Assessment Definitions & Reasonable Adjustments
See also a broader (but non-exhaustive) list of common assessment definitions.
Designing and enabling accessible learning to ensure that all students, whatever their educational, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and/or protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act 2010, have the opportunity and support to progress to and within higher education.
Designing assessment from the outset that is, as far as possible, accessible for all students (recognising that some students with particularly complex needs may still require adjustments to assessments), using the concepts of ‘universal design’.
Making reasonable and appropriate changes to the original assessment format to enable all students to access and engage with the assessment, without compromising competence standards.
Providing students with a different type of assessment that is accessible for them, which still tests the Learning Outcomes of the original assessment, without compromising competence standards.
The expectation by law (Equality Act 2010) that assessments are accessible for students with recognised specific learning requirements (including disabilities, wellbeing, long term health conditions and/or individual learning needs), and that assessment is adapted (see adjusted or alternative assessment) where reasonable and necessary to ensure students can engage with the assessment equitably. See also Module coordinators guide to Reasonable Adjustments and Alternative Assessment 2020.
Assessment Timing/Duration: Unseen and Seen Examinations (‘on campus’ or online)
Examinations (seen and unseen, on campus and online) are normally designed to be short formal assessments with a maximum of three hours duration normally expected (subject to reasonable adjustments). Assessments which are longer than three hours, or which can be completed over a longer timeframe (e.g. 6, 8 or 24 hours), can prolong anxiety for some students and will still require reasonable adjustment to enable students equality of opportunity. This is particularly challenging for students who would already receive further additional time, and students studying in different time zones. This may in itself lead to inequality of opportunity and student experience.
Where examinations are conceived to be longer due to online provision, or to enable students to engage with them at their own pace (See Take Home Examinations), students entitled to additional time should have the additional time applied to the expected completion time for the examination. Alternatively, the expectations of the assessment may be adjusted to account for this, for example by reducing the number of questions to answer, to enable the student to complete within the defined time, rather than by extending the entire window for the examination.
As students with specific learning requirements will be unable to access additional support where assessment is set within a short timeframe, alternative assessment method should also be considered to ensure all students can engage equitably with the assessment modality.
The generic term ‘assessment’ applies to all activities designed to measure student learning, including examinations and continuous assessment, formative and summative assessments.
Authentic Assessment describes any assessment type which reflects real-world applications that students may encounter in their future career.
The evaluation of a student’s progress by regular assessment throughout a programme of study, as distinct from by examination.
For the purpose of these definitions, ‘Continuous Assessment’ refers to any assessment approach which has a submission date, but is not otherwise time constrained, also referred to as coursework. Students therefore have time and opportunity during the assessment to seek support through study skills, external proof reading or additional support software where required.
For the purpose of these definitions, ‘Examination’ refers to any assessment approach which is formally time constrained and normally independently invigilated unless stated. Students generally do not have time or opportunity during the assessment to seek support through study skills, external proof reading or additional support software where required, and other reasonable adjustments, including additional time, are applied to ensure equality of opportunity.
‘On Campus ’ Examination
Examination taken with students physically attended at a secure venue with independent invigilators.
Examination which students take on-line in conditions which, as far as possible, replicate an in-person examination. The examination will normally be invigilated or subject to remote proctoring.
The term ‘Examination’ covers the following assessments at Swansea University:
Unseen Examination (On Campus)
Time constrained examination taken with students physically attending a secure venue with invigilators, where the paper is not released to students in advance. Unless informed otherwise, students will not have access to external resources, and reasonable adjustments are applied for individual students where relevant.
Unseen Examination (Online)
Unseen, time constrained examination sat securely with online invigilation or remote proctoring, where the paper is not released to students in advance. Unless informed otherwise, students will not have access to external resources, and reasonable adjustments are applied for individual students where relevant.
Seen Examination (On Campus)
Time constrained examination sat with students physically attending a secure venue with invigilators, but where questions have been released in advance of the examination. Alternatively, the examination topics may be released in advance, but the precise questions are unseen until the exam. Students may also have access to external resources during the examination where specified. Reasonable adjustments are applied for individual students where relevant.
