Ownership of module marks and results
- Each module should have a school and a primary Board of Examiners. For example, a mathematics module may be widely available to students/programmes across the campus, but would nevertheless have a primary home within the School of Mathematics & Statistics, and a significant proportion of the students on the module are likely to be associated with a programme within that School. This is a broad generalisation, and there are some exceptions, but the principle is that each module should have a ‘home’ school/Board which will have ownership of the marks and, once reviewed, will release these marks to other Boards of Examiners.
- Arrangements for ‘owning’, reviewing and releasing module results can vary. However, it is recommended good practice that all schools / Boards of Examiners consider holding Module Moderation Boards to review marks by module (to assess scaling, confirm that there is no cohort bias, etc.). These are generally internal meetings without External Examiners.
- Module Moderation Boards function in effect as primary Boards of Examiners, and so such meetings should normally include the Chair of the Board of Examiners (or Chairs if there is more than one Board in the School) and key, experienced, members of staff. In practice there may need to be more than one of these Boards through the Semester 1 and Semester 2 examination periods.
- Timing of Module Moderation Boards is critical. Some modules – e.g. mathematics and language modules — are available to numerous programmes. Internal marks for shared modules must be released as soon as possible so that the decision-making process of Boards of Examiners is not compromised. Where the modules are not shared (i.e. relate to programmes within the school), a Module Moderation Board could meet immediately before the Board of Examiners, with Externals present.
- Note: External Examiners can moderate scripts, etc., and this can result in amendments to marks and this may take place as a result of sampling in advance of the Board of Examiners. External Examiners are expected to be involved in moderation at module and degree programme level, but this must take place in advance of the meeting of the Board of Examiners.
- Marks returned by Module Leaders may subsequently be moderated by the Module Moderation Boards.
Prohibition on Adjustment of Marks
Download a PDF of University Guidance on Moderation and Scaling
Undergraduate Examination Convention G31
Postgraduate Taught Examination Conventions G31
- Supplementary notes: Subsequent to moderation procedures (see above) marks cannot be changed (other than to correct an error or to reflect External Examiner moderation).
- The process of moderation or standardisation requires that the procedures leading to the construction of the final set of module marks is valid, reasonable and fair, ensuring that the final return mark is based on a secure judgement. In addition, it must address the issue of the whether the final return marks are those consistent with the University’s Degree Classification (DC) scale and the relevant descriptors for the levels to be achieved in the programme, particularly noting the performances and corresponding return marks at the various classification boundaries. Any perceived mismatch between the judgement of the examiners and the final return marks may be addressed by suitably scaling the marks. This might involve all marks being scaled upwards on a particular element of the assessment (because the assessment was perceived to be too difficult), or downwards (because too easy), or some combination across the mark range (because the examination was too difficult for weak candidates and too easy for the better ones). Note that any scaling is applied to each element of the assessment, and not to the final overall mark. Any scaling must be described and justified; similarly, marks that might look out-of-line, and have not been scaled, require a rationale for not changing them. These issues would normally be debated at the meeting of the Module Moderation Board, but can be discussed by all the examiners and checkers for the module, probably with some guidance from the Chair of the Board of Examiners. (To aid this process, it might be useful to have available a set of guidance or reference statistics for the cohort.)
- External examiners may play a role similar to that of the internal examiners (and in some subjects this may be the norm), resulting in recommendations as described in the previous paragraph. However, this must be directed only at cohorts of students taking a particular module (and then only to specific elements of the assessment). Under no circumstances should any examiners, internal or external, recommend changes to individual students’ marks (other than to correct errors); adjustments must be applied to the whole cohort, on some rational and defensible basis.
- No Board of Examiners can amend marks.
- The errors that can be corrected after marks are returned to the Board include those made in the calculation and recording of marks. They do not include errors of judgement made during the standardisation process that are highlighted during the Board meeting. This convention means, for example, that it is not possible for the Board to change a mark from 39 to 40 in order that an Undergraduate student passes the stage or is awarded an Honours degree by right.
- When the School/Board that owns the module discovers an error, the protocol is that the School should amend the marks and advise, in writing, each relevant Chair of the Board of Examiners and School Administrator of the changes. For example: if an error is discovered in a languages module for 10 students — all of whom are part of different programmes outside the School of Modern Languages — the School should amend the marks in SAP/ NESS and should then notify, in writing, each of the Chairs of the 10 Board of Examiners and the relevant School Administrators. This is to ensure that any consequential changes to students’ progression/awards are considered, and so that any amended transcripts can be issued.
