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Shipment of question papers, assessment materials and certificates

On 15 January 2024, we changed the way we ship question papers, assessment materials and certificates to our centres to mark them as 'commercial' goods (rather than 'non-commercial').  


We have since heard from some schools that they are experiencing administration challenges with this import process.   


Following this feedback, we have conducted a review to identify how we can better support all our schools globally and we will be contacting some schools further by email.


We have provided some answers to frequently asked questions around this shipping classification change below. 


Frequently asked questions

Why have you changed your approach to shipping? 

The secure and confidential shipment of our assessment materials and certificates to over 10,000 schools in almost every country of the world is a highly complex business. Customs duties and taxations change periodically in different locations of the world and Cambridge reviews these regulations to ensure that it remains compliant with current legal requirements.  

To remain legally compliant, we must mark assessment documents as commercial goods (rather than non-commercial) in all countries, and in some cases, these may be subject to differing taxes and duties. We are supporting our schools through this change with a range of measures. As a large-scale distributor, we access the most competitive courier deals for our schools wherever possible. 

Can we choose whether materials are shipped as commercial or non-commercial consignments?  

No, this is a matter of compliance with legal requirements. Items shipped by Cambridge University Press & Assessment are deemed to be commercial goods for customs purposes. There are limited exceptions to this rule, for example, results certificates shipped to some countries with certain thresholds.   

What do we label goods we send back to Cambridge?  

We are not able to provide guidance to individual centres about how to label return shipments for customs or shipping purposes because regulations differ around the world. We strongly advise you to check with your local customs and/or tax authorities.  

Will there be changes to the commodity codes listed on the invoice? 

There will be no changes to the commodity codes. 

If my centre is registered as the Importer of Record by Cambridge, why do I also need to register as an Importer locally? 

Your centre is already listed as the Importer of Record by Cambridge. However, you may also need to register as an Importer locally so that you can work with your courier / your importer/broker to make sure the despatches we send you can arrive at your centre and not be delayed in customs. We strongly advise that you contact your local courier / your importer/broker as soon as possible to check if you need to register locally.   

What additional administrative arrangements will we need to have in place to receive shipments from Cambridge? 

We strongly advise that you follow the steps below to make sure you can receive shipments from us and that these do not get delayed in customs. We use DHL as the courier to ship most of our consignments so these steps refer to DHL, but you must check the following information in full with whichever local courier/importer/broker that your centre uses.  

  1. Contact your local courier (or preferred local importer/broker) as soon as possible.  
    • Go to the DHL website and select your country from the drop-down list. 
    • To find your local agent, scroll to the end of the webpage and click ‘Contact us’. You may also find information here about customs clearance and taxes. 
    • If you are not using DHL, contact your chosen local courier/importer/broker.  
  2. Set up an account with your local courier/importer/broker (if you do not already have an existing account):  
    • As part of setting up your account, or updating an existing account, engage with them to confirm what additional paperwork, if any, your centre will need to provide to assist with clearing shipments through customs. 
    • Your centre may need to provide a Letter of Authority authorising your courier/importer/broker to act as receiver’s broker and clear shipments on your behalf. They should be able to confirm if you need to provide this. 
    • Confirm if you need to register your centre as an Importer with local or national authorities. 
    • Confirm how your centre will pay your courier/importer/broker any local charges.  
  3. Contact your local tax and customs advisor to understand what charges may be payable on shipments you receive from us.  
  4. When returning items to us, you must check how to classify the documents, including candidate answer scripts and/or completed question papers, with whichever courier you are using.   
  • If you are unsure about how to commence this conversation with your courier, we would suggest you start with the following question: 

"We will start receiving our examination materials on the WPX service. Is there anything we need to have in place with you to support customs clearance and the payment of any local charges (duties & taxes)?" 

Can you upload my question papers to Digital File Despatch if my question papers are delayed in customs? 

