Answers to frequently asked questions about the Code of Practice on Assessment.

1. How do I mark a piece of work?

From September 2014, all assessments should be marked in accordance with the University’s Common Grading Scale. A Grade should be awarded for each component of assessment (i.e. each essay or examination question). In awarding a grade, Examiners should:

  1. use the CGS band descriptor to determine which band is appropriate
  2. select the middle grade within that band (ie. Grade B2 from within the Band B1, B2 and B3)
  3. adjust the grade up or down within the band ie. B1 or B3), depending on the extent to which the descriptors are met.

The Band Descriptors should be used to inform the judgement as to which grade should be awarded for a piece of assessment. In doing so, it is important that this is done in the context that the top band represents the best that a candidate at that level could be expected to achieve. It should be noted that this means a grade obtained at one level of study is not equivalent to the same grade awarded at a different level of study.

Where an assessment is more quantitative in nature, e.g. a multiple choice test, it may not be appropriate to award a CGS directly. Schools should determine the appropriate percentage (or other) scale to be used to convert the mark to a grade on the CGS. This information should be approved by the Quality Assurance Committee and be readily available to all candidates and such conversions should be published in course handbooks and made available to all Examiners.

2. Why does the 'A' band on the Common Grading Scale have 5 categories, when the 'B-G' bands inclusive have only 3?
There is increased granularity at the top end of the scale to encourage examiners to make full use of the scale, particularly at the top end. It also compensates for the fact that when calculating a Grade Point Average, a first class mark can only be brought down when averaging, whereas the lower and fail bands can be brought up.
3. Why so much granulation on the E-G grades on the Common Grading Scale?

E1, E2 and E3 grades may entitle candidates to receive compensatory credit assuming candidates meet all necessary criteria.

4. How do I map numerical assessments (eg. Multiple Choice) to the Common Grading Scale?
Where an assessment is more quantitative in nature, eg. a multiple choice test, it may not be appropriate to award a CGS directly. Schools should determine the appropriate percentage (or other) scale to be used to convert the mark to a grade on the CGS. School mappings should be sent to the Quality Assurance Committee (academicservices@abdn.ac.uk) by 30 August (for first half session assessments) and 30 November (for second half session assessments). In addition, information should be readily available to all candidates and such conversions should be published in course handbooks and made available to all Examiners.
5. What mark do I put on a student's work?

It is University policy that, unless exemption has been given by the University Committee on Teaching & Learning via the Quality Assurance Committee, an overall grade for each component of assessment course (eg an essay, exam question) must be awarded and that only grades expressed on the alpha-numeric Common Grading Scale may be released to candidates.
Where an assessment is more quantitative in nature, e.g. a multiple choice test, it may not be appropriate to award a CGS directly. Schools should determine the appropriate percentage (or other) scale to be used to convert the mark to a grade on the CGS, and seek the Quality Assurance Committee's endorsement of the mapping. This information should be readily available to all candidates and such conversions should be published in course handbooks and made available to all Examiners.

6. How do I work out an overall course mark when the total course assessment has several components with different weightings?

The overall course grades are calculated as a weighted average of component assessments. Each assessment is awarded a grade on the CGS. Each CGS grade is associated with a numerical Grade Point (0-22). These Grade Points are used for the purposes of aggregation. By aggregating the Grade Points the overall Grade for the course can be determined.  Note that the grade point is expressed to two decimal places.

For example, a course has two essays each weighted 20% and one exam weighted 60%, the Grades for which are B2, A3 and C1 respectively. The overall grade for the course would be determined as follows:

Grade

CGS

Grade Point

Weighting

Calculation

Essay B2 16 20%

(20% x 16) + ( 20% x 20) + (60% x 14)

= 3.2 + 4 + 8.4

= 15.6

= Overall Course Grade of B3.

Presentation A3 20 20%
Exam C1 14

60%

NB: It is the unrounded Grade Point (to 2 decimal places) that is used in Grade Point Average classification calculations.

7. When can I round a Grade Point up or down?

Grade points for individual assignments or for the complete course are rounded to two decimal places. No subsequent rounding is permitted and the CGS alphanumeric grade awarded for a course is determined by the unrounded grade point for the course.

8. What happens if a student submits an assignment late - can alpha-numeric grades be deducted from the CGS grade that would be awarded?

Schools currently operate their own policy in this regard but this situation will be discussed during academic year 2019-20 with a view to adopting a University-wide position going forward.

