A means of formal summative assessment, usually involving time‐constrained tasks, which assesses the knowledge, skills, or understanding of the candidate. Conduct of candidates and the regulation of start and finish times are usually monitored and enforced by one or more invigilators. The major national examinations in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales are the General Certificate of Secondary Education and the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level (A level). In Scotland they are the Standard Grades, the Highers, and the Advanced Highers. These public examinations are externally assessed by external examiners, although schools and other institutions may set their own examinations, for example when presenting pupils with mock A levels, in which case the examination is internally assessed by the candidates' teachers. Proponents of the examination system claim that it has advantages over continuous assessment in that it is a more reliable, objective, and stringent means of assessment. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that examinations impose anxieties and false constraints which may adversely affect candidates' performance, and that such restraints, being unrealistic, undermine the examination's validity. Some researchers claim that examinations disadvantage female candidates while continuous assessment disadvantages male candidates. Whatever the facts of the matter, recent policy developments have shown a resurgence of emphasis on assessment by examination and a reduction in continuous assessment by coursework in, for example, the GCE A level.