Seen Examination (Online)
Time constrained examination sat online with online invigilation or remote proctoring, but where questions have been released in advance of the examination. Alternatively, the examination topics may be released in advance, but the precise questions are unseen until the exam. Students may also have access to external resources during the examination where specified. Reasonable adjustments are applied for individual students where relevant.
Restricted Open Book Examination (On Campus)
A time constrained seen or unseen examination paper sat with students physically attending a secure venue, normally with invigilators, but students have access to specified external resources and materials, and reasonable adjustments are applied for individual students where relevant.
Restricted Open Book Examination (Online)
A time constrained online seen or unseen examination paper sat online, normally invigilated or subject to remote proctoring, but students have access to specified external resources and materials, and reasonable adjustments are applied for individual students where relevant.
‘Take Home’/Full Open Book Examination
A longer time-constrained examination where students can complete the paper at their own pace, across a predefined timeframe. Students are not expected to spend the full time allowed working on the paper, and this form of examination is normally not invigilated. Reasonable adjustments are applied for individual students where relevant to ensure accessibility and parity of experience.
Objective Structured Skills Examination (OSSE) /
Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) /
Objective Structured Practical Examination (OSPE) (On Campus)
Students move around a series of testing stations being assessed on a number of learning outcomes, normally under formal examination conditions, each for a fixed period of time, reasonable adjustments are applied for individual students where relevant.
A class test is not considered to be a formal examination in terms of University regulations, but may still be subject to examination conditions:
Class Test (On Campus or Online)
Time constrained tests usually sat in class or online through the Digital Learning Platform or other appropriate software. These may or may not be invigilated or sat securely, with an unseen or seen paper, and are often taken online. Reasonable adjustments are applied for individual students where relevant.
Academic integrity reflects a shared set of principles which include honesty, trust, diligence, fairness and respect and is about maintaining the integrity of a student’s work and their award.
All modules are assigned a credit weighting e.g. 10 credit points, 20 credit points etc. You must aim to accumulate these credit points as they are instrumental in determining whether or not you can progress from one Level/Part of Study to another or, for instance, whether you are eligible to be considered for the award of a degree or other award.
Specific Information – Undergraduate Students
It is the Progression Board (or in the case of final-year students, the Award Board) which determines whether or not you are to be awarded the credit for the modules you have studied. During its deliberations the Board takes into account the mark scored in individual modules and your overall performance in all modules. The Board will award credits for modules which you pass, i.e. satisfy the assessment and other specified requirements. A mark of 40% + will indicate that you have passed a module.
Specific Information – Postgraduate Taught Programmes Students
For postgraduate taught programmes it is the Progression Board, or at the end of your programme the Award Board, which determines whether or not you are to be awarded the credit for the modules you have studied. During its deliberations, the Board will take into account the mark scored in individual modules and your overall performance in all modules. The Board will award you credits for modules which you pass, i.e. satisfy the assessment and any other specified requirements in accordance with the marking scales.
Exit and Fall-Back Qualifications
You may be awarded a ‘lower’ qualification if you fail to attain sufficient credit to qualify for the award for which you were aiming. Such awards are referred to as Exit Qualifications and are awarded to candidates who might have been unable to complete the programme, have withdrawn from the University prematurely or failed.
Exit qualifications are awarded in recognition of what you actually achieved. You must satisfy the appropriate requirements, in terms of attaining the required number of credit points at appropriate levels and of passing the core modules before being awarded the exit or fall-back qualifications.
The exit qualifications available for Swansea University awards can be found in each specific award’s regulations.
The University recognises that occasionally students may be affected by a wide range of difficulties/circumstances, which may lead to the inability to prepare and/or submit coursework or take an examination. The University has adopted guidelines with strict deadlines for considering these circumstances in relation to assessment. These guidelines are detailed in the Policy on Extenuating Circumstances Affecting Assessment.
Format of Assessed Work
Your Faculty/School will advise you in what format (i.e. handwritten, typed and/or electronic) you must submit coursework within your Faculty/School handbook. If you have a disability, medical condition or specific learning difficulty, relevant adjustments will be made. Your Faculty/School may also specify issues such as font, length of assignment, method of referencing and other stylistic requirements concerning the submission.
You should be reminded that in submitting work electronically, the student ID number on the submitted work shall be deemed to be that of the author and in doing so you declare it to be your own, with reference and acknowledgments to the work of others fully made. In making a hard-copy submission, you may also be required to sign an appropriate declaration to this effect.
