Moderation guidance

Guidance on assessment moderation. Includes: what moderation is, when it is required and who is responsible.

University regulations on moderation

University requirements for moderation are set out in Regulation 31 of the Taught Assessment Regulations:

Taught Assessement Regulations (Academic Services website)

Moderation is intended to ensure that assessment outcomes are fair, valid and reliable, that assessment criteria have been applied consistently. There is discretion for Boards of Examiners to determine the exact means of moderation that need to be appropriate for the discipline and the type of assessment (including credit weighting). Boards of Examiners need to be able justify their choice of moderation type and their approach to standard-setting.

Regulation 31 Moderation and standard-setting states that:

The marking of all components of assessment must be subject to moderation in a way that is appropriate to the discipline, the nature of the assessment, and the credit weighting of the component of assessment. Boards of Examiners can apply standard-setting processes to the marks of assessments, provided that the choice of standard-setting methodology is defensible.

When is moderation required?

Moderation needs to be done in time for External Examiners to review the process. Where moderation leads to changes in marks, grades or feedback then the original marker should be included in the moderation discussion. Moderation is required for all components of summative assessment. University of Edinburgh regulations for moderation are flexible and recognise that moderation should be appropriate to the subject area, the type of work being produced, and the credit weighting of the work. Single items of assessment worth 40 credits or more must be double marked. See Regulations 31.1 and 31.2 below:

31.1  Moderation occurs before External Examiners review the operation of the marking and internal moderation process. Forms of moderation include sampled second marking, double-marking, and checking the operation of computer-based assessment. Any single item of assessment which is equivalent to 40 credits or more must be double marked.

31.2  Moderation may result in recommended mark or grade adjustments (including scaling of marks) and associated changes to feedback for a specific component of assessment. The purpose of any mark or grade adjustments is to ensure final marks for all students more accurately reflect performance against the learning outcomes on the relevant Common Marking Scheme. No changes can be made to marking without the original marker’s knowledge. Where possible, any changes should take place in discussion with the original marker. Mark or grade adjustments may be made before or after the release of provisional marks to students. Where there are concerns about the appropriateness of marks for a whole cohort, any method of adjusting or scaling marks should be applied fairly to all students in the cohort. It is unlikely to be appropriate to adjust the mark for an individual student in isolation. Marks or grades may be adjusted by simple addition or subtraction, multiplication by a factor, or the use of another method of scaling deemed appropriate by the Board of Examiners. Boards of Examiners must keep clear records and publish explanatory information to students about any scaling that has been applied on a cohort basis.

Maintaining records of the moderation process

As Boards of Examiners need to be able to defend their moderation decisions if required it is important that records are kept. This is not limited to instances where grades are altered but includes decisions where marks / grades remain unaltered after moderation. This can be seen in Regulation 31.3:

31.3  Records of the operation of the occurrence and the outcome of the moderation processes must be kept. Records must show the rationale for decisions taken, including any decision that marks or grades should not be altered.

Who is responsible for organising and supervising moderation?

There is a shared division of labour across different levels: School, Boards of Examiners and Course Organisers.  Boards of Examiners are responsible for determining the form of moderation for each component of assessment, and for ensuring the appropriate operation of moderation processes. This includes assessments across related courses (eg: Honours courses within a subject area) to ensure assessment criteria are applied consistently. While Boards of Examiners decide the forms of moderation, Course organisers are responsible for organising and managing the moderation processes for their own courses. Schools have responsibility for ensuring moderation and standard setting methods are included in the Statement of Assessment. This is a requirement of Regulation 14 of the taught Assessment Regulations:

Regulation 14 of the taught Assessment Regulations

This can be seen in Regulation 31.4-5 and 31.7 below. For more information on standards setting see Regulation 31.6 also below.

31.4  Boards of Examiners are responsible for determining the form of moderation for each component of assessment, and for ensuring the appropriate operation of moderation processes. Course Organisers are responsible for the organisation and supervising of the marking and moderation processes for their courses’ assessments.

31.5  Boards of Examiners are responsible for reviewing marking and moderation arrangements, and the outcomes of students’ assessments, across related courses (for example, Honours level courses in a subject area) in order to ensure that assessment criteria have been applied consistently.

31.6  Standard-setting is the process whereby decisions are made about boundaries or ‘cut-points’ between the marks or grades of candidates. It is separate from any process of retrospectively scaling or adjusting marks, following moderation. Any standard-setting process must aim to ensure that students’ results reflect the learning outcomes they have achieved and that the assessment is fair. Standards can be relative or norm-referenced (taking account the performance of candidates), absolute (defining minimum levels of competence) or a compromise between these two approaches.

31.7  Schools need to state what practice each course uses for internal moderation, and (where relevant) the methods of standard-setting, in the Statement of Assessment (see Regulation 14).