Assessment changes and no detriment

Find out about assessment changes relating to the 2019/20 academic year and how the principle of no detriment works.

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Common questions

Get answers to the questions you have.

Important: Your Safety Net may not appear on Sussex Direct until after the exam board has met and won’t be confirmed until this time.

How are assessments and exams affected by Covid-19?

You should continue to prepare for assessments in the usual way as all modules will be assessed remotely. There will be no face-to-face, invigilated exams on campus for the rest of the academic year. This means either in the A2 assessment period or the resit period in August.

How have my assessments been amended to take account of the industrial action and Covid-19?

The University has taken a number of steps to ensure that your assessments take account of the period of industrial action and the impact of Covid-19 on teaching and learning. These steps include:

  • Extending deadlines for assessment
  • Reviewing assessment tasks to ensure that they only test material that has been delivered
  • Converting formal examinations to alternative forms of assessment
  • Amending assessment types to an alternative method
  • Rescheduling assessments
  • Putting in place alternative ways of delivering the assessment

The University has put in place approval processes to scrutinise any changes to assessment to ensure that they are appropriate and continue to enable you to meet the learning outcomes of the module.

I was expecting to take formal exams in A2 – how will I now be assessed?

Your School is currently reviewing all examinations that were due to be sat in A2 and is replacing these with alternative types of assessment. The approach taken will depend upon the learning outcomes of each module, but we anticipate that your exam will be replaced with either:

  • A Take Away Paper (TAP) – this is an assessment designed to test you on your ability in a time constrained period to demonstrate the learning you’ve done over the course of the module, backed up by your research skills (information retrieval) and your academic writing skills. The TAP will be released to you via Canvas at the time and date stated in Sussex Direct. Once released you will have either 24 or 48 hours from the point of publication to complete the exercise. You are allowed to use web resources, notes and or books. You are not required to work for the full duration of the TAP – both a 24- and 48-hour TAP will have a notional ‘work-time’ of up to 8 hours.
  • An on-line Distance Exam (DEX) – this is an assessment where you complete a task or series of tasks under timed conditions at home. The assessment task will be available via Canvas and you will have a 24-hour window in which to complete the task that has been set. However, the expectation is that you spend only the time on the task equivalent to the original exam and required time for uploading/downloading. So where you were expecting to take a 2 hour exam, you should only take 2 hours on the new exercise. If you have Reasonable Adjustments that provide extra time for exams, you should expect to spend the time appropriate to your adjustment. You are not expected to work beyond the expectations of the assessment. The instructions for the assessment will usually guide you to an indicative word length where this is applicable. The date/opening time of the DEX will be available on Sussex Direct.
  • Either a computer-based exam (CEX) or a Multiple-Choice Question paper (MCQ). These assessment types will be available via Canvas. These types of assessment will be available for a set 24-hour window, but once you commence the task you will have a limited duration related to the original examination in which to complete it. Where you were expecting to take a 2 hour exam, you will take 2 hours to do the task. Some additional ‘administrative’ time will be added to the overall duration of the task to (for example) download the paper at the start of the time or upload your answers when you have completed the task. The dates for CEX and MCQ will be available on Sussex Direct.

For both DEX, CEX and MCQs the expectation is that you will not undertake additional research, refer to notes, access on-line resources or include references. We anticipate that you would prepare for these assessment types as you would for a ‘normal’ examination and rely on the knowledge you have accumulated during the module and through your revision.

  • Another form of assessment, such as an essay.

The dates and times for all your A2 assessments will be available on Sussex Direct and Canvas shortly.

I’m in a different time zone – how will the online exam (DEX, CEX, MCQ) format work for me?

These assessment types will be offered in a 24-hour period – either of no fixed duration, or a fixed duration. This will allow you to complete the exams at a suitable time, wherever you may be. The 24-hour period exists to allow all students to engage with the assessment no matter in which time zone you are living. To repeat, there is no expectation that these assessments should take longer than ‘normal’ examinations.

How will the changes to assessment affect my progress?

