National Reference Test 2023: Information for Markers

Marker Application Form

Marker privacy notice

What is the purpose of the National Reference Test?

Ofqual’s National Reference Test (NRT) was introduced to provide additional information to support the awarding of GCSEs. The design of the NRT means that it provides robust national data on student ability in a specific year as well as evidence of how performance has changed over time.

Each year the results of the NRT are considered by Ofqual and the exam boards prior to GCSEs in English language and maths being awarded. Results from the NRT may be used to inform standard setting in these subjects. This happened for the first time in 2019.

More information about the NRT is available here. Ofqual has appointed NFER to develop, administer and analyse the test on its behalf.

How have schools been selected to take part?

Schools have been selected as part of a sample to participate in the statutory NRT, which will take place in the spring term of 2023. The school sample is designed to be nationally representative of the secondary school population and is based on school size and prior GCSE results.

How are students selected to take part?

Schools will be asked to confirm the number of students in year 11 who will be aged 16 by 31 August 2023 and who will be entered for either or both GCSE English language and GCSE maths in summer 2023. (Note: students may not take part if they are taking only the international GCSE, sometimes referred to as a level1/level 2 certificate, in that subject.)

NFER will then ask schools to provide a list of all these students. From this list, NFER will randomly sample up to 30 students to sit the English test and a separate group of up to 30 students to sit the maths test. Students will only be selected to take the test if they are entered for the GCSE in that subject.  Each student will be assigned either the English or mathematics test; no student will take both subjects.

We expect all the selected students to take the test in order to avoid bias in the sample. The legislation allows the test provider to specify the reasons for which a headteacher may decide that a pupil should not take a national reference test.

What does taking part involve?

The NRT will take place in schools from 20 February to 3 March 2023. This testing window is in spring to avoid the main GCSE exam period, but also chosen to be at a time when students are likely to have completed most of their course of study so that the test will give a good indication of GCSE performance.

How will the test be administered?

One or two representatives from NFER will visit each school to administer the test. NFER test administrators will adhere to any government guidance on COVID-19 which may be in place at the time. All of NFER’s test administrators are trained teachers and have enhanced DBS checks. One of NFER’s administrators will telephone the nominated school contact before they visit to arrange the most convenient time of day for the testing to take place and to confirm all arrangements. At the same time, they will ensure that they understand and can follow the health and safety procedures in place at the school. They will bring all the materials required for testing along with them on the day and they will take away with them the completed tests for NFER to mark. A teacher or another member of school staff should also be present throughout the session.

What is the composition and timing of the tests?

The English test will comprise a reading and a writing component. For both the English and maths tests will last one hour. The test has been carefully designed to be accessible to all eligible students. Students will be asked to make their best attempt at the whole test. The test has a look and feel that is similar to the GCSEs and the content of the test is based on the GCSEs to be awarded in summer 2023.

What is the role of the marker?

Markers will be appointed by NFER to undertake the marking of the English reading, English writing and mathematics tests. Markers must have experience of teaching and marking the relevant subject at key stage 4 and will be required to attend a training day on Saturday 4 March 2023 remotely, i.e., from home. Following the training day, marking will be carried out at home using NFER’s online marking system. Markers will be assigned to teams and will be supported by a supervisory marker throughout the process. All markers must pass a standardisation exercise before progressing to marking of live tests and the quality of their marking will be frequently audited and monitored throughout the marking period.

Markers must be able to commit to being available for the whole of the marking period: from 5 March to the end of 19 March 2023 and expect to work around 2-3 hours per day.

Applications should be submitted by completing NFER’s application form found here and the closing date for receipt is 12 December 2022.

What is the remuneration rate?

Markers should expect to receive a payment in the range of £1.80 and £2.50 per script.

Confidentiality and Conflicts of Interests

The security of the test materials is paramount. You must not copy any test materials that are supplied to you or retain any after you have completed the marking. You must not discuss the content of the test with anyone beyond those in the marking team or communicate any information about the tests and their marking by email or through social media. All markers must sign a confidentiality agreement form before attending the training session to pledge that their knowledge of the content of the tests will remain confidential and specify any interests in schools and examination boards and inform NFER if, subsequently, they are approached by anyone in any regard in connection with their marking of the NRT.

It may be necessary to share confidential marking materials electronically via our online secure NFER portal to fulfil marker responsibilities. Any confidential materials downloaded by markers onto personal computers will need to be deleted securely. Any confidential materials printed at home will need to be either returned to NFER or confidentially shredded at home. Instructions on how to securely delete downloaded files from your computer and securely dispose of printed materials will be sent to all markers.

Disclosure and Barring Service

All new applicants and those who marked the NRT prior to 2020 will be required to provide proof of valid basic DBS certification, should their application be successful. Those with valid DBS certification, will need to provide a digital copy of the original documentation to NFER. Applicants who do not have valid DBS certification, will be provided with a link to the application and guided through the process.

Right to Work

All new applicants and those who marked the NRT prior to 2020, will be required to provide proof of right to work in the UK, should their application be successful. NFER will require a copy of a valid passport. If a valid passport is not available, NFER can advise on alternative acceptable documentation. In either case, NFER will arrange a video conference to validate any documentation.

How will NFER use and protect your data?

All the information provided will be held securely by NFER whether the information is in electronic or physical format. NFER do not collect more information than is necessary to fulfil their stated purposes and will not retain it for longer than is necessary.

The full privacy notice for this project can be found here.

Thank you for your interest in the test. For more information about the NRT please visit this page.

If you have any questions or queries about making the NRT, please contact NFER by telephone on 01753 637051 or by email to