9. My course is a zero credit-rated course that students must take. How do I account for this when classifying students using the Grade Point Average system?

In the case of zero credit-rated courses the relative weighting of these towards the determination of overall awards is assumed to be zero, and they will thus NOT count towards the degree classification of students.

If however a School wishes zero rated courses to be included in the GPA calculations, it must ensure that (i) Registry is made aware of the credit weighting to be allocated against the course (via email to academicservices@abdn.ac.uk ) and (ii) must clearly inform students of the weight being given to such courses. In such cases, it is likely that the GPA will be calculated from greater than 240 credit points for UG Honours.

10. What mark or grade do I enter in the Student Record System?

Schools enter the numerical grade point to 2 decimal places which automatically poulates the correct alphanumeric grade. The SRS will display both the unrounded grade point (to two decimal places) and the corresponding alphanumeric. 

11. What happens if a student fails my course?

Candidates who fail or who fail to attend or complete a course, and who wish to be awarded credit for the relevant course, will be required to resit.

For GPA calculation purposes,  resit pass grades are capped at D3 for inclusion in the GPA calculation.

In order to be eligible to take a resit, a candidate must hold a valid class certificate. The validity of a class certificate is limited to the academic year in which it is awarded and to the academic year immediately following. Only in exceptional circumstances, in accordance with General Regulation 7 for First Degrees, may the Senate extend the validity of a class certificate.

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students (with the exception of Level 4) normally have up to three attempts to pass a course.

For candidates in the final year of an Honours programme, there are three categories of exception:

  • Candidates who achieve a Grade of E1, E2 or E3 in courses at Level 4 or above taken as part of an Honours programme may be eligible for the award of compensatory Level 1 credit to a maximum of 30 credit points. Such compensatory credit can only be awarded where the candidate has already achieved 90 Credit points at Level 4 including passes in compulsory courses.
  • A pass at the first attempt in certain courses may be stipulated as a requirement for achieving the award in question. Candidates who fail such a compulsory course will not be eligible to resit the course and would not be eligible to receive the Honours degree concerned.
  • Where a candidate has achieved a Grade of F1 or below in a course at Level 4 or above, they may elect, subject to having achieved 90 credit points at Level 4, to take an alternative course or courses of the same credit value at a lower level to make up their credit shortfall rather than re-sitting the failed course(s).

Postgraduate Taught Students

  • PGT students normally have two attempts to pass a course.
  • PGT Resits should take place as soon as possible after the initial examination diet (which may be in the next examination diet) to enable candidates to receive their results early in the next stage of the programme. The timing of resit examinations is determined by individual Schools. PGT dissertation courses (or equivalents) are NOT eligible for resits.
  • Where a PGT candidate fails a resit they will not normally be permitted to progress into the next stage of the programme.
  • PGT resits are marked either as a 'resit pass' (RP) or a 'resit fail' (RF).
12. What happens if an undergraduate student fails a Level 4 course?

Candidates who achieve a Grade of E1, E2 or E3 in courses at level 4 or above taken as part of an Honours programme may be eligible for the award of an equivalent amount of compensatory level 1 credit to a maximum of 30 credit points. Such compensatory credit can only be awarded where the candidate has already achieved 90 credit points at Level 4. Students who meet the criteria for compensatory credit on account of having a fail in a level four course, will continue to be awarded the compensatory credit rather than a D3.  Schools are asked to give special consideration to any students, who have received compensatory credit and who are placed on a classification borderline, to ensure that a D3 in place of the compensation would not have resulted in a higher result being achieved.

Candidates may not receive compensatory credit for courses defined as compulsory for their degree programme. 

A pass at the first attempt in certain courses may be stipulated as a requirement for achieving the award in question. The compensation outlined above will not apply to such compulsory courses. Candidates who fail such a compulsory course will not be eligible to resit the course and would not be eligible to receive the Honours degree concerned. They would be eligible to receive a lower award if otherwise qualified, or where appropriate a non-accredited Honours degree which does not require a pass in the compulsory course(s).

Where a candidate has achieved a Grade of F1 or below in a course at level 4 or above, they may elect, subject to having achieved 90 credit points at Level 4, to take an alternative course or courses of the same credit value at a lower level to make up their credit shortfall rather than re-sitting the failed course(s).

Students who opt to take an alternative course to make up their credit shortfall will be classified on the basis of all the courses they have taken, i.e. including the original fail grade and the grade resulting from the additional course.

