Assessment of Courses Policy


This policy document applies to all staff members and students in undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses.

Note: separate policy documents govern the assessment of postgraduate research and doctoral students.


To set out the principles which underpin assessment of taught courses at Waipapa Taumata Rau, , University of Auckland (the “University”); including assessment design, roles and responsibilities, language, feedback to students, marking, academic misconduct, quality assurance, and grievances and appeals.

Note: this policy should be read with the Assessment of Courses Procedures (the “Procedures”) and Assessment of Courses Guidelines.


Assessment is a core academic activity and an essential component of the learning process. Its main purposes are to encourage student learning, to support judgements about student achievements, and to monitor the effectiveness of the learning environment.


Assessment design

1. Assessment must promote learning and should support students’ capacity to develop and apply their knowledge and skills through tasks which require the understanding, analysis, synthesis and/or creation of new information, concepts, and/or creative works.

  • Assessment tasks will be authentic and/or appropriate to disciplinary and/or professional contexts.

2. Assessment structures must utilise formative and summative assessment to enhance students’ learning experiences.

  • Formative assessment provides students with opportunities to develop their knowledge. Students must receive feedback on formative assessments to help them understand how to improve their future performance. Formative assessments do not need to contribute to the final course grade.
  • Summative assessments are designed to measure a student’s performance or level of achievement during and at the end of a course. Feedback may be provided for summative assessment tasks, except for examinations (see section 8, Examination Regulations).

3. Assessment, where practical, should take account of new technologies, including digital modalities for all stages of the assessment process.

4. Assessment, where practical, should be designed across the ‘whole of programme of study’ to ensure assessment tasks are demonstrably coherent and aligned to the University- and programme-level Graduate Profiles, and with course-level learning outcomes.

  • Assessment design must take account of workload for students and staff. Assessment tasks should reflect expectations of different levels of achievement at different levels of study.
  • Programmes must ensure that assessment allows for confidence that individual students have attained the capabilities of the Programme Graduate Profile and course-level learning outcomes.
  • For undergraduate programmes this would normally be met through a proportion of overall programme assessments that is controlled assessment.

Note: in programmes where students may choose multiple pathways for progression, faculties have discretion to determine the ways in which assessment design across the programme is as holistic as possible.

5. Assessment in courses must be designed to support the student learning experiences.

  • Assessment practices must be carried out in a manner that is inclusive and equitable.

Note: see Te Ara Tautika | The Equity Policy and the Inclusive Learning and Teaching of Students with Impairments Guidelines.

  • Assessment tasks must be designed to develop students’ awareness of academic integrity and their ability to act in accordance with the University’s Student Academic Conduct Statute.
  • There must be diversity of assessment to ensure students have the opportunity to demonstrate achievement of the University Graduate Profile Capabilities .
  • Group assessment tasks must be demonstrably fair and clear, and the assessment of these must authentically evaluate the performance or level of achievement of individual students as well as the achievement of the group as a whole when a group task exceeds a defined threshold (see Procedures).
  • Where different levels of courses are taught concurrently the courses must be assessed separately, with different assignments and/or examinations set for each level using methods and standards appropriate to the level of enrolment.

Note: see Concurrent Teaching Policy.

Roles and responsibilities

6. An academic head must ensure that the academic unit meets the quality standards required by the University for assessment of student learning; this includes the nomination of course directors, examiners and assessors.

  • A programme leader may be delegated the responsibilities of an academic head for courses offered in a specific programme.

7. A programme leader must oversee the assessment design in the programme to ensure assessment tasks are demonstrably coherent and aligned to the University- and programme-level Graduate Profiles.

8. A course director must oversee design of assessment processes to ensure that assessments are relevant and aligned with learning outcomes; that the assessment complies with all aspects of policy; and that:

  • The structure of assessment, including type, weightings and dates, is available to all students at the start of semester.
  • For individual assessment tasks, the purpose, criteria and standards are clearly communicated to students.
  • Appropriate support and supervision are provided for those in a marking role.
  • Assessment materials and marking guides are available and accessible.

