Swansea University

Policy on Moderation (Including Double Marking)

Policy on Moderation (Including Double Marking)

1. Policy on Moderation for all Taught Programmes and Modules

Moderation is the process of assuring that assessments have been marked in an academically rigorous manner with reference to agreed marking criteria. The University accepts variety in moderation practices by recognising the varying demands of different disciplines and the different requirements of various types of assessed material.  Colleges should choose the most appropriate practices for their programmes from models of moderation using agreed criteria.  The choice of approaches for moderation is outlined below.

The moderation practices adopted within the University are based on the following general principles. Moderation practices should:

  • seek to ensure accuracy and fairness;
  • be appropriate and acceptable to the discipline being taught;
  • be suitable to the material being assessed;
  • be suitable to the means of assessment being used;
  • be clearly evidenced in the feedback provided to students.  This should take the form of electronically recorded comments from both markers either on the piece of assessed work, or on a separate cover sheet.  The External Examiner will need to refer to this in undertaking his/her role.

The moderation approach chosen should be published, formal, recorded and reaffirmed or changed as part of regular programme or module reviews. Proposals for new programmes and new modules should indicate, as part of their statements on assessment, arrangements for the moderation of examinations and assessed work. The moderation approach should be published clearly for staff and students.

The moderation policy applies to all aspects of student assessment that contribute to the award or final classification of an award, including:

  • conventional examinations
  • formally assessed coursework such as projects or dissertations,
  • laboratory or other practical work.  

Where modules include more than one method of assessment (e.g. include continuous assessment and/or practical work and/or formal written examinations) the predominant method of assessment shall be subject to moderation.

At all other levels that do not contribute to the final award, moderation need only, as a minimum, apply to failed work and work close to the borderline for tolerated failures (the borderline is 30% for undergraduate modules and 40% for taught postgraduate/level 7 modules).

2. Exemptions from the Policy

Where assessment methods are automated (i.e. the answers are machine or optically read), or in quantitative assessments in which model answers are provided to the marker, these assessments are exempt from this policy.

3. Models of Moderation

Colleges will be expected to employ one of the forms of moderation indicated below and will also be expected to employ an arithmetical check that the calculation and transcription of marks is correct. (Note the method of moderation may vary according to the nature of the assessment).

a. Universal Double Blind Marking of the whole cohort

The first marker makes no notes of any kind on the work being marked and the second marker examines the script/dissertation/directed independent learning submission as it was submitted by the student. Both examiners record their marks and feedback separately and then compare marks and resolve differences to produce an agreed mark. The agreed mark and feedback from both markers may only then be released.

b. Universal Non-Blind Double Marking of the whole cohort

The first marker provides feedback for the student on the assessment and the second marker assesses the work with this information known. No actual marks are disclosed; or marks are, for example, written on the back cover of an examination book. Second markers may be required or advised not to take into account the first marker’s marks in determining their own marks, and will be required to resolve differences in marks for all cases, or within defined ranges, as part of their second marking responsibilities. The provision of written comments by the first examiner makes second marking easier by guiding the second marker.

c. Moderation of the entire cohort as Check or Audit

The first marker provides feedback for the student and awards a mark. The role of the second marker is to check that first marking has been carried out correctly, that mark schemes have been properly applied, and that the total mark is arithmetically correct. The first marker leaves a clear trail to be audited. The purpose of second marking is to check on standards for all work and may be extended to reviews or thorough second marking of selected work e.g., fails, marks just below the lower boundary of a class, or firsts.

d. Moderation by sampling of the cohort

The second marker samples work already first marked, with feedback for students and marks attached, in order to check overall standards. This may be used where first markers are less experienced, where there are several first markers and consistency may be a problem or where unusual patterns of performance are expected or observed. It may lead to more extensive marking if problems are detected. The second marker may be the arbiter in such cases or may be responsible for alerting the examiner(s) with overall responsibility for the module. It is recommended that the sample of work for second marking is drawn from assessments marked as fails, borderline, marks just below the lower boundary of a class, or firsts. Please see the guidelines on the sample to be submitted to the External Examiner for a recommended sample to be included for moderation purposes.

e. Partial Moderation

Any of the above may be applied to particular types of marks e.g., fails, firsts, or borderlines.