If you submit work electronically, the University reserves the right to submit this work via plagiarism detection software, which you would have agreed to upon enrolment as a student at this University.
You may not submit work on behalf of another and any claims made e.g. in cases of appeal or academic misconduct that the person submitting the work was not in fact you will therefore not be accepted.
In the case of submission of the directed independent learning for Postgraduate Taught Masters programmes, the Faculty/School will specify the submission requirements in the Faculty/School Handbook.
In most cases, examinations are hand-written. The exceptions to this are for certain disabled students for which the use of computers has been approved as part of their specific learning, teaching and assessment provision.
Guidance for Students who Miss Teaching Sessions
It is recognised that there are some instances where students may have difficulty making certain teaching and learning sessions. The University teaching timetable is complex and cannot generally be altered to take account of any subset of students’ requirements, however students will be supported in the following ways:
- Students should always approach their Faculty Student Support teams, the appropriate member of teaching staff, or their Academic Mentor in the first instance to discuss needs and options as early as possible.
- The University expectation is that all scheduled learning and teaching sessions should be attended consistent with its student Engagement Monitoring Policy
- International students on the Student Route (previously Tier 4) should be particularly mindful of the importance of following engagement procedures that support the protection of their immigrations status
- If a student needs to leave a session early, or arrive late, then they should make the member of staff teaching the session aware as soon as possible
- For sessions where there are multiple instances, (e.g. they are attending one of ten seminars that is laid on each week to accommodate the whole cohort) a student may request a move to an alternative session for the kinds of reasons below. This can be done via the Faculty Student Support team. Valid reasons for the request might include:
- Regular (e.g. weekly) religious observance, for example Fridays between 1 and 2 PM for our Islamic community
- Irresolvable clashes due to optional choices or travel times for cross campus courses, (e.g with Joint Honours schemes).
- A recognised University scholarship, (e.g. the TASS scheme meaning that the student is not available for certain times of the week).
- A medical condition notified to the University for which reasonable adjustments are made.
- Students who are carers and have a Carers passport
- For sessions where there is only one instance:
- Where possible and viable, recordings of taught sessions will be made available and students will have access to supporting materials on Canvas
- Students can make appointments as part of normal office hours with the members of teaching staff, or request a meeting outside of these hours to discuss any missed sessions and answer questions that may arise from the presentations, videos, and material on Canvas.
- Please note there may be occasions where a compulsory event cannot be moved and no alternative arrangement is possible (e.g. field trips, clinical placement, some laboratory, sessions). Students should always approach their Faculty Student Support teams, the appropriate member of teaching staff, or their Academic Mentor as early as possible.
Guidelines for Alternative Assessment
Staff across the University are being asked to consider the viability of current assessment practices and timetables in light of disruption caused by Coronavirus. Alternative forms of assessment will be necessary to ensure that students can continue to engage with their learning remotely. The key to this process is flexibility. There is no single approach or solution that will fit all modules, programmes of study, or Faculties/Schools, and ultimately solutions will need to be found at Faculty/School-level. This applies to assessments, deadlines, marking, and feedback. Nevertheless, as far as possible staff should be guided by the following principles.
- Whatever is put in place for the main assessment period must also apply during the resit period.
- Priority should be given to arrangements for Level 6/Final Year Undergraduate students and others for whom this is the final assessment period of their programme of study.
- Where appropriate, advice and guidance should be sought from accrediting bodies regarding which alternative forms of assessment they will accept. Faculties/Schools will need to check this.
Guiding principles for alternative assessment
- Alternative assessments should still meet the learning outcomes and competence standards of a module.
- As far as possible, alternative assessments should meet student expectations of assessment.
For example, if the learning outcomes require students to demonstrate their presentation skills and the module usually requires them to give a presentation in front of their peers, they could instead submit a recording, a script, or a narrated PowerPoint, or they could give a remote presentation via Zoom (etc).
For example, if students have been expecting to be assessed by exam, and have been preparing for this, ideally the alternative assessment should be a revised version of that exam that can be done at home and submitted via Turnitin (‘take-home’ exam). It may be appropriate to rebalance the weightings of assessments in a module, particularly where a significant proportion of the assessment has already been completed.
