This section provides information on the qualifications system in Northern Ireland.

Changes to examinations and qualifications - Summer 2021

On 9 October, the Education Minister Peter Weir announced decisions on proposals for changes to the awarding of GCSEs, AS and A Level qualifications for this academic year.

The changes include a reduction in the number of exams that pupils will be required to take, as well as making a number of adaptions to qualifications to ensure they can be delivered safely and meet the public health requirements.

GCSE qualification market and grading

Changes to GCSE grading

Since their introduction in 1988, GCSEs taken in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (NI) have used the same grading system, however from September 2017 this began to change.

Full details of the changes to GCSE grading are available on the Regulation section of the CCEA website, which will be updated regularly while the changes are introduced from 2017-2019.

Letter to schools: GCSEs offered by WJEC

The former Minister for Education made an oral statement to the Assembly on the Qualifications Market & Grading on 28 June 2016.

Performance Measures/NI Entitlement Framework Qualifications Accreditation Number (NIEFQAN) 

All qualifications that have been approved for use in schools in Northern Ireland will appear in the NIEFQAN file.  The NIEFQAN file shows details of GCSE equivalences for level 1 and level 2 qualifications, and A-level equivalences for qualifications at level 3.  

The system is designed to enable schools to report their performance.   The information on equivalency applies only to the allocation of school performance points. 

It is not intended for use in relation to the equivalency of qualifications for employment and/or further/higher education purposes.

The 2020 NIEFQAN file is now available to schools.  This NIEFQAN file lists all qualifications which have been approved for use in schools and which are available to teach in the 2020/21 academic year. 

Qualifications which are available for teaching this year but which will be closed to new learners next academic year will not be listed on this NIEFQAN file. 

DE Circular 2019/17 sets out the process and criteria which are applied to approve qualifications for use in Post-primary schools in NI. It also provides details on how the NIEFQAN file should be used.

Joint Council for Qualifications - JCQCIC

JCQCIC is the organisation representing the awarding bodies offering the majority of qualifications on offer in the UK. It helps the awarding bodies to create common standards and guidance on issues such as access arrangements and special consideration. Further details can be found at:

A-level science practicals and AS/A2 weightings

In 2014 the former Education Minister, John O'Dowd confirmed that he had accepted the recommendations from the CCEA fundamental review of GCSEs and A-levels. At that time he said that he had some concerns about proposals in England to change the assessment of practicals in science subjects at A-level.

On 8 September 2014, the former Minister announced that practical assessments of science subjects will remain as part of the overall grade at A-level.

Following in-depth discussions here and in Wales, the former Minister also announced his decision to alter the weightings for AS and A2 qualifications to AS to 40 per cent and A2 levels to 60 per cent.

The Register

The register of regulated qualifications contains details of organisations and qualifications Ofqual regulates. There are available links to view recognised awarding organisations and regulated qualifications; the register can be found at:

All Ireland Scholarships 2020


Please be advised that a decision has been made by the Trustees of the All Ireland Scholarship. Unfortunately, All Ireland Scholarships will not be awarded in Northern Ireland on the basis of the A Level and BTEC calculated grades for 2020. If you have any queries regarding this please e-mail  

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