4. Resolving Differences Between Markers (Third Marking)

Whatever method is used for moderation there must be a method of resolving differences between markers. These are as follows:

  • discussion and negotiation between the two markers on all differences;
  • discussion and negotiation between the markers on specified differences e.g., for relatively large differences, fails, firsts, borderlines or differences across degree classes.  If a size criterion is used its value or range of values should be agreed and specified;
  • taking the mean of different marks: this may be done for all differences, for relatively small differences or differences within a degree class, or where both marks are clearly above or below the pass fail line or above or below limits for compensation. It is recommended that where differences straddle critical boundaries the differences should be settled by discussion and negotiation;
  • resort to a third marker. This should be an additional internal examiner.

Differences between markers cannot be left unresolved.

5. The Role of the External Examiner in Moderating

External Examiners, at both the undergraduate and taught postgraduate level should act as overseers of the moderation process only, and NOT as second markers or moderators themselves. Colleges should appoint a third marker in the case of dispute or go outside the College/University to appoint a second marker for directed independent learning work if necessary. It is incumbent on the College to identify any difficulties that might occur in second marking of directed independent learning submissions early and must ensure that anyone appointed to second mark who is external to the College is appropriately trained and has been provided with the appropriate marking criteria. (See the relevant Postgraduate Taught Masters Degree Regulations, Examination of Directed Independent Learning available in the Academic Guide.)

6. Issues to be Considered by Colleges in Determining their Moderation Practices

Where students follow modules in another College, the moderation methods chosen for assessment should be determined by the discipline. Students following the same module should be subject to the same moderation practices.

Suitable marking schemes must be provided for assessment on modules where moderation occurs.  It is expected that External Examiners see not only draft examination papers and other types of assessments which they normally have responsibility for advising on, but also marking schemes for such assessments. Where students’ work is double marked, both first and second markers should have equal information and guidance for their marking.

There should be clear evidence that moderation has taken place, either in the form of clear feedback for students by both markers, either added directly to the piece of assessed work, or by means of a separate feedback sheet.

Colleges should bear in mind the information needed to provide assurance that quality standards are maintained under the schemes of moderation which they use. College Learning and Teaching Committees should ensure that suitable monitoring of moderation takes place.

Colleges should ensure that the selection of markers meets acceptable teaching quality standards (e.g. postgraduate students should be mentored by an academic staff member who will oversee the marking process, in accordance with current Senate Guidelines, see the Guide to the Employment of Research Students which is included in the Other University Regulations section of the on-line Academic Guide).

Where full-time members of the academic staff (or their equivalent) are supplemented by others (e.g. postgraduates, research assistants or outside lecturers) in moderation schemes, full-time academic staff (or their equivalent) will assume primary marking or moderating responsibilities. Where markers are not full-time academic staff, they should be assigned duties compatible with their experience and capacities.

Moderation practices should be determined for the assessment(s) within a given module and should be discipline specific. The College which approves a module should also approve its moderation arrangements.

7. Criteria for Choice of Moderation Schemes

The following are criteria which should be taken into account in determining appropriate schemes of moderation:

The nature of the material being assessed
  • Whether material is qualitative or quantitative;
  • whether marking requires the judgement of the examiner or merely the checking of objective fact;
  • whether material is presented in essays or numerical answers;
  • whether questions and answers are structured or unstructured;
  • whether questions are multiple choice or open;
  • whether assessment involves short, discrete questions or questions which have a wide coverage.
The level of study of the module

The importance of objective second opinion increases for all assessment which contributes to the final degree classification or qualification outcome, e.g. for taught postgraduate programmes.

Resource considerations

Availability of suitable staff to act as markers; student numbers; deadlines.

The form of assessment

Conventional examination; other assessed work such as essays, projects, case studies, practicals, orals, presentations, individual or group work.

The norms for the discipline

With reference to the subject benchmark statement and the ‘normal’ practice in the same subject in other institutions.

8. Prescription of Minimum Acceptable Standards

While it is not appropriate for the University to lay down narrowly defined standards for moderation practice, some general minimum acceptable standards should be adopted, namely:

Decisions on the selection of moderation practices, taken by or approved by Colleges, when they approve modules, should be formal and recorded and should relate to the criteria set out above;

The moderation practices adopted within the University should be based on the following general principles. They should

  • seek to ensure accuracy and fairness in marking
  • be appropriate and acceptable to the discipline being taught
  • be suitable to the material being assessed
  • be suitable to the means of assessment being used
  • be clearly evidenced