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University Assignment Grading

Assessment methods

When you start your course at the University of Sussex, you will come across a range of assessment methods that are designed for you to demonstrate your learning and knowledge as you progress through each module. You should consult Sussex Direct for the details of how your modules will be assessed. Some examples of assessment methods are:

  • Exams
  • Essays
  • Projects
  • Take-away papers (you are given a number of days to complete them)

It is important that you are aware of your responsibilities regarding assessment and progress. For further information please refer to the Student Handbook


When you get to university, your work will usually be graded using percentages. At Sussex the undergraduate pass mark is 40% and your grades will be calculated according to the grading scheme relevant to your level/year of study. Each percentage awarded corresponds to a class of degree (see table below) and your final overall percentage and credit total will determine your degree classification.

Class of degreeWeighted mean
First class
Second class, Division I
Second class, Division II
Third class 40-49%

*All the above subject to attainment of 120 credits in the final year

No work undertaken in the first year of your undergraduate degree course counts towards your final classification but you do need to pass the first year. The second and third years of a three-year degree are usually weighted in a proportion of 40:60. This may vary on four-year courses; please refer to the Examination and Assessment Handbook for specific information about classification rules. 


Second year maths

View Charlie's student perspective 


Math's in general is mainly exam based assessment. However, there is the odd project which we get which are a couple of word essays or a project, a computer programming project. Exams are 80% of each module.


Second year of the Foundation Year plus MEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering

View Aron's student perspective


Most subjects in the foundation year were both coursework and exam based usually courses are 70% exam 30% coursework. So we will be doing coursework throughout the year as well as homework every week will be set for each subject. The second year, which I have been doing (which is the first year of the engineering course), has been much the same although some subjects have been purely coursework and some 80/20% exam.

Assessment criteria

Assessments you complete will be marked against a set of assessment criteria, which will usually be published in module or course handbooks. The criteria have two purposes: first, they are intended to ensure learning outcomes are met; secondly, they help you to understand the basis on which your work is assessed.

Assessment criteria allow tutors to focus their feedback on any given piece of work. Ideally, they should note those areas in which you are doing well and areas that you could improve on, enabling you to develop knowledge and skills.

Before starting any piece of assessed work you should check any instruction you have been given about how your work will be graded and what will be expected of you. For example, if you are doing an assessment with multiple questions, make sure you know how many you need to answer.

Assessment deadlines

All deadlines for formally assessed work (any piece of coursework that counts towards the mark for a course or any formal submission) and examination times are shown on your student study timetable in Sussex Direct.

Whether you’re grading assignments, essays, lab reports, or exams, there are some general strategies that can help you save time and ensure that you’re being equitable.

For fast grading…

  • Prepare an answer key or set of detailed marking criteria before you start grading. This helps you avoid being “bluffed” by highly literate or clever students who respond elaborately to only one aspect of a question or an aspect tangential to the question and impress you more with their writing or creative problem-solving style than the content of their answer.
  • Annotate your grading criteria as you progress through the marking. This helps you become more efficient as you encounter the same mistakes repeatedly; you have a record of how you handled the same error previously.
  • With problem-solution questions, work through the problem yourself just before starting to grade it, even if you’ve done it several times before. This helps you easily remember the details.
  • Grade only one question or topic at a time so you can stay focused. And finish grading all responses to one question at one sitting if possible so you don’t have to worry about reformulating or remembering the subtleties of your marking scheme. But know your own limits since fatigue may keep you from grading reliably throughout.
  • Identify assignments or exams that use the same approach and group them together. After the divisions are made, go back and grade the work, starting with the best group and finishing with the worst. This allows you to become familiar with some mistakes before marking the more difficult responses.
  • Find excellent, good, adequate, and poor examples to serve as anchors or standards. Use them to refresh your memory of your grading standards and help ensure fairness.
  • Avoid over-marking. Write brief comments on students’ work. Do not feel that you must correct every grammatical or mathematical error, respond to every idea, or propose alternatives for each section. It is best to focus on only one or two major problems and look for patterns of errors rather than note every flaw.
  • Respond to students’ work as an interested reader or reviewer would. Set yourself three goals: highlighting what was done well (to build confidence), pointing out key errors and weaknesses that need correction, and providing ways to improve.
  • Avoid rewriting students’ assignments. Indicate the major problems with a segment of the assignment and perhaps rewrite one paragraph as an example, but leave the major revisions to students.
  • Set limits on how long you will spend on each exam question, essay, or assignment.
  • Sort students’ work into A, B, C, D, and Fail piles before assigning final grades to help you decide on borderline cases.

For equitable grading…

  • Cover students’ names so you’re not influenced by the performance of students on previous exams or assignments, their class participation level, or their attitudes about you or the course. You can ask students to put their names on the last page or the back of an exam or assignment.
  • Determine the general level of performance before grading by randomly sampling the assignments or exams or, if possible, skimming them all.
  • Avoid trying to mark entire exams or all essays in one sitting since you may become too tired to grade reliably. But marking all responses to one exam or assignment question in one sitting can help ensure fairness. Know your own limitations and what will work best for you.
  • When there’s more than one marker for a course, have a group marking session in which everyone grades a few papers or exam answers and compares them. Or you can split up the marking task and have each marker grade the same question or set of questions on every exam.
  • After marking one question on all exams or assignments, shuffle the papers to remove any expectations based on order.
  • Avoid judging students’ work on extraneous factors such as handwriting or use of pen versus pencil.
  • Place marks on the last page of students’ work to help protect privacy.
  • Record all grades as number grades (versus letter grades) when possible to ensure greater accuracy when calculating final marks.

For grading difficulties, cheating, and plagiarism

If you are a teaching assistant, discuss any grading issues with the course instructor, particularly if you suspect issues of cheating or plagiarism. If you are the course instructor and you suspect cheating or plagiarism, contact the associate dean of undergraduate studies for your faculty for advice on how to proceed. University Policy #71 deals with student academic discipline.

You can also help students avoid unintentional plagiarism by clearly explaining at the beginning of term what it encompasses.

This Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format: ast and equitable grading. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.