Exams guidance

Information and guidance on conducting exams – including regulations, question papers and stationery, unforeseen circumstances and malpractice.


Prepare for exams season with our video walkthrough on planning and conducting exams, including invigilation and what to do if the unexpected happens.

Conducting exams

Instructions for conducting exams within your school, including invigilation and use of calculators, can be found in JCQ’s ICE document (external link).

You can use bilingual dictionaries in all our exams except:

  • International GCSE English as a Second Language 9280  
  • International GCSE English Language 9270 
  • International GCSE English Literature 9275
  • International AS and A-level English Language 9670 
  • International AS and A-level English Literature 9675
Centre inspection

We administer a Centre Inspection Service. We ask our colleagues at the British Council offices to carry out annual re-approval inspections on behalf of OxfordAQA. These inspections may take place without prior appointment. Please contact us as early as possible if you need to conduct your exams at a different site – email [email protected].

Question papers and stationery

Information for schools about what we’ll send you, what you need to provide, and how to order extra exam stationery.

What your students will need

You’ll need to provide certain stationery to students on exam day in addition to what we’ll send you. The details are in the stationery summary lists on Centre Services. It’s also important that you check the instructions in your question paper pack to make sure you’re providing everything students need.

What we will send you

We’ll send you exam materials throughout the year. There are three types of exam materials we’ll send to you:

  1. Exam stationery and forms, which we’ll send based on your entries.
  2. Early question papers that we send or make available to you before exam day (sometimes called preliminary or pre-release).
  3. Exam day materials including question papers, answer booklets, attendance register and return sacks.

We will send the confidential materials for each series at outlined in the table below. Non-confidential items will be sent around the same time, but not in the same packages.

Dispatch notifications

Email notifications of exam material and results dispatches, including tracking information, will now come from [email protected]. Please add this email to your ‘safe sender’ list to make sure you receive these notifications.

As this email address is not monitored, please send any questions around your materials to [email protected].

Exam seriesExam date / pre-release issueMaterial includedDispatch dateDispatch will not include entries processed after:
November series (BY23)14 October – 16 NovemberInternational GCSE speaking test and exam papersEarly – Mid October4pm (UK time) on 16 October
January series
03 January – 19 JanuaryInternational AS/A-level exam papersMid November4pm (UK time) on 11 December
May/June series
(6X24 and 6Y24)
29 March – 31 MayInternational GCSE speaking test and International AS/A-level and GCSE exam papers timetabled to take place in MayMid – Late March4pm (UK time) on 28 April
May/June series
(6X24 and 6Y24)
04 June – 21 JuneInternational A-level and GCSE exam papers timetabled to take place in JuneEarly May4pm (UK time) on 28 April

It is important to note that if centres make entries later than one working week prior to the exam date it may not be possible to send you hard copy question papers in time for the exam.

Please be aware of the published entry closing dates to ensure smooth delivery of materials to your centre.

If you have not received your question papers, please contact us immediately on [email protected]

Exams stationery is non-confidential materials. Exams stationery dispatch includes:

  • S1 plastic sack to return the scripts in
  • Blank labels, to print the address to where the scripts will be returned to

Depending on the subjects centres make entries for, additional stationery may be sent if required. This may include:

  • Graph paper
  • S3 plastic sack for returning coursework

Attendance records will be provided to your centre for written exams, and are used by centres to record attendance of students on the day of exam. The centre returns a copy of the attendance record with the return of the scripts. Please keep a copy for your own records.

If your entries are very late, please order any additional stationery at the same time as making your late entry. We will endeavour to deliver this to you as soon as possible.

You will be able to download an attendance register from Centre Services.

Find out more about ordering additional exam stationery and creating an attendance register.

Question papers will always be in green bags. We use colour-coded labels on the packets of question papers we send you, to help you on exam day.

Qualification  Question paper packet label colour 
International AS/A-level Blue
International GCSE White
Modified question papers Green
Day of exam

If you are missing question papers on the day of an exam, they will be available for download from Centre Services, our secure extranet, 90 minutes before the exam’s published starting time.

