Giving you the confidence to choose the right qualification


The glossary below explains many of the commonly used terms you might come across when taking a qualification. Click on the letter to reveal the glossary definitions


Academic Qualifications

A term used loosely to describe qualifications with a strong theoretical content and/or supporting onto a university course.

Academic Supervision

The structured support given to learners by a teacher or supervisor.

Access Arrangements

The steps taken to enable a learner to participate fully in the assessment of a qualification.


The scrutiny and subsequent recognition of qualifications and learning providers by an external organisation.

Accreditation of prior learning

The process of identifying and validating the knowledge and skills gained by a learner prior to starting a course. This can lead to exemptions from units in that course.

Admissions process

The system and procedures used by learning providers to select appropriate candidates for a qualification.

Admissions tutor

The person responsible for reviewing whether an applicant meets the entry requirements for a qualification.

Adult learning

The courses and qualifications taken by adults throughout their lives, often involving re-entry into the education system. This term is used interchangeably with life-long learning.

Anonymous marking

Assessed work which does not reveal the identity of the candidate in order to minimise bias in the marking of that work.


When a learner, or learning provider representing that learner, challenges the result they have gained in an assessment and requests a remark.

Appeal committee

A group of examiners/assessors responsible for reviewing the results of assessments challenged by a learner.

Application procedures

The tasks which need to be completed in applying for a qualification at a particular learning provider.

Applied learning

Acquiring and applying knowledge and skills in the workplace or a context similar to work.


The process of making a judgement about the extent to which a learner's work meets the assessment criteria for a unit or qualification.

Assessment criteria

The requirements that learners need to meet to demonstrate they have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills in a unit or qualification.


The person responsible for making a judgement on a learner's work.


Confirmation that the work is original to the learner and has been produced to the required standard.


The term is used interchangeably with qualification and certificate, but is also used to describe the end point when you successfully gain the qualification and are issued with a certificate.

Awarding organisation

An organisation recognised by the qualification regulators in the UK for the purposes of developing and awarding qualifications. These are also described as exam boards.


Board of examiners
(typically higher education)

A group of subject experts responsible for checking the quality of marking in a qualification.


This is an amount of money towards the cost of qualification which does not need to be paid back. A bursary is typically offered by the learning provider.


Careers advisor

A trained professional who is able to provided impartial advice on the career and training opportunities available to a learner.


The formal record documenting the achievement of a qualification.

Centre approval

A process through which a learning provider is confirmed as meeting the quality requirements defined by an awarding organisation.


A group of learners who study together on the same course.

Complaints procedures

The process outlining how to make a complaint about any aspect of a qualification or learning provider.

Compulsory units

The parts of a qualification that must be achieved in order to complete that qualification. This term is used interchangeably with mandatory or core units.

Controlled assessment

This type of assessment allows you to produce a piece of work over a period of weeks; however this work must be produced under supervision and cannot be taken home.


This describes structured learning over a period of time, characterised by some form of attendance and assessment. Many courses do not lead to recognised qualifications; however the terms are often used interchangeably.

Course fees

This is the main fee paid when a learner takes a qualification. This covers the money spent on the teaching, resources and facilities by the organisation delivering the qualification and for certain qualifications is paid on behalf of the learner by the government. The terms 'tuition fees' and 'course fees' are interchangeable.

Course work

Assessed work with a defined date for submission which can be completed by the learner in their own time and outside of their place of study.


A measurement used to describe the size of units and qualifications. It is also defined as the award a learner gains by successfully completing the learning outcomes in a particular unit.

Credit accumulation

The process of gaining credit over time through the successful completion of units of study.

Credit accumulation and transfer scheme

Recognised schemes between learning providers that allow learners to build up and move credit between different units, qualifications and providers.

Customer charter

A document which outlines the customer service levels learners can expect from an organisation, in this case a learning provider or qualification developer.


Data security

In this context ensuring appropriate steps have been taken to safeguard learner data, results information and assessments.

Degree awarding powers

The right of a learning provider to award degrees, which is granted by the Privy Council or by Royal Charter, on the basis of recommendations from the Quality Assurance Agency.

Diagnostic assessment

An assessment of the learner's knowledge and skills at the start of a course.

Discretionary support fund

funds for low income learners which are allocated by the learning provider, for example a school or college.

Distance Learning

A course which does not require the learner to have face to face contact with their teacher. This type of course is often delivered via internet, CD-Rom or through paper based correspondence.

Double marking

A means of ensuring the accuracy of marking assessments by getting two independent markers to separately mark the same assessment.

Drop-out rate

The percentage of learners who did not stay to complete the course.


Economic regulation

A new approach by qualification regulators focused on ensuring prices for qualifications are fair and transparent.

Education authorities

The agencies, regulators and inspectorates working across the UK who have the responsibility for safeguarding the quality of qualifications and teaching.

Education loans

An amount of money supporting a learner, which needs to be paid back over a period of time at an agreed rate of interest.


