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Assessment guidance for students

Where to find important information about assessment if you are a student on a taught course.

About the guide

The following important information concerns the assessment of students on taught courses of the University. This should be read alongside the information in your department or course handbook.

Important assessment information

To prepare for your assessments and understand how you will be assessed, it is important that you familiarise yourself with some key resources:

The most up-to-date information on exams and other assessments is available on the Exams and Assessments webpage.


Guidance on arrangements for exams, including schedules, academic integrity, accessing and submitting online exams, and dealing with issues, is available on the Exams and Assessments webpage.

You can find information on the timing of the assessment periods in the University’s academic year charts. In the event of unavoidable disruption these dates may be subject to change.

If you think you might need alternative exam arrangements (for example, because of a disability), please seek advice from the Disability Service and inform your Director of Studies as early as possible.


To ensure all submissions are considered fairly, you will be expected to hand in all assessed coursework, dissertations and projects by a specified date and time. Please refer to your Department or Course handbook in the first instance for more information.

Coursework extensions

If there are valid circumstances preventing you from meeting a deadline, you should contact your Director of Studies or the Unit Convenor to discuss an extension. It is important that you do this as soon as possible and before the deadline.

More information about coursework extensions is available on the Exams and Assessments webpage, including what is normally considered a valid reason and evidence for an extension request.

Late penalties

Please note that:

  • if you submit work more than five working days after the submission date, you will normally receive a mark of 0 (zero), unless you have been granted an extension

  • if you submit work up to and including five working days after the submission date, the maximum possible mark will be the pass mark, unless you have been granted an extension

  • if it is submitted after the deadline, it might not be possible to mark your coursework anonymously

Word counts

Coursework will normally have a word limit or word range to give you an indication of the depth and detail of work required and help ensure all students’ work can be compared. If you don’t observe the word range or limit set a penalty will be applied.

The word range or limit and any penalty will be confirmed when you receive the assignment. Make sure you understand what is included when calculating the total word count (for example, if contents pages, appendices, footnotes and bibliographies are included).

You'll be required to confirm the word count when you submit your coursework.

You should check your Department or Course handbook and with your Director of Studies if you have questions about word counts and penalties.

Circumstances that might affect your assessment

Individual Mitigating Circumstances (IMCs) are the conditions which temporarily prevent you from undertaking assessment or significantly impact your performance in assessment.

Full information about IMCs including how to make a claim, what is normally considered valid reasons and evidence, how decisions are made, what actions can and cannot be taken as a result, and sources of support and guidance is available on the Individual Mitigating Circumstances (IMCs) webpage.

You are expected to be familiar with the available guidance so that you understand the process and timescales should such circumstances arise, including who to speak to if you know of a potential IMC that may affect your assessment.

Assessment processes

Assessment and marking processes at the University are designed to ensure that assessment of your work is fair and consistent, and that academic standards are appropriate and comparable between the University and other higher education institutions.

This is achieved in several ways, including:

  • use of assessment criteria, marking schemes and grade descriptors for marking

  • use of anonymous marking, where practical

  • moderation of assessment questions and of marking (a process of independent checking)

  • through formal bodies responsible for assessment decision-making at the University: Boards of Examiners for Units, Boards of Examiners for Programmes, and Boards of Studies.

The assessment marks you are given initially by markers are provisional up until the point that they have been confirmed by a Board of Studies.

Your confirmed results will be released on SAMIS, the University’s student records system, on a set date. An academic appeal can only be made in relation to a confirmed result.


All assessments you complete during your course are marked according to:

  • Marking criteria (or assessment criteria) - these are the knowledge, understanding and skills which it has been identified that students should demonstrate in the assessment, and which are considered during marking. They are based on the unit learning outcomes being assessed.

  • Marking schemes - these are detailed descriptions of how specific numbers of marks should be assigned against individual components of an answer within the assessment task.

  • Grade descriptors - these are descriptions of the levels of achievement required to get a result within a given band of marks (for example 70% or more).

You will be made aware of the relevant assessment criteria and any relevant grade criteria when you receive your assessment tasks.

Anonymous marking

The University has adopted a principle of anonymous marking to protect students and staff from bias, and the perception of bias, in the marking process. It applies to all assessment where practical. It is not possible to mark all assessment anonymously as either you will be identifiable even if you do not use your name (for example, in presentations, group work, laboratory work) or it might not be practical, or in your interest, to do so. You will be informed when assessment cannot be marked anonymously.


Both the setting and the marking of assessment are independently checked through processes known as moderation. In setting assessment moderation makes sure it will test the relevant learning outcomes for the unit and contains appropriate levels of challenge. When marking, moderation makes sure this is consistent and in line with the relevant assessment criteria, marking scheme and grade descriptors. Moderation is conducted by internal examiners (other academics in the department) and by an External Examiner (see below).


Scaling is an adjustment of unit marks that may be used in certain circumstances. Information on scaling, including why and how it is used is on the scaling webpage.

External Examiners

External Examiners have an important role in assuring the academic standards are appropriate and assessment processes are fair.

External Examiners:

  • review draft assessment questions and samples of assessed work

  • participate in Boards of Examiners’ decision-making

  • give independent feedback and advice throughout the year

  • submit an annual written report on the course(s) they are appointed to

At least one External Examiner is appointed for each taught course or group of courses at the University and will be someone from another university or professional organisation who is qualified and experienced in the relevant field of study.

External Examiner annual reports, and departmental responses to those reports, are made available to students and are discussed by Staff/Student Liaison Committees (SSLCs).

Students can engage with the process through which the University considers and responds to External Examiners’ comments and suggestions through the University’s student representation mechanisms. However, it’s not appropriate for individual students to make direct contact with External Examiners.

If you are dissatisfied with the process or outcome of an assessment, and are considering whether to raise this either informally or formally, please familiarise yourself with the University’s procedures for student complaints and academic appeals.

Understanding your results

Information on how results are considered by Boards of Examiners is available on the Exams and Assessment webpage.

Supplementary assessment

If you fail a unit you may need to do ‘supplementary assessment’ before starting the next stage of your course. This might involve re-doing coursework or re-sitting an exam. Each unit’s method of supplementary assessment is shown in the online Unit Catalogue.

If you must do supplementary assessment, you will normally take them during the summer (August). You can find information on the supplementary assessment period in the University’s academic year charts.

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