Our aim, as far as possible, is to make sure that you can continue with your studies, take your semester 2 assessments and progress to the next year of study. If you are due to complete your studies this year, we fully expect you to be able to do so.

I’ve heard there’s been a two-week extension for all assessments due in the A2 period

All students have been given a two-week extension for all A2 assessments. A2 assessments will now take place between Tuesday 26 May and Saturday 13 June 2020.

I am a Masters student – when will my dissertation be due?

The deadline for the submission of Masters dissertations/major projects has been moved back by two weeks. Check with your School for specific details.

What if my assessment type is not something that can be submitted online?

Wherever possible, your School is working to establish alternative forms of assessment that can be submitted online through Canvas.

If my exam has been turned into an online exam, when will it take place?

A2 assessments will take place between Tuesday 26 May and Saturday 13 June 2020. Dates for assessment will be available on Sussex Direct and Canvas shortly.

My exam has been turned into a Take Away Paper (TAP) – when will this take place?

Dates for assessment will be available on Sussex Direct and Canvas shortly.

I deliberately chose modules with exams, because I perform better in exams than course work – if my assessment has changed, will this be taken into consideration?

We know that some students choose their modules depending on the type of assessment. We work with detailed guidelines on the equivalencies between essays and exams.

Assessment Boards consider all student performance across modules at the end of each year. The Board will have all of your marks for assessments at its disposal, and will be considering the impact of these exceptional circumstances, including changes to assessment format.

I have extra time granted for exams – how will this be affected?

If you are taking a Distance Exam (DEX), you will have a 24-hour window in which to complete the task that has been set. The expectation is that you spend only the time on the task equivalent to the original exam. So where you were expecting to take a two-hour exam and you have, for example, been granted 25% extra time, you will add an extra 30 minutes to the expected time to complete the task; if you have 50% extra time you will add an extra 60 minutes.

If you have a Take Away Paper, a Computer Based Exam or a Multiple Choice Question exam, the additional time will be automatically added to the overall time for the assessment. You will be able to see this on both Sussex Direct and/or Canvas.

I have a Reasonable Adjustment that was granted before Covid-19 – does this still apply?

Yes. Appropriate adjustments will be made for undergraduate and taught postgraduate students who are eligible for additional specific provisions during examinations or assessments. We will ensure no student eligible for specific provisions within examinations or assessments will be disadvantaged.

Where on-line examinations are taken within a 24-hour time period with no fixed duration, this allows for students to take as long as they require within this period to complete the examination. The expectation is that such papers will take approximately the same length of time as the originally-planned examinations. Where examinations are taken within a 24-hour time period with a fixed duration, this duration will be adjusted to account for your Reasonable Adjustment, if this included additional time or rest breaks.

I have a disability and I have specific provisions for exams – how will these be impacted by online exams?

We are working closely with Disability Advisors and students on a one-to-one basis to address any challenges arising from the change in delivery of assessments.

I am worried the format of online exams might encourage cheating

For these online examinations the expectation is that you will not undertake additional research, refer to notes, access on-line resources or include references. You would prepare for these assessment types as you would for a ‘normal’ examination and rely on the knowledge you have accumulated during the module and through your revision. The online examination formats will not be invigilated.

Your work will continue to be submitted through plagiarism detection software and any concerns identified during marking will be considered via the University’s Academic Misconduct processes. Additional guidance for students regarding integrity in online examinations will be provided.

How will work be marked? Will consideration be given to the disruption faced through strikes and Covid-19?

No one will be marked more generously or harshly as a result of the disruption. All marking will continue to comply with the University’s rigorous marking and moderation procedures that are externally scrutinised. We have also expressed our commitment to your success through the introduction of a Safety Net policy which is designed to take account of the disruption during Semester 2.

How will marks for assessments taken in Semester 2 be reviewed and scrutinised?

At the end of the summer examination and assessment period, all results will be scrutinised at the level of each module and of each individual student at Module and Programme Assessment Boards (MABs and PABs). Throughout this process, our aim is to ensure the fairness and integrity of a University of Sussex award, as well as to support our students through this difficult situation in a way that allows them to progress or be awarded.

