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Internal Quality Assurance - The Basics


In this article, I will discuss, analyse and explain key concepts and definitions around the internal quality assurance process. Within the essay, I will look at the role, responsibilities and duties carried out by Internal Quality Assurer or IQA to improve standards across a department or qualification. Internal quality assurance itself is a vital system for approved centres as it demonstrates their commitment to promoting best practice and standardisation across its staff.


Quality assurance can be defined as a system that helps maintain and improve standards (Pontin, 2012).  Approved centres use what is known as an Internal Quality Assurer or previously an Internal Verifier to ensure policies and procedures are in place to maintaining a benchmark of quality as expected by the awarding organisation. In many centres, the IQA may be the lead assessor, manager or owner. Typically, an IQA could be responsible for managing and development a number of assessors at any one time over a number of curriculum units.


In comparison, Gravells (2014) defines quality assurance as a system to evaluate and monitor a service. She further explains that quality assurance is distinct in meaning to quality control which aims to find problems, quality assurance rather should support, stabilise and improve. Internal quality assurance then is the monitoring of the learner journey from initial assessment until final completion to assure a consistent, fair and harmonious approach to learning and development (Gravells, 2014).


The main functions of quality assurance are ensuring that internal functions and mechanisms work properly to ensure the best outcomes for learners, outcomes that are fair and achievable. Where the course is graded by an assessor, there will always be a need for quality functions due to the nature of humans and their ability to differ at times. Quality assurance then is very much about sharing best practice to ensure standardisation across the board.


Pontin (2012) outlines some key areas and functions the quality assurance process aims to achieve, these include but are not limited to the following;


  1. Arrangement for delivering the program meets awarding organisation requirements. In my experience with pre-awarding visits, this can relate to and include delivery location, classroom sizes, learning technology and any legal license etc that must be in place.          

  2. Ensuring the right staff are employed to deliver the qualification with suitable experience, industry background and an understanding of assessment.                                                                                                                                                                                                

  3. Adequate resources are in place for learners to meet assessment criteria i.e. an electrical installation course would need suitable risk assessed workshops and quality checked electrical equipment.


Furthermore, the IQA of any new centre should aim to achieve the above as well as maintain goals, systems and processes moving forward. If an IQA has any concerns about course criteria, resources or assessment activities they should liaise and discuss any issues with the awarding body’s external quality assurer (EQA).


Alongside quality functions, quality assurance in learning and development should also be carried out by the centre's IQA. The IQA will traditionally have the responsibility of doing the following:


  • Checking compliance

  • Identifying issues and trends

  • Planning

  • Record keeping

  • Resourcing

  • Signing off

  • Helping new assessors

  • Standardisation


Consequently, standardisation is an important subject for any centre or IQA. Standardisation can be defined as ensuring each assessor makes the same decision consistently and fairly in regards to the same piece of evidence.  A standardisation meeting on the last Thursday of every month can work well to achieve this goal, alongside mentorship and buddy systems with more experienced assessors. Ultimately, standardisation meetings should aim to detect inconsistencies in awarding grades or pass marks and act as CPD for assessors in assessment best practice.


Furthermore, a great technique that can be used in standardisation meetings is opening a piece of learner work and getting assessors to co-mark the work and see what their outcome or award would be. This can be done with video evidence and then group discussion held on giving feedback for this assessor. The IQA would want to feel confident that all assessors are able to make valid, transparent and consistent decisions in line with other assessors on varying qualifications. 


By and large, internal quality assurance is the most vital factor in assuring assessment decisions of candidate’s evidence is valid, fair and in line with assessment outcomes. Without assuring the assessment process and decisions awarded by internal staff, it would be difficult to validate the attainment and outcomes of learners. An effective way an IQA can do this is through a process known as sampling.


Sampling can be defined as scrutinising examples of assessed work, planning documentation, assessment decisions and assignment briefs to understand and analyse the bigger picture. Sampling is about tasting small portions of learner work and assessment decisions to make judgments and action plans.  25% sample rates of all work can be effective, whilst new assessors' feedback and decisions should be sampled at a rate of 100% for the entire 1st unit by the IQA (Pontin, 2012).


External quality assurers or EQAs are always very interested in evidence of standardisation, in particular, grading decisions awarded by assessors and the meetings that took place to discuss grades, feedback and learner work. A lack of evidence, meeting minutes and assessor action plans around this topic may increase the risk category of a particular approved centre. 


To do better in this field,  actively recording meeting minutes and allocating time slots to all meetings in a calendar to evidence the CPD that has taken place will help a centre to raise its EQA feedback.  A digital records folder of all quality documents is needed and should contain:


  • staff CVs,

  • quality manuals,

  • EQA reports,

  • annual development plans,

  • sampling schedules, plagiarism policy,

  • learning interviews and assessor development plans.


During my research, I have now concluded the IQA has 4 main areas of work. These 4 areas break down into sampling, supporting, ensuring and monitoring. More recently I have been able to carry out some of these vital tasks to aid my development.


The IQA role has other key duties that one must take part in and they can include the following:


  • Providing feedback to new assessors

  • Supporting new assessors in making decisions

  • Chairing CPD meetings

  • Dealing with assessment appeals and complaints

  • Spotting malpractice and plagiarism

  • Ensure assessment plans and briefs provide learners with a fair opportunity in achieving assessment criteria.


Lastly, an important task for any IQA or EQA  is assessing what is called ‘risk’. This is a key role for any EQA whereby the EQA makes judgments and recommendations based on risk analysis. The EQA can then categorise the risk level of the centre to either low risk, medium risk or high risk.  Low-risk centres will have very little restrictions placed on them, whereas high-risk centres may lose their ability to award or certify candidates. Furthermore, Pontin (2012) makes comparisons between the role of the IQA and the EQA. The EQA will carry out many of the same functions as the IQA but from a remote platform.


Roles of the EQA will mainly include maintaining a line of communication between the centre and the AO, ensuring the centre interprets and applies the qualification standards correctly, holds discussions with IQAs, evaluate staff ability, knowledge and competencies as well as sample evidence across qualifications, assessors and learner work.


Significantly, Potin (2012) defines risk as factors or issues that may lead to something going wrong in the delivery of the qualification. Risk factors could include the delivery of a new qualification where assessors have little experience with dealing with the qualification criteria. Also, a risk factor could include a problem unit for example, that requires a unique piece of equipment and technology. These factors should be considered when sampling.


In conclusion, quality assurance is not only about planning for planning’s sake but rather it's a commitment to doing and carrying out what you plan, even if its small in scale. It’s far better to under plan and be able to carry out the quality plan than to overstate one's achievements. Internal quality assurance is not just the role of the IQA, rather all staff, assessors and tutors have a key stake in this fundamental activity. Documented evidence is proof of quality assurance so be sure to save, document and formalise any meetings, processes, feedback or minutes.




  1. Academic Standards and Quality: Quality assurance and enhancement. (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Mar. 2016].

  2. Gravells, A. (2014). Achieving your assessor and quality assurance units (TAQA). Los Angeles: Sage.Gravells, A. (2014). Achieving your assessor and quality assurance units (TAQA). Los Angeles: Sage.

  3. Pontin, K. (2012). The City & Guilds practical guide to quality assurance. City & Guilds.

  4. Read, H. (2012). The best quality assurer's guide. Read On Publications.


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