- Alternative assessments should be robust and viable.
- Alternative assessments should be accessible to all students.
Staff need to make sure that students have covered enough of a module’s syllabus to be able to do the assessment. With the suspension of face-to-face teaching, this may mean making recorded lectures available to students or providing additional learning resources on the VLE.
Alternative assessment should be realistic in its expectations and aim for equivalence in overall student effort. The alternative assessment should not increase the overall time burden to students. So while a student may spend more time writing an open-book take-home exam, this time would be expected to offset some of the time spent preparing for a closed-book invigilated examination.
We need to be flexible when designing alternative assessments. Students may not be able to access some physical resources in the libraries if the University closes. We need to make sure that they can do the alternative assessment, for example by providing resources now (e.g. by using the Document Supply service in the library), or by designing assessments that students can complete using resources and information already covered. This may mean that our expectations of what students can achieve at home may be different from what we would expect under normal circumstances.
As usual, staff should consider students with protected characteristics (including disability and well-being) who are already entitled to reasonable adjustments for assessment.
- As far as possible, alternative assessments should be submitted electronically.
- There should be clear communication about alternative assessments.
If students have access to the internet, they should submit their alternative assessments via the VLE, Turnitin, or other Faculty/School-approved software (for example, MyMathsLab) rather than emailing submissions to Module Co-ordinators. If they don’t have internet access, Faculties/Schools should consider allowing students to post a hard copy, depending on the type of assessment; otherwise students will need to apply for extenuating circumstances. Students must be advised to use recorded delivery and make a copy of the assessment. Student submission via email is discouraged.
Students need to understand exactly how an assessment has changed. Staff will need to provide clear instructions, including an explanation of how the alternative assessment tests the learning outcomes and competency standards of the module, how the assessment should be submitted, and what the new deadlines are. It is important that VLE resources are up-to-date. In addition, there should be clarity about expectations. For example, if the alternative to an exam is to allow students to do a take-home exam, instructions must be clear about expected format, word count, and use (or not) of citations and references. Ideally, staff should be available (e.g. via a discussion board on the VLE) to answer student questions about the alternative assessment.
- Where possible, alternative assessments should be individual pieces of work, not group work.
- We trust our students.
It may be difficult for students to collaborate on group projects if there are internet issues, or if a member of a group falls ill. This means that alternative assessment might need to be individual pieces of work and staff may need to rethink the format and submission of work. If group assessment is an integral part of the assessment (for example, if a group project has been on-going all year or is needed for accreditation learning outcomes), Module Co-ordinators will need to identify those students who are unable to collaborate with their peers and make alternative provision for them.
Fundamentally, we have no way of preventing students doing alternative assessments at home from colluding or cheating, beyond requiring students to submit via Turnitin. Students need to be reminded that the University policy on academic integrity still applies, and alternative assessments should be designed to discourage academic misconduct. However, we believe that the vast majority will not violate this policy and therefore we accept that submitted work is a student’s best effort under difficult circumstances.
Forms of Alternative Assessment
Further guidance on developing equivalent alternative assessment can be found here.
Ideally, essay-based exams will become take-home exams that can be submitted via Turnitin. There should be clear instructions to students about word-limits and format of answers. For essay-based exams, staff may want to consider shortening the number of essay questions required of students (since students will undoubtedly write more at home than they would under exam conditions). Maths-based exams can also be take-home exams: hand-written answers can be scanned or photographed and submitted via the VLE. In both cases, students will be allowed to post hard-copies if they don’t have internet access.
Some Faculties/Schools already use take-home exams with short deadlines. In these cases, students may need to be given more time than usual to complete the exams. Decisions will be made at College/School-level.
Take-home exams should be scheduled in a manner that avoids overlap in deadlines. The existing exam timetable can be used as a guide for deadlines but some modification may be necessary based upon the nature of the alternative assessment.
Exams that require special software may need to be deferred, unless that software is Open Source. In these cases, it may be better to find an alternative form of assessment (although learning outcomes will need to be considered). Possibilities include take-home exams or alternative coursework assessments.
