3.2 Assessment policy and procedures
This section of the AQH should be read in conjunction with Section 3.3 Submission of Coursework. It covers the principles of assessment and feedback at Aberystwyth University, provides a set of minimum requirements for the return of assessed work, and minimum requirements for the provision of feedback on student assessment. It also outlines the University’s assessment conventions and the bilingual policy for assessments.
2. The underpinning principles for assessment at Aberystwyth University are as follows:
(i) Validity: Departments should ensure the validity of their assessments. Assessments and assessment methods should be aligned to the learning outcomes of the relevant module;
(ii) Reliability: Departments should ensure the reliability of their assessment methods. This should be achieved by providing clear marking guidelines to staff and appropriate training to familiarise staff with Faculty /departmental practices;
(iii) Marking to criteria: All work, including examinations, is marked against criteria that are clearly outlined to students at the beginning of the module;
(iv) Feedback and student learning: All feedback should include a balance of strengths and weaknesses of the submission in order to enable ‘feed-forward’.
3. Aberystwyth University requires all departments to make explicit the learning outcomes of every component module within its taught schemes. These will be published on the Programme Specification Database http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/programme-specs/index.html and the Module database http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/modules as well as appearing in student handbooks. departments are also required to ensure that details of assessment methods for each module are shown on the Module Database.
4. Departments are required to devise a portfolio of assessment methods. These should take full account of study skills needs as recognised by the University, and test different types of student learning.
5. A large variety of different assessment methods are employed across the University. It would not be practical to provide guidance on the length and/or volume of these given this variation and the need for disciplines to devise assessment strategies that best suit their own needs. Faculties do however need to ensure that there is consistency in the ways in which specific assessment methods are employed within schemes and that they do not over assess students. Departments where significant numbers of students take joint schemes or modules from other departments should be aware of the desirability of consistency in all assessments undertaken by the students. In reviewing assessment load, it is recommended that Faculties consider:
(i) The percentage contribution of the assessment to the module; students may not put significant effort into assessments that contribute only a small amount and indeed might opt out of them; in addition, many small assignments impose a greater burden on students and markers than a few substantial ones;
(ii) The size of the module; in that the assessment load attached to a 30 credit module does not need necessarily to be 50% more than that adopted in 20 credit modules;
(iii) The level of the module; in that modules at Level 5 or 6 will be likely to require progressively greater effort and independent study than those at Level 4;
(iv) The study hours needed to complete an assessment;
(v) This is likely to increase in assessments that require more background reading, preparation, and independent study;
(vi) The range of learning outcomes that are being assessed; an assessment that covers only one of the learning outcomes should involve less effort than one that covers a majority of these;
(vii) The nature of the assessment method.
6. When creating new modules, or revising existing modules, departments should review how different assessment methods compare with the following suggested limits. These provide an indication of the amount and forms of assessment which will be acceptable, but are not intended to be comprehensive, nor prescriptive. Proposers of modules who wish to set out alternative forms and amounts of assessment will need to demonstrate satisfactorily that the total amount of work involved is equivalent to the standards set out below, and appropriately tests the learning outcomes of the module.
(i) Suitable forms and amounts of assessment for Part One (Level 4) 20 credit modules include one of the following:
- coursework totalling 3,000 words;
- an essay of 1,500 words and a seminar or workshop presentation of 15-20 minutes;
- a folder of short written pieces totalling 1,500 words and practical work equivalent to 1,500 words;
- an essay of 1,500 words, and an examination, seen or unseen, of 1½ or 2 hours (note that the University only allows 1.5, 2 and 3 hour examinations);
- two laboratory exercises with short accompanying reports totalling 1,500 words and an examination of 1.5 to 2 hours;
- solo and ensemble performances totalling 20 to 45 minutes;
- a folder of coursework plus original composition;
- a seminar presentation of 15-20 minutes and portfolio of drawings/designs; a collection of studio work.