Under the current circumstances, we will be moving back the dates of these Assessment Board sufficiently to allow colleagues to undertake marking, to undertake thorough internal and external moderation and to enable us to make considered recommendations in all cases.

When will I receive my Semester 2 results?

Because we have moved all A2 assessment period assessments on two weeks, we need to move the assessment boards, which confirm individual module marks and progression and awards on two weeks from the dates previously published. This is to allow enough time to ensure that marking and the essential quality assurance arrangements, such as moderation by internal staff and by our external examiners can take place and that all marks can be carefully checked before the boards. Marks will be published as follows:

  • undergraduate finalists, Wednesday 8 July at noon
  • stage 2, Monday 27 July at 8am
  • stage 3, Monday 27 July at 10am
  • stage 1, Monday 27 July at noon
  • foundation year, Monday 27 July at noon.

I have a fail or sit from Semester 1 – when will I be able to do this resit?

The University took the decision in March to move all resits from Semester 1 to August 2020. Resit assessments from Semester 1 will take place between Monday 17 and Saturday 22 August 2020. Dates for assessment will be available on Sussex Direct and Canvas nearer to the time.

I have a marginal fail from Semester 1 – what will happen to this?

For Semester 1, marginal fails for undergraduates are 35-39%. For postgraduates, the range is 45-49%.

The assessment boards that take place in July will automatically compensate a marginal fail in up to 30 credits where the following criteria have been met:

  • You are an undergraduate student and you have achieved an uncapped stage mean of 40%
  • You are studying an Integrated Masters course and you have achieved an uncapped stage mean of 50%
  • You are studying a Masters course and have achieved an uncapped stage mean of 50% (not including the dissertation/major project)

If you meet these circumstances, the board will consider your overall performance and compensate your failed module(s). Where compensation is applied, the mark for the module will be raised to the threshold pass mark and you will not be required to take a resit in August.

Where you would normally have the choice of an optional resit because compensation has been applied to a Semester 1 module, this will still be available. However, we expect the number of students who may benefit from taking an optional resit to be smaller given the mark for the module will be raised to the pass threshold. Importantly, the mark achieved in an optional resit is the mark that stands.

Some courses have additional criteria for compensated credit, or do not permit compensation at all; this is normally because of professional body or regulatory requirements. Your course handbook will set out these restrictions if they apply.

If I failed an exam in Semester 1, will my resit be a formal exam on campus?

No formal examinations will take place on campus for the rest of this academic year. Your School will design a revised method of assessment that will enable you to demonstrate that you have met the learning outcomes for the module and which can be completed at home. You will be notified nearer the time what assessment you will be required to complete.

If I fail a Semester 2 module, when will I be able to resit it?

The resit period for Semester 2 modules is Monday 24 August to Saturday 29 August. You will be notified nearer to the time when and what you will be required to do to retrieve the failed module.

If I have a marginal or condoned fail in Semester 2 – what will happen to this?

The same process as above for Semester 1 will apply, except that optional resits will not be offered where a module is compensated (or condoned).

Sits, where there are accepted exceptional circumstances, will be offered as usual and this does not change the process relating to exceptional circumstances.

Optional resits will also continue to be offered where there are Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) requirements that a module be passed outright.

I have a trailed resit or sit from a previous year of study in Assessment Period 3 or 4 – will the safety net apply?

The safety net will not be applied to trailed assessments. This is because any safety net calculation would be at a different level to the assessment, and due to the original period of teaching (and assessment) not having been impacted by Covid-19.

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How will a No Detriment Policy work?

The No Detriment Policy (also known as the Safety Net) works on the basis of a set of principles designed to ensure that where possible, no student will encounter any detriment in the awarding of grades for semester 2 as a result of Covid-19. The Safety Net principles are as follows:

  • The Safety Net will only be applied once you have passed all of your S2 modules;
  • The Safety Net will be based on the mean achieved from the modules you took in Semester 1 (including the marks for any that you may have failed);
  • Marks for Semester 2 modules that are below your Semester 1 mean will be raised to the Semester 1 mean.

