General Qualifications Bulletin - UK - Issue 55 | Pearson qualifications

General Qualifications Bulletin - UK - Issue 55

21 March 2024

Dear Colleague, 

It’s hard to believe we are nearly at the end of another busy term and that after the Easter break we will all be focusing on the forthcoming exam season.

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With that in mind, this month’s qualifications bulletin has a lot of important information for you to share with colleagues, students, parents and carers including:

  • a reminder of the JCQ updated AI guidance
  • ordering models for modified papers
  • summer 2024 support from Ofqual, JCQ and Pearson
  • important information for Exams Officers:
    • question paper security
    • cyber security
    • question paper despatch
    • availability of electronic copies of question papers
    • accessing electronic copies of question papers
    • timetable variations
    • instructions for conducting exams
  • subject updates
  • key dates and more.

As ever, if you need any more information or want to share any feedback with us, you can always get in touch via our support portal. We will always do our best to get you the answers as quickly as possible.

I wish you all a relaxing break.

With best wishes,

Hayley White
Vice President, Assessment, Standards and Services 

On 2 February the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) published their updated JCQ guidance on AI Use in Assessments.

The guidance is designed to help students and teachers to complete NEAs, coursework and other internal assessments successfully, giving students the chance to demonstrate skills which cannot be assessed in exams.

Please do share the latest version of the guidance with senior leaders, teachers and assessors in your school or college. This guidance should inform school policies on AI use, so schools and colleges can provide staff and students with clear information.

A summary of the key updates is available on the JCQ website. They've also produced a poster for students on the use of AI and assessments and an information sheet for teachers along with PowerPoint presentations for teachers and students.

Read all the information on JCQ blog and download the updated guidance and support materials

The entry deadline for UK centres for GCSE, AS and A level, AEA, Entry Level Certificate, Level 3 Core Maths and Project qualifications has now passed.

Please note that any entries you make now will be charged the late entry fee.Further key dates are listed in the Key Dates section below.

When making entries, please remember to enter students as private candidates if they are not receiving tuition at your centre. This includes resit students if they are not receiving tuition at the time the entry is made. A candidate cannot be both internal and private at the same centre for the same series.

Entering private candidates correctly will ensure that they can receive support directly from Pearson when appropriate, for example when accessing the review of marking or appeals processes.

Following a change in process, implemented for the Summer 2023 exams, we no longer automatically supply 3D models with the modified large print Maths papers. 

Please note that these will still come as standard with all orders for UEB Grade 1 and Grade 2 braille, so you do not need to request these

If you have placed an order for modified large print papers for your candidate(s), then please complete this form if they require the use of 3D models

Failure to respond will result in no models being sent to your centre

If you have already completed the form for your candidate(s) then please disregard this. 

If you require any further information regarding this, please contact the Modified Formats Team at

As we make the final preparations for the summer series, we have a few questions for you. Please take one minute to answer this short form

Thank you.

 Student support from Ofqual and JCQ

Help your students feel as prepared as possible for the upcoming exam season. 

In addition to all the support you provide, both Ofqual and JCQ have a range of information to help inform and guide your students during this busy time. Please take a look at the information we’ve summarised below and pass it on to your students.

Support from Ofqual 

The Ofqual Student Guide 2024 provides students with information about this year’s arrangements for GCSE, AS and A level qualifications, and explains what support is in place when taking exams and assessments.

Read the Ofqual Student Guide 2024

Support from JCQ 

The JCQ has a range of information and support for students – from coursework and onscreen exams to written exams, along with a checklist for exam day. 

Take a look at all the support JCQ have to offer for students

Support from Pearson

As the revision season is now fully under way and students begin to turn their focus towards the summer exam series, we’d like to share our Getting ready for exams guide that includes some top tips and advice including:

  • preparing for exams
  • what happens on exam day
  • where to find further support
  • what happens once exams are over.

Take a look at the guide and please pass it on to your students

You can stay up to date with all our support for 2024 on our General Qualifications assessment support page

Question paper security

As we head towards the summer exam series, we’d like to remind you how important question paper security remains to the smooth running of exams in your centre and for the wider cohort. 

We have bitesize on-demand training on question paper security available for you. This training module covers the importance of question paper security, how to securely handle question papers from receiving the papers right through to returning the completed scripts to Pearson, and how to recognise and report a question paper breach. 

Cyber security

Protecting the security of your students’ data and electronic question paper materials is absolutely critical and we are committed to working with you to keep this sensitive information secure. 

As you prepare for the summer exam series, please ensure that all staff who need it have access to Edexcel Online and have a device suitable for use with our Multi Factor Authentication app. Please also ensure that accounts have been removed for any staff who have left or moved roles and no longer need access. 

Never use the same password for Edexcel Online that you use for other systems such as your email accounts. If you see any suspicious activity on your EOL account, please reset your password immediately and report the activity to Pearson. 

Please see the JCQ’s guidance for centres on cyber security for more tips on how to keep your accounts secure.

You can also visit the National Cyber Security Centre website for a range of practical cyber security advice and best practice designed for centres. 

