Introduction to Edexcel and its pattern
Edexcel, a UK company, is one of England, Wales and Northern Ireland's five main examination boards, and is wholly owned by Pearson, the world's largest education publishing and technology company which is part of Pearson PLC, the global publisher and owner of Penguin and Financial Times. Its name is a portmanteau word derived from the words “educational” and “excellence” The company offers a variety of qualifications, including A levels (GCEs), GCSEs and the BTEC suite of vocational qualifications. It also offers work-based learning qualifications-including BTEC Apprenticeships and NVQs-via Pearson Work Based Learning. Edexcel operates internationally, awarding over 1.5 million certificates to students around the world every year.  It ran the marking of the UK National Curriculum assessments until 2008 when ETS Europe was given the contract. Following the 2008 marking debacle, ETS Europe was stripped of its contract and Edexcel was awarded a contract to re-mark disputed test papers.  Edexcel was then re-hired to run the assessments from 2009.  Its main competitors are AQA and OCR.
Edexcel was formed in 1996 by the merger of two bodies, the BTEC (Business & Technology Education Council) and ULEAC (University of London Examinations and Assessment Council). In 2003, the Edexcel Foundation (the charity which managed the board) formed a partnership with Pearson PLC to set up a new company called London Qualifications Ltd, which was 75% owned by Pearson and 25% by the Edexcel Foundation. London Qualifications Limited changed its name to Edexcel Limited in November 2004.
In 2005, Edexcel became the only large examination board to be held in private hands, when Pearson PLC took complete control. Edexcel subsequently received investment from their new parent company.
In 2003, it introduced an onscreen marking system, ePen, which Edexcel claims has brought dramatic benefits.  ePen has produced student performance data, at question level, which Edexcel has made available to schools through its Results Analysis Service (RAS) and which forms the basis of a new service available to schools and students-ResultsPlus.
Diploma in digital applications
Edexcel's modernisation has led to the development of a suite of four new ‘paperless’ qualifications:
- AiDA (Award in Digital Applications, equivalent to one GCSE)
- CiDA (Certificate in Digital Applications, equivalent to two GCSEs)
- CiDA + (Extended Certificate in Digital Applications, equivalent to three GCSEs)
- DiDA (Diploma in Digital Applications, equivalent to four GCSEs)
These ‘paperless’ qualifications are primarily designed to redress the perceived imbalance between those skills learnt in the classroom and the resulting application in the workplace. The new qualifications are designed to develop more practical skills while promoting independent learning and colour-coding skills.
BTECs are vocational/work-related qualifications that are exclusively offered by Edexcel. BTECs range from Entry Level to Level 8 (postgraduate level) on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), offering a progression route across all levels, starting with BTEC Firsts and Nationals as GCSE and A level equivalents. They are developed in consultation with industry and professionals, with the aim of being relevant, progressive and recognised by professional bodies, employers and universities.
They are a growing qualification in schools and are said to have high acceptance by employers. In 2005/06, 260, 000 students studied BTECs at college; 63, 000 studied BTECs in schools; 23, 000 studied BTECs at university; and 14, 000 employees studied a BTEC while at work.
BTECs provide a more practical, real-world approach to learning and skills development alongside a key theoretical background.
Edexcel is currently in the process of realigning BTEC programmes (Levels 2, 3, 4 and 5) to the new Qualifications & Credit Framework (QCF), ready for teaching in schools and colleges from September 2010. The revised versions will include smaller sized BTEC qualifications to provide QCF-accredited and funded Additional Specialist Learning (ASL) to go alongside the new Diplomas, GCSEs, GCEs, NVQs and Apprenticeships. The realigned qualifications will also provide students with excellent opportunities to develop Personal, Learning and Thinking Skills (PLTS).
Edexcel offers a large number of GCSE courses. Many subjects are modular, meaning they can be taken at any exam point in the course. For example, in GCSE Religious Studies, candidates can take Paper 1 at the end of year one of study (normally Year 10) and Paper 2 at the end of year two of study. Edexcel also offers non-coursework options on most courses, with increased examination in areas. Edexcel in 2006 revised its GCSE Science courses following the QCDA new criteria-this saw more emphasis on How Science Works and has now incorporated more practical examination, some of which takes place in the classroom. Edexcel also offers a new two-tier Mathematics course, which led to the creation of a popular Modular Course.
In 2006, Edexcel started a new science course, consisting of six multiple choice exams, twelve modules and a practical. It is named Edexcel 360 Science. From 2011, this will be superseded by a new GCSE Science course.
At GCSE, Edexcel offers both Modular and Linear courses in Mathematics. Many centres favour the Modular course as it is considered to put less stress on students, whilst maximising their potential for success in the subject. Unit 1 is entitled ‘Data Handling’ and makes up 20% of the aggregate GCSE grade. Unit 2 is entitled ‘Number’ and makes 30% of the GCSE grade. Unit 3 creates the final 50% of the grade and is entitled ‘Algebra’
GCSEs in the core subjects of English, mathematics and ICT have recently been redeveloped. Teaching of the new GCSE English, GCSE Maths and GCSE ICT qualifications began in September 2010.