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Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning


The language surrounding assessment can be complex: specific terms are often used to describe assessment-related practices, and some terms have several different meanings attached to them. This variety is found across the higher education sector as well as within Cambridge.

This glossary aims to provide a point of reference for colleagues at Cambridge when thinking about assessment. It does not provide an exhaustive list of assessment terms.

The glossary may also be used by colleagues to reflect on their practices regarding course design and delivery, particularly in relation to enhancing inclusive assessment practices.





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Term Explanation

Academic integrity

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Academic integrity is about ethical research and writing practices, and should be upheld by all members of the University community. It is particularly important to consider academic integrity matters when designing and managing assessment tasks. That is, rather than focusing on warnings about anticipated instances of academic misconduct, attention would more effectively be paid to the design and management of assessment tasks and to ensuring that [formative assessment] opportunities are provided so that students may develop their competence through practice and feedback.

The process may involve the following:

  • Designing assessment that requires higher order thinking (see Anderson and Krathwohl’s (2001) revision of Bloom’s taxonomy), where students have to demonstrate, for example, their critical thinking, evaluation and creative skills.
  • Designing assessments which provide students with an opportunity to incorporate their personal experiences, ideas or reflections.
  • Incorporating formative assessments where students submit smaller pieces of work, such as essay plans, sections of essays, annotated bibliographies which they receive feedback on (feedback could be self- or peer-generated) and incorporated into their final [summative assessments].
  • Being transparent with students about how they will be assessed through providing assessment [criteria] and the standards against which they will be assessed by. This can help students to understand what is expected of them and how their work will be marked.

Alongside this, students should have opportunities to develop their skills and understanding of the requirements of assessment, so that they know how to approach their work with academic integrity. This process can involve providing students with support regarding academic referencing and explaining the difference between collaboration and [collusion] in group work. It is best not to assume students’ knowledge and skills around these and other areas regarding academic integrity.

See also the LibGuide to Good academic practice and avoiding plagiarism.

Academic literacy

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Academic literacy can be considered as the ability to communicate in an academic discourse community. Students should be supported to develop competencies within their disciplinary context in relation to: writing and referencing; critical reading and appraisal; learning techniques; presentation style; and in general, following the conventions regarding study, assessment and knowledge production as delineated and accepted by their discipline.

Academic literacy can play a significant role in shaping students’ academic success at university. It is important to ensure activities to develop students’ academic literacies are embedded within the course and in the disciplinary context, especially in the first year of study to support student transition.

Access & Participation Plan

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Access and Participation Plans set out how Higher Education Providers will improve equal opportunities for individuals from groups typically underrepresented in higher education. These plans are monitored by the Office for Students (OfS), an independent regulator of higher education in England, which reports to Parliament through the Department for Education.

Cambridge’s Access and Participation Plan (APP) 2020-25 sets out the University’s commitments, including to support the success of student groups with the most significant non-continuation and [awarding gaps]:

  • Non-continuation of Disabled Students: The University will reduce the gap in non-continuation rates between disabled students (specifically those with mental health disabilities) and non-disabled students.
  • British Black Students: The University will eliminate the unexplained awarding gap between British Black students and White students.
  • Disabled Students: The University will eliminate the unexplained awarding gap between disabled students (specifically those with mental health disabilities) and non-disabled students.

Cambridge's APP sets out strategies the University will implement to eliminate these gaps, including through the use of inclusive curriculum, teaching and assessment.


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Accessibility can refer to a number of factors when considering assessment.

Accessibility means ensuring that all students can equally access, use, and understand learning content. Advocates of [Universal Design for Learning] consider this approach to help with creating accessible content through the consideration of a variety of learning modalities.

When designing assessment activities, accessibility and inclusivity should be kept in mind throughout. An inclusive approach can be taken to mean a shift away from supporting specific student groups through discrete policies or interventions, and towards instead considering equity from the outset and embedding it in all functions. This can reduce the need for [reasonable adjustments] for individual students by instead altering the methods used to assess all students.

Accessibility can also be taken to mean the extent to which learning content is accessible to all students from different sociocultural backgrounds, nationalities and identities. For example, learning content that draws on a broad range of perspectives or includes cases focusing on different societal and global perspectives that is likely to engage all students.

The ability of students to access material refers not only to providing well-produced materials that can interface correctly with assistive technology and be transformed into alternative formats, but also digital accessibility: that is, the ability of students to access the necessary hardware, software and the internet, from outside of Cambridge as well as within.

