Guidance on the Management of Departmental Examination Boards

The following guidelines have been developed to assist academic departments in managing Examiners’ meetings or Boards at which decisions are taken concerning student assessment outcomes. This information incorporates the existing documents: Guidance on the Management of Departmental Examination Boards and the Statement of Procedures for Anonymous Degree Classifications.

The guidance takes account of relevant aspects of the QAA Code of Practice for Higher Education and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator’s Good Practice Framework for Complaints and Appeals. In addition, these notes should be read within the context of guidelines on other aspects of assessment practice, to be found within Academic Progammes and Student Engagement webpages covering assessment and feedback processes and policies

1. Remit and Membership of Examination Boards

This information relates to all Examination Boards (i.e. those considering final award recommendations as well as those considering progression matters for continuing students):

a) Responsibility for the implementation of grading schemes and for the moderation of grades by External Examiners lies with the departmental staff acting as examiners, commonly known as the Departmental Examination Board. A meeting of the Board must be convened when there are substantive decisions to be taken concerning the outcome of assessment. Decisions regarding final award recommendations which are taken outside the Examination Board should be done so on an exceptional basis only and with approval of the External Examiner.

b) The role of those attending a meeting of the Departmental Examination Board must be clear. The role of any external examiners present should be in line with the Code of Practice for External Examiners of Taught Courses of the University of Sheffield: A Programme External Examiner, as a full member of the relevant Board of Examiners, should be present at all examiners meetings at which significant decisions are taken in regard to the award of degrees. This includes Examination Boards for taught postgraduate programmes which may take place in the Autumn semester. Subject External Examiners, as full members of the relevant Board of Examiners, are strongly encouraged to be present but are not required to attend where written feedback has been provided in advance to the Programme External Examiner and the department, and where a Programme External Examiner is able to attend on their behalf.

A University statement of the duties of the Internal Examiners and criteria for eligibility to act in this capacity is outlined in Appendix 1 below.

c) Along with the External Examiners, the Board should comprise those internal examiners relevant to the business being considered. This should normally include the leaders of all contributing modules as well as Directors of Teaching and Year Tutors/Level Co-ordinators or appropriate delegates. The Board should also normally include representatives from other departments which contribute modules integral to specific degree programmes, for example, core modules or dual degree programmes. An appropriate senior member of staff should take the Chair.

d) In some cases, a Faculty Officer may also be invited to attend a meeting of a Departmental Examination Board in an advisory role. Members of the department other than those participating as internal examiners might also be in attendance (for example, administrative/secretarial staff and postgraduate students involved in teaching and assessment), although responsibility for determining the final examination or progression outcomes must clearly reside with the Examiners.

e) In order for a meeting of a Departmental Examination Board to proceed, it must be quorate. The general principle for determining the quorum is that normally all relevant external examiners and internal examiners, as described in paragraph c above, should be present, specifically unit leads. Absence should only be with the permission of the Chair of the Board, in which case a written commentary should be submitted to include confirmation of the unit outcomes, any comments on the overall standard of the cohort, what moderation has been carried out, comments on specific individual student cases where relevant and any areas of specific concern should be highlighted. It is acknowledged, however, that non-attendance at very short notice due to unforeseen circumstances would make it difficult to comply with the requirement to submit a written commentary; in such instances it is essential to ensure that the membership of the Examination Board is such that decisions on awards and progression can be made fairly and consistently. Departments are asked to contact Learning and Teaching Services to discuss what plans can be put into place to ensure appropriate independent scrutiny such as approaching another existing External Examiner or the use of Skype/Webex.

All academic departments should have plans in place for ensuring that Exam Boards continue as best they can in the event of unforeseen and disruptive events by following details of the Business Continuity Plan (which includes guidance on the Constitution of the Board, conduct of the Board business during such circumstances and how to engage the External Examiners). 

f) All recommendations made by the Departmental Examination Board must take account of the University Regulations and Examination Conventions in order to ensure decisions are fair and consistent. A record of discussion relating to borderline degree classifications and non-standard (special) cases must be taken and formal record kept, in line with Section 6 below.

