skip to content

Education Quality and Policy Office


On this page:

Responsibility for the assurance of quality of assessment procedures rests with individual institutions. The General Board, through its Education Committee, sets a framework of expectations within which institutions should reflect on their assessment procedures and, if necessary, make changes to ensure that they are fit for purpose and effectively carried out.

Key expectations

The four key expectations of the General Board are:

  1. that the key criterion for using a particular form of assessment should be its effectiveness in properly assessing the intended learning outcomes of the course;
  2. that assessment procedures and policies should be communicated clearly to students, their advisors and examiners, in particular through published marking and classing criteria for each Part of the Tripos and all taught postgraduate programmes (preferably on a website with open access);
  3. that forms of assessment and the procedures for implementing them should be subject to regular review, and any changes to exam arrangements must be published in good time in the Reporter;
  4. that forms of assessment, either in form or in practice, should not treat any candidate less fairly than another on the grounds of sex (including gender reassignment), marital or parental status, race, ethnic or national origin, age, colour, disability, sexual orientation or religion.

In determining assessment practices, institutions (or Boards of Examiners) should take into account learning outcomes; the form of assessment; and the available resources.

Examiners should also ensure that:

  • particular care is taken to ensure that common and consistent standards are applied across all elements of the examination to ensure that standards are set and maintained at an appropriate level and that the learning outcomes are properly considered;
  • principles, procedures and processes of assessment are explicit, valid, and reliable;
  • there are robust mechanisms for marking, moderating marks, and classing;
  • assessment is conducted with rigour and fairness and with due regard for security.

Processes and practices

Various processes and practices may be adopted to promote comparability between markers and/or between candidates; not all of them are appropriate for all forms of assessment and the impact of any one method will depend in part on the number of candidates being assessed. The first three practices in the list given below are considered by the General Board to be the most important and effective methods for ensuring comparability of treatment:

  1. Issuing detailed, unambiguous and widely circulated qualitative criteria or marking standards to examiners and assessors as a benchmark against which to mark work (see Statutes and Ordinances Chapter III Examinations).
  2. Double marking is perhaps the most common method of ensuring robustness of assessment. Where the number of candidates is large, this will require significant resources and the marking of a sample number of candidates may be as productive. Examiners and assessors must have clear guidelines over what further action is necessary if marking discrepancies arise.
  3. Model (or outline) answers are likely to be more appropriate for questions requiring the precise recall of factual knowledge, the solution of set problems and examples, or essays where a particular focus is expected. The provision of such a defined marking scheme may allow for a more objective analysis of answers.
  4. A variety of grading schemes may be adopted, ranging from 5-point to percentage-point scales. Care should be taken to adopt a marking scheme which adequately assesses performance while allowing for appropriate discrimination between candidates.
  5. Opportunities for examiners and assessors to meet during the marking process for discussion and comparison of assessment. There are also statistical methods to review marking patterns of individual examiners and assessors.
  6. Oral assessment of candidates (either the cohort or a sample) can help to confirm assessments made by individual examiners.
  7. Increasingly, Faculties and Departments are involving a 'non-examiner', often the Faculty or Departmental Administrator in the assessment process to provide administrative continuity between Boards of Examiners.

Further information


Frameworks for Assessment 

During the Covid pandemic the University moved away from traditional in-person exams to alternative methods of assessment, such as coursework and online examinations in Easter Term 2020.  Due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by the pandemic, this continued during 2020/21. 

Some Faculties and Departments indicated a desire to move permanently away from the traditional 3-hour written examination.  On 20 July 2021, a Framework for Assessment for 2021/22 was circulated to Faculties and Departments which confirmed that the Framework provided a transition year during which Faculties and Departments could continue to use an extended a pre-approved list of assessment methods from which they could select as appropriate without the need for formal approval via the usual governance processes.

In January 2022, the Council and General Board published a joint report on extending the transition period to 30 September 2025 on the understanding that a Framework for Assessment will be provided for each year, which would include a list of pre-approved methods of assessment. The extension offers Faculties and Departments the opportunity to adjust assessment for educational rather than emergency reasons.

Framework for Assessment 2021-22