The Accessibility & Disability Resource Centre offers guidance for designing accessible remote teaching and learning tasks. An underlying principle of the University's approach to remote teaching and learning is that all students should be able to access materials at a suitable time; plans are being developed to target significant investment in digital learning and support.

"Adjusted Modes of Assessment"

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Adjusted Modes of Assessment (AMA) are available to disabled students where the standard assessment access arrangements do not adequately address the specific, substantial disadvantage experienced by a disabled student. During the 2021-22 academic year the deadline for submitting a request is the end of Week 7 of Michaelmas Term (26 November 2021).

The process for obtaining an AMA is different to requesting [reasonable adjustments].

AMAs are considered on a case-by-case basis and applications are only considered when made through a College on the student’s behalf, except in exceptional circumstances.

Guidance is available on the Student Registry website

Anonymous marking

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Anonymous marking entails marking an assessment without the student's name or identity being made known to the marker. Anonymous marking can help to minimise marker bias. The University issues Blind Grade Numbers to all students which they use when completing any [summative assessment]. See the Guide to Undergraduate Examinations.


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Assessment is fundamental to students’ learning at university. It can help to: measure student achievement of the [learning outcomes]; promote student engagement; and enable students to reflect and build on their learning.

[Summative assessment] is typically understood in higher education as measuring student achievement of the learning outcomes ([assessment of learning]) and [formative assessment] as promoting student learning and reflection ([assessment for/as learning]). However, this distinction is not absolute and each can perform both functions in measuring and developing student learning.

Assessment (summative and formative) should be:

  • [Valid] - it enables all students to demonstrate achievement of the learning outcomes and standards are maintained.
  • [Reliable] – different assessors marking the same assessment would reach the same judgement based on the [criteria] and marking scheme.
  • Rigorous – students are enabled to demonstrate learning at high levels.
  • Equitable – all students are given equivalent opportunities to demonstrate their achievement of the learning outcomes.
  • [Inclusive] – all students are provided with the support they need to enable them to demonstrate achievement regardless of difference or impairment.
  • Clearly communicated – students are supported to understand how they should perform on assessment tasks to best demonstrate their abilities.

Assessment choice

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Offering students a choice of assessment can help to ensure that particular students are not disadvantaged by specific [modes of assessment]. For example, at Cambridge it has been identified that while some students excel in exams, others perform better in coursework-based assessments. Although offering a choice of assessment modes (eg a report or a presentation which covers the same learning outcomes for a paper) can make for a more inclusive learning experience, it is important that students are not overwhelmed with too much choice and are supported to make an informed decision regarding which option to take.

Assessment conditions

(assessment methods)

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Assessment conditions set the parameters of assessment, such as whether students have access to certain resources, the timeframe within which the assessment must be completed, and where the assessment takes place. The following can be considered types of assessment condition:

Assessment criteria

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Assessment criteria provide students with information about the qualities and aspects of an assessment task that will be used to measure their attainment of each [learning outcome]. It is important that students are aware of the assessment criteria and are supported to develop their abilities through [formative assessment] and [feedback].

Assessment for/as learning

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Assessment for learning performs a developmental function, where the assessment ([formative] or [summative]) helps to contribute to how students learn and their skills development. Feedback on students' progress and performance on assessment is a vital component of assessment for learning.

Assessment as learning is similar. It actively involves students' engagement in self-assessment and their active participation in directing their own learning, where students are encouraged to think about the way they learn. It places emphasis on student reflection where they regulate and monitor their learning progress. As well as student reflection, assessment as learning comprises of [peer-] and [self-assessment].

Assessment literacy

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Assessment literacy refers to staff and student understanding of the rationale and purpose of assessment. Assessment-literate students:

  • Understand how the assessment is linked to the [learning outcomes]
  • Understand the [criteria] and standards which will be used to assess their performance are able to self-evaluate their performance in relation to these
  • Are aware of the processes of assessment and are able to submit assessments with [academic integrity] that are on-task, on time

[Formative assessment] and formative [feedback] can help to develop students' assessment literacy. Formative assessment can provide students with the opportunity to practise judging their own responses to assessment tasks, while formative feedback can help students to understand how their performance and learning can be developed.

You may be interested in this article on the case for explicitly developing students' assessment literacy.

Assessment mapping

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Assessment mapping is where the [learning outcomes] are 'mapped' to the assessments which measure them. This process can help to ensure that there is [alignment] between the learning outcomes and the assessment of the paper / course. Assessment mapping can be done at a paper or course level and is often used in the higher education sector to review, enhance and articulate assessments across a paper or course.