Class tests and MCQs:
If electronic, these can be done normally but additional time may be necessary to accommodate poor internet connections. If paper tests, alternative formats will be needed; ideally this will mean moving the tests online. However, there may be students without internet access so different provision will be required. For the same reason, students may need to be given more time to complete MCQs.
There are unlikely to be problems with this, beyond the likelihood of many students applying for extenuating circumstances. As far as possible, submission should be online via Turnitin.
There are various alternatives, and potentially students could be allowed to choose: for example, recording the presentation (audio or video), sending in a script or narrated Powerpoint, or live presentation via Zoom.
Viva Voce/oral exams (e.g. languages):
A separate statement on PhD Viva Voce exams has been produced. There are some undergraduate modules (e.g. dissertation modules, language modules) that require brief viva voce or oral exams as part of their assessment. These could be conducted remotely via Zoom or phone, if both staff and students agree.
Due to staff illness in workplaces, and the expected pressures on staff in healthcare, these may need to be delayed.
Some field trips will need to be cancelled and alternative assessment used. In other cases, it may be appropriate or desirable to postpone Year 2 trips to Year 3. All assessment would need to be done during the trip to avoid overburdening students in their final year. In deciding this, the potential additional burden on academic staff should be considered.
Year/Semester abroad students
Alternative assessments will be arranged by individual Faculties/Schools.
This is particularly challenging if work placements are a compulsory/core part of a degree scheme and will need to be resolved in consultation with each School's Education Lead, and with the companies involved. The following issues need to be considered: what happens if placements are not completed? Could work placement students complete their placements later in the summer (which for 3rd years would mean they couldn’t graduate until December). Is there another option if they haven’t started their placement yet? Would the department be able to put on an alternative module that satisfies the learning outcomes? One possibility for 2nd years would be to enable this type of module to be delivered exceptionally in the following academic year.
Rather than writing up experiments they have performed, students could be required to write reports on the methodology they would have adopted for a particular experiment and the results they would have expected to see, or students could be provided with data sets or exhibits (images) via the VLE for analysis. Another alternative is to provide students with video footage that allows them to see the practical and assess the best experimental procedure. Alternatively, their final grade for the module could be based (pro-rata) solely on assessments/labs already completed before the University closed.
Some modules have a ‘practicum’ as a key component of assessment and this may not be possible. In these cases, staff are advised to consult the learning outcomes of the module to see if there is another way that students can be assessed. For example, a museum-handling session with the general public could become an essay or presentation on the factors that need to be considered when dealing with the general public in museum environments.
Assessments involving members of the public:
All assessments involving experiments on or interviews with members of the general public will need to be cancelled and alternative arrangements made, unless they can be achieved through online questionnaires or secondary data extraction.
Students should be informed (via multiple channels such as email, VLE announcements etc) about alternative assessments as soon as possible. Ideally, the assessments should be made available at least a week before the submission deadline, but this will vary according to degree scheme Existing deadlines could stand (e.g. the deadline for the alternative assessment for an exam could be the date that the exam was due to be sat). Programme Directors and School Education Leads will need oversight of deadlines to make sure that bunching doesn’t occur. Submission times also need to be staggered to avoid server overload.
Students should still receive feedback on their assessments, but it may not be possible to provide this within the three-week turnaround period. The most important thing in this situation is to keep the students informed as to when they can expect feedback on their work.
Many students on Masters degree programmes are expected to conduct primary research during the summer in order to submit a thesis in early Autumn. Access to necessary university equipment and library resources may become impossible due to closure or staff illness, which means that some research projects will become unviable over the coming months. In this case, alternative projects may be needed, or the thesis deadline may have to be extended. Some projects may be based around the collection of online data or the provision of a dataset for analysis.
Extenuating Circumstances applications will be dealt with by individual Faculties. It is likely that many students will need to apply for extenuating circumstances and won’t be able to submit alternative assessments to set deadlines. Following normal Extenuating Circumstances procedures will be difficult for both staff and students. There will be a high number of applications to process and students may not be able to get supporting documentation. There will be more information and guidance on this issue in due course.
All alternative/modified assessments need to be recorded fully for review by External Examiners and accrediting bodies in line with the revised quality assurance processes. However, a change to External Examining procedures will be required. External Examiners should be notified of changes to assessments as soon as possible, but, unless required for accreditation purposes, their approval to make changes will not be required.
