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The QAA View

In Section 6 of the Code of Practice for the Assurance of Academic Quality in Higher Education, the QAA defines assessment as:

'a generic term for a set of processes that measure the outcomes of a student’s learning, in terms of knowledge acquired, understanding developed, and skills gained.'


  • Provides the means by which students are graded, passed or fail;
  • Provides the basis for decisions on whether a student is ready to proceed, to qualify for an award or to demonstrate competence to practise;
  • Enables students to obtain feedback on their learning and helps them improve their performance;
  • Enables staff to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching.

The three main forms of assessment are diagnostic, formative and summative assessment, and are defined by the QAA as follows:

Diagnostic Assessment – indicates a learner’s aptitude and preparedness for a programme of study and identifies potential learning problems;
Formative Assessment – designed to provide learners with feedback on progress and development but does not contribute towards the overall
Summative Assessment – measures achievement or failure in respect of a learner’s performance in relation to the learning outcomes of the programme
of study.

These definitions encompass many types of assessment at Warwick. Providing students with feedback on these different types of assessment requires a measure of flexibility of approach combined with a shared commitment to the development of student learning. This guidance draws on precept 12 of the Code on the Assessment of Students, which states:

Institutions should ensure that appropriate feedback is provided to students on assessed work in a way that promotes learning and
facilitates improvement.

In meeting the needs of students for feedback on their progress and attainment, institutions will need to consider:

  • the timeliness of the feedback;
  • specifying the nature and extent of feedback that students can expectin relation to particular types and units of assessment, and whether this is to be accompanied by the return of assessed work;
  • the effective use of comments on returned work, including relating feedback to assessment criteria, in order to help students identify areas for improvement as well as commending them for evident achievement.
  • the role of oral feedback, either on a group or individual basis as a means of supplementing written feedback;
  • when feedback may not be appropriate.’