Assessment mapping can highlight the following information:

  • The learning outcome assessment measures
  • The volume of assessment across a paper / course
  • The [diversity of assessment] across a paper / course

The information gathered from assessment mapping can be shared with students to help them understand the purpose of assessments and the learning outcomes which these assessments measure, developing their [assessment literacy]. This can help to create a shared understanding between staff and students regarding how their paper and/or course is structured and the skill and knowledge it aims to progressively develop and assess in them. It can also be used by students when thinking about their learning trajectories through a course.

Assessment modes

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For a list of approved modes of assessment at Cambridge, please see the Framework for Assessment Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught Programmes 2021-22. Some of these approved modes of assessment are listed below, in addition to other modes staff may find of interest.

  • Annotated bibliography: This mode of assessment tends to consist of a list of resources, accompanied by a summary relating to each item. This can help to encourage students' engagement with resources which they may draw upon for a larger assessment, like an essay, project or report.
  • Case study: This mode of assessment can involve students working through a case study where they identify a challenge and produce possible solutions. Case studies can be considered as an [authentic form of assessment], helping students to make the links between theory and practice.
  • Course: This mode of assessment can take a variety of forms. It can be considered as a set, discursive style of assignment that is undertaken under open-book [conditions] over a period of more than 24 hours.
  • Diagnostic assessment: This mode of assessment can be used to ascertain students' prior learning and needs. This can help to inform [adjustments] made to teaching and assessment, making these personalised to students' starting points.
  • Dissertation: This mode of assessment is a piece of scholarly work which offers students the opportunity to undertake independent research within their subject discipline under the guidance of a supervisor. The exact nature of dissertations can differ according to discipline.
  • Essay: This mode of assessment may take a descriptive or analytical form. Essays may be written under different [assessment conditions], such as forming part of a portfolio or written under time-constrained closed-book exam conditions. They often involve students responding to a series of questions, requiring them to critically analyse and synthesise ideas and evidence to address a problem or question.
  • [Exams]: This mode of assessment can also be considered a type of assessment condition. An exam may be in-person, online, in-person typed, etc. Under closed-book conditions students typically have no access to resources to draw on, or only have access to a restricted set of provided materials such as a formula book, dataset or set text. Under open-book conditions students are allowed to consult reference material while sitting the exam.
  • Lab report: This mode of assessment may involve students writing a report on practicals undertaken in a laboratory setting. It may help with developing a number of skills such as reflective practice, self-assessment and a specific writing style appropriate to the field.
  • Practicals: This mode of assessment can be used to assess students' practical skills and knowledge.
  • Presentation: This mode of assessment, which can be done individually or as a group, offers students the opportunity to explain or argue on a particular topic orally, or report on a piece of research they have conducted.
  • Recital / performance: This mode of assessment may involve students evidencing their skills through playing a musical instrument, demonstrating their vocal repertoire, etc.
  • Role-play: This mode of assessment may require students to write or act taking on a role in a particular scenario, such as a consultant working in a hospital or an athropologist faced with a challenging situation in the field. This mode of assessment is helpful in supporting students to apply theory to practice, specifically in situations they are likely to encounter in industry or research.

Assessment of learning

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Assessment of learning, often associated with [summative assessment], performs a primarily evaluative function in measuring student achievement of the [learning outcomes]. Assessment of learning has been critiqued for the way it focuses on evaluating student performance in assessment, for how it positions students as passive subjects in the assessment process, and for encouraging rote learning. It is often contrasted with [assessment for/as learning].

Authentic assessment

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Authentic assessment mirrors 'real-world' challenges and/or conditions as part of the assessment task. Authentic assessment aims to develop types of assessment which are relevant to situations students may find themselves in after graduation in industry or in further study. Authentic assessment can also reflect ways in which knowledge is created in a discipline, supporting students' participation in a subject community by learning to think and practice like, for example, an engineer, historian or anthropologist. Examples of authentic assessment activities include research projects, working with real-world case studies or data, and roleplay tasks.

Awarding gap

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An awarding gap is a degree awarding gap between particular cohorts of students, where particular students are more likely than others to achieve a 1st or Good Honours classification.

At Cambridge and across the higher education sector the term 'awarding gap' is used rather than 'attainment gap' to recognise that the issue is the responsibility of the educational institution rather than a student deficit or capability issue.

The University's 2020-25 Access and Participation Plan identifies specific cohorts of students whose unexplained awarding gaps the University has committed to eliminating. The two groups with the most significant awarding gaps are Black British students and disabled students with declared mental health conditions.

