Assessments: Fairness and Marking
This page explains about how UCB ensures that all work undertaken and examinations sat by our students are considered fairly. It also gives details about how our grades are decided and applied to students' work and examinations.
UCB places a great importance on ensuring that all students have an equal opportunity to do well. There are a number of practices in place to support this.
Cheating, collusion, plagiarism and other breaches of the Assessment Regulations are taken very seriously by UCB.
For further information about plagiarism, please see UCB's Code of Practice on Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct. UCB's disciplinary procedures relating to assessment offences are shown in Section C of the General Student Regulations.
In the event that you are involved in any allegation of an assessment offence, you may wish to seek advice from the Guild of Students.
Ensuring that the grades you are awarded are fair
All assessments are subject to both internal and external verification. This means that the marks awarded for assessments will be checked and verified both by internal and external examiners to ensure that they are consistent, fair and in line with national standards. All marks are provisional - and may go up or down - until the Board of Examiners has been held. The Assessment and Moderation Cycle (available on the UCB Portal) shows you the process and considerations lecturers follow when assessing your work.
The Board of Examiners consists of both internal and external examiners who make the final decisions on all marks awarded for the assessment on each programme and consider any extenuating circumstances that may have affected a student’s performance. Boards of Examiners meet in the course of, and at the end of, the academic year.
Who sits on an the Board of Examiners?
Module lecturers and Year Managers from each programme team are the staff who know each student and their work best will sit on all exam boards at which their students’ work is considered. The relevant Assistant Dean of School and frequently the Dean of School will also sit on the board.
The Examinations Unit records all decisions made ready to publish. UCB Registry staff also attend every exam board. Their role is to ensure that every student receives a fair hearing and that practices are consistent at all exam boards.
At external exam boards for degree programmes, one or more External Examiners will usually be present. External Examiners are experienced professionals, often senior teaching figures from other HE institutions or occasionally senior figures from industry. They are chosen for their expert knowledge of your programme’s area of study. Their role is to monitor the quality of teaching and assessment on your programme and ensure that it is compatible with national standards. Their reports can be found on the UCB Portal.
The External Examiner Guide for Students
is also available.
HE Generic Grading Criteria/Feedback Sheets
University College Birmingham uses a standard system relating to Feedback and Grading of assessed work on Higher Education (HE) programmes.
The system is designed to:
clarify and reinforce to students and assessors the features and expectations of work at a given level on Higher Education programmes;
clarify the features and expectations of work characteristic to a range of marks;
ensure consistency and transparency in terms of the approach to grading of HE work across the University’s programme portfolio;
foster and promote constructive feedback to students.
The criteria show the generally sought after features of student work at each level of study on HE programmes within a range of marks.
The criteria have been benchmarked against national standards.
Please find the HE Generic Grading Criteria below:
The criteria under each category have been written to reflect the change of emphasis that occurs as you progress between levels of study. For certain modules and assessment tasks, specially devised feedback sheets have been developed. Your lecturer will advise you on the basis by which you are being assessed. Specialist criteria may apply to certain modules due to their specific technical nature.
Benefits of the System
UCB is keen to develop assessment feedback mechanisms to guide you towards a positive learning experience. As such, awareness of the criteria should help you raise your grading profile. Consistent use of the criteria across your assessments should mean that the level of work that is expected of you should become clearer over time. You will soon become very familiar with the criteria.
You can also use the criteria to self-reflect on your attainment by reviewing the criteria for higher grades on the sheet against your own performance. Additionally, the criteria are designed to encourage assessors to fully consider the attributes of presented work. Attributes related to both academic and professional features are assessed.
As grading criteria are written in a common format across each level of study, you should be able to see more clearly how expectations change as you move from one level to the next through your programme. You will receive a % mark which will have been subject to internal procedures and remains a provisional mark until the conclusion of the External Examination Board.
‘Levels’ of Work
Students on Higher Education programmes are assessed at various ‘levels’ during their programme. It is now common practice to refer to ‘level of study’ rather than ‘year of study’. This is because students have various modes of attendance - for example, part-time programmes take more years to complete than full-time courses. Some programmes include a 48-week work placement and thus take longer to complete.
The various levels of study are shown below:
Level P (Progression): This is foundation year level, i.e. preparing students to enter HE programmes at level 4.
Level 4 (Certificate Level): This is generally year one of full-time HE programmes.
Level 5 (Foundation/Diploma Level): This is generally the second year of full-time HE programmes (or the second/third years of programmes which include a 48-week work placement).
Level 6 (Honours Level): This is the final stage of undergraduate degree work. Generally the third year of undergraduate degree programmes (or the fourth year of programmes that include a 48 week placement).
Level 7 (Masters Level): This is postgraduate level.
Note: all assignments that you receive should confirm the ‘level’ of work that applies.