2. Extenuating Circumstances

a) Robust reporting of students’ extenuating circumstances is essential to ensure that progression considerations and anonymous degree classifications operate fairly and consistently. Students, academic departments and professional support services all play important roles in ensuring that the Pre-Examination Board meetings are fully informed of all students’ relevant adverse personal circumstances.

b) Students should be clearly informed that they have a responsibility to notify their departments where extenuating circumstances, which could have a bearing on their performance in assessments and examinations, exist. Departments should encourage students to submit evidence on an ongoing basis as and when the extenuating circumstances apply so that appropriate support can be provided, as soon as possible. Students should be made aware of departmental procedure for submitting such information.

The form should be used by students to note the units or assessment for which the extenuating circumstances may have adversely affected their performance. Students should refer to the Extenuating Circumstances Form – Explanatory Notes before completing and submitting the form, with any relevant accompanying documentary evidence, to their department. An Extenuating Circumstances Form and Explanatory Notes are available from the Student Services 

c) Where a student has disclosed a disability and where details have been passed to the Departmental Disability Liaison Officer by the Disability and Dyslexia Support Service, the student will not be expected to submit further written evidence at subsequent assessment and examination periods. On occasion, where any additional information concerning the impact of the disability at a particular examination period needs to be considered by the Examiners, the student should submit an Extenuating Circumstances Form but will not normally be expected to submit further written evidence. A student will, however, be expected to provide evidence to support other extenuating circumstances, not related to their disability.

d) In each department a member of staff should be responsible for collecting all evidence of extenuating circumstances which will be considered at the pre-Examination Board meeting. This could be the Examinations Officer, Director of Teaching or their equivalent, or a delegated secretary. Departments should ensure that all staff report extenuating circumstances to this central point of contact.

e) Departments should also ensure that all extenuating circumstances are reported to the Student Results and Awards Team by copying the Extenuating Circumstances Form to them. SRA then place a flag on the student record and notify all other departments involved in teaching any affected units or assessments.

3. Pre-Examination Board Meeting

a) A small subset of the Departmental Examination Board membership should meet prior to the full Examination Board to consider all students for who extenuating circumstances have been reported. The membership of the Pre-Examination Board meeting should be determined by individual academic departments. It would normally include, Examinations Officers, Director of Teaching or their equivalent, Level Tutors and External Examiners, where appropriate.

b) The Pre-Examination Board should consider all available evidence of adverse personal and medical circumstances that may have affected students’ unit and assessment outcomes. It is expected that that the Pre-Examination Board will consider students by name.

c) The meeting should identify those students for whom there are mitigating circumstances which could have a bearing on their degree classification or progression to the next level of study.

d) The Pre-Examination Board meeting should be aware of any unit grades that have already been adjusted to take account of the extenuating circumstances, to avoid any unintentional ‘double counting’ of such circumstances.

e) Where such cases are identified the meeting should agree a recommendation for the Departmental Examination Board, reporting on the nature and extent of the mitigation. It will not normally be appropriate to include details of the adverse circumstances themselves.

f) Formal minutes of the Pre-Examination Board should be taken in line with Section 6 below.

4. Examination Boards Considering Award Recommendations

a) It is a requirement of Senate that all undergraduate and taught postgraduate degrees shall be classified anonymously. Departments should ensure that records for existing students are maintained in the appropriate format, in accordance with the guidance set out in this document, to enable anonymous classifications to take place.

b) Candidates should be identified by registration number.

c) The recommendations from the Pre-Examination Board meeting on extenuating circumstances will from part of the results data presented to the Examiners. In all other respects, this Examination Board should operate according to standard procedures, set out in this document.

d) The Chair of the Examination Board should invite the External Examiners to comment generally on their view of the examining process once the detailed discussion of cases has been completed. A record of this oral report must be recorded in the formal minutes of the Examination Board and approved by the Board including the External Examiner. The report should include the External Examiners opinion of the assessment process, academic quality and the effectiveness of the teaching. 

