Requirements for conducting and marking CQI and IRCA examinations

1. Introduction

The CQI provides examination papers and marking schemes for the following certified courses:

  • Quality courses – three sets of multiple-choice examination papers and marking schemes per course for both Practitioner and Professional levels
  • Auditing courses – two or three sets of examination papers and marking schemes per course for Professional level only. These contain a variety of question types including short answer, essays and case studies with the ability to tailor these examinations to a specific scheme/industry.

In addition to the above, there is also a sample or specimen examination paper available for each course.

These papers are designed for revision purposes only. They should be provided to learners during the course in order to ensure learners are familiar with the examination structure before taking the actual examination. We recommend giving a section of the sample or specimen exam paper as homework and the discussing typical solutions with learners to enhance their learning experience, rather than asking learners to complete a mock examination. Learners must not be supplied with the sample or specimen paper solutions.

2. Structure of examination papers

2.1 Quality courses

All examinations for quality courses are open book.

  • Practitioner level – the examination paper is split into five sections reflecting the CQI Competency Framework. Learners have one hour to complete 30 questions. Sixty marks are available for each examination and the pass mark is 66% (40 marks).
  • Professional level – each examination paper has three case studies and 10 multiple choice questions per case study. Learners have two hours and 30 minutes to complete the examination. Each case study is worth 30 marks, 90 marks are available in total and the pass mark is 66% (59 marks).

2.2 Auditor courses

All examinations for auditing courses are closed book. A copy of the Standard used during the course (e.g. ISO 9001, ISO 45001 etc) and a bilingual dictionary are the only items permitted for reference.

The examination paper is divided into four sections. Learners must attempt all sections and all questions.

The time allowed is one hour and 40 minutes for Auditor Conversion courses, two hours for Lead Auditor courses. There is no additional time allowed for reading the examination paper.

  1. Auditor Conversion course - The examination is split into three sections. There is a maximum of 70 marks available; the pass mark is 70% (49 marks) and learners must also achieve at least 50% in each of the three sections.
  2. Lead Auditor course - The examination is split into four sections. There is a maximum of 90 marks available; the pass mark is 70% (63 marks) and learners must also achieve at least 50% in each of the four sections.

The maximum marks for each question, or part of a question, are shown in brackets.

Each set of auditor course examination papers are designed for use with both the Lead Auditor courses and the Auditor Conversion courses.

For an Auditor Conversion course, the examination duration is one hour and 40 minutes (rather than the two-hour format for the Lead Auditor course). This is achieved by deleting section 2 from the examination paper used for the Lead Auditor course.

Since section 2 is designed to test knowledge of generic auditing processes and principles this part of the examination is not needed as it is assumed as prior knowledge for learners on the Auditor Conversion courses.

The modification must be made as follows:

1. Remove existing section 2 from the cover page, renumber and adjust the marking as follows:

Section  Marker 1 Marker 2 Pass Mark Maximum
1 5 10
2 15 30
3 15 30
Total 49 70

2. Amend instructions to learner on page 2 under ‘Information for learners’ and ‘Examination technique’ as follows:

  • Amend the third paragraph’s total number of marks and pass mark and number of sections.
  • Amend the time management and total time allowed

3. Remove section 2 (including all section 2 questions) from the question papers

4. Re-number sections 3 and 4 and re-number the questions in those two sections to 2 and 3.

All auditor examination papers must state the following within the footer on every page:

  • Amended for use on certified course [XXXX*] operated by [ATP XXXXX**]
  • The date of issue and page number

3. Examination requirements

3.1 Selection of examination papers

When preparing for course delivery, you must select at random one of the CQI and IRCA examination papers provided for that course and ensure that the tutor(s) or learners are not made aware in advance which examination paper is to be used.

3.2 Translation of examination papers

When a CQI and IRCA course is delivered in a language other than English, a certified translation of the examination paper and marking scheme must be produced. By ‘certified’ we mean that the translator must provide a letter which confirms:

  • That the translation is a true and accurate translation of the original documents
  • The date the translation was completed
  • The name, contact details and signature of the translator

The ATP is responsible for the cost of obtaining certified translations.

