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Assessment and Feedback Policy

Assessment is continuous throughout the courses. There are two kinds of assessment: formative and summative.

Formative assessment is used to provide feedback about your progress and performance as the course proceeds. Any grades assigned to formative assessments do not contribute to your final degree mark. You are strongly recommended to complete formative assignments. Feedback on formative assignments will vary depending on the nature of the assignment, but will often involve comments written on the work itself, and/or on a summary cover sheet. If you feel that the feedback is unhelpful or inadequate in any way then you should approach the module organiser in the first instance.

Summative assessments DO contribute to your degree mark. Summative assessments can take different forms. Closed exams often use essay or multiple choice questions; in open exams you are given a longer time (often several weeks) in which to complete an assignment such as an essay, literature review or project.

For open assessments that are completed and marked prior to the end of your course you should expect to receive a mark, your script with written comments, plus a feedback cover sheet explaining how your mark was determined and how your work could be improved. You should consult the marking criteria in this handbook for a description of what your mark represents.

For closed examinations, your examination script is retained, but we will provide feedback to the cohort as a whole, outlining the range of marks. For essay-type examinations model answers may be provided, and for multiple-choice examinations you will be given information about typical errors and areas for improvement. Feedback for closed examinations will normally be provided via email. If you feel you would benefit from further feedback, discuss this with your academic supervisor who can arrange to provide oral feedback if this is judged to be useful.

Deadlines for handing in assessments are strictly adhered to. If you need to request a deadline extension, you should complete a mitigating circumstances form and provide relevant documentary evidence (e.g., medical certification).

Students are required to keep an electronic version of all assessed coursework. You may be asked to provide copies of your work by the Examinations Board.

Assessment timetable

All assessment deadlines are found on the Postgraduate Taught Modules - Assessment Deadlines page.

Formatting Recommendations

Even though most or all of the written work is submitted electronically, it is worth getting used to producing legible clear, easy to read documents. Without wishing to create any anxiety we advise you to stick to these recommendations. You will not normally be penalised for deviating from these recommendations.

  • Text should be in legible font (eg a Times variant or Arial style) and at least 11pt
  • Text should have either double or 1.5 line spacing 
  • Margins of at least 2.5cms on all 4 sides (top, bottom, left, right) are advised.
  • Tables and graphs are usually centered on the page
  • Formatted for A4 paper.

Word limits

All written work must keep to the word limit prescribed. For most pieces of coursework (unless stated otherwise), the word count should cover all text except the following which are not counted: Title, Appendices, References, Contents section and the main body of figures and tables. Figure legends and table titles are included in the word count, while the actual contents of figures or tables are not.

It is generally the case that each piece of submitted work should show the word count (derived by electronic means). One of the skills that we hope to be able to pass on is the ability to write clearly and concisely. To this end the Board of Studies has agreed that there will be a penalty imposed for exceeding the stated limit on any given piece of assessed work. The offending work will be given a mark but this mark will then be penalised by a reduction of 10 marks.

There is no formal minimum word count for any assessment. Generally speaking, concise writing is a mark of good quality, although it is unlikely that you will be able to gain the highest marks if your word count is substantially below the upper limit.

Requests for special arrangements

If you wish to bring a disability or special need to the attention of the Board of Examiners, then discuss this, in the first instance, with your academic supervisor and make an appointment with Disability Services ( 

Marking of work

Formative assignments are marked either by the module organiser or by a contributor to the module. If you feel that feedback is either insufficient or inappropriate, you should discuss this first with your personal supervisor who may suggest that you seek clarification from the module organiser. Summative assessment is normally marked blind, meaning that your marker(s) will not know your identity. For this reason marking is carried out with respect to student numbers not names. In line with standard Departmental practice, most summative assessment is evaluated by two markers, with the final mark being decided through subsequent discussion. This may involve re-reading individual pieces of work. For projects, the first marker will normally be your project supervisor, whereas the second marker will be randomly allocated. If there is a significant discrepancy between markers (defined as a difference in marks of 10% or more that also crosses a degree class boundary, or marks crossing the pass/fail boundary), additional comments will be provided detailing how the final mark was determined.  In the (unusual) case where the markers may be unable to agree a mark, the Chair of the Board of Examiners will appoint a third examiner to adjudicate. Further details of marking practices are given in the University's Guide to Assessment Standards Marking and Feedback. All marks are provisional until the final examinations board meeting, at which the external examiner is invited to comment on the appropriateness of the marking. The external examiner provides external validation of marks for all summative assessments and provides advice on final degree awards.

Scaling of marks

The raw marks from MCQ exams and other assessments may be scaled according to the University’s procedures, as described in Appendix K of the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback  (see the link to the latest handbook at

The purpose of scaling is to ensure that all assessments are appropriately calibrated to the University Marking Scale, and thereby to guarantee equivalence of weightings across different Modules.

