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Scaling Unit Marks

What scaling is and how we might use it to adjust assessment marks.


Scaling Explained

Scaling is an adjustment of unit marks in order to accurately reflect the standard achieved by students.

A Board of Examiners for Units (BEU) carefully considers the marks for each assessment item for each unit. Marks for individual students are never adjusted (except in case of administrative error), but on occasion provisional assessment marks of an entire cohort or a group of similarly affected students will be adjusted (‘scaled’) up or down as appropriate.

Scaling is an important tool but is 'limited to circumstances where it is necessary to deal with problems—that should only occur infrequently—in the relationship between marks initially recorded and the aim to ensure "that the finalised marks for individual units are an accurate reflection of the standards achieved by the candidates"' (QA35 Assessment Procedures for Taught Programmes of Study, Appendix 4). Scaling should only be used where this cannot be remedied in any other way.

Scaling as described here is a mechanism used by many UK universities. Scaling policies for other universities can be found online, as well as our own which is described in (QA35 Assessment Procedures for Taught Programmes of Study, Appendix 4).

How a decision about scaling is made

The decision to adjust marks using scaling is made by a BEU exercising its collective academic judgement after considering specific statistical data. It is not used to change the marks to achieve an ‘ideal’ distribution of results.

If the marks count towards a classification, the External Examiner (an academic from a similar department at another UK university) must be consulted and their view considered by the BEU. Instances of scaling are reported to the relevant Board of Studies during the academic year.

The decision to use scaling will be recorded in the meeting minutes. This will include a rationale, the data used to support this decision as well as any External Examiner’s comments. The information in the minutes will be used to communicate any scaling decisions to those students affected.

An annual report on instances of scaling is read by each Board of Studies and the University’s Education, Quality and Standards Committee (Chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)). This means the University is always aware of the use of scaling and the reasons for it.

Further information can be found in the University’s Code of Practice, statement QA35.

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