16. Moderation and Treatment of Marks

16.1   The University assures the quality of its marking through moderation. Definitions of the terms used in this section can be found in the glossary.

16.2   Each programme will have an effective moderation plan in place, which may be organised at a school or faculty level, to ensure that the marking process is robust and treats students fairly, in line with the following expectations. The plan should be advertised and made available to students, for example in the programme handbook.

Expectations for internal moderation

16.3       All summative assessments that have a weighting of more than 10% of the unit mark should be subject to internal moderation; exceptions are:

16.4       The sample size for moderation should be adequate to provide assurance that the work has been properly marked across a range of student performance in the assessment for each marker. The following procedure is recommended to arrive at a representative sample:

Sufficient standard ranges should be established across the marking scale from which the selection is to be made (for example the ranges could consist of fails, third class, 2:1, 2:2, first or the descriptor categories on the 0-20 marking scale)

A sliding scale corresponding to the number of assessments available for moderation should be employed; as a guide, a minimum of eight or 10% of the available assessments, whichever is greater, should be included in the sample. The sliding scale should then be adjusted according to:

Where the number of submitted pieces of assessment for the unit is seven or less then all the assessments should be subject to internal moderation.

The internal moderation of assessments that do not generate a numerical grade (i.e. pass/fail assessments) should focus upon those at the pass/fail border.

The marks of assessments that significantly contribute to determining progression within a programme or the award and classification of a qualification (e.g. a dissertation or project) should be carefully reviewed through the moderation process, if they are not double-marked.

16.5       The responsibilities for conducting internal moderation are:

16.6       Moderation should take place after the assessment has been marked and in advance of submission to the exam board, with reference to the University’s policy on providing feedback to students on their work. Where necessary, priority should be given to the timely release of feedback over the completion of the moderation process. In such cases, students should be informed of the status of the mark that has been released.

16.7       The role of the moderator is to form a view of the overall marking, not apply corrective marking to individual assessments. The moderator should produce a report, which should instigate a dialogue between the marker and moderator; the conclusions of which should be formally captured as part of an audit trail. The purpose of the audit trail is to provide the relevant examination boards, including the external examiner with a means to determine whether the marks are fairly awarded and are consistent with relevant academic standards and as evidence in the event of an appeal.

16.8       Moderators should review the marking of the individual marker/s against the relevant marking criteria within the sample and all the marks awarded to identify whether the marks awarded appropriately reflect the standard of work and whether there are any inconsistencies within the marking. A separate process should be in place to check that all questions in an assessment has been marked and that the marks are totalled correctly.

16.9       Specific outcomes arising from the moderation process are:

‘Mark adjustment’, as an outcome of moderation, is a legitimate and intended means of ensuring that marks are robust and fair. An adjustment may apply to an entire set of assessments or an identified sub-set. Adjustments should not be made to individual marks in isolation.

16.10        In cases where a moderator and marker cannot agree on a course of action, the batch of work should be referred to a second internal moderator (as identified by the School Education Director) for adjudication.

16.11         The relevant school board of examiners should be assured that moderation has occurred and action has been taken to assure the quality and standards of the marks presented to it.

16.12       Evidence of moderation should be made available to the external examiner for review, which may consist of samples of moderated assessment, a distribution of unit marks and the formal record of dialogue between markers and moderators. Internal examiners should consider and respond to any issues raised by the external examiner prior to the exam board wherever possible.

16.13   The School should review the operation of its policy on internal moderation for its programmes on an annual basis. The University Quality Team will investigate moderation practices and their implementation where there is cause for concern (e.g. if it is raised by an external examiner in their report

16.14   Where coursework is assessed summatively, schools should have a system in place to ensure students’ work is available for moderation at a later date, by a means that ensures that the marked work is identical to that originally submitted.

16.15   All work assessed for summative purposes should be capable of being independently moderated and made available in case it needs to be moderated by the external examiner(s).


16.16   Each faculty should ensure that its schools have clear marking and verification procedures, so that students are treated fairly and consistently across the University.

16.17   If a school is prepared to offer a candidate, who has produced an illegible script, the opportunity to dictate or transcribe it, the following procedure must be followed:

A school may invite a candidate to transcribe or dictate an illegible script. Any transcription or dictation must be verbatim, and the student should be asked to sign the transcript to confirm that it is a true copy of the original script. The transcription or dictation will be treated as part of the formal examination process. Schools may also invite the student to undertake an oral examination.

16.18   The less prescriptive the assessment (i.e. the lower the expectation of conformity to a model answer), the more necessary it is to ensure an effective moderation strategy. The types of moderation and how they may or may not be applied for assessments within the University of Bristol are outlined below.

16.19   Scaling is not normally permitted, except in the following two circumstances:

a)    Where the raw scores for the whole cohort are converted onto an appropriately distributed marking scale as part of the planned design of the assessment. The rationale and mechanism for scaling should be recorded in the unit specification and in the minutes of the relevant board of examiners.

b)    Where the marks of a cohort of students are moderated post hoc due to an unintended distribution of marks. When an assessment or a question within an assessment has not performed as intended, scaling may be employed (in this instance the methodology will not have been planned beforehand). This should be an exceptional event. The rationale and mechanism for intended scaling should be recorded in the minutes of the school and faculty boards of examiners.

16.20      Before scaling is used, its use and the method that is intended to be employed must be agreed with the relevant Chair of the Faculty Board of Examiners, prior to application, and then approved by the relevant external examiners and the school and faculty boards of examiners.

16.21   The use of scaling must also be made transparent to students: in the case of (a), students must be informed of the way in which the raw scores are converted onto the marking scale prior to the assessment; whilst in the case of (b) students must be informed of the process after the assessment.

16.22   Norm-Referencing (as defined in the glossary) is not permitted as a means of assessment in the University of Bristol. Criterion-referenced assessment (e.g. marking schemes, marking criteria) is to be used for all assessments.

16.23   Negative Marking may be employed in subjects where it is essential that the student should not guess the right answer. If negative marking is employed, this must be with the full knowledge of the student. There must be appropriate rubric, explaining that the assessment will be subject to negative marking on the cover of an examination paper, and the students should be given opportunities to practise such assessments before undertaking a summative assessment marked in this way.

16.24   Schools may choose to adopt double-marking as academically desirable in the case of summative assessment (see the glossary for a definition of double marking).

16.25   It is recognised that there are particular difficulties in providing the second marking/moderation in some forms of assessment such as a class presentation which contribute to the overall unit mark. In these cases, evidence of how the assessment mark was reached should be preserved for moderation.