5. Data and Documentation

a) A full list of relevant examination results should be available for consideration by the examiners. Consideration should be given to the use of multiple copies for ease of reference. Care should be taken to ensure accuracy. Where spreadsheets are in use to assist with grades calculation, systems (such as manual spot-checks) should be in place to ensure accuracy. If penalties have been applied to grades (for example as a result of late submission) this information should be available to the examiners.

b) For final year students this list needs to be anonymised. If penalties have been applied to grades (for example as a result of late submission) this information should be available to the examiners.

c) Where decisions are being made on progression (for continuing students) or award recommendation (for final year students), it is important that a full list of relevant candidates is available, including complete result profiles for every student. Where programmes are credit-based, clear credit accumulation totals must also be included.

d) During discussion it may be necessary to refer to University Regulations (such as those relating to degree classification), Faculty Conventions and documents containing departmental assessment procedures (such as course handbooks, marking schemes, etc). The relevant publications should be readily available in case of any query. If it is necessary to seek advice from the Faculty, this may be obtained via the Student Services Department.

e) Results data may be presented to the Examiners in various formats, and within a range of different reports. The following is likely to constitute a ‘core’ information set in most circumstances:
· Listings of marks obtained by candidates within each examination component (e.g. formal examination), presented by component of a unit, by marker and/or by student.
· Listings of overall module grades obtained, presented by module and by student.
· When making decisions on progression or award recommendation, listings of grades by programme will also be required.
· Notes on special cases (see Section 3 above).
· Statistical reports, including information such as the spread of marks awarded within or spread of grades within a module, the average grade awarded, the median grade, the standard deviation.
· A range of reports covering the above information categories is available for departmental use within the Sheffield UReports system (accessible via MUSE). The relevant uReports may be found within the ‘uReports Catalogue > Students and Programmes > Student Records' folder in the UReports system.

f) All personal information relating to students must be handled and recorded in accordance with the terms of the Data Protection Act (guidelines for staff dealing with personal information are available to all Departments via the CiCS website). The Chair of the meeting should inform members of the need for confidentiality at the start of the meeting and any papers should be removed from the room at the end

6. Record Keeping

A member of staff should act as Secretary and clear and comprehensive records should be maintained. In particular the following points are emphasised:

a) Formal minutes must be taken for both the Pre-Examination Board and the main Examination Board.

b) An attendance list of staff present at both the Pre-Examination Board and the main Examination Board should be retained in an appropriate departmental file, for future reference (e.g. for any subsequent academic appeals or complaints).

c) If individual marks/grades are changed during a meeting, care should be taken to clearly minute and ensure that a definitive set of results is maintained by the Secretary. Any changes must then be reflected on computerised records. These amendments must form part of the formal minutes of the Examination Board. Reference should also be made to the Code of Practice for External Examiners of Taught Courses of the University of Sheffield to ensure that the remit of the External Examiners in such decisions is appropriate.

d) Where decisions are made on progression and award recommendation, an agreed recommendation must be recorded in respect of every case, for onward transmission to the Faculty (via the Student Services Department).

e) A record should be maintained of any written medical or other extenuating evidence which has been presented to the meeting. This should be available for future reference as necessary.

f) A summary record should be kept on how decisions have been reached in any non-standard or 'problem' cases and including the particular reasoning behind a decision to return a student as Not Assessed (NA). A record should be kept noting the student in question, the agreed recommendation and the reasoning behind the decision. Furthermore, the outcome of any discussions relating to special cases should be recorded unambiguously, in case of future queries or academic appeals.

g) Where a recommendation is being made which is contrary to Regulations, a Special Regulation will need to be requested by the Faculty (via the Student Services Department) and it is important to ensure that such recommendations are not communicated to students until formal approval has been given. A deferred result (result code DE) should be recorded in the interim.

h) Procedures relating to the publication of examination results are distributed to departments each academic session by the Student Services Department.