Interventions aimed at eliminating awarding gaps include enhancing practices around [inclusive assessment], [diversifying assessment] and [authentic assessment], developing staff and student [feedback] literacies, and inclusive [curriculum] design.

See also the University's ongoing work on eliminating awarding gaps.


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CamCORS - Cambridge Colleges' system for Online Reporting of [Supervisions] - is a platform where supervisors of undergraduate students submit (usually Termly) feedback reports on their students, which are visible to the student and their College. These can be an important source of formative feedback for students, allowing them to reflect on their personal academic progress. They also provide Directors of Studies with a longitudinal record of students' predicted capacity and engagement with their learning. They are usually reviewed with the student both by their Tutor and Director of Studies.


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CamSIS - Cambridge Student Information System - is the University's system for handling students' information and records. It is used by students to check examination results, request transcripts, apply for graduation and manage their academic record.

CamSIS is also the gateway to access the Postgraduate Feedback and Reporting System, where supervisors of postgraduate students must submit Termly progress reports accessible by the student, Course Director, Degree Committee, College and Student Registry. Supervisors are encouraged to submit reports which can be used positively to provide useful feedback for their students. Most students are also asked to submit a yearly self-evaluation report.


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Collusion refers to students working with others and using the ideas or words of this joint work without acknowledgement, and presenting work in a way which implies it is the work of a single student. There is a grey area between collaboration and collusion, which can be confusing to students. It is possible to reduce the potential for collusion through focusing on the assessment design and developing students' [assessment literacy], such as with the use of [formative assessment] where students are offered an opportunity to practise and receive feedback on their work, and through making assessment expectations clear. Supporting students in understanding how to approach their work with [academic integrity] can help to reduce potential for collusion.

Constructive alignment

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Constructive alignment is an approach to course design where the intended [learning outcomes] are defined and teaching, learning and [assessment] tasks are designed to enable students to develop and demonstrate the learning outcomes.

A key premise of constructive alignment is that it is the student who constructs their knowledge, and the teacher's role is to design the learning environment and activities to enable students to develop and demonstrate their knowledge and skills as articulated in the learning outcomes. In other words, the teacher focuses more on what the students need to do than on what they, the teacher, need to cover.

Constructive alignment can also be used to communicate to students the relationship between teaching, assessment and the learning outcomes. This can help students to understand the purpose of their assessment and what knowledge and skills the assessment is measuring and how this will be assessed through the [criteria].

Course design

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Course design may refer to the 'structure' or architecture of a course, including how the [curriculum] is structured and scaffolded, and how learning is assessed.

Factors which may be useful to consider when designing and/or [reviewing a course] include:

  • How are students supported in the transition to the course?
  • How are students supported to develop pertinent skills in relation to independent learning and assessment?
  • How are students enabled to develop the course-level [learning outcomes] in a progressive manner and how is this mapped across different parts and papers? Course-level learning outcomes tend to articulate the skills, knowledge and attributes students should have upon completing a course. Thus, the level of demand and complexity required from students should progressively increase throughout a course to enable students to develop and evidence the course-level learning outcomes.
  • How is a shared understanding of how the course is designed documented and communicated to staff and students?
  • What opportunities exist for students to provide input on the course design?

Course review and enhancement

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The process of reviewing a course annually is a common practice in the higher education sector. It can help a course team to reflect on (1) areas of excellence and (2) areas of enhancement.

Course review and enhancement meetings can also provide an opportunity for course teams to come together with students and other stakeholders such as alumni, employers and professional accrediting bodies - where appropriate - to gain valuable feedback and understanding regarding how a course can attract a diversity of students and maintain / enhance students' learning experiences. Course review and enhancement meetings can also help in strengthening the community, direction and ethos of a course team.


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Criteria, sometimes referred to as 'assessment criteria', 'qualitative criteria' or 'marking criteria', are properties used to judge the extent to which the intended [learning outcomes] have been met in an assessment task. These are often contained within a [rubric] along with qualitative descriptors which articulate different standards. Providing students with an understanding of criteria and standards used to assess their work is significant in developing students' [assessment literacy].

Criterion-referenced assessment

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Criterion-referenced assessment is an approach to marking assessment used across the higher education sector to ensure assessment judgements are [reliable] and equitable. With this approach, student work is judged against a set of [criteria] and pre-determined standards. These are often contained within a [rubric]. Criterion referencing is distinct from [norm-referencing].


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The term 'curriculum' can be used and conceptualised in diverse ways. For example, as a product to be transmitted, or as a process that happens during teaching and learning.