Return of Marks
Undergraduate Examination Convention F28
Integrated Masters Examination Conventions F28
Postgraduate Taught Examination Conventions F28
Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) Regulation E16
- Averages of stage and honours performance must be based on the whole number for each module overall. Marks returned for modules are to be calculated to the nearest whole number (following the usual procedure for rounding); the stage averages and the overall weighted average are to be returned to one decimal place (but rounded to a whole number at the point of determining the award/ degree classification).
- As the regulations require only overall, aggregate results for modules, component marks are additional only. It is advisable for the component marks to be available at the meeting of the Board, but this is supplementary information.
- The methodology for calculating averages is described in Appendix 2, and this is followed by a number of examples (which are referenced later in these notes); Example 1 is sufficient to show the procedure.
- For Undergraduates, If any Stage 1 modules are taken at Stages 2, 3 (or 4), the marks must be returned on the Degree Classification scale i.e. the marks so returned must accord with the attainments that correspond to the appropriate descriptors. This might exclude some Stage 1 modules from ever being taken beyond Stage 1 because marks could never be returned on the Degree Classification scale. It is the responsibility of DPDs to confirm that such a module selection is viable in this sense.
It is important that module marks are confirmed to CATS students within a reasonable period of time and therefore recommended that a Board of Examiners’ meeting normally be held within four weeks of the assessment taking place. However, it is acceptable to release provisional marks on the condition that the expectations of students and sponsors are managed, with schools providing clear guidance as to when marks will be provided and that provisional marks may change as a result of moderation. Irrespective of when the Board of Examiners may meet, the opinion of the External Examiner must be sought and have been received prior to the meeting
Pass marks for undergraduates and postgraduates taking the same module
The pass mark for all students taking a level 7 (ie. Masters level) module is 50. This represents a higher standard of work than the undergraduate (levels 4-6) pass mark of 40. It may be reasonably common for a student to have a combination of level 7 and level 4-6 modules. This will have no bearing on the calculation of Stage or Degree average, but must be taken into account when considering the use of discretion or compensation. For Integrated Masters students, the internal Stage threshold must also be considered.
Undergraduate Examination Conventions C22
Integrated Masters Examination Conventions C22
Postgraduate Taught Examination Conventions C22
- The mark of 0 relates only to the component missed. The mark of 0 is therefore relevant to either absence from examination or non-submission of assessed work.
- Where there was an absence or special circumstance, it may be that a PEC application is to be put forward to request that the missed attempt is set aside. Assuming that the PEC application has not yet been considered, the marks presented to the Board should use the mark of 0 for the missed element.
- It is recommended as good practice for the module leader to provide information to Boards of Examiners on absence from examinations - but this is supplementary information to the main mark grid.
- As the mark of 0 relates only to the missed component of assessment, it is not possible to distinguish - on the basis of the mark alone - an absence from examination.
- The final mark produced for a module is the one that must appear on the transcript, even if this is a low mark that is treated appropriately for the purposes of a degree-classification calculation (by decision of the Board on the basis of a recommendation from the PEC Committee). Any explanation can, of course, be given to the student by word of mouth, and incorporated in a reference.
- In the case where a fairly small fraction of the assessment is missed for ill health, for example, the module leader may reasonably ignore* this absence for the purposes of computing the contribution of the in-course assessment to the final mark. Such a decision should be taken by the PEC Committee in consultation with the Module Leader and, preferably, in line with a general policy agreed by the Board of Studies (and consistently applied by the School). However, this approach is not to be advised if most of (or all) the elements of the assessment are missing. Nevertheless, this same principle might be applied if all the in-course assessment is missed (mitigating circumstances known), but it contributes only a small fraction of the total mark – 10% say; the final mark is then based on the rest of the assessment alone (following the pattern of the example below)
* For example, suppose that 6 pieces of work, each marked out of 10 (so the total available is 60), are to be handed in, but two are missed (mitigating circumstances known), producing marks of, say: 8, 7, ill, ill, 6, 9. The total mark for the in-course assessment is therefore (8 + 7 + 6 + 9) = 30 out of 40 (the total mark available to the student); thus a mark of (30/40)*60 = 45 out of 60 is returned. If the absences were counted against the student, then the corresponding mark would be (8 + 7 + 0 + 0 + 6 + 9) = 30 out of 60.
g) Exemptions of normally up to 20% of a module’s overall assessment may be granted by the PEC Committee (UG Exam Conv.B15) but should not be applied to formal examinations. Consideration should be given to the mode of assessment affected by any exemption. Generally, it is more reasonable to allow an exemption if the student will still be completing a similar form of assessment in the module, therefore meeting the module learning outcomes. PEC Committees should also be mindful of the credit value of the module concerned when considering whether or not an exemption should be permitted.
