Assessment Methods Used in End-Point Assessments
If you had a read through our recent blog on the different types of Assessor roles, you will have seen us mention several different methods of assessment. Typically, NVQ Assessors (who take learners through the entire qualification) assess learners against ‘Learning Outcomes’ and ‘Assessment Criteria’. On-programme Assessors guide the learner through the majority of their qualification, ensuring their KSBs (Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours) are up to standard.
When it comes to End-Point Assessments (EPAs), the assessments carried out are completely different to the on-programme element. This is why there are special Independent End-Point Assessors (IEPAs) who carry these out. With over 500 different apprenticeship standards, as you can imagine there are quite a few different assessment methods – over 90 in fact!
What is the purpose of an EPA?
Let’s have a little recap. An EPA is created to make sure that an apprentice is fully competent to carry out their job. KSBs are the main tools used to measure this competency. If an IEPA doesn’t believe the apprentice has hit all of the KBBs, then they are not fully competent and would therefore fail their End-Point Assessment.
What does an EPA involve?
Unfortunately, there is no common format for an EPA, they vary between each apprenticeship. The best way to find out what is included within an EPA or a specific apprenticeship is to look at the assessment plan. We have written a quick guide on how to find an assessment plan if you are unsure.
The assessment plan will outline the main requirements for the final test, and which methods should be used to assess the learner. Employers themselves can determine the KSBs required for the job roles, but the assessment plan will guide them on how to test for occupational competence.
One thing to note is that EPAs aren’t designed to test every single aspect of the standard. Hence the apprenticeship being split into the on-programme section and the end-point section.
Some of the following methods are commonly used to test competence:
- Multiple choice tests
- Evidence portfolio (such as a logbook)
- Observations on the learner’s practical skills
- Professional discussion
- Projects carried out in the workplace
- Portfolio-based interview
- Project presentation
Assessment Methods Used in End-Point Assessments
An observation is when the IEPA (Independent End-Point Assessor) watches an Apprentice undertake a task within the workplace, as part of their normal duties. This means that the task should naturally occur within the Apprentice’s job. The IEPA can ask questions throughout the observation, or at the end. They can then conclude whether the apprentice is showing occupational competence.
This method of assessment is best for assessing knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) all together at the same time. Not only that, but it’s also good for assessing their practical skills. Observations are not the right method of assessment for occupations where skills can’t be observed as easily, or where work occurs in dangerous environments.
Some of the advantages of carrying out observations include:
- It is the best assessment method to be carried out in the workplace. It gives assurance to employers about the competence of the apprentice.
- The results produced are reliable, valid and authentic.
- It is cost-effective for the employer. The apprentice will be familiar with the environment so has a higher chance of passing the assessment.
It is easy to confuse observations with practical assessments; but the main difference between the two is that a practical assessment is where a set task is completed within a simulated environment. The Apprentice is able to demonstrate their knowledge and skills of how to do something. A practical assessment is often followed up with questioning by the IEPA, during or after the test.
Again, this method of assessment tests the knowledge, skills and behaviours of the apprentice, but in a more objective way. As the test is carried out within a different environment to the workplace, it helps to show that the apprentice fully understands how to apply their knowledge in a different circumstance.
Some of the advantages of practical assessments include:
- Apprentices are tested under controlled conditions, which could reflect challenges that may appear during the End-Point Assessment.
- The assessment can be put together fairly quickly.
A test provides a less holistic approach to assessing an apprentice’s understanding. This is because it only really focuses on the knowledge aspect. There are two main test formats: multiple-choice and written response tests. We will assume that you already know what a multiple-choice test is; but a written test can take several different formats. They often consist of a variety of types of questions including open-ended questions which require a longer format answer, or scenario-based questions which often require further elaboration.
Multiple-choice questions are great for assessing knowledge. They give the Apprentice the opportunity to choose between several options that could be present within a practical environment. Written tests are better for assessing skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and general written communication. They require the Apprentice to justify their answers which backs up their understanding of the topic.
Some of the advantages of tests include:
- Tests are easy to put together, and once created they are cheap to replicate.