The curriculum for any course:

  • Reflects the aims of the provision and the skills and knowledge students are expected to acquire during the course
  • Provides a high-quality academic experience for all students
  • Supports the progressive development and achievement of the course [learning outcomes] through learning, teaching and assessment

The curriculum can be considered as being informed by beliefs, values and ideologies, some of which are clearly articulated and some which may be tacit. Curriculum scholars propose key questions which should be considered in the process of curriculum design. These include:

  • What characterises knowledge in our discipline or profession?
  • How does learning occur and how is it best facilitated?
  • What should be the role of lecturers and what should be expected of students?
  • What purposes do we need assessment to serve and what forms should it take?

The higher education sector generally follows and outcome-based approach to curriculum design informed by [constructive alignment]. With an outcomes-based approach, focus is placed on what students are expected to learn and do (captured in the course and paper learning outcomes) rather than what the lecturer is expected to do.

Diversified assessment

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Diversified assessment is where the assessment strategy for a course or paper consists of a variety of [assessment modes] and [conditions]. It tends to make use of [authentic assessment] and provide students with [choice] from a range of assessment techniques.

Some of the benefits that diversified assessment can offer students include:

  • Allowing students to demostrate their achievement of the stated [learning outcomes] in different ways
  • Promoting an inclusive approach to assessment reducing the risk of some students beind disadvantaged by particular modes of assessment
  • Supporting students in developing a range of skills relevant to their discipline
  • Increasing student engagement through more authentic or creative forms of assessment

In the Cambridge context, a diversified assessment strategy could involve a move away from a reliance on closed-book time-constrained exam-based assessment, to other forms of assessment which are more authentic. These may be more engaging and help students to develop a range of skills relevant to their discipline or future work.

You may be interested in the Cambridge SU and CCTL 2021 report on Diversifying Assessment.


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Double-marking is where each piece of work is marked by two assessors independently. A comparison of the marks is made and a final mark agreed. Where a large number of student assessments requires substantial resources, a sample subset may be double-marked to ensure consistency.


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Exams in Cambridge can be considered both a [mode of assessment] and a type of [assessment condition]. An exam could be held in-person or online, could be invigilated, could be typed.

Exams can also be closed- or open-book:

  • Closed-book exams: Under this condition, students typically have no access to resources to draw upon, or are restricted to specific materials (usually provided) such as formulae books, set texts or datasets.
  • Open-book exams: Under this condition, students are allowed to consult reference materials. They might be allowed to bring their own notes or other materials into a controlled exam environment, or might be sitting the exam somewhere with free internet access, library access, etc.


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Examiners are responsible collectively for a range of activities surrounding the assessment process, including:

  • Setting questions
  • Notifying the Student Registry of any special requirements such as data books or graph paper which need to be placed on candidates' desks
  • Marking assessment tasks in accordance with the relevant marking scheme or [criteria] agreed between the team of Examiners
  • Attending Examiners' meetings

See also the Examiner Guide on the Student Registry website.

External examiner / assessor

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External examiners / assessors are academics from other institutions who have particular expertise or teaching experience relating to the content or area of assessment. Their role is to ensure, through independent confirmation, that the assessment processes have been applied appropriately and that qualifications have been awarded equitably and in accordance with national standards.


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'Feedback' can refer to several different processes. For the purposes of this glossary, feedback refers to the comments and information that students receive on their academic progress, performance and approach to learning.

Feedback has been conceptualised in different ways in higher education, ranging from feedback being the transmission of information to students, to more recent understandings which frame feedback as a dialogic process where students are invited to make sense of and reflect on the feedback received from various sources to enhance their work and learning.

In Cambridge, undergraduates primarily receive feedback on their academic performance in [supervisions]. However, a variety of sources including [formative assessment] tasks, peer-feedback and self-generated feedback may be considered when designing assessment tasks and indeed the [curriculum]. This is important as feedback can help students to identify their current performance and how they can improve / maintain it for their [summative assessments]. It could be argued that this type of feedback is particularly needed in students' first year of study, where they may be new to university-level assessment and may not have encountered particular forms of assessment or may lack confidence in the assessment tasks which will be used for their summative assessment. Indeed, feedback plays an important function in developing students' [academic], [assessment] and [feedback literacies].