You can download question papers using the following steps:

  • log into Centre Services;
  • click ‘Exams’;
  • click ‘Day of Exam Material’;
  • click ‘View Day of Exam Resources’.

We have increased security measures to protect the integrity of exams. From the May/June 2024 exam series onwards, there are additional security steps when downloading question papers on the day of the exam.

What’s new?

  1. If you need to download a question paper, the Centre Services Administrator will need to select a reason for download.
  2. An email will be sent to the Centre Services Administrator with a password that allows the question paper to be opened.
  3. An email will also be sent to any other Centre Services Administrators at your school to notify them about this download request.

If you do not already have a nominated second Centre Services Administrator, we recommend that you set one up. To do this, the Head of Centre needs to email the request to [email protected] using the following guidance:

The subject line should be ‘Change of admin’, and please include in the email:

  • your centre number
  • whether you would like to add or change the main administrator
  • the name and email of the new/additional main administrator – please give the specific individual’s school email address, not a generic school email address (e.g. [email protected])
  • the name and email of the previous main administrator – please also confirm whether their account should be removed
  • that your new/additional main administrator has given their consent to manage other centre user accounts

This email must be sent from the Head of Centre’s email address. We cannot accept:

  • Emails from Personal Assistants, Exams Officers or any other members of staff
  • Emails from a generic school email address (e.g. [email protected])
  • Centre letters of verification in response to security checks

If you have problems downloading the question paper:

Please telephone us on +44 (0)161 696 5995 and inform us, whereupon we will need your Head of Centre to verify your request. It is therefore crucial that all Heads of Centres know about this additional security measure, so they are aware they may be called upon 90 minutes before an exam’s start time.

If a Head of Centre is unable to verify the request, we may not be able to share the question paper. We appreciate this may be frustrating when there is a genuine mistake with the security protocol and a Head of Centre is not available. We ask for your cooperation and understanding that our priority is ensuring the integrity of exams, which is the fairest thing to do in protecting the interests of all learners.

As with hard copy question papers, the integrity and security of electronic question papers must always be maintained when downloading, printing and collating them. Here’s some advice and guidance to aid you with this:

  • You’ll need to set up a colour printer in your secure area to print your question papers, and only trained colleagues can download and handle them.
  • Please check whether the content of the paper contains colour images and check the resolutions on your printer. To make sure the papers are printed to the correct standard, papers must be printed at 600dpi, in colour and on A4 or A3 80gsm paper.
  • Please do not photocopy any question papers.

Once the papers are printed, please:

  • Check carefully that you have printed every page of the question papers.
  • Compare the printed papers with the electronic PDF version to ensure all the content has been printed correctly, paying particular attention to shading, colour, graphs, diagrams and images to check they have printed as expected.

Visit our dedicated page on completing question papers and answer booklets, including instructions to students, invigilators, word processed script and guidance on additional answer booklets.

Completing question papers and answer booklets

Using question papers and answer booklets correctly reduces the risk of lost work and helps to ensure students get the results they deserve on results day. The below guidance covers:

  • how students should use and complete question papers
  • what invigilators should check for and which details they can correct
  • how additional materials should be handled.

Instructions for students:

To help avoid delays with issuing results, it is important that student details on the front of question papers or answer booklets are correct. Students must make sure they:

  • clearly print their name, as it appears on their entry and the attendance register, on the front of any question paper or separate answer booklet
  • fill out their candidate number, centre number and, for answer booklets, the component code, accurately.

Instructions for invigilators:

After the exam, invigilators must check that the student has followed the above instructions correctly. If the student has made a mistake on the front cover, or has not used the name that appears on their entry, invigilators or exam staff should correct the mistake, and the correction should be counter-signed. Only the centre number, candidate number, candidate name or component/unit code can be corrected.