We are currently working in the background to ensure that assessment boards meeting in the summer will have access to detailed information for each student to apply the Safety Net and take this fully into account when determining progression and award decisions. We are unable at this time to answer questions from students on how the Safety Net will apply to their individual circumstances.

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Scenarios for undergraduate students

If you’re an undergraduate, these scenarios may help to show how the No Detriment Policy will work in practice and answer some questions.

Scenario one: What happens if I pass all my modules in Semester 1 (Autumn) and Semester 2 (Spring) 2019/20?

In this case the results from all of your modules in Semester 1 will be averaged (weighted accordingly for different credits) to produce a Mean Average (MA). This is your ‘safety net’.

For example, if you completed 4 modules in Semester 1 with module marks of 45%, 60%, 80% and 51% your ‘safety net’ would be 59% (the sum of the module marks divided by 4).

The exam board will then look at your results from your Semester 2 modules. If any of your module results have been passed but are below your ‘safety net’ they will be increased to your ‘safety net’. Any module marks above your safety net would remain as they are.

For example, if you pass your Semester 2 modules with marks of 60%, 50%, 45% and 65% and your safety net is 59%, the exam board would keep the module marks of 60% and 65% but increase the marks of 50% and 45% to 59%.

All of your Semester 2 modules need to have been passed for the safety net to be applied (see below if this isn’t the case).

Scenario two: Calculating the Safety Net – what happens if I didn’t pass all of my modules in Semester One (and didn’t have Exceptional Circumstances)?

In this case, the same process as above applies. All of your module marks are included in your safety net, even if they haven’t been passed.

For example, if your Semester 1 module marks were 45%, 60%, 80% and 31% we would include the module mark of 31% in the mean average calculation to give a safety net of 54%.

You would have a resit for the module that wasn’t passed, as usual, but your safety net would remain at 54%.

If you have no assessment marks in Semester 1, a safety net cannot be calculated or applied. The safety net is designed to take account of work done at time before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scenario three: Calculating the Safety Net – what happens if I had approved Exceptional Circumstances in Semester One and have been offered a ‘sit’?

In this case, your safety net would be recalculated after your sit/s (in August). This recalculated safety net would then be retrospectively applied to your Semester Two modules, where marks are lower than your recalculated safety net.

For example:

  • Your Semester One module marks were 45%, 60%, 80% and 31%.
  • You had Exceptional Circumstances for the module receiving 31% and have been offered one or more sit/s for this.
  • The module mark of 31% would be included in a ‘provisional’ safety net (54%).
  • After your sit/s in August you increase the module mark to 51%.
  • Your safety net is recalculated to become 59%.
  • This new safety net is then applied to your Semester Two modules.

Scenario four: What happens if I have modules that run over both Semester One and Semester Two?

If you have one or more modules that you started in Semester One but will complete in Semester Two (all-year 30 credit modules), the individual assessments that you have taken in Semester One will be included in calculating your safety net. These assessments will be weighted accordingly.

For the safety net to apply you will need to pass your year-long and any Semester2 only modules. For year-long modules you will also need to have passed your Semester 2 assessment. If you have more than one assessment in Semester 2 these would need to average out above the pass mark.

Your safety net (made up of your Semester 1 marks) would then be applied to your Semester 2 assessment (or Semester 2 assessment average, where you have more than one assessment).

  • How the safety net is calculated for year-long modules

    While we cannot calculate your individual safety net in advance (as this will be done at the exam board and individual profiles will vary a great deal) here’s an example illustrating how the assessments taken in Semester 1 are being weighted and then averaged out to create the safety net.

