George Brown is a retired professor from the University of Nottingham

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This guide is designed to help lecturers to review, refresh and refine approaches to assessment. It is based upon the theme of alignment between intended learning outcomes, assessment tasks, criteria, marking and providing feedback. Alignment provides the basis for an effective assessment system and for the new approach to Academic Review by the Quality Assurance Agency.

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The purposes of assessment are to give a licence to proceed to the next stage or to graduation; to classify the performance of students in rank order; to improve their learning. Differences in purpose should influence the choice of assessment task.


The key principles of effective assessment and the common weaknesses of assessment systems are primarily concerned with linkages between outcomes, the design of assessment tasks, criteria, marking procedures and feedback. Hints and suggestions on these components and links are provided.


There is a rich diversity of methods of assessment and increasingly postgraduates, work supervisors, peer groups and students themselves are used as sources of assessment. There is a wide variety of criteria. The better ones are simple and easy to understand and use. All sources should participate in training based on the criteria being used.


Suggestions for improving the efficiency of marking and moderating, providing feedback to students and assessing more students are provided together with hints on minimizing plagiarism and on assessing students with learning difficulties and disabilities.


The pros and cons of examinations and course work are discussed. It is suggested that there should be a balance of different types of assessment over a degree programme. The point of balance should be determined primarily by the learning outcomes and the resources available.


The role of the external examiner is an extension of the role of the lecturer, as assessor. It consists of guardian of standards, protector of students and agent of quality. Training and briefing in all aspects of this role are recommended.

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