Mary McGee Wood - Assessment and Feedback - Training and Consultancy

Assessment: finding answers

How can you best assess your students?

  • Written / oral / practical?
  • With access to resources, or "closed book"?
  • En masse, small groups, or individual?
  • If written, on paper, or on computer?
  • Marked by staff, or peer reviewed?
  • Feedback given, or only marks?

To answer these questions, first think about these:


  • First-year undergraduates taking large core courses, final-year undergraduates taking small specialised options, taught postgraduates, researchers learning professional and transferable skills, aspiring professionals seeking certification, ... ?
  • UK home students, or incomers with other cultural backgrounds?
  • Fluent English speakers, or students with language difficulties?
  • Students with full command of the necessary background material, or on thin ice?
  • Students with diverse learning styles or special needs?


  • Cognitive abilities or achievements: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, creating?
  • Objective / factual knowledge, or subjective / affective opinions?
  • Mental, or physical skills?
  • Subject-specific, or general ("transferrable") material?
  • Individual ability, or teamwork?


  • When in the process: pre-course diagnostic, mid-term formative, final summative, later refresher or re-validation?
  • Scheduled, or in their own time?
  • Time-limited, or open?


  • Examination hall, lecture theatre, seminar room, laboratory, your office; or at home?
  • Local, or remote?


  • To determine students' pre-existing knowledge and skills, and identify needs for support?
  • To monitor students' progress in learning, and give them feedback?
  • To rank or classify students by some measure of merit?
  • To allow students to progress to further stages of learning?
  • To allow students to progress from formal education to the practice of a skill or profession?
  • To refresh or update knowledge or skills?
  • To satisfy an institutional requirement?