NEAB was formed in 1992 by the merger of the Joint Matriculation Board of the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham (JMB) and the Northern Examining Association (NEA), which itself was an alliance of the Associated Lancashire Schools Examining Board, the Northern Regional Examinations Board, the North West Regional Examinations Board and the Yorkshire and Regional Examinations Board.
The board offered a variety of GCSE, A Level and other qualifications. Despite its name, schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were able to choose any of the examination boards and NEAB established itself as the biggest board in the UK.
In 1997, NEAB entered into an alliance with AEB/SEG and City & Guilds known as the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA). By 1999, examination papers were dual-branded with both the AQA and NEAB names on the papers and the 1999 examination certificates featured just the AQA name. In 2000 the boards formally merged. As NEAB and AEB/SEG overlapped in the qualifications they offered, AQA retained two specifications for many subjects and do until this day, with schools able to choose between the two.