Guidance on the use of additional answer booklets:

  • students should use the additional lined pages at the end of the paper before they are given additional booklets
  • if students use the additional lined pages at the end of the paper, they must label their responses clearly with the corresponding question numbers to make sure the additional material is marked alongside the rest of their answer
  • if students still require an additional answer booklet, they must include their name, candidate number, centre number, component code and label their response with the corresponding question numbers
  • any additional answer booklets used must be placed inside the original answer booklet at the end of the exam
  • blank pages must not be removed from any standard or modified papers.

Word-processed scripts

Word processors (such as a computer, laptop or tablet), with the spelling and grammar check/predictive text functions disabled, can be provided to a student when it is their normal way of working, unless the subject specification says otherwise.

If you have any students using word processors for exams, please remind them:

  • that their centre number, candidate number and component code must show on each page as a header or footer: eg 12345/8001 – 6391/01
  • to clearly label the start of each response with the corresponding question number to ensure it is marked correctly
  • to number each page of their typed script: eg page 1 of 6
  • a separate document is created for each component.

If a student has used a word processor and an answer booklet, the front cover of the answer booklet must be completed correctly, and the word-processed script should be placed inside of the answer booklet. Blank answer booklets should not be returned when the entire student response is on a word-processed script.

Contacting OxfordAQA on exam days

If you have any urgent queries on exam days, please telephone us on +44 (0)161 696 5995. Calling us will ensure an immediate response to your issue.

OxfordAQA offers extended customer service hours on exam days. Our Customer Services team will be available between 06:00 – 17:00 UK time Monday-Friday, 90 minutes before the scheduled exam start time. Please see below on time conversions, or search for your time zone.

UK (BST)06:00 – 17:00
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey08:00 – 19:00
United Arab Emirates09:00 – 20:00
Indonesia12:00 – 23:00
China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore13:00 – 00:00
After the exam

Sending complete question papers (scripts) for marking

For each package of scripts, you will need to:

  • put the scripts and a copy of the attendance register in your dispatch sack;
  • count the number of scripts and record the number in the designated box on the front of the sack;
  • print and attach the right address label to the package;
  • make sure the delivery address on the DHL or courier packet is the same as the information provided on the address label;
  • add a line to your consignment tracker;
  • send your package for marking.

You can download a consignment tracker (XLS) here.

At the end of the exam series, please make sure you have checked your secure storage for any exam papers, additional pages or word-processed exam materials that you need to send. If we’re missing any exam materials, it can cause delays to marking and problems with us being able to issue your students’ results in time.

Visit our Detailed instructions for returning scripts page for further information.

Stationery requirements for returning NEA

Please refer to our Non-exam assessment (NEA) page to see information about stationery requirements to return NEA.

Conducting OxfordAQA International GCSE English as a Second Language Listening tests

Please refer to the Conducting OxfordAQA International GCSE English as a Second Language Listening tests guidance document for information about conducting OxfordAQA International GCSE ESL listening tests.

Conducting and returning International GCSE English as a Second Language speaking tests

Please refer to the International GCSE English as a Second Language Speaking test guidance document for information about stationery requirements, returning speaking tests and how to use the stationery provided. 

From the November 2023 series onwards, we have a new portal which should be used to upload all GCSE International GCSE English as a Second Language speaking tests. We have produced some guidance and FAQs to support you using the Digital Media Portal to send speaking tests for marking. For more information download the Digital Media Portal Centre Guidance and the Digital Media Portal FAQs. Alternatively, you can watch our guidance video to using the Digital Media Portal here.

Exam times and exam material availability for all series

If you need additional question papers, they will be available for you to download and print from Centre Services on the day of the exam, 90 minutes before the start time of 7:00am UK time.

This handy guide will provide your local time. Please note this is for guidance only and it is the exam scheduler’s responsibility to check calculations and ensure all exam timings and guidance are adhered to.

Cyber attacks

If you suspect that your school or centre has been the victim of a cyber attack, it’s really important that you contact us as soon as possible. This way we can take action to make sure that any confidential material is kept secure.

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