Functional Skills FAQs
For Levels 1 and 2, Open Awards offer both online and paper-based assessments. Online assessments are available on-demand and must be scheduled through the XAMS platform 48 hours before the assessment is due to take place. Paper-based assessments are available on a set-day every 6 weeks and must be scheduled through the XAMS platform at least 15 working days before the assessment is due to take place. Paper-based assessments will be posted securely to your centre 2 days before the scheduled date. Please download Calendar here.
For Entry Level qualifications, assessments are available on-demand as paper-based assessments. Assessment must be scheduled on the XAMS platform at least 48 hours before the assessment is due to take place. You will then be able to download the assessment papers for your learners.
All paper-based assessments must be posted securely back to Open Awards Head Office.
Learners are permitted to resit an external assessment where they are not successful. Resit charges will apply and be made upon the publication of results.
A learner can resit an assessment in the XAMS system after a period of two weeks from the time that a result is returned in the system. Once the time has elapsed the resit can be scheduled in the system in the usual way.
To achieve the qualification, learners must successfully pass all three assessment components:
- One externally set and marked assessment in reading
- One externally set and marked assessment in writing
- One internally or externally set, and internally assessed assessment (comprising of two tasks) in speaking, listening and communicating (SLC)
You can download sample assessments form our website here.
To achieve the qualification, learners must successfully pass an assessment set by Open Awards. This includes a calculator and non-calculator section. You can download sample assessments form our website here.
Yes all assessments at all subjects and levels must be taken under controlled assessment conditions. Further guidance can be found on our Portal.
Providers must ensure that there are no conflicts of interest between the invigilator and learners by checking in advance of the assessment.
A Functional Skills subject tutor must not be involved in the invigilation of that subject, even if they have not taught those candidates (i.e., a Functional Skills English tutor must not invigilate any Functional Skills English assessment and a Functional Skills Maths tutor must not invigilate any Functional Skills Maths assessment, regardless of the level they teach).
The only exception is for Functional Skills English Speaking, Listening and Communicating (SLC) assessments. For these assessments, the invigilator is also the assessor who must be familiar with the required scope of study being assessed (i.e., the Functional Skills English tutor can be the assessor, but their decisions must be subject to internal quality assurance activity).
The following adaptations of externally-set assessment versions are permitted:
- Adaptation to the context of a question or set of questions to meet their learners’ needs
- Provision of physical objects during the assessment to meet their learners’ needs (e.g. money or shapes)
- Translation of the assessment into Braille to meet their learners’ needs
No amendments to the knowledge, skills, understanding or level of demand are permitted. All adaptations need to be approved in advance by Open Awards Quality Assurance team. Further information is provided in Guidance for Adapting Functional Skills Assessments.
Following completion of the marking process, learners’ results will be available to the centre through XAMS.
For Levels 1 and 2, results will be available within the following timescales:
- Results for online assessments will be available within 16 working days from the date the assessment was taken. On average, results are published within ten working days
- Results for paper-based assessments will be available within 27 working days from the date the assessment was taken
The only exception to these timescales are when we publish a new assessment version. These results are subject to a series of standardisation and awarding activities and, as such, results will be released within 32 working days from the date of assessment.
For Entry Level qualifications, approved centre markers mark the completed assessments. Results will be confirmed, following external verification, within 16 working days from the date marked scripts are returned to Open Awards.
For online Levels 1 and 2 assessments, and for paper-based Entry Level assessments, learners can be scheduled in the XAMS system up to 24 hours before the set assessment date/time. Centres can choose their own date and time.
Levels 1 and 2 paper-based assessments are available on a set day every 6 weeks. A calendar of available dates is published at the beginning of each academic year and will be made available on our website. Centres can schedule learners up to 15 working days before the set assessment date.
For Open Awards invigilated assessments, learners can be scheduled in the XAMS system up to 7 days before the set assessment date/time.
For Levels 1 and 2, paper-based assessments will be posted directly to your centre around one week prior to the assessment.
For Entry Level, assessments will be made available for your approved administrator to download directly from the XAMS system from 2 weeks before the scheduled assessment.
Question papers and any other confidential material, e.g. answer booklets, must be stored securely at the centre’s registered address in a safe or secure lockable cupboard with restricted access in a secure locked room. The contents of all materials must be treated as strictly confidential and should not be shared with anyone other than those taking or administering the assessment.
For online assessments, centres can change the date and/or time of the assessment via the XAMS system.
No changes can be made to L1 and L2 paper-based assessments. Changes for Entry Level paper based assessments can be made up until 24 hours prior to the assessment.
Changes for OA invigilated assessments require 5 days notice.
If, for exceptional circumstances, changes are required then you must contact the team on 0151 494 2072 or email@example.com to discuss before the date/time of the scheduled assessments.
No, learners are not be able use components (e.g. Reading, Writing or SLC) from the legacy qualifications towards the reformed qualifications. This is due to the amount of changes to the subject content for the reformed Functional Skills qualifications.
Learners registered to the legacy qualification were certificated for any components they had achieved, if they did not achieve the full qualifications by 30th June 2020. You will need to register the learner on the reformed functional skills qualification for them to work towards the components.
If you have any concerns about a particular learner, and whether they will be able to achieve the full qualification by the last date for assessment, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0151 494 2072 to speak to a member of the team.