Good feedback:

  • Is accessible - i.e. jargon-free, uses neutral language that avoids value-laden terms such as 'poor' and 'weak', focuses on the students' work rather than the student, is aligned with the [criteria], [learning outcomes] & grade descriptors
  • Is delivered from different sources - e.g. lecturer, lab instsructor, peers, the student themselves - and through different media - e.g. audio, video, written and verbal
  • Helps to clarify what good performance is and how to achieve this
  • Facilitates the development of [self-assessment] (reflection)
  • Delivers high-quality information to students about their learning which goes beyond summative assessment but is still linked
  • Encourages teacher-student and peer dialogue around learning
  • Encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem
  • Provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance
  • Provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape the teaching

You may also be interested in this article on 7 principles of good feedback.

See also the University's expectations for feedback.

Feedback literacy

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Feedback literacy can be understood as students' understandings, capacities and dispositions to make sense of [feedback] information and use it to enhance their work and learning.

Feedback-literate students:

  • Appreciate feedback: they understand and appreciate the role of feedback in improving their work and recognise that feedback comes in different forms and from different sources
  • Make judgements: they are supported to develop their capacity to make sound academic judgements about their work and the [work of others]
  • Manage effect: they are supported to interpret feedback in a constructive manner and are proactive in eliciting suggestions from peers and teachers
  • Take action: they engage in continuous improvement through drawing inferences from a range of feedback experiences and are supported in developing a range of strategies for acting on feedback

Final degree classification

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All undergraduate students, on successful completion of their degree, receive an overall degree classification. With an understanding that how this is calculated (i.e. the weighting of different Parts of the [Tripos]) varies across the collegiate University, it is students' assessment performance which directly leads to this overall classification. Therefore, in order the eliminate the [awarding gaps] which manifests as differential degree outcomes between different groups of students, and to ensure parity of experience, it is important that a [whole-course approach] is taken to [review] assessment across a course to ensure that no students are unfairly disadvantaged by the assessment encountered.

Formative assessment

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Formative assessment serves a developmental purpose, designed to help learners learn more effectively by giving them [feedback] on their performance and how it could be improved and/or maintained. Formative assessment can help to prepare students for their [summative assessment]. The tasks undertaken in undergraduate [supervisions] are mainly formative, as they are not marked or graded. Reflective practice can be a powerful method in formative assessment to help students self-regulate their learning.

Framework for Assessment

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In Cambridge, the Framework for Assessment is the guidance given to staff to adjust to the temporary pivot to online submission of assessment during the pandemic. The Framework was approved by the General Board's Education Committee.

Group work

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This [assessment condition] may involve a group of students working as a team on a project. Group work can help to develop students' skills in working as a team, leadership and communication. The [mode of assessment] for group work can vary; it might consist of a report, research proposal or presentation.

Inclusive assessment

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Inclusive assessment considers students' varied learning needs from the outset of the design process, looking at all aspects of assessment from the [marking criteria] to the [mode of assessment] and [feedback] methods, to ensure that the assessment does not exclude any students.

Inclusive assessment:

  • Is aligned to the [learning outcomes], teaching and learning methods
  • Provides students with equal opportunities to demonstrate what they have learned
  • Employs strategies that include using a [diverse range] of assessment modes and [conditions] across a course, providing students with a [choice] in how they are assessed, and using [authentic assessment] tasks
  • Makes transparent what is expected and how they will be assessed through criteria and standards
  • Makes use of [formative assessment] and feedback develop students holistically, including their [assessment literacy], skills development, self-regulation, preparation for [summative assessment] and overall learning and development
  • Is accessible to all students; barriers are anticipated and removed
  • Reduces the need for [reasonable adjustments] by making alterations to the methods used to assess all students
  • Supports students' transition to university, progression between papers and Parts, retention and progression from university

Inclusive curriculum design

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Inclusive [curriculum] design, alongside [inclusive teaching] and [inclusive assessment], has been identified as helping to create an equitable learning experience for all students. Reports, guidance and research (see below) on approaches to reducing [awarding gaps] advocate for making the curriculum more inclusive.

Principles of inclusive curriculum design (adapted from AdvanceHE, 2021 pp.12-13):

  • Anticipatory - it is proactive in considering the needs of all students in the design and delivery of all activity. It takes into account prospective and existing students and considers the whole student life-cycle. An anticipatory approach reduces the need for reactive responses when inclusive issues have not been considered at the design phase.
  • Flexible - it is open, versatile and responsive to an evolving student population, and to changes in circumstances that may require adaptations to, for example, delivery format.
  • Collaborative - it builds on partnership between students, colleagues, professional bodies and other stakeholders to enrich the curriculum content and relevance.
  • Transparent - it makes clear the reason for design decisions by increasing the general awareness of the benefits for all.
  • Equitable - it ensures the processes and rocedures used for students are the same and decisions are made in a fair, open and transparent way.