(ii) Suitable forms and amounts of assessment for Part Two (Levels 5 and 6) 20 credit modules include one of the following:
- coursework totalling 5,000 words;
- an essay of 2,500 words and a seminar or workshop presentation of 20-30 minutes;
- a folder of short written pieces totalling 2,500 words and practical work equivalent to 2,500 words;
- an essay of 2,500 words and an examination, seen or unseen, of 2 or 3 hours (note that the University only allows 1.5, 2 and 3 hour examinations);
- two laboratory exercises with accompanying reports totalling 3,000 words and an examination of 2 to 3 hours;
- solo and ensemble performances totalling 20 to 45 minutes;
- a folder of coursework plus original composition;
- a seminar presentation of 20-30 minutes and portfolio of drawings or designs;
- a collection of studio work;
(iii) Suitable forms and amounts of assessment for Part Two (Levels 5 and 6) 40 credit dissertation / independent study / project modules include one of the following:
- a dissertation or independent study or project of between 10,000 and 12,000 words or their equivalent;
- a presentation or oral examination of 20 minutes and a dissertation or independent study or project of between 8,000 and 10,000 words or their equivalent;
- a research proposal of 2,000 words and a dissertation of between 8,000 and 10,000 words or their equivalent.
7. Except where specified to the contrary, a Postgraduate Taught Master’s dissertation or approved equivalent submission should not exceed 15,000 words.
8. Faculties, in consultation with their External Examiners, are requires to establish marking standards appropriate to their discipline at subject level.
9. Faculties are required to establish and make explicit to staff and students assessment criteria which reflect the aims and objectives of individual study schemes and learning outcomes of modules. Faculties are also required to make clear the standards necessary to attain particular grades in all pieces of assessed work. Assessment criteria will vary according to the knowledge and skills being assessed and the format of the assessment brief.
10. Departments are required to have in place procedures designed to ensure that at every level and for every module students and markers are protected from claims of bias or prejudice on either part. These procedures will include at the very least sampling by a second internal marker or a minimum percentage of the work being assessed, with particular emphasis on fail and borderline marks. In many cases Faculties will double mark all significant assessment elements. For modules contributing towards final awards, External Examiners will provide an additional level of monitoring of marking standards.
11. Departments are required to review assessment criteria and marking standards at regular intervals to ensure that they remain consistent with their aims and objectives, learning outcomes and external requirements.
12. Faculties are required to establish procedures which ensure compliance with the University’s Equality policy in all assessments.
13. Faculties are required to induct new staff members into their procedures for, and standards of, assessment.
Feedback and the return of assessed work
14. Mechanisms should be in place within Faculties to ensure the prompt return of assessed work. The University’s requirement on the return of feedback on coursework assignments is within 15 working days of the date of submission (the 15 working days are recognised as Monday to Friday when the University is open).
15. Staff are required to receive, mark and return feedback via Blackboard (using Turnitin or Blackboard Assignment). In some cases it will not be possible to use Turnitin:
(i) Welsh-medium assessments, due to the lack of a Welsh interface via Turnitin.
(ii) Non text based assessments, such as performance, practical or art work. In these cases it is advisable and best practice to provide feedback and a mark electronically.
(iii) Assignments for which Turnitin is not suitable, for example large or multi-part submissions.
16. Although Turnitin has a facility to release feedback to students on a specified date, it does not alert markers to an imminent feedback deadline. Faculties will have mechanisms in place to ensure that markers are alerted to the deadline for the return of marks. As a minimum, Faculties should ensure that the following measures are in place:
(i) That all students and staff have a clearly published list of submission deadlines for each module;
(ii) That all students and staff have a clearly published and publicised list of dates on which feedback is expected for each component of assessment for each module;
(iii) That staff who are marking coursework should alert their Line Manager in a timely manner in the event that they cannot meet the 15 day deadline and discuss contingency measures for the return of work as appropriate;
That in the event of exceptional and unavoidable delays in returning marked coursework, a mechanism is in place to ensure regular communication with the student group concerned. Equally, there should be a published mechanism in place to allow students to alert Faculties /departments about issues regarding the return or quality of feedback.
17. The Univesrity operates the following Principles of Effective Feedback to students:
(i) Feedback should be transparent, enabling students to understand it and relate it to assessment criteria.
(ii) Feedback should help students identify areas of strength and where they need to improve.
(iii) Feedback should be proportionate and appropriate to the type of assessment, its timing, and the size of class.
(iv) Students should have clear and accessible information on the types of assessment and the nature and timing of the feedback they will receive associated with each type of assessment. (v) Students have the right to seek clarification of marks, to help them understand what they did well and less well and how they might improve.