Use of Customised Grading Criteria Specific to Individual Assignments and Assessed Seminars
In addition to the use of generic grading criteria, you may undertake assessments where the lecturers issue additional criteria specific to that assessment. Furthermore, some assessments (say) of a very practical nature, may specify different criteria. However, what is required of you and the grading criteria applicable should ALWAYS be made clear on the assignment.
Your lecturer may direct you to additional formative support or on-site facilities/services which you may find helpful.
Teamwork and its assessment
Should your assignment require you to work as part of a team, you will receive an individual grade based upon your performance, as well as personalised feedback. The module leader will explain how your individual grade and feedback will be determined.
Importance of Word Counts and Presentation Timings
Assignment word counts and presentation timings should always be observed. Ignoring a word count increases significantly the risk of your work losing marks because it lacked structure, flow, focus and clarity. Timings must be observed for assessed presentations for the same reasons.
Students can access the examiner’s comments from their examination scripts by contacting the Examinations Unit based in the Academic Registry in Room 629 of the Summer Row Campus and completing a Request to Access Examiners' Comments form
Grading of Work
Undergraduates - Monitoring Your Progress
For Undergraduate students, shortly after you receive assessment feedback from your module lecturer, provisional marks are relayed to the Examinations Unit and updated in the My Results page on UCB Portal. This information will enable you to track your progress on all assessments you have submitted.
Grading Undergraduate Work
All student work is awarded a percentage mark. Keeping track of the marks you receive will help you to gauge your performance. You can also use the Grade Calculator to help you manage your performance by working out your year average or by calculating the mark you need to achieve well in each piece of work.
70% and above equates to 1st class
60-69% equates to a 2:1
50-59% equates to a 2:2
40-49% equates to a 3rd class
39% and below is a fail
Postgraduates - Monitoring your progress
For postgraduate students provisional marks are relayed to the Examinations Unit at the end of each semester and published in the My Assessment tab on the Results page on UCB Online on the dates shown below. This information will enable you to track your progress on all assessments you have submitted.
Grading postgraduate work
Grading on these programmes is based on a percentage grading system. The mark for a pass at Masters Level is 50%. Any work graded at 55% or above is considered equivalent to ‘Merit’ level. Any work graded at 65% or above is considered equivalent to ‘Distinction Level’. Full details are given below.
The grades used are:
45-49% C Below Masters Pass
Below 29% D
Taught Postgraduate Degree Merit: A Student must: - pass all modules taken as part of the programme; and - achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 55 in the taught components; and - achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 55 in the dissertation component at Level 7; and - achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 60 calculated across all modules.
Taught Postgraduate Degree Distinction: A Student must: - pass all modules taken as part of the programme; and - achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 65 in the taught components; and- achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 65 in the dissertation component at Level 7; and - achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 70 calculated across all modules.
Full details can be found in UCB's Assessment Regulations.
Getting your results
Following meetings of the Boards of Examiners, final results of a student’s assessments will be published on UCB Portal. This will show, for each module:
- the marks gained for each component of the module,
- the total module mark and
- the number of credits achieved
The decision of the Board of Examiners will also be published on this date, in the same place which indicates whether a student:
- can progress to the next stage of the programme,
- is required to resit assessment,
- has been offered a first attempt at assessment due to extenuating circumstances,
- is required to repeat study or
- whether a student has achieved an award.
Assessment results are posted on UCB Portal at 12pm on the dates of publication.
It is each student’s responsibility to check their own results as soon as possible after publication. Contact the Examinations Unit with any queries.
The number of credits awarded at each stage of study is very important. Each year of study could generate a maximum of 120 credits. Normally, any student failing a module will be required to repeat or re-sit assessment in order to gain the requisite number of credits before progressing. However, there are some circumstances in which progression may be permitted with only 100, or 110 credits.
Credit is awarded when the learning outcomes for a module are met. This is usually indicated by achieving a pass mark for the module overall (40% at undergraduate level, 50% at postgraduate level). In some cases it may be possible to achieve a pass mark where at least one component of the module is not passed. In this situation credit may not be awarded. Full details can be found in UCB's Assessment Regulations.
Credit and Undergraduate Awards
For Foundation Degree students an award can be made with 100 credits achieved at Level 4 and 100 credits achieved at Level 5 (this may differ for programmes with Must Pass modules). However, students must achieve a minimum of 220 credits on the Foundation Degree and an average mark for Level 5 above 50% or 240 credits at Foundation Degree to be considered for admission to the BA or BSc top up year.
For BA or BSc students a minimum of 320 credits must be achieved across the 3 years of the programme or 440 credits across 4 years for programmes with placement to be considered for an Honours degree. In addition, at least 100 credits must be passed in the final year for a classification to be awarded.
Therefore it is possible that a BA/BSc student could complete the degree programme and even pass the dissertation, achieve only 300 credits and not be awarded an honours degree or classification. By taking resits or repeating study (if required) you give yourself the best opportunity to achieve.
