National Reference Test
About the National Reference Test
NFER is the delivery partner of the Office of Qualifications and Examinations (Ofqual) for the new National Reference Test
What is the National Reference Test
The National Reference Test (NRT) is being introduced by Ofqual in February and March 2017 to provide additional information to support the awarding of GCSEs. The purpose of the NRT is to provide evidence on changes in performance over time in GCSE English language and mathematics in England at the end of Year 11. The test will provide an anchor for GCSE standards, enabling us to see if there is real change in how students perform over several years.
Each year in September NFER will contact over 300 schools that it has selected to take part in the test. At each school, NFER will select at random 30 students to take the maths test and another 30 students to take the English test. The test is administered and marked by NFER.
Ofqual will publish the national measures of performance in the test towards the end of August each year and explain how performance in the NRT has been taken into account in awarding GCSEs.
Information for Schools
Information for schools taking part in the National Reference Test is available here.
How NFER developed the NRT
The NRT is an important development for our secondary education system. Our team of assessment experts designed, developed and trialled the NRT ready for its launch in February and March 2017. This involved:
- developing a large volume of questions for the NRT papers
- conducting a field trial in autumn 2015 in which we tried out all the materials. We marked work from 4000 students and selected the best questions to be used to construct 16 test booklets. These booklets between them cover the new GCSE curriculum in English language and mathematics.
- a full-scale trial or ‘dress rehearsal’ known as the Preliminary Reference Test (PRT) held in spring 2016 in over 300 schools with more than 9000 students. It looked at all aspects of the test to ensure that it can differentiate students’ performance and to confirm the approach to selecting the sample of students to participate as representative of all year 11 students taking their GCSEs each summer.
After two years, two trials and participation by about 13,000 students, the Test will provide a trustworthy and rigorous measure of attainment in GCSE English language and mathematics.