18. To enable students to fully understand and benefit from assessment feedback, comments on coursework should indicate a student’s performance against the marking criteria. All documentation should be suitably clear and detailed so that students, but also comarkers/second markers, moderators and external examiners can clearly identify why the mark has been given. Feedback should be designed in such a way that it includes, as a minimum:
(i) The strengths identified by the marker in relation to the criteria;
(ii) The weaknesses identified by the marker in relation to the criteria;
(iii) A clear and separate statement as to how the student can improve in future assessments;
(iv) A form of words making it clear that the student can seek clarification on any aspect of the feedback
Feedback on written examinations
19. As a minimum requirement, students must have access to the overall total for the examination component, along with a written commentary, relating to assessment criteria, for the examination paper. Where appropriate and practicable, students should also be able to access the individual question marks on the examination paper. The written commentary may be generic to a module or examination question. Students cannot retain their examination papers, and Faculties should therefore make arrangements so that students can access the feedback for each question and/or general feedback for the examination paper.
20. Students must be clear that they can seek clarification on any aspect of their feedback, and Faculties should ensure that that published guidelines are made available to enable this.
21. In addition to written feedback, Personal Tutor meetings must also be scheduled to discuss feedback and should contribute to the development of students’ individualised student improvement plans. Faculties should be schedule these formally as part of the Personal Tutor programme.
22. While the requirements and guidelines of this section apply mainly to written feedback, the principles should be extended equally to oral feedback, which should be recorded formally.
Supporting the quality of feedback
23. Feedback on coursework assessments should be constructive and should not open with negative comments but should be a balance between positive feedback and feedback that will enable learner development and improved performance in the next assignment.
24. The minimum requirement for ensuring the quality of feedback should rest initially with the moderation systems in place for each module. Any commentary offered by external examiners should also be considered as a means of ensuring compliance with the principles and requirements of this section of the AQH, and in the interest of continual improvement.
25. Departments should ensure that staff have time for appropriate and adequate training as provided by the University. Support and training should also be available at Faculty /department level, especially for the operational aspects of e-submission and feedback and the minimum requirements in terms of the quality of feedback provided.
26. Departments should ensure that workload allocation and other commitments are managed appropriately to ensure the timely return of assignments. The scheduling and design of assessments should be carefully managed to enable markers to achieve the minimum requirements in terms of the timeliness and quality of feedback.
Bilingual policy for written assessments
27. Aberystwyth University operates a bilingual policy for all written assessments, including coursework essays and examinations. Any student may choose, regardless of whether the main language of assessment of the module in question is Welsh or English, to submit examination scripts and assessed coursework in either Welsh or English (with the exception of assessments where language assessment is included in the module learning outcomes). Students pursuing modules through the medium of Welsh will be examined in that language; students pursuing modules through the medium of English are entitled to be assessed in Welsh. However, in order to allow time for the preparation of Welsh examination papers for English medium modules, students are asked to notify the Welsh Language Services Centre by the dates published by the Centre.
28. The University has established a policy on the translation of assessed work aimed at ensuring the integrity of the process (i.e. that students are not unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged by the marking of translated work). Students who wish to submit examination scripts or assessed coursework in Welsh on English medium modules are not required to give prior notification of their intention to do so.
29. Satisfactory completion of a year as a whole as confirmed by the Senate Examination Board to attract 120 credits.
30. All centrally-timetabled examinations in the main venues to be either 1.5, 2 or 3 hours in duration.
31. 10 credit modules should be examined by papers of no longer than 2 hours.
32. Part One candidates to be allowed to resit any failed modules on up to three occasions after the original presentation, either as internal or part-time external candidates.
33. Part Two candidates who entered Part Two before September 2017 to be allowed one resit opportunity. Part Two candidates who entered Part Two from September 2017 to be allowed two resit opportunities. Where a candidate has failed a module which contributes to the final degree assessment, the maximum mark which may be accorded a successful resit should be 40%. The 40% maximum mark also applies to modules substituted for failures.
34. Taught postgraduate candidates to be allowed two resit opportunities. The maximum mark which may be accorded a successful resit should be 50%. The 50% maximum mark also applies to modules substituted for failures.