Functional Skills registrations will last for 2 years. If your learner is unlikely to achieve the qualification within a 2 year period, please contact the team on email@example.com or 0151 494 2072 to speak to a member of the team.
For Entry Levels 1-3, centres devise their own SLC assessments using the sample structure available on the qualification page of the website. These assessment tasks will be externally verified by your Lead Quality Reviewer. Word document templates are available via the portal.
Levels 1 and 2 SLC assessments are set by Open Awards. The live assessments can be downloaded from the portal by your assessment administrator. These assessments are confidential and must be kept secure at all times. There is a sample assessment for each assessment available on the qualification page of the website. The samples cannot be used as a live assessment; but should be used to prepare the learner.
Centres can choose to write their own assessments for Levels 1 and 2. This should be done following the instructions in the 'Guidance on Setting Centre Devised SLC Assessment Tasks' and submitted to Open Awards for approval in advance of any assessments taking place. Please note, there is a charge for the approval of centre devised Level 1 and Level 2 SLC assessments.
Pass Marks for Level 1 and 2 English Reading/Writing and Maths assessments vary per assessment version and are set following standardisation and awarding activities.
Each Maths assessment is designed to enable a minimally competent learner to achieve a pass mark of around 36 out of 60.
Each English Reading assessment is designed to enable a pass mark of around 18 out of 30 and each English Writing assessment is designed to enable a pass mark of around 36 out of 60.
However, the awarding process will determine specifically where the pass mark sits for each assessment version. Therefore, the pass mark may vary between assessments.
Entry Level Pass Marks are pre-set as below:
- Entry Level 1 Reading - 8 out of 12
- Entry Level 1 Writing - 19 out of 30
- Entry Level 2 Reading - 10 out of 16
- Entry Level 2 Writing - 22 out of 34
- Entry Level 3 Reading - 12 out of 18
- Entry Level 3 Writing - 24 out of 36
- Entry Level 1 Maths - 16 out of 24
- Entry Level 2 Maths - 19 out of 28
- Entry Level 3 Maths - 24 out of 36
Dictionaries can be used in English reading assessments. They cannot be used in English writing assessments.
Dictionaries must be standard English language and must not contain a Thesaurus. They cannot contain annotations or notes.
Wherever possible, dictionaries should be provided by the centre to ensure these requirements are met. If a learner is using their own dictionary, this should be checked at the start of the assessment by the invigilator.
Open Awards does not endorse any specific English dictionary, but anticipates learners are likely to have access to a mini-school dictionary or school dictionary.
There is no minimum age. You must ensure that a full initial assessment has been completed with learners to check that the qualification is appropriate for them. This should include their progression routes.
If an assessment didn't start, you do not need to wait 14 days to re-schedule. The 24 hours scheduling rules apply as normal. For Open Awards invigilated assessments you can re-schedule 7 days as per normal scheduling rules.
You can make the group up with ‘staff’ (e.g tutors etc, but with no vested interest) or other learners at the centre, as long as you check to make sure they’re following guidance.
A Learner must achieve a Pass in all three assessment components at the same level to achieve a full English Functional Skills qualification at that level.
A Learner cannot aggregate results from the three assessment components at different levels in order to be awarded an English Functional Skills qualification.
No this is not allowed.
Yes. Providers must refer to the Open Awards recognition of prior learning policy and procedures to request this. Please note, this is only possible for Reformed Functional Skills qualifications.
Completed paper based Entry Level assessment documents to be uploaded to the Providers Functional Skills folder on SharePoint. Provider Question papers and any other confidential material, e.g. answer booklets, must be stored securely at the provider’s registered address in a safe or secure lockable cupboard with restricted access in a secure locked room.
Only video recordings should be uploaded, except where a reasonable adjustment has been agreed to use an audio recording.
A word count range is provided for writing tasks where appropriate for the given format. For example, a word count range would be provided for writing an article, but not for writing a letter.
To ensure parity between modes of assessment (either online or paper-based), our on-screen assessment platform does not provide an automatic word count as this would present an advantage for learners who opted for this mode over paper-based. Where they believe this is helpful, providers could show learners techniques to estimate word counts and these techniques work irrespective of the mode of assessment. E.g., averaging number of words over two sentences and then multiplying by the total number of sentences.
The Functional Skills English subject content requires learners to be able to compose texts of varying lengths. Therefore, the word count range is indicative of the quantity of evidence a learner should typically present to address the specific task requirements. I.e., the evidence is of sufficient length to provide an appropriate level of detail/ meet the needs of purpose and audience. The mark schemes provide markers with the ability to reflect whether the length of the evidence satisfies the required purpose. E.g., where the evidence is significantly shorter than that indicated, it is unlikely the learner will have presented sufficient evidence to meet the needs of the purpose and audience; where the evidence is significantly longer, it is likely the learner will have presented a quantity of evidence which may not convey a clear meaning and thus may not be suitable for the intended purpose or audience.
It is not permitted to group different levels of SLC together into one assessment. The subject content is different at each level so learners at different levels must be assessed independently from each other.
The Assessor or IQA cannot invigilate a reading, writing or maths assessment as the Assessor and IQA have a potential vested interest in the outcome of the result.