Question paper despatch

Looking ahead to the summer series, here’s an update on when you will start receiving exam materials.

You can expect to start receiving your oral materials for your language oral exams and Pre-Release Material for GCE Music (9MU0/02) from 19 March onwards.

You can expect to start receiving standard and modified question papers from the following dates:

  • Edexcel Award exams: from 16 April onwards
  • General qualification exams taking place from 7 May and up until 22 May: from 23 April onwards
  • General qualification exams taking place from 23 May and up until 7 June: from 13 May onwards
  • General qualification exams taking place from 10 June onwards: from 3 June onwards.

You will be able to track your standard question paper despatch for General Qualifications via Edexcel Online.

If you have any concerns that your centre will be closed for the Easter holidays and you will therefore be unable to take receipt of question papers, please contact us by 26 March so that we can rearrange your delivery.

Please ensure that appropriate colleagues are aware that question papers will be arriving soon and what they need to do with them. Question papers need to be carefully checked to ensure that you have received what you were expecting and that all question paper packs are in good condition. You should report any issues relating to question papers as soon as possible.

Whilst the vast majority of question paper deliveries marked for the attention of Exams Officers are made during normal centre hours, on rare occasions, a courier may attempt delivery when the main reception has closed, so papers cannot be stored securely. We encourage centres to inform staff to refuse these deliveries, and the papers will be redelivered.

Further information, guidance and tools can be found in: 

The yellow label service will be in place for this summer series for centres in England to return scripts. Please read the yellow label service guidance for exams officers on the government website.   

Attendance registers

You can expect to start receiving attendance registers and labels from 16 April onwards.

Availability of electronic copies of question papers

Our goal is to ensure that your centre's exams run as smoothly and as stress-free for centre staff as possible. To help us achieve this goal, we would appreciate you making checks outlined below well ahead of your centre's first exam.  

If your centre requires access to electronic copies of question papers in the Summer 2024 exam series, for example if you make a very late entry or need to print onto coloured paper, they will be available to download on the Secure Download Service (SDS). This also includes audio files and transcripts for listening exams. Our recommendation is that a minimum of two members of centre staff have SDS included in their Edexcel Online (EOL) profile.

If your exam staff do not already have SDS added to their EOL profile, they will need to contact us, and be available to receive a secure call-back from our Customer Services Specialist on your centre's main telephone number. Once this call has been performed successfully, access to the SDS platform will be added to their account.  

Please see the Secure Download Service (SDS) support guide for further details.

If you have centre exams staff without access to SDS, they should contact us as soon as possible, and well ahead of the Summer exam series so that we can update their account.

It is important that all exam staff can access SDS as we will not be able to send electronic question papers via Secure File Transfer (SFT) on the day of the exam without a secure call back to your centre’s main telephone number first. This could result in logistical challenges for your centre at a critical time in the day - with staff required to move between an exam hall and your reception/ exam office. This may result in delays, including potentially impacting the start time of the exam in question. To avoid this please make checks to your exam staff EOL profiles (and specifically SDS) today. 

Accessing electronic copies of question papers

After consultation with Awarding Organisations, JCQ have now revised their timings for when electronic question papers are made available to centres, whether by Secure File Transfer or Secure Download Service.

These updates can be viewed in the JCQ Instructions for Conducting Examinations booklet.

This has now been increased from 45 to 60 minutes before the published exam start time.

We have also updated our Secure File Transfer (SFT) and Secure Download Service (SDS) guidance to reflect this change. 

Timetable variations

All exams are scheduled to be sat at 09:00 a.m. and 13:30 p.m. The permitted exceptions to this are detailed in sections 7 and 8 of the JCQ Instructions for Conducting Examinations

Where a timetable variation is used, candidates must be kept under examination conditions until the end of the scheduled exam time. Centres must ensure that invigilators have been trained on supervising candidates under clash supervision arrangements. More details can be found in section 7 of the JCQ Instructions for Conducting Examinations

Exams for AS Maths, AS Further Maths, A level Maths, A level Further Maths and A level Statistics must not be moved to an earlier session – more information can be found in the JCQ guidance.  

Instructions for conducting exams

If you are running examinations in 2024, it is important for you to stay up to date with the official exam regulations.

The JCQ have published the 2023/24 version of their Instructions for Conducting Examinations (ICE) document. We’ve also included this and links to all other regulatory documents in our support article that includes the JCQ ICE, BTEC ICEA and general regulations.


Changes to Edexcel GCSE History for first assessment Summer 2025

We are pleased to announce that Ofqual have approved our proposed amendments to our GCSE History assessment model, for first examination in Summer 2025. 

You will find all the details on our History subject page, which provides you with the information on the changes we are making and outlines the guidance that is available to support you.

Find out all about the GCSE History changes


GCSE Geography A and B update 

As we communicated last year, we are continuously reviewing our assessments to ensure they are accessible to all candidates. 

As a result of analysis of how questions perform and feedback from teachers, we are pleased to confirm that from 2024 for all exam papers for both GCSE Geography A and GCSE Geography B we will no longer have ‘Explain/Suggest’ questions for 4 marks that are not structured/scaffolded.   

