3 top tips for Exams Officers

Exam room

Read top tips from experienced Exams Officers in international schools to help your exam series run smoothly, every time.

Exams Officers have a vital yet often undervalued role.

As well as ensuring that exams run smoothly, they can help protect a school’s reputation by ensuring there are no malpractice issues, and save money by avoiding late entry fees. Many Exams Officers have sole responsibility and little support. They can sometimes juggle these responsibilities with teaching or other roles.

Exam boards provide lots of helpful resources, such as processes, forms, and dates for entries and results (you can find these in our Exams Administration section). However at OxfordAQA, we know that there’s a lot more to it than just administration, so to help you, we’ve collected advice from experienced Exams Officers in international schools.

Organisation, communication, attention to detail and the ability to remain calm in a crisis were all common themes and are all crucial skills for Exams Officers.

To help you achieve this, we have turned this into three top tips for Exams Officers: 

Tip 1 for Exams Officers: Plan and prepare

The more you plan, the better. Your annual plan should include all the external dates from exam boards (entries deadlines, exam timetables, etc) as well as internal deadlines, events or exams. Take a look at our Exams Officer training which runs throughout the year to make sure you are equipped with the right systems access (including Centre Services) to complete what you need.

Make sure your plans include time to check everything – especially students’ personal details, entries and results. Keep records for inspections and to help with your future planning.

To help you, the graphic below gives a simple outline of the planning cycle for exams.

Tip 2: Treat internal exams the same as external exams

If you treat your school’s internal exams in the same way as external exams, as far as possible, you’ll be able to use these sessions to make things much easier moving forwards.

You can use them to:

  • test your processes
  • give everyone a chance to practice and get familiar with the process
  • discover and then iron out any problems
  • improve your planning.

Students, staff and parents will also develop a better understanding of the regulations, the issues that can arise and how to deal with problems on the day.

Most importantly, students will be more familiar with and prepared for their high stakes external exams. This will help to reduce their stress and give them a better opportunity to succeed.

Tip 3: Communicate, communicate, communicate!

All the Exams Officers we spoke to agreed that communication is key and should be included in the annual planning cycle you can see above.

To be successful, Exams Officers need to communicate effectively with teachers, invigilators, senior staff, students, parents, exam boards, couriers, inspectors and many more.

Below is a list of items that should be on your communications plan. Please note that this list is not exhaustive – every school has different needs – but this may be useful as a starting point:

  • Give timetables to teachers and students well in advance – they’ll help spot any mistakes or queries.
  • Give information about exam regulations to parents, as well as students. This will help reduce to instances of malpractice (you can read more about Malpractice here).
  • Give detailed instructions to invigilators before the exam series so there’s time to discuss any queries or misunderstandings.
  • Tell parents in advance what to do if their child has a problem on the day of an exam and what the outcome is likely to be. This will reduce stress and panic if their child is ill or has a family emergency.
  • Record ‘announcement to candidates’ in advance to save time.
  • Let teachers, students and parents know when and how they can access results and what to do if they’re not happy. This will help things go smoother on results days.
The key: don’t rely on one method of communicating.

Use what’s available in your school to help ensure the information gets through, including emails and letters home to parents, adding information to the school website, posters, during assembly, and at staff meetings. You may have other communication channels you use in your school community too.

These three top tips will help you develop the key skills you need to be a good Exams Officer:

  • Organisation
  • Communication
  • Attention to detail
  • The ability to remain calm in a crisis

You can find all the information you need about OxfordAQA exams on our Exams Administration section.

If you have any questions about exams that you cannot find the answer for on our website, you can email [email protected]

  • Exams Administration