What do we mean?

Summative assessment should allow students to demonstrate that they have met the unit’s intended learning outcomes, and should provide opportunity for them to showcase their best learning.

 Further information

For more detailed information on the requirements for assessment design and implementation, refer to QAA UK QUALITY CODE, ADVICE AND GUIDANCE: ASSESSMENT

Embrace Assessment for Learning curriculum principle

Online Summative Assessment

Although we are unable to directly mirror on-campus assessment processes and conditions in an online environment, there are some key considerations that will help us to provide an effective online summative assessment experience for both staff and students.

A key question to ask now is:

What type of online summative assessment approach would be most suitable for you and your students both pedagogically and practically? 

Summative assessment should provide students with the opportunity to showcase their best learning, and this is no different for summative assessments that are carried out onlineSimilarly, we must also ensure validityequity and reliability of online summative assessments.

Note: For more information on the process of embedding formative assessment throughout your teaching, see the Assessment for Learning curriculum principle page.


When choosing and designing your online summative assessment, reflect on whether the type of assessment chosen (e.g. essay, presentation, open-book exam) and its design (i.e. the specific task that students complete and the associated marking criteriawill allow students to demonstrate that they have met the unit’s intended learning outcomes. 

Everything that will be assessed (knowledge, understanding, and skillsshould be made explicit to students, hence why sharing of assessment marking criteria is very important. 

For example, will your proposed online summative assessment test students’ knowledge, understanding and skills as detailed in the intended learning outcomes? Or might it instead inadvertently or implicitly be testing students’ ability to use a specific piece of software – something that is not an intended learning outcome, nor a feature of the assessment criteria?


Summative assessment should be designed and implemented flexibly so as not to disadvantage any individual or groups of students: 

Every student has an equal opportunity to demonstrate their achievement through the assessment process, with no group or individual disadvantaged. In designing assessments, the needs of students are considered, including those studying at different locations, from different cultural/ educational backgrounds, with additional learning needs, or with protected characteristics. Assessment procedures and methods are flexible enough to allow adjustments to overcome any substantial disadvantage that individual students could experience. QAA

This means you should consider: 

  • the timeframe of the assessmentso as not to disadvantage students in different time zones both when they are completing the assessment and also when they are submitting the assessment output. 
  • ensuring assessments are designed to be completed using only the technologies students have available, including considering any impact of intermittent or low speed internet access. For example, will completion of your assessment require students to access a specific piece of technical software, and does the University have an appropriate license for using it as you envisage? 
  • student Disability Action Plans (DAPs) and any implications your students’ needs might have on the feasibility of your assessment approach. Consider whether to build choice into your assessment, for example, the type of assessment (oral presentation versus poster) or the choice of question to answer. Choice can often help mitigate against a range of issues. 
  • adopting a course-wide approach to assessment that avoids bunching of summative assessment deadlines helping to avoid over-burdening of students and staff. 


Setting and marking of assessments should be done consistently across the course, and between departments, to ensure standards are met. Remain aware of: 

  • Aligning with national qualification frameworksincluding Subject Benchmark Statements and FHEQ level descriptors. 
  • Any accreditation requirements your course has and how summative  assessment will support these. 
  • The role of other stakeholders in ensuring the quality of the summative assessment approach you adopt. External examiners are critical friends, able to offer feedback and input on your proposed assessment approach, alongside other departmental and institutional colleagues. 
  • Working with colleagues to review the assessment and its assessment criteria to ensure a shared understanding of the purpose of the summative assessment and the assessment criteria. This will help to establish consistency between the judgements of different assessors, leading to parity for students 
  • Academic integrity by designing assessment to “minimise opportunities for students to commit academic misconduct, including plagiarism, self-plagiarism and contract cheating. Wherever possible, a suitable variety of assessment methods should be used, to minimise the availability of opportunities for students to incorporate plagiarised work by another author, or previous work by the student, either within the level of study or across levels.” QAA 


Updated on: 03 July 2020