7. Programme and Subject Examiners attendance at Exam Boards

The University expects that:

A Programme external examiner, as a full member of the relevant board of examiners, should be present at all examiners meetings at which significant decisions are taken in regard to the award of degrees. This includes Examination Boards for taught postgraduate programmes which may take place in the autumn semester. External Examiners are also required to endorse the outcomes of assessments to which their appointment relates, and the signature of an external examiner must be appended to the final list of degree results. 

Subject external examiners, as full members of the relevant board of examiners, are also strongly encouraged to be present at all examiners meetings at which significant decisions are taken in regard to the award of degrees, but are not required to attend where written feedback has been provided in advance to the programme external examiners and the Department, and where a programme external examiner is able to attend on their behalf.

Where subject external examiners do not attend the Board, they should provide the departments and programme external examiner with written feedback prior to the Board taking place on the modules/subject they have been appointed to oversee. It is acknowledged, however, that non-attendance at very short notice due to force majeure would make it difficult to comply with the requirement to submit a written commentary.

Absence from the examination board meeting, including relevant external examiners, requires the permission of the Chair of the Examination Board. There will inevitably be unforeseen circumstances, when programme external examiners are unable to attend the final board, for example due to illness or sudden changes in circumstances. Departments are asked to contact Learning and Teaching Services to discuss what plans can be put in place to ensure appropriate independent scrutiny. Plans might include:

  • Approaching another existing external examiner to act on their behalf, provided that they have sufficient knowledge of the programme and the department, and are provided with sufficient information to participate fully in the Board.
  • Enabling the external examiner to join the examination board via Skype/Webex, provided that sufficient information to allow them to participate fully in the Board has been provided in advance, and that plans are in place to deal with any loss of connection during the meeting.
8. Useful Information and Resources

There is comprehensive guidance about all administrative aspects of  examinations and assessment processing (N.B. these webpages are restricted to staff use only – you simply need to enter your usual computer username and password to access these pages).

The relevant publications, such as General Regulations of First Degrees/Higher Degrees, Examination Conventions, should be readily available in case of any query. If it is necessary to seek advice from the Faculty, this may be obtained via the Student Services Department.

Appendix 1: Statement on the role of Internal Examiner within the University of Sheffield

                                                                 Statement on the role of Internal Examiner within the University of Sheffield

Within the scope of this statement, the term ‘Internal Examiner’ is defined as a member of academic staff with responsibility for ensuring that the examination process is conducted with accuracy, consistency and fairness. This responsibility can be exercised at both the level of the individual unit(s) and the level of the programme(s) to which the unit(s) contribute.
In exercising this responsibility, an Internal Examiner is expected to undertake the following duties and activities relating to the examination processes. In the case of units where a number of staff might act collectively as examiners, it is recommended that one person should assume a lead co-ordinating role.

a) Liaison with the External Examiner(s) to ensure that the requirements set out in the University’s Code of Practice for External Examiners are met;

b) The setting of assessment activities and associated marking criteria/marking scheme as outlined in the University’s Guidance on Internal Moderation of Summative Assessment Tasks and Assessed Work;

c) Ensuring that the assessment of students is conducted in accordance with relevant departmental and University procedures, for example, as concerns anonymous marking, plagiarism and collusion and the application of penalties for late submission.

d) Ensuring that moderation of marking has been effectively conducted as outlined in the University’s Guidance on Internal Moderation of Summative Assessment Tasks and Assessed Work;

e) Participation in overall progression and award decisions through membership of a Departmental Examination Board according to the criteria outlined in the University’s Guidance on the Management of Departmental Examination Boards. This would also extend to any associated pre-Examination Board meetings, for example, to consider extenuating circumstances.

In order to fulfil the above duties, an Internal Examiner is expected to be familiar with the relevant University Regulations and Faculty Conventions governing the examination process and with associated guidance and policy statements relating to assessment which are contained within the LeTS webpages covering assessment and feedback processes and policies. They should also be fully conversant with the Department’s use of marking and reporting scales and the appropriate method of degree classification; and to be able to apply that knowledge within the context of a Departmental Examination Board.