9. A course coordinator is responsible for the administration and organisation of the course and its assessment acting in conjunction with, and under the supervision of, the course director.

Note: course director and course coordinator roles will often be combined in one person; where the course coordinator is referred to hereafter this refers to situations where the roles are held by separate individuals.

10. The Associate Dean Learning and Teaching or nominee must ensure that all academic teaching units in the faculty comply with this policy and consistently meet the standards required for assessment of student learning.

11. An examiner for undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses is responsible for:

  • Setting course assessment(s), including the preparation of assessment tasks, questions and related administration.
  • Marking course assessment(s), including supervising other markers such as tutors and teaching assistants.
  • Ensuring that marking guides are accessible to all course examiners and the assessor.
  • Certifying the final grades.
  • Confirming the quality and fairness of results through participation in the examiners’ meeting.

Note: the course director is simultaneously an examiner and counts as one of the examiners for the course.

12. An assessor for undergraduate or postgraduate taught courses is responsible for maintaining appropriate and adequate academic standards for all aspects of the assessment process, and provides an independent quality review of assessments and results.

  • An assessor must be appointed for any undergraduate or postgraduate taught course which has only one examiner.
  • Where required at undergraduate level, an assessor is normally appointed from within the University but may be external.
  • Assessors for postgraduate Bachelors Honours, Postgraduate Diploma and Certificate and Masters courses should normally be external to the University, but there may be instances where internal appointments are necessary because of expertise in the field or where the course is subject to a process of external moderation.
  • The appointment of an overseas assessor is appropriate where there is no suitable assessor in New Zealand.
    Financial considerations preclude an overseas assessor being invited to visit New Zealand.
  • Course directors, course coordinators and examiners cannot be appointed as assessors in the same course.

13. A moderator, where appointed by Procedures, must undertake a review of the content and grading of examination papers and/or (a sample of) other assessed work.
14. Assessment Services manages, maintains, coordinates, advises and reports on assessment processes and examinations, and provides academic units with support and guidance (see Procedures).

Language of assessment

15. Assessment is conducted in English except where:

  • The use of another language is a required part of the course.
  • Students with an appropriate level of language fluency have made provision to use te reo Māori in assessments, for coursework, tests and/or examinations.

Note: see Assessing Te Reo Māori in Coursework and Examinations Procedures.

Feedback on assessments

16. Feedback to students must specifically address performance against the learning outcomes and criteria of the assessment task.

17. The timing of assessment components, where possible, must consider student workloads and coherence of learning progression, and must provide adequate opportunities for students to utilise feedback to improve future performance.

18.Students must be provided with opportunities for constructive feedback on their formative assessed work in a timely manner to facilitate understanding and improvement.

  • Where a coursework task or test result is relevant to the students’ preparation for the final examination, it must be marked and available to students by the end of the last teaching week of semester (except where an approved test is conducted in the last teaching week of semester).

19. In peer, self or group- assessment exercises teachers must provide guidance to support students’ understanding of their responsibilities when evaluating their own and others’ work.

Examinations for taught courses

20. Where examinations are specified as part or all of the summative assessment for taught courses these are prepared, approved and conducted according to the Examination Regulations and the procedures.

Marking assessment items

21. Assessment is criterion-referenced, i.e. judgements about the quality of students’ performance must be made by reference to explicit or predetermined criteria and standards.

22. Coursework assessment and tests must be marked against the standards and criteria set for each assessment task.

23. Marks and grades awarded must align with the University’s grade descriptors and course requirements.

  • A pass mark is 50 percent or more.
  • A minimum level of achievement on specific assessment tasks may be required in order to achieve an overall pass grade for a course.
  • Plussage may be applied to determine an individual student’s grade for a course if approved by the Associate Dean Learning and Teaching.