See also this Universities UK report on closing the gap for BAME students.

Inclusive curriculum content

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Inclusive [curriculum] content is taken here to refer to the general content taught in a course (the syllabus) and learning-related materials.

Inclusive curriculum content:

  • Draws on a broad range of examples, case studies and perspectives to which all students can relate
  • Helps to raise awareness of equality and promote respect of individual difference
  • Invites students to draw on their previous educational or life experience
  • Promotes a global and international outlook

Inclusive teaching

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Inclusive teaching recognises that all students are entitled to a learning experience that respects diversity, enables participation, removes barriers and anticipates different learning needs and preferences.

Inclusive teaching:

  • Does not exclude students in terms of learning content and activities
  • Recognises that students learn in different ways and employs a range of teaching strategies including active learning, peer learning and group work
  • May allocate students to groups rather than asking students to select their own groups, to ensure diversity, and supports group work through clear expectations and guidance
  • Promotes a sense of belonging in all students, where they feel their identities are valued and are able to participate fully
  • Ensures handouts, presentations and online course materials are accessible to all students

Learning outcomes

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Learning outcomes, sometimes referred to as 'intended learning outcomes', articulate what a student is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate after completion of a paper or course. This is developed and measured through the use of [assessments]. Learning outcomes help students to understand what and how they will be learning, and why the knowledge and skills will be useful to them. In [constructive alignment], intended learning outcomes are the starting point for [course design] and help guide assessment.

At Cambridge, learning outcomes may appear in the paper or course specifications. In paper specifications, learning outcomes are presented with a list of relevant knowledge and skills it is expected the students will acquire in that particular paper. In course specifications the learning outcomes are broader and identify the knowledge and skills students are expected to acquire by the time they have finished the course.

Learning outcomes at a course and paper level should be accessible and inclusive, such that all students could achieve them.

Where possible, learning outcomes should be written such that they allow students to demonstrate their ability to meet them in different ways. For example, a student could demonstrate their ability to evaluate political systems through a presentation, video, poster or blog.

Marking schemes

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Marking schemes, informed by [assessment criteria], articulate the standards assessors use to make [reliable] and equitable judgements on student work. They are also known as marking [rubrics] or assessment rubrics.


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Moderation processes help to ensure that the assessment outcome is fair and [reliable] and that [criteria] have been used consistently. Moderation can also happen at the assessment design stage in relation to the assessment task, assessment guidance (e.g. brief) and accompanying criteria or [rubric].

The process involved in assessment moderation should be communicated to students to help increase transparency around how assessment-related decisions are made and final marks determined.


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Norm-referencing is where student performance is measured by comparing with the performance of other students, rather than against fixed [criteria].

Online assessment

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Online assessment is an [assessment condition] where the assessment takes place wholly online, including submission and marking, preparation of the questions / problems, delivery of the task to students, completion of the task, and [feedback]. Online assessment often utilises automated systems for streamlining or personalising the experience, such as automating marking or the delivery of adaptive feedback on [formative assessment] depending on performance.

Online assessment can be used for both formative and [summative assessment].

Examples include quizzes used for continuous (formative) assessment throughout a course, video submissions, utilising collaborative online tools for [group work], or collating a digital portfolio or blog.

Online assessment is not the same as [remote assessment], though a remote assessment may be conducted partly or wholly online.

Peer learning and assessment

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Peer learning, which can include peer assessment, involves students working together and providing constructive [feedback] on each other's work. There are different forms: peer assessment can be reciprocal (i.e. students exchange work) or not, anonymous or not, written, verbal, etc. It can be comment-only or involve a mark. Peer assessment is usually used as a [formative assessment] strategy.


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Plagiarism is - intentionally or unintentionally - drawing on someone else's ideas, words, data or other material, without acknowledgement. As part of students' induction to academia, reinforced throughout later years of study, they should be explicitly taught how to approach [academic integrity] and avoid plagiarism.

Programme Specification

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At Cambridge each course has a Programme Specification that sets out the course aims, [learning outcomes] and assessment methods. It is important that this is kept up-to-date and that both staff and students know where to access it.

Reasonable adjustments

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The University has established procedures for authorising reasonable adjustments for candidates with an illness or disability to take their examinations using 'alternative arrangements'. The Examination Access & Mitigation Committee is responsible for approving and arranging appropriate adjustments to ensure fairness for all candidates. A range of adjustments are available, including:

  • awarding extra time
  • providing examination papers in [accessible] or alternative formats such as Braille, large print, or with colour overlays

The Disabled Students' Campaign has produced a guide to reasonable adjustments for students.

