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Assessment guidance for students

Where to find important information about assessment in 2021/22 if you are a student on a taught course.

About this guide

The following information concerns the assessment of students on taught courses of the University. Information on arrangements for 2021/22 is signposted where applicable.

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 in 2020/21 is signposted through our Exams and Assessments webpage.

Exam information and guidance 2021/22

In 2021/22 most exams will be conducted online. You will be notified if your exam is in-person or on campus. Guidance on arrangements for these assessments, including exam schedules, academic integrity, accessing and submitting online exams, and dealing with technical issues, are signposted through our Exams and Assessments webpage.

You can find information on the timing of the 2021/22 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.

Submission of coursework

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.

If there are valid circumstances that prevent 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 speak to your Director of Studies as soon as possible if you think you may not be able to meet any of your submission deadlines, including any exam submissions.

For more information about coursework extensions please refer to the Exams and Assessments webpage.

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 tasks will normally have a word limit or word range. This gives an indication of the depth and detail of work required and helps to ensure that students’ submitted work can be compared. If you don’t observe the word range or limit set for the coursework task (for example if you exceed the word limit) then a penalty will be applied.

The word range or limit will be confirmed when you receive an assignment, as well as any penalty that will apply if you don’t follow it. You should make sure you understand what is included when calculating the total word count (for example, whether or not contents pages, appendices, footnotes, bibliographies, and other elements that are not part of the main text, are included).

You'll be required to confirm the word count for your work when you submit it for assessment.

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

Mitigating circumstances that might affect your assessment

Individual Mitigating Circumstances (IMCs) are the conditions which temporarily prevent you from undertaking assessment or significantly impair your performance in assessment. As such, the measure of their severity is not about impact on you, but the impact on your affected assessment.

Full information about IMCs is available online, including links to the guide “What are IMCs?” and an IMCs Summary for Students which gives more information about the procedure for submitting an IMC report form. This is also where you’ll find the most-up-to-date information about IMCs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is strongly advised that you become 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. Sources of further IMC support and guidance are also signposted online.

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 practicable

  • 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 the Board of Studies for your programme.

Your confirmed results will be made available to you via 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 taken into account during marking. They are based on the 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 in order to get a result within a given band of marks (e.g. 70% or more).

Anonymous marking

The University has adopted a principle of anonymous marking in order to protect students and staff from bias, and the perception of bias, in the marking process. It applies to all assessment where practicable. It is not possible to mark all coursework anonymously as in some types of assessment the student can be easily identified by the marker (e.g. presentations, group work, laboratory work) or it might not be practical, or in the student interest, to do so. You will be informed when coursework cannot be marked anonymously.


Both the setting and the marking of assessments are independently checked through processes known as moderation. These processes ensure assessment tasks test the relevant learning outcomes for the unit and are set to appropriate levels of challenge, and that the marking 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 also by your External Examiner (see below).


Scaling is an adjustment of unit marks that may be used in certain circumstances. There is more information online about what scaling is, and why and how it is used.

External Examiners

External Examiners have an important role in assuring that 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 programme(s) they are appointed to

At least one External Examiner is appointed for each taught programme or group of programmes 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 in 2021/22 will be published online and will be signposted from 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 have to do supplementary assessments, you will normally take them during the summer (August). You can find information on the 2021/22 supplementary assessment period in the University’s academic year charts.

In the event of unavoidable disruption due to COVID-19 these dates may be subject to change.