Taking a detailed and considered approach to assessment design, as part of wider programme development, is crucial in supporting our students to become accomplished graduates.

This page provides information on:

Formative and summative

The Programme Level Approach should underpin decisions around modes, methods and timings of both assessment and feedback, making sure that they are:

  • Coherent, engaging and without duplication - ensuring that learning outcomes are not assessed more than once, and there is a balance of different assessment methods across a programme (examinations, coursework, online assessments, MCQs, group work and peer assessment, etc).
  • Appropriate, proportionate and efficient - distributed across the full academic year to reduce student stress and mental health issues, with feedback loops in place so as to facilitate and accellerate learning.

To achieve this, programmes should include a balance of formative and summative assessment.

Formative vs summative assessment

Assessment methods

Coursework and portfolios

Many equate coursework to essays. While this can be a valid and useful form of assessment, you mind consider introducing other methods into the mix:

  • Posters and presentations allow students to showcase their work before peers and academic staff, and can be done individually or in a group. They may be formative and provide students with the opportunity to gain feedback which they can act on for future work, be summative and contribute to students final grade, or be a combination of the two and be graded but also provide feedback to improve future work.
  • Portfolios are becoming a more prevalent form of summative assessment, as they promote reflective learning and offer students the opportunity to review their learning within the context of their own work. Students can present their portfolios to potential employers as evidence of their academic achievements - especially important in disciplines such as clinical practice.

Remember to set clear assessment criteria which explains what students will be assessed on and how will help your students understand the skills and knowledge they are expected to demonstrate in their coursework.


Exams are a common form of summative assessment.

You should familiarise yourself with the University policy for accessible assessments to ensure all students have an equal chance of succeeding in their exams.

For more information on examination conventions, see Examinations.

Prior to the examination period, ensure that students are aware of what type of exam they will be sitting (e.g. an open or closed book exam) and that they are familiar with the marking criteria.

Peer assessment

Peer assessment is a formative mode of assessment which can encourage active and direct learning from students. It helps deepen students’ understanding of their discipline and builds their reflective learning abilities as they review, assess and provide feedback on their peers’ work.

Remember to provide guidance for students which sets out clear criteria when assessing the work of their peers to avoid overly harsh marking or negative comments.

Group work

Group work is a varied and sometimes challenging form of assessment. What is required from students and how they will be assessed needs to be clearly explained before setting group work, and students also need to be aware of expectations for balanced participation.

Consideration therefore needs to be given to which aspects of group projects will be formative or summative, as well as the grading criteria. You may choose to integrate individual tasks for students within their group, for example, which are marked individually to encourage contribution and engagement.

Accessible assessment

Under the Equality Act (2010) the University has a legal obligation to ensure that no student is disadvantaged in their learning at the University.

For disabled students, including those with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs), such as dyslexia, and students with communication difficulties, such as deaf/hearing impairments or Asperger’s Syndrome, this means that reasonable adjustments to students’ assessments must be made where this is recommended by the Disability and Dyslexia Support Service.

Assessments must be rigorous in order to maintain academic standards. However, there should also be some flexibility so that each student has an equal opportunity to demonstrate their achievement of the learning outcomes.

The full guidelines includes instructions on using MOLE and Turnitin with the Dyslexia Sticker System.

Download our accessible assessment guidelines.

Disability and dyslexia support services