    Illustrative calculation: Semester 1 (4 x 30 credit modules)
    ModuleAssessment mark %Weighting
    A 72 1 assessment completed to date weighted at 35%
    B 60 1 assessment completed to date weighted at 30%
    C 65 1 assessment completed to date weighted at 30%
    D 54 1 assessment completed to date weighted at 50%
    Mean average safety net 62%

    This calculation is done by:

    1. taking the module credit (so, 30) and multiplying this by the assessment weight (e.g. 35). This gives a module assessment weight (for Module A this is 1050). This is done for each module, and the results are added together. This gives a semester assessment weight (4350 in above example);
    2. for each module, the assessment mark (e.g. 72) is then multiplied by the module assessment weight. The result of this is divided by the semester assessment weight. For Module A this would give 17.38. These results for each module are then added together (with the resulting sum rounded). This gives the Semester 1 safety net.

    Applying the safety net in the example above, Module A would have 65% of its assessment weighting in Semester 2. The safety net of 62% would be applied to this assessment (or the average of your Semester 2 assessments, if more than one). So, if the Semester 2 assessment for Module A has a mark of 53%, this would be increased to the safety net of 62%.

    The module mark would then comprise the Semester 1 mark (72%, weighted at 35%) and the Semester 2 adjusted mark (62%, weighted at 65%) to give a module mark of 66%.

Scenario five: What happens if I don’t pass one or more modules in Semester Two? Do I still get a safety net?

All Semester Two modules need to be passed for a safety net to be applied to any modules. However, if you are given a mandatory (required) resit for any module/s and this is passed then the safety net can be applied to modules that were passed in the first instance. This would be done at the exam board following the resit period.

For example, you passed all Semester One modules and have a safety net of 50%. However, you have not passed one or more modules in Semester Two with the following marks:

ModuleMark %
A 20
B 40
C 55
D 40

You then have a mandatory resit for Module A. No safety net is applied until Module A is passed.

You pass the resit for Module A, which is capped (as you don’t have Exceptional Circumstances) at 40% with no safety net. The safety net is then applied to give you the following marks:

ModuleOriginal mark %Mark after resit %Explanation
A 20 40

This module was capped at the pass mark (40) as a resit

B 40 50

This module was increased to the safety net (from Semester One)

C 55 55

This module remained the same as it is above the safety net

D 40 50

This module was increased to the safety net (from Semester One)

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Guidance for Masters students

Here’s how the safety net is calculated for postgraduate (taught) students.

The same principles and processes outlined above also apply for students on a full-time postgraduate taught course.

The safety net will not currently be applied to dissertations deferred into the 2020/21 academic year. However, we will review this if circumstances require further mitigation of assessments generally.

Your ‘safety net’ is calculated as an average of your Semester One modules. For example, if you have completed four modules in Semester One with module marks of 60%, 70%, 50% and 60% then your safety net would be 60% (the sum of your module marks divided by 4).

You are required to have passed all Semester Two modules and your dissertation for the safety net to be applied to any. As long as this requirement has been met, your Semester Two modules and dissertation will be increased by the exam board to your safety net level (where they are lower than your safety net).

For example, if you have completed five modules in Semester Two they could be calculated as follows:

ModuleOriginal mark %Mark following safety net %Note
A 60 60

Mark remained the same as it is equal to the safety net

B 65 65

Mark remained the same as it is above the safety net

C 50 60

Mark was increased to the safety net (from Semester One)

D 50 60

Mark was increased to the safety net (from Semester One)

E 70 70

Mark remained the same as it is above the safety net

Your Dissertation will also be covered by the safety net, and the mark for this increased to your safety net mark (if below your safety net and if all Semester 2 modules and dissertation have been passed).

In your first year, the safety net will be applied to your Semester 2 modules (as long as these have all been passed). Your safety net will be calculated, on the same basis as above, using all modules taken in Semester 1 of your first year.

If you’re studying a second year, the safety net will be applied to your Semester 2 modules and dissertation (as long as all modules and dissertation have been passed). Your safety net will be calculated using all modules taken so far throughout your course (from your first year of study and Semester 1 of your second year). We use all marks available as this provides closer parity with full-time students, but also additional quality assurance given the safety net calculation will be applied to your dissertation.

If you’re studying part-time, no matter whether you are in your first or second year, the process is the same as for full-time students.

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