3.3 Examination paper security

CQI and IRCA examination papers and marking schemes must be stored, printed, distributed and translated (where relevant) in conditions of strictest security. The papers and marking schemes issued by the CQI are electronic, read-only and password protected. You may change the password, but we recommend that you use this security feature for storing the papers electronically. ATP staff and tutors must not, under any circumstances, share the contents of CQI and IRCA examination papers and marking schemes with learners or other third parties. If a tutor suspects that a learner has had access to the examination paper or the marking scheme prior to the examination, they must report their concerns to the ATP immediately. Any evidence of breaches of examination paper security will be viewed as malpractice and appropriate sanctions will be applied, see Malpractice and Maladministration Policy.

3.4 Reasonable adjustments and special considerations

A reasonable adjustment is any action that helps to reduce the effect of a disability or difficulty that would otherwise place a learner at a substantial disadvantage in an examination situation. Reasonable adjustments must not affect the integrity of the examination but may involve:

  • Changing usual assessment arrangements, for example, allowing a learner extra time to complete the examination
  • Adapting examination papers, such as providing materials in Braille
  • Providing assistance during the examination, such as a sign language interpreter or a reader
  • Re-organising the examination room, such as removing adverse visual stimuli for an autistic learner
  • Changing the type of assessment, for example, from a written assessment to a spoken assessment
  • Using assistive technology, such as screen reading, or voice-activated software
  • Providing the mechanism to have different coloured backgrounds to screens for onscreen examinations or asking for permission for copying to different coloured paper for paper-based examinations
  • Providing and allowing different coloured transparencies with which to view assessment papers

The CQI permits additional examination time, not exceeding 30% of the total examination time, for learners suffering from particular disabilities, for example dyslexia, muscular dystrophy etc, which adversely affect their ability to complete the examination in the allotted time. 

Additional time not exceeding 20% of the total examination time, is also allowed for learners who speak English as a second language and are taking the examination in English. Any other learner requests for reasonable adjustments must be submitted by the ATP to the CQI for approval prior to the examination taking place. What is judged as ‘reasonable’ will depend on the individual circumstances, cost implications and the practicality and effectiveness of the adjustment. Other factors such as health and safety requirements will also be taken into consideration.

A learner may apply to the ATP for special consideration after the examination has taken place if they feel they have been disadvantaged during the examination due to:

  • An unexpected or temporary illness or injury
  • An event outside of their control which has had, or is likely to have had, a material effect on their ability to demonstrate their level of attainment in the examination, for example a bereavement or circumstances affecting the conditions under which the examination was taken

Special consideration should not give the learner an unfair advantage. The learner’s result must reflect their achievement in the examination and not necessarily their potential ability. Special consideration, if successful, may result in a post-examination adjustment to the mark of the learner. The size of the adjustment will depend on the circumstances and reflect the difficulty faced by the learner. The ATP must consult the CQI before agreeing a special consideration request.

3.5 Examination venue and equipment

Examinations must be conducted in a suitably quiet location that will remain undisturbed for the whole examination, with consideration given to appropriate space, heating, lighting, ventilation and the type of seating. A sign should be placed outside the entrance to the examination to ensure learners are not disturbed e.g. ‘Quiet, examination in progress’.

The examination room must not contain flip charts, diagrams or other displays of materials that could be deemed to help learners answer the examination questions. At least one clock must be visible to all learners at all times showing accurate (local) time. Invigilators should display the date and start and finish time of the examination.

Each learner must be seated far enough apart so their work cannot be seen by other learners and they cannot make contact. The minimum distance between learners should be 1.25 meters.

Where reasonable adjustments agreed for a learner include the provision of a reader, scribe or sign language interpreter, the ATP must ensure that both invigilators and those acting as a reader, scribe or sign language interpreter fully understand their respective roles and what is not permissible in the examination room. In cases where reasonable adjustments for a learner might disturb other learners, then the learner must be accommodated in a separate room with an invigilator present at all times.

