Quality assurance - internal (IQA)

This page covers:

  • What is internal quality assurance?

  • Support for IQA 

  • The role of an IQA

  • Internal quality assurance cycle

  • IQA rationale, strategy and sampling plans

  • Qualification upgrades

  • Possible risks

  • Checking the authenticity of learners' work

  • IQA resources for immediate download

Click here for external quality assurance.

What is internal quality assurance (IQA)?

Internal quality assurance (IQA) seeks to ensure that assessment activities have been conducted in a consistent, safe and fair manner. A system must be in place to monitor all aspects of teaching, learning and assessment 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 routes. IQA should not just take place at the end of a programme or when a learner completes - this is bad practice. An internal quality assurer's role is also to support staff and arrange for further training and development if necessary.

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 for the subject. 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 as continuing professional development.

Scroll down the page to access downloadable resources and templates for IQAs.

If you are working towards an IQA qualification, guidance for completing the units can be found via this page. 

If you teach and/or assess the qualification, support materials are available here and online modules here.

Support for IQA

  • Resources to support teachers and learners of the qualifications can be found by clicking here

  • Online 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 the page for downloadable IQA resources and templates.

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 practice

  • support trainers and assessors e.g. with CPD.

If you manage a tam of IQAs, you will be a lead IQA. You will usually be working as an IQA and be responsible for a team of IQAs in the same subject area. However, you might also be responsible for IQAs who work in a different subject area, for example, across an organisation. This helps to standardise all IQA practice such as ensuring the same documents are used by all IQAs. You might also have to co-ordinate external quality assurance (EQA) visits, and meet and communicate with them as required, as well as manage the practice of IQAs and assessors. 

Scroll down this page to access a downloadable handout: 'The role of a lead IQA' (Ref C9055 £1.50).

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 to 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. This can help to improve the products and services offered.

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 the 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 the 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 IQA units can be found here.

If you are considering taking an IQA course, check out these tips to help you find a legitimate provider.

If you are unsure of the terminology which surrounds certification of courses and qualifications, check out this page.

IQA rationale, strategy and sampling plans

A good IQA system will start with a rationale; this is the reason why IQA takes place. A rationale will help to maintain the credibility of what is being assessed, as well as the reputation of your organisation. For example, you might think it is good practice for all assessors and IQAs to hold a recognised qualification in the subject that they are quality assuring, as well as having a quality assurance qualification (even if it's not a requirement). Having a rationale will help to ensure that all assessment and IQA activities are robust, and that they are safe, valid, fair and reliable.

An IQA strategy should then be produced based on the rationale and any identified risk factors (see below). The strategy is about how the rationale is implemented. The strategy will specifically state which monitoring activities will take place, such as: observing assessors; holding standardisation meetings; sampling learners' work & supporting assessment records; and talking to learners and others (such as workplace witnesses). The dates for the monitoring activities should be added to a sampling plan, which should be updated when they have taken place. A full set of IQA templates (plans and records) are available to download towards the end of the page. Records of all activities must be maintained for audit purposes, and made available to others as required, such as an EQA.

You could have separate plans for each activity if there are a lot of assessors and learners, or combine them if numbers are small. Your plans should show continual activity over the period of assessment. If IQA is carried out towards, or at the end of the assessment process, there is little opportunity to rectify any concerns or issues. There are lots of variables to take into consideration when creating your plans. However, it's important to remember that IQA is not something which is 'added on' at the end, it should be continual throughout the programme. Nor should it be 100% as this becomes double assessment, not quality assurance. Sampling a percentage of work from each learner and/or assessor is considered bad practice. You must take account of the risks involved for your particular qualification, which will differ for each of the points in the bullet list below. 

To decide on what to sample and from whom, you should consider the following:

  • assessors: qualifications, experience, workload, caseload, locations

  • learners: any particular requirements, ethnic origin, age, gender, locations

  • methods of assessment and learners’ evidence: e.g. observation, questions, witness testimonies, tests, simulation, prior learning, work products

  • records and decisions: assessment planning records, decision and feedback records, ensuring validity and reliability.

Once you have your sampling plans, you can begin to carry out various IQA activities and document them. Depending upon your role, these might include:

  • sampling assessed learners’ work & supporting assessment records

  • observing trainer and assessor practice

  • talking to learners and others

  • arranging team meetings

  • arranging standardisation activities

  • preparing for an external quality assurance visit.

If you are quality assuring an accredited qualification, it will be a requirement from the awarding organisation that you have a rationale, a strategy and a sampling plan.

CASS - Centre Assessment Standards Scrutiny

Ofqual now requires all centre-marked assessments to be subject to a form of CASS - Centre Assessment Standards Scrutiny. The aim is to improve the controls that awarding organisations (AOs) have in place when centres mark assessments, and affects:

• Moderated assessments – where quality assurance checks must take place prior to awarding results and/or certificates
• CASS other than moderation – where quality assurance checks on centre marking takes place either before or after the award of results or certification. 

This might affect your direct claim status (DCS) and quality assurance processes for some qualifications. If you haven't heard anything from your awarding organisation about how this might affect you, please get in touch with them. You can find out more about marking and assessment here.

Qualification upgrades

If you completed the D34 or V1 Internal Quality Assurance Award many years ago, and you need to upgrade to demonstrate that you are now working at the current TAQA assessment and quality assurance standards, you can work through these online CPD modules.

Alternatively, you can read this page of information about upgrading your qualification, and then complete a self-assessment grid as evidence of your knowledge and practice.

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

  • assessors assessing written work too quickly and not noticing errors, plagiarism, or cheating (i.e. learners using artificial intelligence to create answers to questions)

  • 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 so that they cannot be accessed by unauthorised people

  • whether the learners have been registered with an awarding organisation (if applicable) as assessment decisions might not be valid otherwise.
Although this is along list, with practice, an IQA will soon know what to look for, and should always check with their EQA if they have any concerns.

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.

Ofqual have produced a useful Guide to Authenticity.

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.

Information regarding plagiarism can be found here and here.

IQA resources available for immediate download

If you are working towards an IQA qualification, guidance for completing the units can be found by scrolling down this page until you see the heading Internal Quality Assurance.

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)
7 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, Training delivery checklist, Assessor observation checklist, Learner discussion checklist, Internal quality assurance sample report. 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, Training 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

Handout - The role of a Lead IQA (£1.50) (Ref C9055)

3 pages covering what the lead IQA role involves, with approximately 30 responsibilities, details of how to

perform the role effectively, relevant books and websites.

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'.

  • 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 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.