A term which is often used in higher education to describe optional modules in a degree programme.


The role of a qualification in developing the knowledge and skills required for the workplace.

Employer recognition

A government scheme designed to formally recognise the training provided by employers.

Enquiry about a result (EAR)

This is request for an assessment to be remarked which is typically made by a learning provider representing a learner.

Entrance exams

The assessment used to determine the suitability of learner for a particular course.

Entry requirements

The qualifications and experience learners are required to demonstrate to gain entry onto a course.


An assessment of a leaner's knowledge and skills typically in a formal setting under supervised conditions.

Examination centre

A technical term describing the place a formal exam is held.

Examination fees

Learners are typically charged for sitting the examination at the end of each unit or module. This fee may be a separate fee to the tuition fees they pay.


When a learner is not required to take a unit a particular course because of the knowledge and skills they have previously gained elsewhere.

External assessment
(as used outside of higher education)

When the marking of assessed work is the responsibility of the qualification developer and not the learning provider that teaches the qualification.

External assessor or examiner

An independent expert who is typically not known to the learner, responsible for marking assessments or reviewing the quality of marking.

External verifier

An independent expert who is responsible for reviewing the quality of marking.


Formal learning

The structured learning gained in a qualification or course. This type of learning is supervised in some way.

Formative assessment

Assessments used to review the progress made by learners during their course of study

Free qualification

A qualification in which all or the main fees are paid by the government. This is typically dependent on the type of learner taking that qualification.


General qualifications

A qualification which supports entry onto a university course.


A scale used to differentiate levels of achievement at the end of a unit or qualification.

Grade boundaries

The mark, often expressed in percentage form, which differentiates levels of achievement.


An amount of money paid towards the cost of a qualification that does need to be paid back.

Guided learning hours (GLH)

A measurement of your supervised learning, which is the time spent learning under the supervision of teacher or coordinator. This measurement does not encompass the time given to private study.


Higher education (HE)

The courses available at universities and other higher education institutes.

Higher education fairs

Organised events which give learners the opportunity to find out about different learning providers and the courses they offer.

Higher education institutes

Universities and colleges which offer recognised qualifications in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ), such as Bachelors and Master Degrees.

Higher level qualification

A commonly used term describing qualifications which are positioned at a higher, and therefore more difficult level, within a particular qualification framework. A higher level qualification is not a better qualification.

Home students

Those students that are residents of the country in which the course is offered.


Informal learning

The unintentional learning done in a particular subject, which is done in a learner's own time for their own benefit.


Those organisations with a responsibility to visit and review the quality of learning providers in areas such as the quality of teaching, resources and management.

Internal assessment
(as used outside of higher education)

In this form of assessment the learning provider marks the assessments. This marking is then quality assured by the qualification developer.

Internal assessor/examiner

A person working for the learning provider who is responsible for marking assessments, this is typically the teacher of the relevant subject.

Internal verifier

A person appointed by the learning provider to review the quality of marking.


A person appointed to supervise an examination and ensure that exam rules are followed.


Lead verifier

The person with an overall responsibility for the quality of marking for a particular qualification.


A form of teaching that typically involves a presentation to a large number of students.

Learning outcomes

What you are expected to know, understand or do as a consequence of your learning.

Learning providers

Those organisations responsible for delivering a qualification to learners, including schools, colleges, universities, employers, prisons and a wide variety of other providers.


A way of grouping qualifications according to their difficulty.

Level indicators/descriptors

The official statements outlining what generic knowledge and skills you need to demonstrate at each level.

Life-long learning

The courses and qualifications taken by adults throughout their lives, often involving re-entry into the education system. This term is used interchangeably with adult learning

Listed body

An organisation recognised by a university and by the UK government as having sufficient expertise to develop and deliver modules of a higher education programme.



An act of negligence which impacts on the delivery of a qualification.


A deliberate act of wrongdoing which impacts on the delivery of a qualification.

Mock examinations

An opportunity given to learners to practice taking assessments in supervised conditions.


The process of cross checking the quality of marking. This can be down by second marking a sample of work for example.


The distinct blocks of learning that make up a qualification. This term is used interchangeably with units.


National occupational standards

The skills required to do a job competently in a particular sector such as engineering.

National recognition

When a qualification has been approved by the education authorities as meeting the required standard.

Notional learning hours

A measurement which includes both the supervised learning and private study time required to complete units and qualifications.

Non-formal learning

The unintentional learning gained naturally at work or in other environments.


Optional units

Those units a learner can select on the basis of interest in addition to the compulsory units they are required to study.

Open days

Set dates when the public are invited to visit a learning provider and explore the facilities. Student guides are often provided to give further information.


Pass rates

The percentage of learners on a course who successfully meet the required standard.

Pastoral support

The support given by a learning provider outside of the teaching of a subject. This support can encompass managing personal problems, administrative issues, complaints and questions about future plans.

