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National reference test 2018 - information for schools


Ofqual has announced that the next annual national reference test will be held between 19 February and 2 March 2018.


This September, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), which manages the tests on behalf of Ofqual, will contact more than 300 schools that it has selected to take part in the national reference test (NRT).

For those schools that have been selected, the NFER and Ofqual have released a guidance document that includes information on the following:

  • How students are selected for the tests
  • The composition of the tests
  • The administration and implementation of the tests
  • Access arrangements
  • The exceptional circumstances under which head teachers have the right to withdraw students from the test.    

Developed by NFER, the national reference test will provide information on changes in performance standards over time. Results from the NRT will only be used to measure changes in performance nationally. There will be no results for individual students or schools, and the results will not be used for school accountability purposes. Ofqual has created a useful overview of the test, which includes example questions as well as an infographic that briefly outlines how the NRT works.

NAHT's Secondary Council previously raised concerns regarding the use of the data from the NRT, given the current context of the reformed GCSEs, and querying the use of the data in awarding subjects other than English and maths. Following this, Ofqual confirmed information from the test will not be used by exam boards during awarding until at least 2019. From 2020, they expect to be able to use NRT results each year to provide additional information to support the awarding of English and maths GCSEs.