- They can be completed online / remotely providing controls are put in place.
- If tests are carried out under examination conditions, they are more reliable than other methods of assessment.
- Standardisation is easier as everyone taking the test are exposed to the same questions, enabling direct comparisons across the country.
A professional discussion is a two-way conversation between the apprentice and the IEPA. It is used to assess the in-depth understanding the apprentice has of their work. The idea is that a professional discussion is led by the Assessor; however, both parties are required to listen and participate in equal amounts. It allows the apprentice to give a deeper insight into how their competency aligns with the KSBs.
This method of assessment is the best for assessing the in-depth knowledge an apprentice has of a subject. It is also a good alternative when occupations can’t be observed in practice. Or, if the working environment makes an observation difficult.
Some of the advantages of a professional discussion include:
- It can be used as a supplementary method of assessment to allow an apprentice to elaborate on their understanding of a particular topic.
- Professional discussions can be recorded, which can help when it comes to Internal Quality Assurance.
- A professional discussion can cover a large part of the role and the occupational standard.
An interview is where the IEPA asks the apprentice a series of pre-planned questions, in order to assess their competence against the KSBs. Unlike a professional discussion, there is no scope for a two-way conversation. The apprentice is just required to answer the questions in a way that demonstrates they have met the assessment criteria.
Interviews are the best method of assessment to get an idea of the apprentice’s knowledge and understanding of a subject. The skills and behaviours usually assessed during an interview are often not visible during an EPA observation; so, the two methods of assessment are often used in harmony. Interviews are also useful when a portfolio of evidence has not been submitted, in order to allow the KSBs to be fully assessed.
Some of the advantages of an interview include:
- It is a great supplementation to other methods of assessment to build upon any criteria that may not have been covered. For example, an observation may not allow the apprentice to demonstrate their knowledge to their full potential.
- Interviews can be recorded which helps with moderation of the apprenticeship.
- An interview is a great way of collecting qualitative information for the independent Assessor.
A project in regards to EPA is carried out after the Gateway process, and involves the apprentice completing a significant piece of work. This could be in the form of a written essay, or in a practical scenario producing an item that the IEPA can review and assess. Not only should the project meet the needs of the business, it should also be relevant to the role of the apprentice and allow them to demonstrate the key KSBs needed for the EPA. The scope of the project will need to be discussed in advance and agreed between the employer and the EPAO.
The main reason a project would be used as a method of assessment for the EPA over the other methods is if a work cycle has a long duration. Usually an observation would be carried out, but if the apprentice is working on something over a couple of months then the best method to assess this is a final project. It also allows for a very broad set of KSBs to be evidenced post-gateway.
Some of the advantages of projects include:
- The project can produce something of real benefit to the apprentice’s employer.
- This method of assessment is a really holistic approach as the apprentice can also showcase a wider range of practical and analytical skills alongside the KSBs.
We mentioned earlier about the KSBs being found within the assessment plan but there is also another document you need to be aware of; the Apprenticeship Standard. This contains all of the KSBs that the apprentice needs to meet, whereas the Assessment Plan details what KSB each method is evidencing.
The Apprenticeship Standard also contains additional information including the duration of the Apprenticeship, the level of the Apprenticeship, any qualifications needed beforehand (e.g. Maths, English), and career progression opportunities.
Where does an EPA take place?
EPAs are carried out under exam conditions, so they need to be carried out where the apprentice can concentrate. Usually they take place at their employer’s premises. If an apprentice fails all or part of their EPA they are able to resubmit for testing. However, the apprentice will have already been put forward for the EPA by their on-programme assessor so they should be ready for that stage.
We hope this has helped to look at some of the assessment methods used in EPA. It is a hard question to give a direct answer to as they vary so much between apprenticeships. If you would like any further information on End-Point Assessments please give our team a call on 01205 805 155.
Steve is a Chartered Manager and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.
He provides Educational Consultancy to the 19+ sector as well as being an Assessor, IQA, EPA and Digital Marketing Professional. When not doing any of these he finds time, every now and then, to write blogs and articles.