24. Education Committee must approve a course to carry an ungraded pass/fail result and may do so where:

  • The course involves a substantial amount of practical work (a minimum of 60 percent) which is carried out over a period of time in which the student is expected to acquire knowledge, understanding and skills to a required standard. A fail indicates that the student’s performance is below the minimum level of competence.
  • The course is a required part of a programme but carries no points.

25. Adjustment of marks for coursework, tests and examinations in taught courses may be undertaken where it is evident that the assessment criteria and standards have not been consistently applied in an individual assessment task.

  • Students affected by any such adjustments must be advised as to the rationale for adjustment of marks; and
  • Academic units must keep records of adjustments to marks. The Associate Dean Academic will report on these instances to Education Committee.

Academic misconduct

26. All instances where there is evidence of academic misconduct in undergraduate or taught postgraduate coursework, tests or an examination must be dealt with under the provisions of the Student Academic Conduct Statute.

Quality assurance of assessment

27. Academic units must have documented processes in place to ensure the appropriate validity, moderation and approval of results for undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses, before finalisation of marks and grades.

28. Academic units must have a process to review and certify course outcomes, and processes for monitoring assessment standards and consistency in coursework, tests, and examinations (see procedures).

29. Items such as examination papers, marking guides, student marks/grades, and students’ completed examination scripts and other assessable work, are items used for the purposes of assessment. Such items must be managed and administered in accordance with this policy and the procedures.

30. Academic units must have processes to ensure the secure storage of assessment questions and records.

31. Academic units must retain coursework assessment and tests until the nominated period for collection of work, or resolution of disputed marks, has elapsed.

Grievance and appeal procedures

32. Students have the right to query an assessment process in coursework or in a test that they believe to be unfair. See Resolution of Student Academic Complaints and Disputes Statute.


The following definitions apply to this document:

Academic head means heads of departments, schools and other teaching and research units; or a delegate such as a programme leader.     

Academic unit means – for the purposes of this policy – a school, department, discipline, programme or other teaching unit.

Academic integrity means the honesty that is presumed when a student submits their work for assessment. It is a key foundation to being a member of the University’s academic community and rests upon shared values such as trust, responsibility, fairness and respect.

Academic misconduct means dishonest or inappropriate practices occurring in the preparation and submission of coursework, in a test, or in the context of University examinations

Assessment means the ongoing process of: establishing clear, measurable expected outcomes of student learning; ensuring that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve those outcomes; systematically gathering, analysing and interpreting evidence to determine how well student learning matches outcomes or expectations; using the resulting information to understand and improve student learning. For the purposes of this policy, assessment includes:

  • assignments during the teaching of a course, normally called coursework
  • practical, aural and oral work
  • written tests conducted under examination conditions
  • ongoing assessment of competence or performance
  • written (or performance) examination normally conducted at the end of the semester or year.

Assessor is responsible for providing an independent review of the quality of assessments and results in a course.

Associate Dean Academic is responsible for their faculty's academic programmes, overseeing quality assurance and providing policy and strategic advice on both new and current academic programmes and qualifications.

Associate Dean Learning and Teaching is responsible for the overall development of learning and teaching in the faculty, including providing policy and strategic advice to ensure that the faculty creates and fosters an environment that enables a positive student experience.

Assessment task refers to the various types of assessment used to assess a subject. They include but are not limited to student presentations, literature reviews, laboratory reports, essays, creative works, group assessment, peer assessment, self-assessment, online assessment, vivas, oral examinations, class quizzes, reflections, experiential activities, simulations, clinical experiences, practical exercises, performances, folio presentations and class participation, tests and examinations.

Authentic assessment means assessment that meets academic standards and prepares students for future learning in work and life is considered as authentic.

Controlled assessment is assessment conducted under conditions which enable examiners and assessors to confidently authenticate an individual student’s work.

Course coordinators are responsible for the administration and organisation of the course and its assessment acting in conjunction with, and under the supervision of, the course director.

