impeding communication
  • whether evidence and records are stored manually or electronically and are safe and secure, in case they can be accessed by unsuitable people
  • whether the learners have been registered with an awarding organisation (if applicable) as assessment decisions might not be valid otherwise.

Checking the authenticity of learners’ work 

This can include checking:

  • spelling, grammar and punctuation – if you know the learner speaks in a certain way at a certain level, yet their written work does not reflect this
  • work that includes quotes which have not been referenced – without a reference source, this is direct plagiarism and could be a breach of copyright
  • word-processed work that contains different fonts and sizes of text - this shows it could have been copied from the internet, or from someone else’s electronic file
  • handwritten work that looks different to a learner’s normal handwriting, or is not the same style or language as normally used, or work which has been word-processed when they would normally write by hand
  • work that refers to information which has not been taught, or is not relevant. 

If you are concerned about a learner using text which is not their own, you could copy and paste it into an internet browser to see if anything shows up.

IQA resources available for immediate download

Information Leaflet - Key Concepts and Principles of IQA (£1.50)
(Ref I9002)
6 pages covering: • Why should IQA take place? • The functions of IQA • IQA cycle • Key concepts of IQA • IQA rationale • Key principles of IQA • Role & responsibilities of an IQA • Regulations, Policies and Procedures • Reading list • Website list

Information Leaflet - Planning IQA activities (£1.50)
(Ref I9005)
6 pages covering: • Factors to consider when planning • IQA strategy •  IQA activities • Sample plans • Managing risk • Using technology • Reading list • Website list

Information Leaflet - Preparing 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 - Standardising Assessment and IQA practice (£1.50)
(Ref I9004)
3 pages covering · What is standardisation? · Benefits of standardisation · Standardisation activities · IQA team activities • Reading list • Website list

Information Leaflet - Making IQA Decisions and Giving Feedback (£1.50)
(Ref I9003)
7 pages covering: • Factors influencing decisions • Making a decision: observing practice • Making a decision: sampling work • Appeals • Feedback • Different feedback methods • Providing feedback • Reading list • Website list

Information Leaflet - IQA Records (£1.50)
(Ref I9007)
3 pages covering: • Record keeping • Reasons for keeping IQA records • Data Protection • Confidentiality • Examples of IQA records • Reading list • Website list 
(See below for blank templates and completed examples)

Templates – A full set of IQA Plans and Records (in Word) (£3.00)
Can be used by IQAs who do not have their own IQA record system
(Ref AT006)
7 templates in Word (with instructions) plus a sample agenda for a team meeting, for you to amend to suit your own requirements. Includes: Observation Plan, Meeting and standardisation plan, Sample plan and tracking sheet, Assessor delivery checklist, Assessor observation checklist, Learner discussion checklist, Internal quality assurance sample report, and an example Agenda which can be used for team meetings. They can easily be amended to suit your own requirements.

Completed examples are available to purchase below: Ref I9016

A full set of completed examples of IQA Plans and Records (£4.00)
(Ref I9016)
7 completed examples of: observation Plan, Meeting and standardisation plan, Sample plan and tracking sheet, Assessor delivery checklist, Assessor observation checklist, Learner discussion checklist, Internal quality assurance sample report. 

A set of blank templates in Word is available to purchase above: Ref AT006

If you are looking for templates which an EQA might use when visiting a centre, such as observing an IQA, you can find them on this page.  Scroll down until you see 'Templates and completed examples'.

  • 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.
  • Online CPD modules which cover the content of the IQA units can be found here.
  • Videos can be seen by clicking here.

  • More resources are available,

    click here for details.