13. A student has indicated that they have mitigating circumstances - what should I do?

Where illness or other good cause has impaired performance on an in-course assessment or an examination, it is not possible for the Examiners to make a judgement about the extent of the impact and thereby to determine the compensation which should be applied to the obtained grade. Rather, where the Examiners agree that illness or other good cause has impacted on performance, the following should be followed:

  1. If the Examiners are confident that the assessments completed by the candidate provide evidence that they have met the learning outcomes of the course then, subject to at least 75% weighting of the assessments for the course having been completed, an overall grade for the course may be returned;
  2. Where less than 75% weighting of the assessments for the course have been completed, the assessment should be set aside and the candidate should be given a further opportunity of assessment with this being considered to be their first attempt.

Where the Examiners do not consider the grounds presented to be sufficient good cause, the assessment should be treated in the same way as it would have been had no mitigating evidence been submitted. No partial compensation for good cause can be given.

14. How is a student's final degree classification/PGT award determined?

Undergraduate students - https://www.abdn.ac.uk/staffnet/teaching/undergraduate-degree-classification-9156.php

Degree classification should be based on performance across the Honours programme as a whole. Only courses taken at level 3 and above will count towards Honours classification.

  • UG students who entered their honours programme before academic year 2014-15 will be classified using the Grade Spectrum approach.
  • UG students who entered their honours programme in academic year 2014-15 - 2017-18 will be classified using the Grade Point Average approach and the Grade Spectrum; students will receive the higher of the two classifications should a difference arise.
  • UG students who entered their honours programme in academic year 2018-19 or thereafter will be classified using the Grade Point Average approach.

Postgraduate Taught students - https://www.abdn.ac.uk/staffnet/teaching/pgt-award-and-classification--9157.php

Degree classification should be based on performance across the PGT programme as a whole.

  • PGT students who entered their programme before September 2014 will be classified using the Grade Spectrum approach.
  • PGT students who entered their programme between September 2014-Janury 2018 will be classified using the Grade Point Average approach and the Grade Spectrum approach.; students will receive the higher of the two classifications should a difference arise.
  • PGT students who entered their programme from or after September 2018 will be classified using the Grade Point Average approach.

A timeline showing when the full range of changes came into effect is available here.

15. How is PGT progression determined?

In order to progress from Stage 1 to Stage 2, and then from Stage 2 to Stage 3 of the Programme, candidates should normally* achieve a grade of 9 or D3 or above in all courses of the respective stages as detailed below. Students who require to resit will be permitted to attend the next stage pending the outcome of the resit.

From Stage 1 to Stage 2 Achievement of 60 credits with a grade of 9 or D3 or better in all
From Stage 2 to Stage 3 Achievement of 120 credits with a grade of 9 or D3 or better in all

* In order to progress from Stage 1 to Stage 2, and then from Stage 2 to Stage 3 of the MSc Stratified Medicine Programme, candidates should normally achieve a Grade of C3 or above in all courses of the respective stages.

16. How many decimal places should a Grade Point Average be calculated to?

A GPA should be calculated to 2 decimal places.

17. What will appear on a student's transcript?

For students who started their programme before September 2014, transcripts will include both CAS marks and CGS grades; the majority of student transcripts will only show CGS grades.

CGS grades will reflect grades A-G only and not the more granular A1, A2, B1, B2 etc, so that transcripts are more recognisable and easily understood by employers and other third parties. An explanation of the reason for differing marks/grades will be provided.

A Grade Point Average (GPA) will NOT appear on transcripts.

Transcripts for students requiring conversion of the University of Aberdeen marking scale for North America or the European Credit Transfer Scheme (ECTS) will continue to be provided, with appropriate mapping of the CGS Scale.

18. What happens if a student wants to challenge a mark on their degree result?

Those involved in considering academic appeals will not pursue an appeal that does nothing more than question the academic judgement exercised. For example, a student cannot appeal simply because they are unhappy or disagree with a CGS grade awarded. Academic judgement is a matter solely for the relevant School(s) and the Examiners.

Academic appeals will only be considered on grounds where:

i) it is believed that the University’s procedures were not followed; or
ii) it is believed that the person/body making the decision did not have the authority to do so; or
iii) it is believed that the person/body making the decision did not act impartially; and
iv) a student considers that they have suffered, or could suffer, material disadvantage as a result.

Further details of the University’s Appeal Process are available here.

19. How are the marks achieved by students during a period of study overseas translated onto the CGS and used for classification and award?