No; we will not upload question papers if your question papers are delayed in customs because you have not put the correct process in place with your courier/importer/agent. We will ask for evidence of your engagement with, and completion of, all necessary processes in your country before we can upload any question papers to Digital File Despatch. You must contact your local courier/importer/agent as soon as possible, as outlined above, to make sure that you have the correct processes in place so that our shipments, including question papers, can clear customs and reach your centre in time for exams. 

Can Cambridge give a valuation for certain items such as question papers and certificates?   

The valuation declared on the customs invoice is the value of the items we send you, and the cost of freight. 

Shipments are valued as follows: 

  • Question papers are valued at £1.78/kilo* 
  • Certificates are valued at £22.50/kilo* 
  • CDs are valued at £0.83/per CD. 

* In addition to the value of goods in the consignment, the freight costs for each shipment will also be included on the invoice and will vary depending on destination and weight of the shipment. 

What factors can affect the value of a shipment? 

There are several factors which affect local import taxes and duties. Some examples include:  

  • Local thresholds – some goods carry no charge or have thresholds below which goods are exempt. 
  • The customs tariff to be applied to the commodity code 
  • Origin of the goods 
  • Other rules and regulations in your country or territory. 

The customs value for each shipment is a combination of the declared value of the items being despatched, calculated either by weight or unit price, and the carriers’ freight charge, which varies between the receiving destinations and the weight of the shipment. Because of the way the customs value is calculated, the declared value of each shipment can vary. 

We cannot group shipments into smaller packages. All our materials, including question papers, are printed and packed in Cambridge. This is a secure, automated process. The machines in our print warehouse are set up to print, collate, and pack a large volume of question papers – we despatch shipments in this way because of the large volumes of materials we send to over 160 countries worldwide. Sending shipments in smaller packages would take us much longer and would mean your materials would not be sent in time for exams. 


Glossary of terms 

Administration fees/charges 

A charge that your courier makes to clear and/or deliver your shipment. 


Specific method of transporting goods - it does not refer to how goods are shipped to the country of destination. 

Charge back to sender 

Cambridge sends assessment materials to centres - we are the 'sender'. Customs charges and taxes will be paid by us ('charged back' to us by the courier), and then we will invoice you as the centre.  

Commercial goods 

Assessment materials classified as having a commercial or monetary value, such as question papers, CDs , DVDs, biological slides and artwork.  

Commodity Code 

A commodity code, also known as a HS code (Harmonised System Code) is a number allocated to goods to classify imports. Every product falls under a commodity code and this code dictates your duty rating. Examples are given below: 

Item Description  Commodity Code 
CD  85234920 



Jurisdiction refers to the territory in which you are located for tax and customs purposes. This is normally the country in which you are present. In some territories, exceptions to country rules may exist depending on local tax and customs rules.  

Local agent or broker Local importer 

A business you appoint locally to clear our shipments through your border authority instead of our courier (DHL or UPS). 

Non-commercial goods 

Assessment materials classified as not having a commercial value such as certificates and statements of results. They are less likely to have taxes and duties levied than Commercial goods, or duties and taxes may be lower.  

Shipping partner 

Cambridge uses DHL or UPS to ship its assessment materials to its schools and associates. Our shipping partner is responsible for transporting the shipment to the destination country. Local teams support schools and associates with the import process and they will manage customs clearance and onward delivery in-country unless you have appointed a local agent. 


Commercial goods entering a country must have a value assigned or given to them. Some territories have a threshold which can be a value or weight (for example 150 euros or 3 kgs). Customs authorities look at, or assess, all commercial shipments entering their country to see whether the value, weight etc is more or less than the threshold. Commercial shipments valued at less than the threshold may attract lower customs duties and charges than shipments valued at more than the threshold, and/or a minimum charge. 


Worldwide Parcel Express (WPX) describes a commercial shipment of goods that must pass through customs. This term is used by DHL; other couriers may use a different term. 

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