Students Staff

Rules of assessment

Rules of assessment are the rules, principles and frameworks which the University uses to calculate your course progression and final results:

Guidance notes

  • Reassessment of a module

    If you fail a single module the rules of assessment allow you to be reassessed in a single module, so in most cases reAssessment in a single module would be offered.

    For undergraduate students, you are permitted up to three opportunities to undertake the Assessment for a module. For postgraduate students it is up to two opportunities. In both cases however, if you simply do not attempt an examination or do not turn up, then you may not be offered the reAssessment attempt (if you do not attend any of your examinations, then you are likely to be required to withdraw from the University). It is up to the Board of Examiners to decide whether or not a student is reassessed.

  • Capping of marks

    Your module aggregate mark will probably be capped (marks limited) if you have to take reAssessment. The capping of marks (ie limiting the maximum possible mark to a pass mark) is what happens if you are given a re-Assessment opportunity.

    For undergraduate students, the 'cap' is at the pass mark, which is 40. For postgraduate students, the pass mark and the cap are at 50. However, if your reAssessment is regarded as a 'first-sit' attempt because you had extenuating circumstances, then the marks will not be capped.

    Capping is only applied to the module aggregate mark, and not to the reassessed assignment or exam itself.

  • Core, compulsory and optional modules

    Each module you take will have a different status in your course, which determines whether you must pass it. You will also be required to pass a minimum number of credits to proceed or graduate. You can find details of the status of your modules in section C of your programme specification via myEssex.

    Core modules

    When a module is 'core' within your course structure, it means that the module must be taken and passed for you to either progress to the following stage, or pass the course. No failure can be permitted.

    Compulsory modules

    A compulsory module must be taken (attempted) but there might be limited opportunities to proceed or be eligible for an award if you fail it. The rules of assessment give details.

    Optional modules

    An optional module is where the course structure permits students to choose a module from a list. It is treated in the same way as a compulsory module: it must be taken (attempted) but there might be limited opportunities to proceed or be eligible for an award if you fail it. The rules of assessment give details.

    You should always take a holistic view of your course/award requirements. Just because a fail in a compulsory module is permitted, it does not mean that you can fail all of them and still progress. You will still need the minimum number of credits to proceed / for the award. Passing all core modules is required in addition to the requirement to pass a given number of credits.

    Your modules

    To find out which modules are core, compulsory or optional in your course, you should refer to the programme specification. You may also find this information in your departmental student handbook.

  • Having your marks checked

    If you suspect there is a problem with your marks then you should speak to your relevant department or school, where they can check if there was an administrative error in the recording of marks.

    There is no process to request that an exam script be remarked. This is a check for administrative issues only.

  • Impact of extenuating circumstances on your marks

    You will not get extra marks you hand in an extenuating circumstances form. Boards of Examiners are not permitted to "impute", make up or guess marks that you might have achieved, even if you think you might have done better.

    Boards use other methods to take into account extenuating circumstances, such as permitting further reassessment opportunities for uncapped marks. Furthermore, a Board may accept your extenuating circumstances as valid and serious, but decide not to take any action because it might not be appropriate to do so in your particular circumstances.

    Boards are looking for clear evidence that your performance has dropped from your normal standard due to your extenuating circumstances. This might not be evident when they look at your marks.

  • Failing your course

    If the Board of Examiners decide you have to withdraw with immediate effect, this means that unfortunately, you have not passed enough credits during the year in order to progress to the next stage of study or graduate, and that you are not being offered any further reassessment opportunities and have failed the course. You will be informed if you are eligible for another award (we call them ‘exit awards’) such as a Diploma or Certificate of Higher Education, or PG Diploma or Certificate.

    There are places that you can go to for advice and support on what to do next, such as SU Advice and your Student Services Hub.

  • Challenging the decision of the Board of Examiners

    If you believe you have grounds to challenge the decision of the Board of Examiners, then you are permitted to make an appeal.

    You should use the appeal process when you would like to challenge final results, such as a degree class. Undergraduate students may 'Consult with the Dean' in cases where you wish to challenge a progress decision (such as being required to withdraw or repeat the year, or undertake reassessment). There are very limited grounds for making an appeal and a strict process, including deadlines, so you should read those carefully or seek advice from SU Advice before submitting an appeal.

  • Queries about award classifications from students who have previously graduated

    Graduates from previous years

    If the classification of your award does not appear to be correct against the published rules of assessment, you should note that your degree classification, both at undergraduate and taught postgraduate level, would normally be based on the rules of assessment at the time that you undertook your course.

    If for instance, you graduated in 1998, then the currently published rules will not have applied to you. In the case of taught postgraduate students, for example, the award of a 'merit' over a standard pass did not exist for most departments prior to 2007. Therefore, even if your marks would be in the merit range under the published rules, you would not have been entitled to a merit because the rules could not be retrospectively applied and the decision would have been based on what was available at the time.

  • How your degree class will be calculated

    The rules which explain how your degree class will be calculated can be found in the undergraduate or postgraduate Rules of Assessment documents for your particular course and year.

    It is important that when looking at the rules of assessment, you make sure that you are looking at the set of rules which apply to you. The rules of assessment documents for undergraduate students are divided into sections by type of course (eg three year degree) and by stage (year). The rules for "award classification" are usually found at the end of the documents on the rules of assessment pages.