Students who undertake to go abroad to study as part of Study Abroad or Erasmus programmes in their honours years will not have the marks they earn whilst abroad counted towards classification. As such, for students in this category, their degrees will be classified on the basis of the number of credits they took at the University of Aberdeen only.  Exceptions to this should apply where dictated by accrediting bodies, and Schools can amend the Student Record System degree classification screens to accommodate accrediting body requirements in this regard accordingly. 

20. Will External Examiners be trained in the new Code of Practice?
External Examiners have all been made aware of the new Code of Practice on Assessment, and have been directed to the relevant websites to support the information that has been sent out.
21. What implications are there for a student's GPA if s/he chooses to take extra credit courses at L2, 3, 4 or 5 and PGT?

From 2016-17, for undergraduate students, if additional credits are at Level 3 or above, Schools will (i) have approved the extra credits and (ii) will have asked students to identify which of the 120 credits they wish to be included in their GPA calculation at the point at which the extra credits were chosen. Students should be made aware of all the implications of taking additional credit on top of a full curriculum.

If a PGT student takes extra credit, e.g. 10 credits, the GPA calculation would be out of 190 credit points and not 180cp. Students should be made aware of all the implications of taking additional credit on top of a full curriculum.

22. If an extra course is being taken, is there a difference between an extra compulsory course and a non-compulsory course taken?
Yes. An average of all compulsory level 3 and 4 credits (for Honours) and level 5 credits (for PGT) should be calculated in determining the GPA.
23. The degree programme I coordinate only offers students the opportunity to achieve 180 credits at level 3 and 4; the remaining credits taken for SCQF purposes may be a combination of level 1,2,3 or 4 courses. Do I classify their degree on 180 credits?
Yes, unless the courses taken to make up the credits are at level 3 or 4, as detailed in FAQ 21 and FAQ 22. Coordinators should be wary of this practice however as these students will have no fall-back if they fail any credits (ie the prescribed 180 credits in effect become compulsory courses which must be passed). In such circumstances, students will not be able to graduate with Honours.
24.The code of practice says that all assessment practices should be made available to students in advance, including pass marks. What if an exam question is particularly hard? Can the pass mark be amended to reflect this?
No, the agreed pass mark stands. In the School of Medicine & Dentistry, where standard setting determines the pass marks for individual questions, students need to be made aware of the standard setting processes in advance of assessments. There should be no revision of pass marks once they are published.
25. What if a student takes a Level 3 course in Level 4 or vice versa?

For students who started their Honours programme in or before academic year 2018-19, it will depend how a School weighted the courses at that time; some Schools ‘weight’ their degree classification on the basis of programme year, other Schools ‘weight’ degree classification on the basis of course level. Either was acceptable prior then but Schools must have made it clear to students how their degree classification is determined in this regard.

For students entering into Honours in academic year 2019-20, weighting will be by the level of the course only, not by programme year. See section 3.8 of the Code of Practice 2019-20 here for further details. 
26. How will PGT resits be graded?
PGT Resits are either passed or failed. A pass will be graded as a 'resit pass' (RP); a fail will be graded as a 'resit fail' (RF). Resit passes are capped at D3  for the GPA calculation.
27. Assuming a course comprises an exam element and a practical/lab element, and both must be passed in order to pass the overall course grade, what grade should be awarded if a student has failed one of the elements?

A fail grade of E1/grade point 8 should be awarded.

28. How does degree classification work for Direct Entrants to programme year 3 and 4?

If a student has directly entered part way into programme year 3 (level 3) or directly into programme year 4 (level 4), their GPA and degree classification will be calculated on the basis of the credits that they have studied at the University of Aberdeen only.

The credits that have been recognised from elsewhere will thus be used for credit accumulation purposes only.

29. Where can staff and students see their GPA?

The GPA is only available to students following the decision of the final exam board and submission of the award result to Registry. Students can then find out their GPA from their student record card, which are available to download from their Student Hub, or by requesting a copy from the Infohub. Staff can access the GPA (and other degree classification deteails of each student once confirmed by Registry) via the Degree Classification archive Screens on the Student Record System.

30. How does degree classification work for Joint Degrees in different Schools?

In the case of Joint degrees, each School (or half of the degree) is responsible for 50% of the degree classification. As such, each School will calculate a GPA for its half of the award, and then the overall award is calculated on the basis of the sum of 50% of each GPA from both Schools. Each School will also look at the grade profile (and median) for its half of the degree.

When it comes to entering the overall GPA on the Student Record System, the School that owns ‘first named discipline’ on the degree programme title will take responsibility for doing so.