The following are not permitted in the examination room (unless agreed in advance to meet a reasonable adjustment request):

  • Electronic devices including computers, laptops, mobile phones and smart watches
  • Books and notes
  • Calculators (unless specified in the examination paper)

Bilingual dictionaries and copies of the relevant ISO standards (for auditing courses) are permitted but the invigilator must check that notes have not been enclosed within or written on pages of the dictionary or standards.

3.6 Invigilation

All CQI and IRCA examinations must be supervised by an invigilator. The invigilator must:


  • Set up the examination room and seating arrangement correctly
  • Confirm the identity of every learner taking the examination. The invigilator must check each learner’s photo identification (e.g. passport, national identity card, driving license) and ask them to print and sign their name on an examination register. The invigilator must sign against each learner name to confirm that an identification check has taken place
  • Record on the examination register if any reasonable adjustments have been made for a learner or if a learner is absent or did not bring any valid photo identification
  • Check that learners do not have any forbidden items in the examination room and that any bags are positioned well away from the learner’s desk
  • Distribute the examination papers to learners
  • Inform learners that they must not communicate with each other in any way e.g. verbal, written, electronic or non-verbal
  • Tell learners to raise their hand if they require the invigilator’s attention
  • Explain the rules and regulations for the examination to learners, allowing learners time to read the rules and regulations and deal with any questions before the start of the examination
  • Inform learners when the examination will finish and when they will be permitted to leave the room


  • Supervise learners at all times to prevent cheating and distractions
  • Ensure that a member of staff is available to accompany any learner who may need to leave the room temporarily
  • Not give any guidance or clarification to learners about the questions or possible answers


  • Instruct learners to stop writing and remind them that they are still under examination conditions
  • Tell learners to check they have written their names correctly on the examination papers
  • Ask learners to remain seated until all the examination papers have been collected
  • Record on the examination register any unexpected incidents or suspicious activity by learners that happened during the examination
  • Ensure all the examination papers (including any spare examination papers) and the examination register are collated, stored and despatched securely in line with the ATP’s processes

The ATP must ensure that all invigilators are trained and have sufficient guidance to perform their role to the required standard.

3.7 Marking examination papers


Examination papers must be marked in accordance with the relevant marking scheme. A second tutor (or other competent people as defined by the ATP) must check the accuracy of the calculation of the marks allocated on each paper.


One tutor must mark all the papers, indicating any errors, allocating marks and totalling the marks scored.

A second tutor (or other competent people as defined by the ATP) must check the accuracy of the calculation of the marks allocated on each paper. Where the total pass mark falls between 66% and 74%, a second tutor must re-mark the scripts using a pen with different coloured ink from the first tutor. You must ensure that any significant differences in marking by first and second tutors are resolved. Tutors must clearly indicate alongside the answers where each individual mark is allocated.

3.8 Retaking examinations

Learners who fail a CQI or IRCA examination can retake the examination under the following conditions:

  • A learner can only retake an examination once (not the previously failed examination paper) and this retake must occur within 12 months of the initial examination.
  • Learners who fail a resit examination are required to attend another entire certified course in order to be able to complete the course. 

Ideally, ATPs should offer resits to learners who have attended their course. However, we acknowledge that this may present difficulties in certain circumstances and we will consider exceptions. All resit examination papers must be dated.

3.9 Discussing examination results with learners

You may provide learners with their overall results and their marks in each section of the paper. You may also provide an individual learner with verbal feedback on his / her performance, both generally and with respect to individual questions / answers. However, learners must not be supplied with copies of the question paper or their marked examination scripts.

3.10 Complaints and appeals

The CQI requires ATPs to have a written complaints and appeals procedure in place. You must inform learners of their right to make a complaint or appeal before the examination and at the time of issuing their results.

If a learner appeals against their examination result, the ATP must conduct an independent review of the learner’s script. In cases where the learner is not satisfied with the outcome of the ATP’s appeal process, they can appeal to the CQI, who will ask for evidence of the independent marking review and a copy of the learner’s script.

Last modified: Wednesday, 9 December 2020, 6:01 PM