External Assessment Changes

External Assessment Changes

At CPCAB we’re committed to providing vocational training pathways which prepare learners to be compassionate, safe, and effective practitioners. We keep our qualifications under constant review to ensure that they remain fit for purpose.

As a result of our qualification reviews between 2022-24, we have made the decision to change the assessment strategy for a number of CPCAB qualifications, by removing the External Assessment component (exams). This represents a move towards a more holistic, authentic, and inclusive approach to the assessment of relational-centred skills such as counselling, life coaching and supervision.

This change reflects the confidence and respect CPCAB have for the accuracy of tutor assessment, which will as always be supported by standardisation from CPCAB Head Office staff, and quality checked by the CPCAB External Verification service. Collectively these ensure assessment standards are upheld and candidate results are appropriate.

What factors contributed to our decision?

This decision was made following an in-depth analysis of assessment data from the past 10 years, feedback from tutors and centres, and the result of our most recent Qualification Annual Reviews.  We’ve identified several factors that supported our decision to remove External Assessment from our qualifications:

  • The facilitation and authenticity issues that occur because of the increased impact of AI in relation to External Assessment - the greatest defence against plagiarism is tutor-led, holistic assessment
  • Data on the accuracy and consistency of centre assessment vs external assessment
  • Equality impact of exams on candidates
  • Support from the professional associations for the change
  • Research supporting the holistic nature of ongoing assessment
What are the main benefits for centres and learners?

We’re confident that this change will result in several benefits for both tutors and candidates:

  • Removal of equality barriers to candidate completion
  • Extra time in the delivery to add richness and quality to the candidate experience
  • Reduced assessment workload for tutors
  • Reduction of the bureaucratic barriers between CPCAB and centres
  • Reduced administrative burden on centres
  • Removal of the illusion of a ‘safety net’ which instead allows for tutors to make clear final decisions about candidate outcomes
How are we going to support tutors through this change?

There will be nothing added to directly replace the EA, as tutors already assess the full range of competencies for the qualification – in most cases, twice.  We do understand though, that tutors might feel the pressure of being the primary point of assessment, so we’re providing the following increased levels of support:

  • Revamped Candidate Self-review (available for download below)
  • Guidance to centres on Internal Assessment Appeal processes to ensure tutor decisions are respected
  • Guidance on fair use of AI
  • Clear mapping of our qualifications to the relevant professional associations, occupational outcomes, and to SCoPEd competencies – enabling you to market the continued relevance of qualifications to learners
  • Our internal staff will be refocussed on providing more bespoke centre support and quality assurance
  • Upcoming opportunities to consult on the type of ongoing support centres would value

When will this take effect?

For all courses with start dates after the 1st September 2024, candidates will be registered on a qualification which is 100% Internally Assessed by the tutor or tutors at the centre and verified by CPCAB quality assurance processes.  Candidates registered on courses starting after the 1st September 2024 will no longer sit an External Assessment (examination). This will include any candidates commencing a year 2 of the TC-L4 qualification after the 1st September 2024.

Any candidate registered on a course with a start date up to and including the 31st August 2024 will continue with the assessment process assigned to their registration. CPCAB will honour all opportunities to sit and resit External Assessments in accordance with the documentation issued in year 2023-24.

(Up to and including 31st August 2024)
(On or after 1st September 2024)
TC-L4 Year 1   N/A   N/A
TC-L4 Year 2   (of year 2)

*All candidates will be able to resit their EA if they are declared NP at the first sitting. Second Resits will also be honoured if supported by the centre, as per guidance from 2023-24. The 2023-24 External Assessment appeals processes will still operate for all candidates with start dates in the 2023-24 academic year.



1. How will the standards of the qualifications be upheld?

The qualifications with still be fully assessed against all the required competencies and meet the national regulated standards and the needs of employers and stakeholders. CPCAB quality assurance will continue to ensure that standards are maintained.

2. Will the qualifications hold the same parity of esteem by the professional associations and potential employers?

Yes – the relevant professional associations have been consulted and are behind this change 100%.  The qualification progression route still provides the same competences within the SCoPEd framework, and maps to employer requirements. This change is running alongside CPCAB’s 2024 campaign for quality counselling training.

3. What happens if a candidate who was registered before the 1st September 2024 does not pass their exam on their first sitting?

All candidates will be able to resit their EA if they are declared Not Proficient (NP) at the first sitting. Second Resits will also be honoured if supported by the centre, as per the existing guidance from 2023-24. The 2023-24 External Assessment appeals processes will still operate for all candidates with start dates in the 2023-24 academic year.

4. Can my candidates, who were registered before the 1st September, now opt out of sitting an External Assessment?

Candidate outcomes are subject to the assessment requirements attached to their registration. Therefore, candidates registered before the 1st September 2024 will still need a proficient EA outcome to be proficient overall.

5. Will this affect the BACP APQ Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling?

No – BACP are happy with the removal of EA.  APQ Candidates will still need to sit the CoP and fulfil all other requirements of the existing qualification.

6. Will this increase internal assessment workload for tutors?

No – we are not ‘moving the EA into the course’ for tutors to mark.  The only addition is an improved Self-review which will support tutor assessment decisions.  CBT-L5, LCS-L3 are the only qualifications not to have contained an existing Self review. For all other qualifications the existing Self review template will be replaced by a new one.

7. Will this remove the ‘safety net’ provided by an external assessment?

No – the reality is that the accuracy of tutor assessment does not need a safety net.

8. Can we be sure that tutor assessment levels are correct?

The data we have reviewed confirms that current methods for ensuring tutor assessment is accurate are working well. Centres can continue to assure candidates of the accuracy of tutor assessment decisions through a range of methods, for example the CPCAB External Verification feedback, using CPCAB assessment standardisation, Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) processes, and if needed Internal Assessment Appeal processes.

9. Will centres still get their money’s worth from the CPCAB registration fee?

Yes – the staff and resources at CPCAB which currently support the EA will be refocussed on even greater levels of centre support and quality assurance.  Centres and their learners continue to benefit from access to our specialist support teams, personalised input into centre standards and a range of continuous improvements to our service.

10. Will CPCAB help by providing resources we can share with learners to explain this change?

Yes – we have provided a detailed letter to candidates which centres can share directly or use to inform their conversations with candidates.

11. Will CPCAB help by providing tutor training or clinics to support centres and tutors to adapt to this change?

Yes – we have provided a range of initial clinic dates run by our Counselling Qualifications Professionals team. On an ongoing basis we welcome requests from centres for specific clinics or training events on any subject areas which may benefit their delivery and assessment.