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The UK’s first-ever National Diagnostic Exam: A review of our pilot PE exams in 20 images

Download a dummy version of an NDE school report (no email required)
Download Sample NDE Report

NDE = National Diagnostic Exam produced by The EverLearner Ltd and typically sat 3-4 months before an exam-board assessed exam.

Exam-board-assessed exam = The actual end-of-year exam written by AQA/Edexcel/OCR etc…

Assessment = The purpose of exam-board assessed exams including the allocation of grades with little to no opportunity for grade improvement.

Diagnostic = The process of informing a student/cohort of what they need to do to improve their assessment with sufficient time and resources to achieve that  prior to their final assessment.

Percentile = The position an individual student would have achieved within 100 learners nationally.


From first developing the online solution for the National Diagnostic Exams in June 2021 to sending out the national reports for the pilot in December 2021, this project has been a revealing insight into the future of assessment in the domain of classroom physical education. This blog post is aimed at informing the PE teaching sector of the experience of the pilot project and of our plans for immediate progression of this service. 

Please, read on, absorb, share and comment. 

Original Redmine (software development environment) proposed task

original development task for the nde

The brief that Mark Mills (Business Manager - Service) provided to our technical team. The core aim was to make the management of the exam as scalable as possible so that during a full-scale project, hundreds of schools could allocate and sit the exam with little to no additional admin pressure on the core team at The EverLearner Ltd.

Exam paper analysis document

exam paper analysis

A core requirement for the content-writing team was to fully analyse the rhythms of the respective exams. This included analysis of paper structure, command terms, mark allocation, assessment-objective split as well as an accurate representation of mark weightings for each question.

The PE team's environment for exam writing

exam question writing environment

Upon the analysis, the content writing team could write exam questions relating to the exact rhythm of an exam-board assessed exam. Please note that the image above only contains "question titles" rather than fully formatted questions which are written in a scripted language understandable by our website.

Backend admin structure where we create sessions and templates

the central shared template and the session to which they are applied.

This image shows the creation of the timed NDE session as well as the creation of the exam template. This created a time window for writing the exam as well as the exact content that would be examined. This work is done centrally by the team at The EverLearner not by teachers.

The two exams available for allocation

list of available nde exams

Access to setting the NDE was allocated to the schools involved. Teachers could now arrange their exam during the exam window. Please note: teachers could not view the content of the exam in advance, unlike in the standard usage of an ExamSimulator exam.

NDE set and opening at the exact time

nde set for students

In their own time, teachers set the NDE. This was often during lesson time but did not have to be. The only restriction was that the exam had to take place during the exam window.

Preview of an exam

nde exam assignment set for students

NDEs opened for student responses at the exact time the teacher set the paper and had strict time limits.

Extra time allocation to an individual student

allocating extra time to a student

Teachers had the opportunity to allocate extra time for those learners who receive time-based access arrangements. An additional 25% or 50% time is available and acts as a global setting within the student’s profile. 

Student answering a question

student answering an exam questions in the nde

Students had the “simple” task of logging in and answering their paper. Whilst it is not easy to answer a full exam, mechanically this is as simple as a task can be for the participant. 

Student submitting their exam with only a few moments left on the timer

student submitting their exam

Student answers are autosaved per click/keyboard action and submitted for marking once their exam is complete. Students could answer in any order, return to previous questions and check their responses.

Teacher marking environment with highlighted areas

teacher marking a student exam question

Teachers had two calendar weeks to process their marking. This is a substantial task even with the auto-indicative recognition of correct responses. Teachers commented that they would like more automaticity in the task and, as a result, our development team is now implementing fully automated question marking to save teachers time with more mechanical marking such as one-markers and shorter responses.

Teacher hitting the release exam button


releasing the fully marked exam to the student

The teacher kept control of releasing raw mark performance to students. Therefore, students got their NDE result as soon as the teacher chose. 

Student diagnostic sheet

personalised student results after releasing the exam

Students immediately received a full diagnostic of their performance for content and skills. They also received call-to-action buttons encouraging them to go and work on the areas where they had underperformed. Within the image there are clear examples of both content and skills for the student to improve on.

NDE report

sample nde report for schools

A few days following the closure of the marking window, the teacher received an NDE report via email. This report compared their centre’s performance to national performance at the level of centre, individual student and individual question. 

Percentile performance on an NDE report

percentile results and targets for nde students

The NDE reports included percentile performance of each individual student. Students could discuss with their teacher the ground that they needed to make up to achieve the 50th, 75th and 100th percentile national performances. Teacher feedback told us that this was particularly useful, as it encouraged action by the student.

Survey sent to teachers

first page of google survey for teacher

Teachers were asked to complete a survey but to also ask students to complete a separate survey based on their own experiences of the NDE.

Survey responses relating to the NDE report

teacher survey responses relating to the nde report

Teacher surveys clearly stated that the NDE report was a very insightful document.

Perhaps, the most important piece of teacher feedback

graph of student attainment survey results showing strong agreement

Teachers told us that they were now more confident in knowing their students’ position or “state of play”. In the context of COVID and the need for TAGs/CAGs, this is particularly relevant. Outside of COVID, this means teachers and student can tailor exam preparation prior to exam board-assessed exams.

NDE Pilot 2

link to sign up for nde pilot 2

Based on the success of the NDE pilot 1, NDE pilot 2 will commence on 31st January 2022 and you can register your centre from now. Participation is utterly free. 

NDE Pilot 2 registration

image link to pilot 2 landing page and sign up form

We are now accepting applications for NDE pilot 2. Up to 100 PE departments may take part in pilot 2 and application to do so is available from now.

NDE Pilot 2: Find out more!


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