Examination Boards and Progression and Awards Boards
These may need to be delayed if students are struggling to submit their assessments and if staff are unable to mark within the three-week turnaround. If necessary, Boards can be held via Zoom providing that key members have access to the technology. It may not be possible for External Examiners to attend in person, but they could attend remotely.
During each academic year there will normally be three assessment periods during which formal examinations will be held, namely:
|Mid-sessional assessment period||January|
|Sessional assessment period||May – June|
|Supplementary assessment period||August|
By referring to your Faculty/School Handbook, you will be able to learn when the formal examinations for individual modules will be held, whether in January or in May/June.
Some subject areas offer intensive modules, taught over two weeks, particularly during the final year of advanced initial degrees. Details will be printed in your Faculty/School handbook.
Due to the nature of some programmes, particularly in the Swansea University Medical School and Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Science, the teaching pattern is different in that modules are taught in very concentrated periods of possibly two weeks. Such modules are assessed immediately after the teaching and therefore the assessment periods mentioned above are not applicable. You are advised to consult your Faculty/School Handbook in these instances.
If you fail to accumulate the required number of credit points to satisfy the progression rules, you will not be allowed to proceed to the next Level of Study. In the case of final year undergraduate students, or students pursuing a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate, this means that you will not qualify for your degree or award. The end-of-session Progression Board or Award Board will deal with the cases of students who fail to accumulate sufficient credit. The University recognises that a minority of students will fail some modules and consequently guidelines have been adopted to enable such students to redeem failures.
NB: If you are pursuing a degree programme which is accredited by a professional body you might find that more stringent assessment rules apply. You are advised to refer to your Faculty/School Handbook(s) for a comprehensive set of rules.
You must also be aware of the time limits for the completion of the various programmes. Details are given in specific programme regulations.
All resits will take place at Swansea University. You will not normally be allowed to sit examinations at other venues.
Specific Information – Undergraduate Students
If you are in Level 3, 4 and 5 the most common way of redeeming a failure is by passing a supplementary examination. Alternatively you may be permitted to repeat the year/level of study as an internal candidate during the following session.
If you have failed modules that are normally assessed by continuous assessment you are advised to contact the Faculty/School about the ways in which you will be re-assessed.
If you are in your final year of study (Level 6 or 7) you are advised to refer to the assessment regulations for your particular programme for information regarding redeeming failures. For most programmes of study, students in the final year who fail to quality for an award are not given any opportunity to redeem failures.
Undergraduate students, except those in the final year, may apply to repeat the failed modules only as an internal candidate. However, if you opt to repeat the failed modules only, you must complete a ‘Request to Repeat Failed Modules’ form (available from the ‘Forms and Documents’ section of Academic Services’ MyStudies site). In such cases, the marks attained in the following session will be capped for students in Level 5 (and Level 6 of an advanced initial degree). Each application will be assessed with reference to the requirements of external agencies such as the UK Visas and Immigration.
If you have failed a module at the end of Semester 1, you may be allowed, with the permission of the Faculty/School, to take a substitute module in Semester 2 to compensate for the failure. This will be regarded as attempting to redeem the original failure and consequently for Levels 5 and 6 the mark obtained will be capped at 40% (or 50% for Level 7 modules). At the discretion of the Progression Board, full-time Undergraduate candidates, except those in the final year of study, who have not acquired sufficient credit to proceed to the next level of study may be permitted up to a maximum of three further attempts to redeem the failures in the modules in order to be allowed to complete the level of study. These attempts must take place within two academic sessions (see Capping of Marks under Examinations).
If you have transferred programmes and are repeating the level of study/repeating modules you will normally be considered a repeat student and subject to harsher monitoring reviews. Should the Faculty/School be concerned about your progress they may make recommendations to the appropriate Academic Board (or sub-committee) to require you to withdraw if you are under performing.
It is your responsibility to check with your Faculty/School that the modules(s) to be redeemed will be available during the following academic session.
Specific Information - Postgraduate Taught Awards Students
Only one retrieval attempt is allowed for students pursuing postgraduate taught awards.
The cases of students who sit supplementary examinations will be considered by the Re-sit Progression Board, normally in September.
The mark for each module passed on a supplementary attempt is capped at a maximum of 50%.