Course directors are responsible for the overall design and management of the course to ensure that course design, assessment and delivery support learning outcomes and are aligned to the relevant programme graduate profile.

Coursework means assessment tasks managed internally and assessed within the course. This does not include examinations administered by Assessment Services.

Criteria means the properties or characteristics by which the quality of something may be judged.

Criterion-referenced means that judgements about student performance are based on pre-determined standards and criteria and linked to specified course learning objectives.

Diversity of assessment design provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate different aspects of their learning in a course. Diversity of assessment is normally achieved through discrete assessment tasks with different objectives and outputs; however, diversity of assessment may be achieved in courses with only two assessment tasks, or a single assessment task (where approved) if these are supported by formative assessments and feedback.

Examination means controlled assessment that is arranged by Assessment Services and invigilated.

Feedback means the provision of information in such a manner that students are able to improve their work, knowledge, or competence in later assessments.

Formative assessment means any assessment practice carried out early enough in a course with the purpose of providing students feedback that enables them to develop their learning. An important goal is to enable students to develop the capacity to realistically and verifiably evaluate the effectiveness of their learning strategies and outcomes. Formative assessment should also alert teachers to any aspects of the course or approaches to teaching with which students are having difficulties, and permit modifications that mitigate those difficulties. Formative assessment may be weighted or unweighted.

Grade descriptors mean the characteristics of performance for assessed items of work in taught courses. See: Grade Descriptors Policy.

Graduate Profile means a set of attributes attainable by graduates of the University of Auckland. These may be specified for programmes

Learning progression means the description of a continuum of skills, knowledge, and competencies within a course and across a programme that can be mapped to standards or qualities of learning outcomes.

Marking guides - for the purpose of this policy - include rubrics, assessment criteria, marking schemes, exemplars, criterion-referenced guides prepared for students, and any tool or scheme used to assist in the marking of items of assessment.

Moderation (for undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses) means activities undertaken to provide confirmation that assessment has been conducted reliably, fairly, and validly and that assessment scores or grades have been dependably calculated or awarded.

Plussage as defined by this policy is a method of calculating marks a student has gained in a taught course by counting either: an examination or test mark; or a combination of exam, test and coursework marks; whichever is to the student’s advantage. Additional requirements for eligibility for plussage may apply, including for example: a minimum result required in the examination; a minimum standard for completion of coursework; and/or attendance at laboratories or tutorials.

Note - an assessment arrangement where an agreed subset of coursework marks is counted towards the final grade (e.g. best eight of ten quiz results) is not considered plussage.

Programme leader means a programme director, major or specialisation leader, or an equivalent with defined responsibilities for a specific programme.

Standards are a definite level of achievement aspired to or attained.

Summative assessment means a judgment regarding each student’s level of achievement for any given assignment. The results of this type of assessment are generally expressed as marks, percentages, grades, or qualifications. Summative assessment may be defined as a measure of a student’s performance or level of achievement at the end of a unit of study.

Taught course means – for the purposes of this policy – all courses except stand-alone dissertation, thesis, research project, research portfolio or independent/directed study courses, or equivalents.

Teacher refers to an individual employed by the University on a full or part-time basis to provide instruction to students in taught courses.

Test means controlled assessment that would ordinarily be conducted in an invigilated setting at a specified time outside of the examination period, that counts towards the final grade of the course, and is time-limited.

Tutors include teachers teaching under supervision, such as Graduate Teaching Assistants and Teaching Assistants.

University means Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.

University Graduate Profiles means a set of attributes attainable by graduates of the University of Auckland.

Weighting (of assessment) means the percentage of the total assessment for the course allocated to an assessment task.

Key relevant documents

Document management and control

Owned by: Pro Vice-Chancellor Education
Content manager: Manager Academic Quality 
Approved by: Council
Date approved:  11 December 2023
Effective from: 1 July 2024
Review date: 11 December 2028