Reasonable adjustments are not the same as [Adjusted Modes of Assessment].


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To help ensure that assessment is robust and reliable, assessment tasks should have clearly articulated assessment [criteria], weightings and level descriptors that are understood by all students and staff involved in the assessment process. This can help with intra- and inter-marker consistency when marking.

Remote assessment

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Remote assessment is when a 'usual' method of assessment is delivered remotely, sometimes without significantly changing the format of the original assessment task. Strictly, remote assessment is any assessment that does not take place in person; in practice it is usually - though not always - carried out [online]. It is usually the case that only the submission and/or marking takes place remotely.

An example of remote assessment would include an open-book exam sat at home (under narrow or wide time constraints), followed by submission of the script via Moodle. It may involve online proctoring.

While the task itself may not be changed substantially, some refinement is encouraged beyond focusing on the remote submission, to ensure the task is designed appropriately for remote or online [conditions] rather than purely replicating the in-person setting.


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A rubric is a tool used to help assess student work. It might alternatively be called an assessment or marking rubric or scheme. A rubric comprises three main elements: criteria, rating scale (e.g. poor to excellent, 3rd to 1st Class, % points) and indicators - descriptive elements to identify the rating per criterion. Rubrics articulate the standards against which student work is assessed, and is usually presented as a grid.

Second marking

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Second marking, also known as '[double marking]', is when an assessment is marked by more than one assessor. Second marking can take the form of 'blind' marking, where the second marker does not know the marks given by the first, or 'seen' marking, where the second marker does know the marks awarded by the first.

Student transition

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When students make the transition to university, it is important to scaffold their engagement with assessment, including the assessment expectations on their course and degree of learner autonomy. This process can involve supporting the [academic skills literacies] of students as they transition to learning at a university level and within their academic subject. The use of [formative assessment] and [feedback] is important in helping students make a successful, incremental transition.

Summative assessment

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Summative assessment is an example of [assessment of learning], usually used to judge the extent to which a learner has successfully met the intended [learning outcomes] of a paper. Typically, it counts towards the final mark for the paper.

Summative assessment can serve a variety of purposes, including determining who should progress to an advanced course, generating marks and grades that are weighted to contribute to a final assessment, ensuring that students meet minimum standards, and helping students to track their overall performance.


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For undergraduate students at Cambridge, supervisions are an integral part of their education. They are organised by the Colleges, though in some subjects they may be coordinated via Departments / Faculties in the second and/or final years.

Supervisions typically involve the teaching of students in small groups on a weekly basis. They play an important role in the overall learning experience of students, particularly in providing students with formative [feedback], supporting them for their [summative assessments], developing their [assessment] and [feedback literacies], supporting [peer learning] and developing students' self-efficacy and self-evaluative skills.

Students formally receive feedback on their supervisions via [CamCORS].


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At Cambridge an undergraduate degree is known as a Tripos. These are divided into Parts spanning one or more years, which are comprised of modules or papers. The assessment practices students encounter at a paper level may be planned at the Tripos level and be informed by a [whole-of-course] strategy. In many courses only the final year 'counts' towards the [final degree classification], but often a student's assessment performance impacts their possible pathways through the course.

Universal Design for Learning

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Universal Design for Learning is an approach to teaching which proactively accommodates the needs and abilities of all learners and eliminates unnecessary barriers in the learning process. This can involve developing a flexible learning environment in which information is presented in multiple ways, students engage in learning in a variety of ways, and students are provided [options] when demonstrating their learning.

When it comes to assessment, taking a Universal Design approach can involve offering students different [methods] to demonstrate their learning, such as through writing or presentation. It also involves considering the ways in which items such as texts, graphs, images, demonstrations etc are presented and whether or not they create barriers for students.

See also this UDL on Campus article on assessment.


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Assessment validity refers to how well an assessment task measures what it claims to measure. For example, a [learning outcome] which requires students to demonstrate aptitude in utilising discipline-specific research skills might be assessed through a research project. Ensuring [alignment] between learning outcomes and the assessment can help with assessment validity.

Whole-of-course assessment strategy

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Whole-of-course assessment strategy refers to the planning of assessment at a course level and may involve [assessment mapping]. Such an approach can help to ensure students' experiences of assessment across the course are integrated, enabling the progressive development and achievement of the overall course [learning outcomes]. It can also help to ensure that assessment-related activities or interventions implemented to address the [awarding gaps] are connected. For example, interventions focused on supporting student skills development in first-year transition could be integrated into [formative assessment] and [feedback] practices.