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How will I be assessed?

This step explains how students are assessed at university.
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Assessment is a big part of your university study. It helps you to know how you are getting on, and it helps the university to assess you and to give you a final grade at the end of your course. This can make assessments feel like they are really high stakes, but remember everyone will be feeling the same.

If you are used to exams as your main form of assessment, you might be surprised to find a range of assessment methods are used in university study.

Types of assessment

There are two main types of assessment:

  • Formative assessment
  • Summative assessment

Formative assessment is part of the learning process, and can happen at any time during a module. This could be formative work such as group discussions, question and answer sessions and quizzes that happen as part of your contact sessions; or formative assessments such as practice papers, essay plans, written work and practice presentations. The key point of formative assessment is to give you feedback about how you are doing, and to check your understanding of what you are learning.

Summative assessments are pieces of work that are graded and may contribute towards the final grade for your degree. These often take place at the end of a module, but there could be more than one summative assessment at different points in a module. Summative assessments are designed to assess your learning against the learning outcomes for the module. Contact sessions, such as lectures and seminars, will provide a foundation for your assessment. You will also need to do your own independent study to help you to prepare for the assessment, which could include reading and research, revision for exams, and group work projects.

Assessment methods

A wide range of assessment methods are used in university courses. You may be more familiar with some of them than others. The assessment methods that will be used on your course will depend partly on the subject you are studying.

Here is a selection of assessment methods that may be used:

  • Exams
  • Essays
  • Presentations
  • Group work assessments
  • Blogs
  • Posters
  • Reports
  • Portfolios
  • Practical assessments
  • Oral exams
  • Vivas or professional discussions

Marking and feedback

Summative assessments will be marked by a tutor and you will be given a grade for the assessment. You will also receive feedback on your assessment that summarises what you have done well alongside areas you can develop in the future.

It can be a bit daunting to receive your marks and feedback, particularly when you first start at university. It’s important to remember that the feedback you receive from your tutors is to help you develop your academic skills and disciplinary knowledge. It’s really important to use the feedback to help you in future assessments. This is discussed in more detail in the step ‘Using your feedback’.

When assessing your own progress, try not to compare yourself and your assessment outcomes too much with your peers. The best comparison you can make is with your previous assessment marks and feedback, so that you can see how your academic skills have developed and how you are progressing on your course.

© University of York
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