35. Marks gained in resit examinations by candidates who have failed to register will be annulled.
36. Students who have failed or been absent because of medical, compassionate or other special grounds may, with the approval of the relevant Examining Board, be allowed to sit for the full mark if the relevant evidence is submitted and accepted by the Examining Board. Such students shall have the option of resitting the relevant module(s) in August or the following session without payment of a resit fee.
37. Where a candidate has failed a module overall but has passed its assessed coursework, the marks achieved in the coursework will normally be carried forward to any resit, and not taken again unless the mark was affected by special circumstances.
38. The format of resit assessments should be the same as that of the semester assessment except where this cannot be replicated, for example in group and practical work. In the case of failed modules, students will normally be expected to undertake ONE of the following:
(i) to (re)submit failed or non-existent coursework (if deficiencies in this component have led to the failure;
(ii) to resit the examination (where the student failed or was absent from the examination);
(iii) to resubmit the assessed work and the resit examination (where a student has failed both parts, or in some cases either part, of the assessment).
Faculties are required to make clear to students which of these options will apply to them.
39. Once teaching has been completed for a semester, students may not withdraw and will receive marks for the modules taken that semester. If performance has been affected by special circumstances then evidence and a special circumstances form must be submitted for consideration at the relevant examination boards.
40. In Part One, undergraduate students who fail to complete the year satisfactorily as defined in the conventions are normally allowed to repeat the whole or part of the year as full-time, part-time or part-time external students. In Part Two, including the Final Year , undergraduate students may not resit any module for which a pass mark has been attained previously. Students who fail to complete the year satisfactorily as defined in the conventions are normally allowed to repeat the failed credits. Students commencing their studies in Part One or Part Two from September 2018 onwards should refer to the Regulations for Modular Initial Degrees: section 17, if they are considering changing their degree scheme, for guidance on the number of attempts to pass a module that are permitted (whether newly chosen or previously studied).
41. With the approval of their Honours department(s), students who are repeating failed modules may be allowed to substitute new modules for those failed. The approved resit indicator will normally still apply.
42. Tuition fees for students repeating the year internally will be set a level which reflects the credit weighting of the modules being retaken, while requiring a reasonable minimum fee to reflect overheads.
43. Departments should provide Senate Examination Boards with reports on all candidates obtaining fail marks in individual modules.
44. Departments are asked to supply adjusted marks to Senate Examination Boards, along with a clear statement identifying where new marks have been adjusted and the grounds for adjustment.
45. As a general principle, the award of a mark of 40% in Part One is seen as equivalent to a level of attainment which permits a student to follow a Degree in that subject.
46. All modules taken in Part Two, regardless of the level at which they are offered, contribute to the degree classification. The examination conventions set out the requirements for progression from one year of study to the next, and to qualify for a degree.
47. Students who fail modules in Part Two to the extent that they fail their degree overall should be allowed to resit for a Pass or Honours Degree on one further occasion.
48. Students who have qualified for their degree may not resit to improve their class of degree by raising individual module marks to 40%.
49. Where students decide to withdraw before the end of their scheme of study, or are unable to continue having exhausted all resit opportunities, they will be eligible for the award of interim qualifications of Certificates or Diplomas of Higher Education, according to the credits passed, as set out in the Examination Conventions.
50. All modules taken in Taught Postgraduate schemes contribute to the final degree classification. Students who fail modules to the extent that they fail their degree overall should be allowed to resit on one further occasion. Students who have qualified for their degree may not resit to improve the class by raising individual module marks to 50%.
51. Where students decide to withdraw before the end of their scheme of study, or are unable to continue having exhausted all resit opportunities, they will be eligible for the award of interim qualifications of Postgraduate Certificates or Diplomas, according to the credits passed, as set out in Section 4 Examination Conventions.
Taught Master’s Schemes: Guidelines for the Sampling of Dissertations
52. The sampling of dissertations by external examiners may take place on the following basis:
53. External examiners must see all dissertations which are:
(i) Within the category of distinction;
(ii) within +/- 5% of the minimum pass mark;
(iii) within the failure band
(iv) marked by persons other than members of the University’s academic staff.
54. External examiners should retain the right to select other dissertations at random.
55. All dissertations must be double marked.
56. At least 20% of dissertations, or a minimum of 10 (whichever is the higher figure) must be sampled by external examiners. Where the total number is less than 10, all dissertations to be externally examined.