University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate

"UCLES" redirects here. For the University College London Échelle Spectrograph, see Anglo-Australian Telescope.
University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate

Cambridge Assessment logo

Cambridge Assessment logo
Abbreviation UCLES
Formation 1858
Type Not-for-profit
Headquarters Cambridge, UK
Services Examinations and academic assessments
Parent organization
University of Cambridge
Website Official website

University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) is a not-for-profit non-teaching department of the University of Cambridge, which operates under the brand name Cambridge Assessment. It provides education assessments for over 8 million learners in over 170 countries and marked by over 30,000 examiners every year. [1][2] These include the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) examination board for UK students, the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) for overseas students, and the Cambridge English Language Assessment for learners of the English language.


Cambridge Assessment is Europe's largest assessment agency and is responsible for setting and marking a large number of examinations, both in the United Kingdom and internationally. Cambridge Assessment is not responsible for internal examinations at the University of Cambridge.

It is one of the largest international assessment agencies recognised by governments around the world. It has units that focus on research (including the Cambridge Psychometrics Centre until its move to the University of Cambridge), expanding e-assessment capabilities and delivering university admissions tests as well as three examining bodies:[3]

It provides a programme of development in assessment and related issues. Every year over 30,000 people work with Cambridge Assessment by either attending conferences or by taking part in topical debates from their desktop.[1]


UCLES was established in 1858 to administer examinations for persons who were not members of the University of Cambridge and to inspect schools, with the aim of raising standards in education. The Syndicate soon began examining in territories overseas and this aspect of its work grew quickly. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Syndicate was empowered to hold examinations for commercial certificates. The Certificate of Proficiency in English (known as the CPE), the Syndicate's first examination in the field of English as a foreign language, was introduced by UCLES to deliver proof of language proficiency to native speakers of languages other than English. Over the years, UCLES adopted further English language examinations, the First Certificate in English (FCE) and the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE). On the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) ranging from A1/A2 (lower level), B1/B2 (intermediate level) to C1/C2 (advanced level), the FCE is set at B2, the CAE at C1 and the CPE at C2.

The universities of Oxford and Cambridge created the Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examination Board which became part of UCLES. The UCLES Group absorbed several other examination boards, including the Southern Universities Joint Board, the Midland Examining Group and the RSA Examinations and Assessment Foundation.

Cambridge Assessment celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2008. Cambridge Assessment called for "league tables [to be] taken out of ministers' hands", because it felt recent reforms of the British education system had disfavoured International GCSEs offered by its CIE subsidiary.[4][5]

Asian operations

Cambridge Assessment Singapore was launched in order to expand Cambridge Assessment's activities in Asia. Cambridge Assessment has worked in south-east Asia for over 130 years. Cambridge Assessment works with over 2000 schools in south-east Asia. Cambridge Assessment Singapore also works in partnership with governments in the region on assessment and carry out research on assessment in education.


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