In accordance with Regulation 59 of the General University Regulations, where teaching and supervision for a programme of study is provided solely by the University of Sheffield, only members of the University’s academic staff are eligible to undertake the role of Internal Examiner. However, this need not exclude the involvement of postgraduate research students or hourly-paid tutors in the assessment of students, provided that this does not extend to the duties outlined above. In cases where programmes of study include teaching and supervision provided by another institution, members of the academic staff of that institution may act in the role of Internal Examiner

Appendix 2: University Regulations, Examination Conventions, Policy and Guidance documentation related to Assessment and Examinations
University Regulations, Examination Conventions, Policy and Guidance documentation related to Assessment and Examinations

General Regulations for:
- First Degrees
- Higher Degrees, Postgraduate Diplomas and Postgraduate Certificates
- Examinations

Examination Conventions for:
- Modular Undergraduate Programmes
- Non-Modular Undergraduate Programmes
- Taught Postgraduate Programmes
Principles of Assessment
Guidance on Accessible Assessment
Guidance on Viva Voce Examinations as a secondary form of Assessment
Guidance for Depts on the Use of the Grade of Zero and Definition of Completed Units
Revised Unified Penalties Policies on Student Non- Attendance, Non-Participation in Group Work, Late Submission and Special Dispensations
Guidance for the Anonymous Marking of Exams
Guidance for Depts on the Internal Moderation of Summative Assessment Tasks and Assessed Work
Guidance for Staff on the Use of Unfair Means in the Assessment Process
Principles of Feedback
Data Protection information regarding:
- Release of Examination/Assessment results
- Sharing Medical Notes
Guidance on Degree Classification Methodology
Video tutorial of step-by-step guide on how to calculate the degree classification for a 3-year Bachelors degree
Statement of procedures for Anonymous Degree Classification
Guidance on the Management of Departmental Examination Boards
Code of Practice for External Examiners
Guidelines for the Retention of Assessed Work

Note also that separate information specifically aimed at students on assessment and examinations is located on the SSiD website 

Appendix 3: For staff involved in administration and processing of Assessment and Examinations information/data

For staff involved in administration and processing of Assessment and Examinations information/data

Please note that access to information for staff below on www.shef.ac.uk/exams requires a University username and password.

General Results Processing Information

Full Examinations/Assessments Processing Timetable
UG results processing memos – Autumn, Spring and Resits 
PGT results processing memo 
Explanations of Module/Unit Outcome codes
Guidance on recording HEFCE Completion and Non-Completion codes
Examination Results Amendment Form

Using the Departmental Assessments System (DAS)

Departmental Assessments System (DAS) – for Results Processing
Departmental Assessments System:
- Assessments User Manual
- Online Mark Sheet User Manual

Using the Corporate Information System (CIS)
Corporate Information Systems Training for:
- Navigating CIS student record system
- Creating upload files of results/awards
- Amending individual exam results
List of Dept staff with security access to:
- Amend assessment results in CIS
- Upload files of results onto CIS
Quick Hints and Tips on creating your results upload file
Uploading Results/Awards data onto CIS
[i.e. module results degree award recommendations and year end progression outcomes – UG/PGT]
How to load UG Award Recommendations directly in CIS [alternative to uploading UG degree award recommendations onto CIS]
How to Determine UG Degree Classifications [cohort degree prediction reports using CIS and CIES]

Using uReports
How to use uReports to produce a file of [UG/PGT] module/resit results suitable for uploading onto CIS
How to use uReports to produce a file of [UG/PGT] degree award recommendations suitable for uploading onto CIS
Examination results/awards data reports [using uReports]

Publication of UG Results
Examination results official release dates
Student access to online statements of results and HEAR [Click on MyResults]
Examples of online statements of results

Other Information for Staff
Academic Appeals [information for staff]
Awards/Results Documentation for Students
Degree Congregations
Prizes
Special Award Recommendations

Examination Papers
Preparation of Examination Question Papers for Formally Invigilated Examinations
How to Request a Formally Invigilated Examination outside the main Assessment Periods