Any undergraduate student with questions about the number of credits they have achieved can contact the Examinations Unit to discuss their situation.
Honours Degree Classifications
The following classifications are used to show the overall performance of a student on a BA or BSc programme:
- 1st - First Class Honours
- 2.1 - Upper Second Class Honours
- 2.2 - Lower Second Class Honours
- 3rd - Third Class Honours
- Pass - Pass without Honours (unclassified degree)
Foundation Degrees, Foundation Diplomas and Graduate Certificates/Diplomas are not classified and are awarded as a Pass.
How your overall degree classification is calculated
The Boards of Examiners use three methods to calculate your final classification.
- Method One considers your final year average (mean mark).
- Method Two is determined through a calculation based on a specified weighted number of credits being achieved at a particular level.
- Method Three considers the average calculation (mean Mark) of Level 5 and final level marks.
The Board of Examiners will use whatever method is the most beneficial to you. Full details can be found in UCB's Assessment Regulations. However, a helpful summary guide is presented below.
Method One: The Final Year Mean Mark
To calculate the mean mark for final year, multiply the overall mark for each module by the credit value of that module, add together these totals and divide the result by the total number of credits at that level (usually 120). The result is a mean mark for that level. It can also be shown as:
Mean Mark = (Module Mark x Credit Value) / 120
The final year mean mark equates to classifications as follows:
70% and above equates to 1st class
60-69% equates to a 2:1
50-59% equates to a 2:2
40-49% equates to a 3rd class
39% and below is a fail
This method of calculating the classification uses only marks from the final year. Year 2 (Level 5) marks are not included. This method is also used for direct entrants to the final year who have not previously studied at UCB.
Method Two: Credits at Given Level
A second calculation is also made, involving the number and size of modules in which you have gained higher than your final year mean mark as calculated above. Again, if this is more beneficial to you, this calculation is used to determine your final classification.
Method Three: The Overall Mean Mark
This third method takes into account marks for both Levels 5 and 6. For students following a Bachelor degree this will be year 2 and 3 marks (years 2, 3 and 4 if you are on a programme with a period of Work Placement). For students who have completed a Foundation Degree at UCB, Level 5 marks are taken in to account in addition to the final year degree marks.
The overall mean mark used to determine classification is calculated by multiplying the final year mean mark by 3 then adding the Level 5 mean mark and dividing the result by 4. This can also be shown as:
OMM = (final year average x 3 + Level 5 average) / 4
If the overall mean mark or final year mean mark fall between the grade boundaries for a particular classification (see above), this is normally the classification awarded.
What is a Pass Degree?
A pass degree may be awarded on the recommendation of the Board of Examiners to a student who has achieved at least 300 credits including at least 80 credits at Level 6. It is an unclassified degree without Honours.
Credit and Postgraduate Awards
In order to Progress to Dissertation, a postgraduate student must have achieved a mark of 40% or more in all taught modules and have gained at least 80 credits at Level 7 in modules taken as part of the taught component of the programme.
UCB's Assessment Regulations detail the credit requirements for the award of the specified degree and also explain the criteria for the award of a Merit or Distinction.
Any Postgraduate student with questions about the number of credits they have achieved can contact the Examinations Unit to discuss their situation.
Further information on how degree classifications are calculated is available via the Grade Calculator or UCB's Assessment Regulations.
For queries about any information in the section, please contact the Registry or the Examinations Unit or visit us in Room 629 in the Summer Row Campus.
Your student record, or transcript
On successful completion of a programme, all students are awarded a certificate. Dependent on the award you studied, you will also be given a record of your marks in the form of a transcript. If you studied an Honours degree this will also show your final classification (First, 2:1, 2:2 or Third). FdA, FdSc, DipHE have no overall classification, but a detailed transcript is provided showing the total mark for each module studied and number of credits achieved. Your Year Manager/Tutor can provide, on request, a reference which includes information about placements, prizes or other achievements.
The Examinations Unit will produce one free transcript for each student at the end their level of study/programme. This will be posted to the student’s permanent home address. Students who do not receive an academic transcript within 16 weeks of the publication of results can contact the Examinations Unit to request a free replacement transcript. After this 16-week period, if we have not heard from you, the assumption will be made that your transcript has been safely delivered to your address. Therefore, students enquiring for transcripts after this 16-week period will have to contact the Registry for additional copies of lost/new transcripts. If a student wants a replacement transcript for whatever reason, they must request this by writing to the Registry, completing the Transcript Request Form and enclosing a cheque for £25. Cheques are to be made payable to ‘University College Birmingham’. The charge for certifying copies of a student’s transcript is £2 per copy.
If a student requires a letter or transcript to confirm academic progress within the academic year and before final results have been published, the student can contact the Examinations Unit to request an interim transcript. Registry may also be able to provide a letter confirming a student’s current status if required. The Academic Registry and the Examinations Unit are currently based in Room 629 of the Summer Row Campus.