Accreditation of Prior Learning

For those with Accreditation of Prior Learning (which allows students to 'skip' a course or parts of it on the basis of courses they have taken at some other institution), a distinguished level of performance across modules is reflected by marks of 65 or above in at least 50% of modules studied at York and with no mark being less than 60.

Unable to meet a deadline or sit an exam?

If you are unable to meet a deadline to hand in a piece of work, or to sit an exam you may need to claim what we call "mitigating circumstances".

Extensions to deadlines

Please see Exceptional Circumstances.

Submission of late work

All work submitted late, without valid mitigating circumstances, will have five percent of the available marks deducted for being one hour late and then ten percent of the available marks deducted for each day (or part of each day) that the work is late, up to a total of five days, including weekends and bank holidays e.g. if work is awarded a mark of 30 out of 50, and the work is up to one day late, the final mark is 25. After five days, the work is marked at zero. Note however, the penalty cannot take the mark into a negative result.

Failure to sit an examination

Please see  Exceptional Circumstances.

Disclosure of marks

Marks are normally released electronically, and can be discussed with your supervisor at your next meeting. Marks are provisional until the final examination board in September.

Complaints relating to teaching

Complaints relating to teaching should normally be referred to the Module organiser or your personal supervisor. If neither of these is appropriate, a complaint can be referred to the Chair of Graduate Studies or, the Chair of Board of Studies.

The transcribing of illegible examination scripts

As amanuenses are specifically provided for students with a contemporary formal diagnosis of a relevant disability, these services cannot be used for students with illegible handwriting. 

Basis for transcription request
Academic staff should not feel obliged to spend time deciphering an illegible examination script. If they are unable to read a script, they can request that it be transcribed.

Maintaining equity
Transcription needs to be carried out in such a way that students are not able to improve the quality of the answers they have given on the examination script; for this reason the transcription should be undertaken by an individual approved by the Standing Committee on  Assessment. This procedure ensures that this process is undertaken in controlled conditions, is accurate and that the student gains no material advantage. 

There are no resources available to provide this service and the student must cover the costs involved which at current level of support would be the current rate of pay per hour for an assistant invigilator. This payment must be made before the transcribed script is released for marking.

Any disputes between the transcriber and the student must be recorded by the transcriber and include the student's signature. Disputes will be referred to the Chair of the Board of Examiners (or Board of Studies if there is a conflict of interest) for resolution.

Disability Issues

The University's "Guide to Assessment" refers to stickers that students with relevant disabilities can choose to have attached to their examination scripts to remind markers that errors of spelling and/or grammar should not be penalised.

Students confirming their identity in an examination

The only acceptable form of photographic identification in an examination is the student's University Card. A student unable to produce a legible University card must provide the required identification within one working day of the examination. Failure to do so, in the absence of mitigating circumstances acceptable to the University, will result in the candidate receiving a mark of zero for the examination.


Plagiarism means taking and using another's work as one's own (published or unpublished). You must not copy or paraphrase material from books or elsewhere without acknowledging the source of the material, and even then it is recommended that only short extracts should be quoted. You should not copy or paraphrase another student's work, even though you may have collaborated on an assignment. The concept of plagiarism is complex. Plagiarism is regarded as academic misconduct. The University therefore takes a very serious view of plagiarism. It is essential that you ensure that you fully understand what it is. You should be aware that the Department makes use of specialist software (Turnitin) to detect plagiarism in your work, and that plagiarism detected in assessed work is likely to lead to a substantial penalty or termination of your enrolment.

The University requires all students to take and pass an online tutorial on plagiarism as part of course requirements. Students will not be considered for award of a degree until confirmation of successful completion of this tutorial has been received. Failure to comply with this regulation may result in termination of registration with the University.

Details about how and when to take the tutorial will be provided during the Induction week.

Appeals Procedure

If you are unhappy about the mark or feedback you have received for an assignment, then it is advisable to discuss this with your supervisor who will usually suggest that you consult with the module organiser. You may also take up such issues with the Course Director or with the Chair of the Graduate School Board.
There is no right of appeal against the judgment of the examiners. Acceptable grounds for appeals from postgraduate students can be found at:

External Examiners

Universities use external examiners to validate the standard of assessment and advise on the content of degree courses. The external examiners inspect samples of work and participate in key assessment meetings. They send reports on assessment procedures and any commendable (or less commendable) features of the course that are taken very seriously by the University.

Our MSc/MRes external examiners are:

  • Professor Kun Guo, University of Lincoln
  • Professor Peter Mitchell, University of Nottingham

It is inappropriate to make direct contact with external examiners, in particular regarding your performance in assessments.  If you have any issues or concerns you should pursue these with the Department and then if necessary register them through appeal or complaint to the University.

Peter Mitchell 2019.pdf

Kun Guo External Examiner Report 2018-19.docx

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