Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations

Formation 1998[1]
Purpose Examination board
Headquarters Cambridge, UK
Region served
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Parent organization
Cambridge Assessment (UCLES)
Website www.ocr.org.uk

OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations[2]) is an examination board that sets examinations and awards qualifications (including GCSEs and A-levels). It is one of England, Wales and Northern Ireland's five main examination boards.

OCR is based in Cambridge, with an office in Coventry. It is part of the University of Cambridge's Cambridge Assessment, which operates in over 160 countries and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2008. OCR delivers GCSE and A Level examinations in the United Kingdom whereas for other countries Cambridge Assessment operates the examination board Cambridge International Examinations (CIE).[3] An important distinction between OCR and CIE is that the British exam board OCR is required to comply with UK government regulations and CIE with international GCSEs and GCE A Levels is not.[4]


The name OCR reflects the fact that it was created in 1998 through the amalgamation of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) and the Royal Society of Arts Examinations Board (RSAEB).[1] At the time of the merger, UCLES's qualifications were offered by two wholly owned subsidiaries: the Oxford and Cambridge Examinations and Assessments Council (OCEAC) for A Level and the Midland Examining Group (MEG) for GCSE and Certificate of Achievement. RSAEB offered vocational qualifications. After the merger, the OCR name replaced all previous names. The overall supervisor for the merger was Joseph Dudley.

UCLES had previously taken over the University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations (founded 1857) and the Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examinations Board (founded 1873).[1] The University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations (UODLE) and the Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examinations Board (O&C or OCSEB) were acquired by UCLES in 1995; earlier, it had taken over the Southern Universities Joint Board (SUJB). The acquisition of RSAEB was completed in 1998 brought a new range of qualifications and activities to the UCLES Group because RSEAB's principal activity was in vocational qualifications.[1]

The formation of OCR represented the culmination of several decades of corporate activity on the part of UCLES, activity that came about as a response to the policies of successive British governments towards public examinations and the provision of qualifications as well as moves to strengthen the regulatory framework.

This process has not been without problems however and OCR came under fire when it emerged that the answer to one question in a GCSE Music paper was given away by accident in the copyright declaration printed on the back of the question paper.

Another error happened where an impossible maths question was set.[5] In addition, there were errors in Section B of the Latin Literature paper, confusing names of both authors and characters, in questions comprising 28% of the total marks. Also of the same exam period, many students protested against an A2 Biology paper on Control, Genomes and Environment (F215) which had a large emphasis on Ecology. This issue was made public in a Facebook page which generated support from thousands of students.[6] The Times and The Times Educational Supplement reported on this story.[7] OCR released a statement, but refused to answer questions from candidates.[8] However, OCR were not the only board to make a mistake, with two other major examination boards also producing impossible questions; this has led to scrutiny from the British government.[9]

Another incident included a statement of the Exam Board Chief of OCR that, according to him, students should be allowed to use Google and the Internet to research information during examinations. This statement evoked a heated debate with support on the one hand and criticism on the other hand.[10][11][12]

Due to the growing number of marking error cases detected over time, the Exam Board Chief of OCR stated that he plans to intensify exam marking training for exam marking teachers and to introduce more computerized marking in order to increase efficiency in marking.[13]

All the UK schools examinations and vocational qualifications of the UCLES Group were transferred to OCR. Subsequent physics syllabuses released by OCR included the now infamous (fictional) units the "Ocrawatt" and "Ocrajoule" due to overzealous find-and-replace on MEG's part[14] (in previous and later syllabuses, the units were correctly written as "Megawatt" and "Megajoule".)

Cambridge Assessment is a non-teaching department of the University of Cambridge, making Cambridge the only British University to maintain a direct link with a school exam board.

Incorporated Examination Boards


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