Modules with Essential Components or Deferred Passes
Undergraduate Progress Regulation H27
Postgraduate Taught Progress Regulation G20
Guidance and Definitions:
- Each module has one or more assessment ‘Components’ with titles drawn from a prescribed list (e.g., Written Examination, Essay, Problem Solving Exercises). Component headings will be passed from the MOF to NESS and component marks will be passed from NESS to the HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Report). Each component may stand on its own, or may be broken down into ‘Elements’, controlled by (or on behalf of) module leaders. Elements do not appear in the MOF or the HEAR (but will often appear in NESS). For example a Problem Solving Exercises component may be broken down into several elements, one for each set of exercises.
- One or more components may be labelled as ‘essential components’, essential for progress on the degree, with failure to meet a prescribed threshold in such a component leading to failure of the module and with a fail mark returned. A prescribed threshold cannot apply to an element or group of elements within a component, it can only apply to one or more components. It can however apply to a group of components, for example it could apply to ‘coursework’ where coursework is a combination of several components. If a module has essential components, they should be clearly flagged in the MOF (under the Assessment Rationale and Relationship) and the consequences for failing an essential component should be spelled out. There are two ways of proceeding when an essential component is failed:
- The module is failed and a fail mark must be returned for the module. It is recommended that one of the following approaches is adopted:
- Return a mark of 35 (modules at Levels 4 – 6) or 40 (modules at Level 7) if it is regarded as acceptable, in principle, for the module to be passed by compensation.
- Return a mark of 34 (modules at Levels 4 – 6) or 39 (modules at Level 7) if it is NOT regarded as acceptable, in principle, for the module to be passed by compensation.
The normal consequences of module failure follow, including the pass mark being used in calculating degree class in the event of passes by discretion, compensation or on resit.
- A deferred pass, in which a failure to meet a prescribed threshold in a component may be redeemed as part of the same attempt, provided that the student would then pass the module. It should only be used for relatively small assessment components (up to 10% of a 20 credit module, or the equivalent). It is not intended for frequent use.
There should be a reasonable deadline for redeeming the failure. If a student does not redeem the failure by the deadline, then they will be deemed to have failed the module and must be awarded an appropriate fail mark (as in (i) above). The student should then be given a new reasonable deadline (for example, the end of the August/September assessment period) by which to redeem the failure. If a student does not redeem the failure by the new deadline, then they should be classed as failing the module at the second attempt, again with an appropriate mark. The third attempt should be set for the next normal occasion.
Providing the student redeems the first attempt failure, the first attempt mark is the original mark. In other words, the first attempt mark cannot be increased by redeeming the failed component. [The rationale is that students should not be able to target some components, knowing that they can improve other components later.]
Rules for compensation should be applied as if the module had been passed. In other words the board of examiners should act with the presumption that the failure will be redeemed and the original mark becomes the first attempt mark.
- Zero Weighted Pass/Fail Assessments.
- Such assessments only need to prescribe a threshold for passing the assessment.
In other respects, these assessments are treated as in (b) above.
Late Submission of Work
The University Submission of Work Policy is available at http://www.ncl.ac.uk/quilt/atoz/policies.htm
The University’s Submission Policy caps the mark of work submitted without an agreed extension, but within 7 days of the deadline, at the pass mark. Submission any later than this results in a mark of 0 being awarded for that work. It should be noted that this capping applies to the element of assessed work which is handed in late, and not necessarily to the mark for the module, as there may be more than one element of assessment.
a) The module mark entered into SAP should be the mark calculated using the capped mark for the late work. As the capping only applies to the late work, there may well be other components or elements that are not capped, and therefore the module mark is not necessarily capped at the pass mark.
b) The Policy states that the Board may have regard to the uncapped mark, in the same way as the Conventions allow raw resit marks to be taken into account. (UG Examination Convention 59).
c) In the vast majority of cases it is unlikely that the BoE would want to take account of the uncapped mark, as the University clearly intends that late submissions should, in fairness to other students, be penalised in some way. It would be perverse if BoEs routinely undid the intended impact of University policy.
d) However, where a candidate is borderline, the BoE may wish to take into account the evidence of ability shown by the uncapped mark to support the award of a higher classification. It is simply one of a number of factors that the Board may take into account.
e) Where a candidate has submitted late because of medical or personal problems, this should have been dealt with through the granting of an extension or other PEC adjustment so the discretion to take account of the uncapped mark should not normally be used to take account of such circumstances.
f) The BoE also has an unfettered right to exercise its discretion and none of the guidance above can limit that discretion.