Assessment Glossary

Anonymous Marking
A process where an assessment is marked without the student’s name or identity being made known to the marker. In a number of areas this is not possible, for example in disciplines where assessment methods include performance, practical work, fieldwork, placements, clinical skills, team or group assessments. The main reason for anonymous marking is to avoid the risk of bias entering the assessment process and to make sure all students are treated equally.


A general term for processes that measure students’ learning, skills, knowledge and understanding. Assessment can be diagnostic, formative or summative. The purpose of assessment is to:

  • help students to perform to the best of their abilities through assessment that is inclusive and enhance their learning and future employment success
  • encourage, motivate and involve students in extensive learning
  • provide a fair and reliable measure of students’ performance, knowledge and skills against the learning outcomes and style of teaching in your subject
  • help students develop, through timely and constructive feedback
  • give stakeholders confidence that a student has achieved the necessary standards giving a reliable and consistent basis for the award.


Assessment Brief and Guidance
Documents containing detailed information about the nature and format of an assessment. They should provide students with clear, concise information on what they are expected to do and include, the relevant intended module learning outcomes, the standard required, and how their marks will be allocated through assessment, marking or grade criteria.


Assessment Criteria
Assessment criteria explain what a student needs to demonstrate to achieve the learning outcomes. Assessment criteria provide the minimum requirement expected of students.


Assessment Element
Each module is assessed by one or more elements (report, examination, practical etc.). The formally approved module specification defines how much of the module’s assessment is made up of each element. Each element may contain more than one part of assessment (for example a number of multiple-choice tests or practical assignments), the results of which are added together to produce a single percentage mark or pass or fail assessment.


Assessment of Team Work
A process of collective assessment often used for project work and developing team working. Group members can receive an equal mark or a proportion of the group mark, supplemented by marks for individual work. Marks can be allocated by the tutor or by the group collectively (or by both). Tutors often ask candidates to review or assess the distribution of work among group members, group interaction and how resources are allocated.


Assessment Literacy
Being ‘assessment literate’ means staff and students have an understanding of the purpose and processes of assessment. They will understand the concepts of assessment, assessment criteria and standards, have the skills to assess themselves and other students and members of staff, be familiar with different approaches to assessment, apply marking criteria to their own work and be able to choose and apply appropriate approaches and techniques to assessment tasks. Students’ assessment literacy can be developed through pre-assessment induction activities.


Assignments set during the module, to assess one or more of the learning outcomes.


Criterion-based Assessment
An assessment linked to pre-defined standards (for example, ‘create a population pyramid from census data’).


Diagnostic Assessment
Diagnostic assessment helps identify a student’s attributes or skills that suggest appropriate pathways of study, or learning difficulties that need support.


A dissertation is a substantial piece of writing deriving from research that a student has undertaken. Dissertations are the result of a student’s independent work, carried out under the guidance of a supervisor. Different subject areas may follow different conventions in relation to producing dissertations.


Written exams usually occur at the end of a period of learning and assess whether students have achieved the intended learning outcomes. They may be ‘seen’, where the student knows beforehand the question(s) they are expected to answer, or ‘unseen’, where the question(s) are only revealed on the day of the exam. In an ‘open book’ exam, a student is allowed to use a selection of reference materials during the assessment. The questions asked as part of a written exam may be essay, short answer, problem or multiple choice. Written exams usually (but not always) take place under timed conditions.


Extenuating Circumstances
Extenuating circumstances are circumstances which are outside the control of a student and which affect their ability to attend or complete assessments, can be confirmed by independent evidence and which occurred during or shortly before the assessment in question.


Comments given to students either orally or in writing about their performance and progress to support their learning and academic development.


Formative Assessment
An assessment task with a developmental purpose. It is designed to help students learn more effectively by giving them feedback on their performance and on how it can be improved and/or maintained.


A module or an individual assessment is graded using a percentage scale unless it is assessed on a pass or fail basis only.


Grade and Marking Criteria
Grade and marking-related criteria explain what a student needs to demonstrate to achieve a certain grade or mark in an assessment. They allow students to be positioned within the overall set of marks available for an assessment. These criteria need to be developed for the discipline, assessment type, level of study or the module or assessment in question.


The process used to assess a student’s achievement of learning outcomes and the academic standards in a given assessment component and to award a percentage mark or pass or fail grade.


Model Answer
The assessor’s specific view of what an answer to an assessment task should contain. Model answers are more commonly used where the right answer can be defined precisely.


A process intended to make sure that an assessment outcome is fair and reliable and that assessment criteria have been used consistently.


Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQ)
MCQ is a form of assessment in which students are asked to select the best possible answer(s) out of the choices from a list. Multiple-choice exams are designed to test knowledge and can be used to test how quickly students can answer the questions. MCQ assessments can easily be set up as an online exam using specialist ICT software.


Pass/Fail (ungraded)
Individual assessment components within a module or the assessment for a complete module may be marked on a pass/fail basis, without any further grading being used. The results of assessments which are pass/fail only will not contribute to any overall mark calculations, although credit will be awarded for assessments that are successfully completed.


Pass Requirements
Pass requirements are determined for each module and for each award. These are set out in the appropriate regulatory frameworks.


Plagiarism is when a student presents another person’s work as their own, without properly acknowledging the source, with or without the creator’s permission, intentionally or unintentionally. Plagiarism is an assessment offence under the Examinations and Assessment Offences regulations.


Most commonly used in the process of moderation. It normally involves internal or external examiners scrutinising a sample of work from a group of students. Sampling may be based on checking borderline marks of any kind, or testing that assessment criteria have been applied consistently across the assessment of students in the group.


Summative Assessment
A form of assessment used to certify that students have achieved an appropriate level of performance. It is used to indicate how far a student has met the assessment criteria used to judge the intended learning outcomes of a module or programme.


Synoptic Assessment
An assessment that encourages students to combine elements of their learning from different parts of a programme and to show their accumulated knowledge and understanding of a topic or subject area. A synoptic assessment normally enables students to show their ability to integrate and apply their skills, knowledge and understanding with breadth and depth in the subject. It can help to test a student’s capability of applying the knowledge and understanding gained in one part of a programme to increase their understanding in other parts of the programme, or across the programme as a whole.


A question or set of questions relating to a particular area of study, taken in a similar way to a formal examination but held in the normal timetabled slot. Students are entitled to modified assessment provision in tests.


A formal record of the academic achievement of a student, identifying (as a minimum) the modules passed, the grade achieved, the level and the credit value of the completed modules.


Weighting – Module Level
Weighting of assessment marks may be applied to assessment to calculate an overall mark for a module. The weighting indicates how much each part contributes towards the module mark (for example 50% coursework, 30% practical, 20% test).