Performance tables

Published rankings given to qualifications and learning providers against defined criteria.

Performance points

A value given to many 14-19 qualifications on the basis of size and difficulty.

Personal tutors

A teacher responsible for supporting students on non academic issues. This system is commonly used in universities.


A form of cheating involving falsely claiming ownership of work copied from other sources.

Practice papers

Questions and tasks given to learners in preparation for their formal assessment.

Prior achievement

Previous learning gained from units, qualifications or in the workplace.

Private tuition

In this situation the learner pays a tutor directly for one-to-one teaching on a particular subject.

Professional bodies

Those organisations, including chartered institutes and royal institutes, which are responsible for supporting and developing people within a particular occupation. They are often responsible for the development and teaching of particular qualifications enabling access or advancement in that profession.

Professional career development loan

A bank loan supporting vocational or work related learning, which is paid back at an agreed rate of interest. However, the interest is paid by the government for the duration of the qualification and one month after.


The process of moving from one qualification to another at a higher level.


The marketing material promoting a particular qualification or learning provider.

Publicly funded qualifications

Qualifications which have been specifically approved by governments in the UK as eligible for government funding.



A course of study developing knowledge and skills for a particular purpose. A learner is typically assessed in some form at the end of each unit. If successful in achieving the required standard the learner will be awarded a certificate.

Qualification delivery

A broad term which encompasses the variety of different ways you can study a qualification and the range of different places in which learning can take place.

Qualification developer

The organisation which designs and awards the qualification. They determine the content and level of the qualification and how it will be assessed.

Qualification framework

A system for organising qualifications by levels. The levels start at entry level or level 1 and go up from there. There higher the level, the more difficult the qualification.

Qualification regulator

Those organisations responsible for safeguarding your rights as learner when taking a regulated qualification.

Quality assurance

The process of scrutinising the quality of a qualification.


Recognition of prior achievement

The process of identifying and validating the knowledge and skills gained by a learner prior to starting a course. This can lead to exemptions from units in that course.

Registration fees

A fee charged for registering onto a qualification, in addition to the tuition fee. This is an administrative fee covering the costs of registration.

Regulated qualifications

Qualifications that have been scrutinised by the education authorities and are recognised as meeting the required standard.

Replacement fees

The charge a learner is required to pay if they lose their certificate and ask for a copy to be produced.

Research assessment evaluation rating
(RAE rating)

The judgements made on the quality of research in higher education by the research funding bodies in the UK.

Reasonable adjustments

The measures taken to ensure disabled learners are not unfairly disadvantaged when taking a qualification.


An opportunity to retake units or the whole qualification.


The information provided to learners on their level of achievement at the end of a unit or qualification.



This is an amount of money which you do not pay back. They are provided by learning providers and many other private organisations and are designed to support learners in particular subjects, with excellent academic records and/or in difficult financial circumstances.


A way of delivering learning, typically focused on discussions between a teacher and a small group of learners.

Special considerations

Measures taken in managing a learner whose exam performance has been affected by adverse circumstances such as illness, injury or family bereavement.


Contributions to the cost of a qualification made by an employer or another organisation. This can be contingent on joining or continuing to work for that employer.


This term describes the difficulty of a qualification. The standard of a particular qualification should be the same regardless of where it is taught in the country and which organisation is delivering it to you.


A process which looks to ensure assessors have sufficient knowledge of the assessment criteria to effectively mark assessments. For example, assessors might be asked to mark a number of old or dummy scripts and then as a group review the marks given.

Student handbook

A practical guide supporting learners during the course of their study. This typically outlines the services and support available together with the rights and responsibilities of learners.

Student welfare

The service within a learning provider designed to provide advice and support to learners.

Summative assessment

The formal assessment of a learner's knowledge and skills at the end of a unit or qualification


Taster sessions

Classes designed to give new learners an experience of how a particular subject will be taught


This encompasses learning that happens both inside and outside of a qualification. This term often refers to the development of the skills in the workplace.


This is a formal document, produced alongside the certificate, providing a more detailed breakdown of your marks.

Tuition fees

This is the main fee paid when a learner takes a qualification. The terms 'tuition fees' and 'course fees' are interchangeable. This fee covers the money spent on the teaching, resources and facilities by the organisation delivering the qualification for certain qualifications is paid on behalf of the learner by the government.


unique learner number (ULN)

A referencing system which uniquely identifies learners that is used to register personal information and to track and manage results.


The distinct blocks of learning that make up a qualification. This term is used interchangeably with modules.

university and college admission system (UCAS) tariff

This is a point system used by universities to compare the different qualifications enabling entry to undergraduate course in higher education.


Vocational qualifications

A general term describing qualifications which enable learners to develop and apply the skills needed in the workplace.


Work based learning

The knowledge and skills developed in the workplace typically through a qualification.


14-19 qualifications

Publicly funded qualifications, typically taken by young people between the ages of 14 and 19, which determine entry into further and higher education or employment.