Case Studies Creating a Good Practice Guide for Knowledge-Based Mark Schemes for Qualification Wales

Schools UK Evaluation and Research


Working for Qualification Wales, the Regulator of Qualifications, AlphaPlus has produced a good practice guide on knowledge-based mark schemes. This guide encourages consideration of the underpinning principles of different types of knowledge-based mark schemes, and identifies the key issues that can affect an assessment’s validity and reliability.

The guide has been designed to support qualification developers and assessment writers when developing and reviewing mark schemes for knowledge-based qualifications, although many of the principles apply to mark schemes more broadly (e.g. competency-based mark schemes).

The guide focuses on general principles of assessment such as validity and reliability, and has been designed to be applicable to a range of subjects and knowledge-based assessments (including non-exam assessment). It references both levels-based and points-based mark schemes.

The mark scheme guide is not a regulatory document; it is intended to complement individual awarding bodies’ development processes and to ensure compliance with Qualifications Wales’ regulatory standards.

The content of the guide is based on a research report – also by AlphaPlus – into the features of effective mark schemes in knowledge-based qualifications. The report was based on a literature review of published and grey literature and a series of structured interviews with key stakeholders.

Our role

  • Literature review of both published academic literature and grey literature
  • Structured interviews with stakeholders
  • Development of the guide


The guide is most effective as an online tool, as dynamic links within the interactive PDF take the user to the logical next section of the guide. A key aspect of this is the content map at the beginning of the guide, which clearly shows the content’s hierarchy and the varying complexity of the different types of mark schemes. As well as providing a high-level view of the guide, each box within the content map is a clickable link, gradually taking the user through the design principles and key considerations in the development of the required mark scheme.