Code of practice on setting and moderating exam papers

Departments must ensure that they have effective procedures for setting and moderating exam papers.

This requirement could be met in the following ways:

Setting achievable deadlines

Set achievable deadlines at the beginning of the exam paper setting process to ensure that members of academic and administrative staff have enough time to thoroughly carry out their duties and responsibilities. For example:

  • setting a realistic timetable for setting, moderating and checking of examination papers
  • beginning the exam paper setting process as early as possible
  • reminding staff of deadlines for setting and moderating papers
  • advising staff on study leave to prepare exam papers before the deadline to allow sufficient time for moderation
  • ensuring that if a member of staff fails to meet a deadline that procedures are in place to make those responsible aware of the situation and the potential repercussions

How to set exam papers 

Ensure that the paper setter is fully aware of how they should set their exam papers, by when, and in what format they should be submitted to the relevant administrator. For example by:

  • providing the paper setter with clear and timely information
  • encouraging paper setters to compose a set of guidelines as they write their exam questions, to help to uncover potential problems, particularly with mathematical questions
  • encouraging all non-native English speakers to liaise with a native English speaker before submitting their exam paper for moderation
  • encouraging all new and/or probationary staff to discuss their paper with a more experienced colleague before submission
  • submitting all exam papers electronically via Box and following the latest guidance from the Exams Office (below)
  • advising paper setters not to send any material via e-mail or shared networks
  • requesting that the paper setter provides a marking scheme; answers to numerical questions, indicative essay answers, and an outline of how learning objectives have been examined, in addition to the exam paper

Moderation and scrutiny of exam papers 

Ensure that arrangements are in place for the moderation and scrutiny of exam papers, to consider the consistency of standards, presentation and accuracy with which an exam paper has been set. For example:

  • scrutinising exam papers at an internal meeting by a group/panel of academics, that ideally consists of four to six academics and an administrator
  • considering the consistency of academic standards and presentation, and checking for overlap between questions both within an exam paper, between exam papers for different modules, and between exam papers and coursework
  • considering whether:
    • the questions assess the stated learning outcomes
    • the questions are properly structured and clearly expressed
    • the questions are clear and not ambiguous
    • the paper makes it possible to distinguish across the full range of ability
    • questions are appropriate in length and difficulty, and given the marks allocated to them
    • the marks/questions add up correctly
    • the correct statement for the year appears on the rubric
  • carrying out an internal review of their exam paper setting process at the end of the summer examinations to help enhance policies and procedures in light of current experience.

Final check 

Once an exam paper has been moderated internally and externally, departments must carry out a final check to ensure that the exam paper has been thoroughly examined in terms of standards, presentation, factual and numerical accuracy. This requirement could be met in the following ways:

  • carrying out a final proof reading exercise for all exam papers. For example:
    • asking a member of the administrative staff to read through each exam paper carefully to ensure that the questions and page numbering are correct and follow a cumulative sequence
  • appointing a dedicated member of staff who is responsible for checking that a department’s internal moderation procedure has been carried out effectively, and that the exam paper has been set and moderated accurately. For example:
    • appointing an Exam Co-ordinator, who checks exam papers for errors, liaises with the paper setter and attends all internal meetings
    • appointing the Chair of the internal meeting as the dedicated member of staff who is made responsible for verifying that the requirements of the meeting(s) have been carried out
    • ensuring that the exam paper is signed off by paper setter and/or Exam Co-ordinator
    • a member of academic staff, normally the Module Supervisor, must sign the exam paper submission checklist indicating that the paper is correct and final. The exam paper should include the Module Supervisor’s name
  • during the examination period departments must ensure that the paper setter, responsible for the relevant exam paper, is available in the event that a query is raised on their paper. If a member of staff is away on leave, a contingency procedure must be put in place to ensure that incidents are resolved quickly and easily. This requirement could be met in the following ways:
    • providing the Examinations Office with a list of contact details for each paper, including an alternative name and number for each exam paper in the event that the paper setter is unavailable
    • asking the paper setter to be available by phone at least fifteen minutes before the exam and up to an hour after the exam for individual needs
    • if the paper setter is only contactable via the Departmental Manager, the Manager should ensure that they are able to contact the relevant member of academic staff
    • keeping all exam papers and model answers in a folder that is kept secure, but accessible to both administrative and academic staff for consultation
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