Undergraduate guidance notes

  • Marks you need to pass a stage (year)

    The relevant rules of assessment documents contain this information. You should refer to the sections about 'progression' which are specific to the stage that you are in. To pass a stage of study you need to obtain a minimum number of credits at the required level. Credit is awarded by passing a module at the required level (pass mark).

    Important: You should note that although the University has a generic set of rules for undergraduate and postgraduate students, there are also variations to those rules which are course specific. For example, as well as passing a module with a mark of 40 overall, you may be required to pass the exam or coursework with a minimum mark also. You should make sure that you check if you have any such variations for your course which you can find in Appendix A of the undergraduate rules of assessment. If you do not meet these additional requirements you may not be able to pass the stage or to graduate.

  • Extenuating circumstances

    Your difficulties will only be taken into account if you submit an extenuating circumstances form by the published deadline. The Board(s) of Examiners considers all submitted forms and evidence.

  • (Law only) Modules needed for a qualifying law degree

    If you fail a particular module it may affect your chances of having a qualifying law degree (QLD). In order to obtain a QLD students must pass the ‘foundations of knowledge’ subjects. The subjects are typically the topics covered in your compulsory modules, except Jurisprudence.

    If you would like to know what these are speak to someone in the School of Law. However, you can still obtain a law degree without it being a qualifying one for the purposes of a legal career in England and Wales. It would still be a valid academic qualification.

    You can also refer to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for further information on their requirements.

  • Failure to meet award requirements

    If you fail your degree having reached the end of the final stage, you may still be able to get an award for the credits you have passed. The University offers diplomas and certificates as awards to students who have not met the requirements for their registered honours award, but have met the requirements of another award.

    Diplomas are the most common awards given to students who leave/fail near the end of their three- or four-year course.

  • Getting advice on reassessment options

    The Board of Examiners may give you more than one choice of reassessment. There are several sources of help and advice available to students provided by the University and the Students’ Union. SU Advice and your Student Services Hub are good places to start. You can also speak to your academic department.

    You must make your decision on reassessment by submitting your request online, and by the published deadline.

  • Additional requirements to pass a stage

    If you have failed the stage, but don’t understand why because you have a mark of 40 in each of your module aggregate marks and a stage mark of 40, it is likely that you have additional rules of assessment requirements for your course that you have not met. For example, you may need to obtain a minimum mark in both the coursework and the exam for specified modules.

    You need to look at Appendix A of the undergraduate rules of assessment for your stage of study which will show any additional course requirements that you may not have met.

  • Repeating the stage and exam resit options

    If you have been told to repeat the stage following the examination period in May/June, then it is probably because you have failed more than 60 credits. The only viable alternative is to take re-sit examinations without attendance (possibly with coursework depending on what you failed), which would mean intermitting for the stage and returning only to do the exams. Although this would save you money on tuition fees and other associated costs, it does mean that your module aggregate marks would be capped at the pass mark and you will not be able to attend tuition.

    If you would like to have an alternative type of reassessment rather than repeating the stage, then you should “consult the Dean” by completing and submitting the appeal form.

  • Failing reassessment

    If you are in the unfortunate position of having failed reassessment, then you may be offered further reassessment. This reassessment could take different forms depending on the time of year that you took the reassessment, and how many credits you failed. For example, in a typical situation where a student failed reassessment in September, then the next reassessment opportunity would be in the following May/June examination period (or January for some departments). You will be told after the release of results, whether or not you are given another chance at reassessment.

    There are limits to the number of assessment opportunities a student may be offered. Undergraduate students can only be offered the chance to undertake assessment up to three times for a module. Furthermore, there is an additional restriction that students must complete a full-time undergraduate degree within the length of time their course takes as standard, plus a maximum of two years. This means that a student might not be able to have a third attempt at a module if they have already taken too many additional years during the length of the course.

Postgraduate guidance notes

  • Marks needed for a pass, merit or distinction

    The rules of assessment documents set out the requirements for a pass, merit and distinction, applicable to your course.

  • Check for additional pass requirements for your course

    Some awards have a variation to the rules of assessment, and they are displayed as separate documents in the rules of assessment. It is important to check whether there is an approved variation for your course so that you are clear about the requirements to pass.

  • Failing your course

    If you fail your course, you are not able to repeat it. The rules of assessment for postgraduate taught awards only allow reassessment for up to a maximum of 60 credits worth of modules for taught masters degrees. The second attempt is at the assessment only and does not include repeating (attending) the module.

    The Board of Examiners will inform you if you are eligible for reassessment (by having met the minimum requirements as set out in the rules) once it has considered your marks. For further information on second attempts, you should read the rules of assessment applicable to your course.

  • Failing your dissertation

    If you fail the dissertation it is possible that the Board of Examiners will permit a resubmission of the work, provided that you meet the criteria as set out in the relevant rule in the rules of assessment. Alternatively, if you have obtained enough credits in your taught modules, you may be eligible for another award such as a postgraduate diploma or certificate.

  • Condoned modules

    The rules of assessment state that students may have failure in a non-core module condoned, where they achieve a mark of between 40 and 49 and a taught course average of 50. However, in that situation credit is not awarded. This means that although you would have been permitted to continue on the course and may still be eligible for your award, that module will not provide you with credits towards your overall course. Your transcript will show that you have not been given the credits for the module.