Read the update on this and SPaG marks on the Geography subject page

AS and A level Geography update  

We’ve also been working with independent experts to review our AS and A level qualifications content and assessments to ensure they are as accessible and inclusive to all candidates as possible.   

An immediate outcome of these reviews was to look at how we could change language or place contexts (indicated by globe symbols) in our specifications that are seen to be problematic or potentially offensive, provide minor updates to bring the specification content in line with current geographical theory and thinking, and clarify the specification content to respond to your queries.

Please read about the changes we’re making to AS and A level specifications for first teaching in September 2024 along with up-coming support to better understand the changes.

You can also book your place on our Professional Development event on Tuesday 26 March at 4pm to gain more information about the specification updates. 

Languages GCSE French, German and Spanish (2024)

We’re continuing to offer free training opportunities for the new GCSEs in French, German and Spanish for first teaching in September 2024. We have all day, face-to-face and online options with more being added soon.

View all the dates available and register today

If you aren't able to attend or would like to take things at your own pace or have a reminder of the course content, we now have a YouTube playlist covering the same content.

View the playlist

We also have new specimen assessment materials available for French.

German and Spanish will follow once these are available.


Periodic table insert for GCSE Chemistry and GCSE Combined Science for Summer 2024 exams

To improve student exam experience we are pleased to announce that from this summer, students will have access to a detached periodic table that will be provided as an insert inside chemistry papers for GCSE Chemistry and GCSE Combined Science. This change is a result of feedback we have received from schools last summer.

A level & AS Physics 'Lists of data, formulae and relationships booklet' for Summer 2024 exams

We are also pleased to announce that from Summer 2024 all students will be provided with a separate 'Lists of data, formulae and relationships booklet' inside the AS and A level Physics exam papers.

The booklet will be provided as an insert inside the AS and A level Physics exam papers. There will be a booklet for the AS papers, and a booklet for A level papers. You can view and download both booklets from the AS and A level Physics qualification page and use them with your students as required e.g. for exam practice. Due to this change, the 'Lists of data, formulae and relationships' will no longer be printed at the back of question papers as in previous series. Students can instead use the booklets that will be provided as an insert going forward.

Read more about these updates on the Science subject page

Design and Technology

 Following on from, and in line with the recent update to the JCQ AI guidance for centres, we have put together our guidance and advice on AI use for GCSE and A level Design and Technology qualifications.

Read more about this on the Design and Technology subject page

Subject Advisor support 

To stay up to date, make sure you’re signed up to receive all the latest news and information from your Subject Advisor ahead of the summer 2024 exam series. Find out more about the support your Subject Advisor offers by watching a short video they’ve each created.

Take a look at your Subject Advisor's video and sign up for your subject newsletter today

We're looking for knowledgeable and passionate individuals to become Pearson examiners for the 2024 exam series across a wide range of subjects.

Becoming an examiner is a great way to deepen your subject expertise, spread your assessment knowledge within your department and acquire valuable insights into the assessment process, empowering you to better prepare your learners for their exams. 

You can enjoy the convenience of working remotely, fitting it around your other commitments, and augmenting your income. It can also help you build your professional networks and benefit from opportunities for progression and continuous professional development.

View the current opportunities

We're thrilled that hundreds of teachers joined our recent webinars to learn more about what our onscreen exams look like.

If you didn't get chance to join us live, you can check out our video tour of onscreen exams and answers to key FAQs.

Our Key Dates Finder enables you to find all of the key dates for Pearson general qualifications and subjects in one place. Here are those taking place during January 2024.





21 Mar 24

All general qualifications

June 24

Final date to process applications for access arrangements using Access arrangements online (AAO)

21 Mar 24

All general qualifications

June 24

Final date for requesting transferred candidate arrangements using Centre Admin Portal (CAP)

25 Mar 24

International GCSE Chinese, French, German, Spanish and English as a Second Language

June 24

Speaking tests may begin

12 Apr 24

Edexcel Award and Project

Jan 24

Date by which certificates will be issued

15 Apr 24

GCE A level Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish

June 24

Speaking tests can start from this date

15 Apr 24

GCSE Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish and Urdu

June 24

Speaking tests can start from this date

15 Apr 24

GCSE Astronomy

June 24

Deadline to submit Observation Statement

15 Apr 24

Mathematics in Context (Level 3 Core Maths)

June 24

Source booklet for Paper 1 available to download from our website

15 Apr 24

International GCSE English Language and English Literature

June 24

Digital Learner Work Transfer (DLWT) opens

19 Apr 24

GCE A level Drama 9DR0 02 and GCSE Drama 1DR0 02

June 24

End of practical examination period

21 Apr 24

All general qualifications

June 24

Last day that withdrawn entries will be refunded

22 Apr 24

All general qualifications

June 24

Amendment fees will be charged from this date

22 Apr 24

All general qualifications

June 24

High late entry fees will be charged from this date

For more information on key dates for post results services please visit our Post-results services key dates page

Bookmark our teaching, learning and assessment 2023/2024 web page.

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