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The National Reference Test in 2023

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This week, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) will begin contacting the schools that have been selected to take part in the 2023 National Reference Test (NRT).

What is the NRT and what should selected schools expect?

The NRT is a one-hour test taken each year by a representative sample of year 11 students in England. The 2023 test will take place between 20 February and 3 March 2023, and this will be the seventh year it has been conducted.

Each student takes either an English test or a maths test. The test reflects the sorts of questions students can expect in GCSE English language and maths exams. The results provide us with an objective measure of how year 11 students in England are performing in these subjects and whether performance has changed compared with previous years. There are no results for individual students or schools.

We know that year 11 timetables are tight and school staff will be busy preparing for the summer exams. That’s why we aim to minimise the burden on schools selected to participate in the NRT.

NFER organises the test, working closely with a contact nominated by each school, usually the exams officer, so that things run smoothly. One of the first tasks is to agree a test date, within the test fortnight, that suits the school. When the tests are taken, an NFER test administrator will bring the test papers, invigilate the test and take the completed scripts away for marking.

Findings from the 2022 NRT

The 2022 NRT outcomes were published on 25 August.

In English, results showed no statistically significant difference when compared to 2020 (the last year of the NRT that was unaffected by the pandemic).

In maths, there was a statistically significant downward change compared to 2020. The Chief Regulator decided not to ask exam boards to reflect this drop in attainment in GCSE maths grade boundaries. This would have contradicted the policy in 2022 for more generous grading to reflect the disruption caused by the pandemic.

If your school is part of this year’s sample, thank you in advance for your support.

The national cohort results will be available in August 2023.

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