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How are we assessed at university?

How are we assessed at university? In this article, Fran outlines some basic information about the how and why of assessment at university level.
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Assessment at university might look a bit different from assessments you have completed previously.

At university you’ll study modules. In each module you’ll complete different assessment tasks. We’ll discuss these different tasks later, but they may include presentations, exams, lab reports, coding exercises, group tasks or essays. You will learn about what is required from each assessment task in a document, which may be called an assignment brief, which will be provided by your module tutor or lecturer.

So, why do we assess in Higher Education? There are two different reasons why we assess. Firstly, assessment forms an essential element of the learning process. Assessment is not just a measuring process – you will learn valuable skills and subject knowledge as you complete the task. As well as this, you will receive feedback on each assessment task, which you can use to develop your work in the future. Secondly, assessment allows staff to make judgements about the extent to which you’ve met the intended learning outcomes. These learning outcomes can be found in documents relating to your course, like module outlines or assignment briefs. Some examples can be found in the University of York’s module catalogue. It’s really helpful to familiarise yourself with the intended learning outcomes – these are what you’ll be assessed against so can help guide you on the best way to approach the task.

How will you be assessed?

There are three main types of assessment – diagnostic, formative and summative. You may complete a diagnostic assessment at the start of a module. This helps you and the lecturer understand your starting point. A formative assessment is usually completed part way through a module. The marks for a diagnostic or formative assessment won’t count towards your final grade. Instead, they’re useful learning opportunities to receive feedback and understand how you can develop your work in future.

In a summative assessment, your marks will contribute towards your final module grade and degree classification. In most UK Universities, the grades will be given out of 100. The highest grade – a first class degree – is normally any assessment which receives a mark of 70 or above. A 2.1, or upper second class grade, is usually awarded to marks of 60 or above, and a 2.2, or lower second class grade is usually awarded to marks of 50 or above.

All your modules will be assigned a certain number of credits. Everybody is different and everybody may spend a different amount of time studying, but in general this helps you see how much work is expected in each module: each credit relates to about 10 hours’ work. This means that larger credit modules contribute more to your overall grade than smaller credit modules. At most universities, you will need to pass each year or stage – so all the modules in a given year – to progress to the next year.

The most important part of assessment is feedback. This is not just your numerical grade or classification – it includes any written or verbal comments on your work or conversations with your tutor or lecturer about your work. This is why assessment is so important, not only because it is key to your progress throughout your degree, but because it’s an important part of learning.

We’ll hear more about how you can use your feedback later on in this section.

Over to you

What do you remember about assessments you were set in earlier education experiences? Did you enjoy doing them or were there any that you found particularly challenging?

© University of York
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