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Access to HE Diplomas are graded using a scheme which has been designed to accommodate the flexibility of the qualification, so that it can be applied to all Access to HE Diplomas, whatever their subject or structure.

The sections of the Grading Scheme detail the common requirements, reference points and assessment regulations that define how grading judgements are made, as well as the process for the award of grades.

For students registered before 1 August 2024

The Grading Scheme that was last published in September 2020 continues to apply for students registered on an Access to HE Diploma before 1 August 2024.

Grading Scheme Handbook, Section D: Moderation and Standardisation

Publication date: 03 Dec 2018

Grading Scheme Handbook, Section E: Student Results and Awards Boards

Publication date: 03 Dec 2018

For students registered after 1 August 2024

In July 2023, we published an updated Grading Scheme which will apply to students registering on an Access to HE Diploma after 1 August 2024. Find out more about the changes.

Grading Scheme Handbook 2023, Section A: Introduction and Summary

Publication date: 18 Jul 2023

Grading Scheme Handbook 2023, Section C: Using the Grading Standards in Assessment

Publication date: 09 Aug 2023

Grading Scheme Handbook 2023, Section E: Addendum

Publication date: 24 Aug 2023

Grading Scheme Handbook 2023, Section B: The Grading Standards

Publication date: 25 Jul 2023

Grading Scheme Handbook 2023, Section D: Moderation and Standardisation

Publication date: 28 Jul 2023

Access to HE Grading Scheme Toolkit 2023: Integrated Assessments: A Brief Guide

Publication date: 14 Nov 2023

Access to HE Grading Scheme Toolkit: Understanding Assessment and Grading for the Access to HE Diploma

Publication date: 14 Nov 2023

Access to HE Grading Scheme Toolkit 2023: Converting Assignment Briefs to Meet the Requirements of the Revised Grading Scheme

Publication date: 19 Oct 2023

Access to HE Grading Scheme Toolkit 2023: Grading Scheme Summary Diagram

Publication date: 19 Oct 2023

Access to HE Grading Scheme Toolkit 2023: The Three Grading Standards

Publication date: 19 Oct 2023

Key changes between the Grading Schemes

  • There will be three grading standards which will be applied equally to all units and across all assessments.
  • A grade can only be determined upon completion of all unit learning outcomes.

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The following FAQs provide an initial response to questions you may have about the changes to the Grading Scheme.

Due to the range of Diploma structures currently approved by AVAs and the allocation of Grading Descriptors to units/Diplomas the work required to ensure that all Diplomas meet the new Grading Scheme will vary from AVA to AVA. AVAs are developing their guidance and processes for managing the changes required and will make this available for providers/centres in due course.

Q. What are the three Grading Standards?

A. Knowledge and understanding, Subject specific skills, Transferable skills

Q. How were these Grading Standards developed and tested?

A. The three Grading Standards were initially developed in collaboration with 43 Access to HE Diploma practitioners. These were then tested by over 150 practitioners drawn from across all AVAs and from different subject sector areas, using materials from the different subject sector areas. Results from the testing are quoted in some of the FAQs below so that you can see what your colleagues experience was in using the revised Grading Scheme. All answers given had to be justified with a comment, it was not possible to simply answer yes or no, so we have captured any queries and questions and we will be addressing these in the guidance and toolkits we are issuing.

Q. Does the new Grading Scheme mean we have to change the way we assess or just the way we grade?

A. Assessment will continue to be based on a student meeting the Learning Outcomes of a unit, through meeting the requirements of the Assessment Criteria, therefore demonstrating that the award of credit may be made by an AVA. Once a student has achieved the credits, and therefore has passed the unit, the Grading Standards are applied to identify performance above that of a Pass.

Q. Will I still be able to grade individual assignments in a multi-part assessment unit?

A. Grading will only take place at the level of a unit once a student has passed the whole unit. Three grade indicators will be given for each unit, one for each of the three Grading Standards and the overall grade will be determined using the median of the three grade indicators.

Q. What does it mean to “apply all three equally to all graded units and across all assessments”?

A. With just three Grading Standards you will not have a choice of which you use; all three must be used for all units. In multi-part assessments it is not permissible to designate, for example, assignment one to assess Knowledge and Understanding and assignment two to assess Subject Specific Skills and Transferable Skills.

Q. Can just three Grading Standards be used across all subject areas?

A. Yes, they can because each of the three Grading Standards were developed with practitioners to ensure a comprehensive set of sub-components which you can choose from to tailor the grading to specific subjects and to specific types of assessment.

Q. How easy or difficult is the new Grading Scheme to get to grips with?

A. 76.5% of practitioners testing the Grading Scheme reported that they found the three Grading Standards easy or very easy to apply and 73.8% said they found it easy or very easy to distinguish between P, M and D. Others reported that with practice it will become easy.

Q. Will the new scheme work across the entirety of my subject?

A. 88.8% of practitioners testing the Grading Scheme reported that the Grading Standards would work across the entirety of their subject area.

Q. Will we be able to continue to use existing assignments and assignment briefs?

A. 86.4% of practitioners testing the Grading Scheme reported that the Grading Standards would allow for use of existing assignments. However, you may need to review these to ensure students have the opportunity to meet the selected sub-components of the revised Grading Standards. The guidance you give to students in the assignment briefs will need to change in the light of the revised Grading Standards.

Q.  Are exams/time constrained assignments still possible under the new Grading Standards?

A. Yes, exams (or time constrained assignments) are still facilitated under the new Grading Standards. As with all assignments you will need to choose appropriate sub-components of the Grading Standards for the type of assignment being set. As an example, a unit that is assessed by a closed book exam the sub-component “adheres to academic conventions” is unlikely to be applicable as the student wouldn’t be referencing in this assignment.

Q.  What happens if a student hands in one assignment late in a multi-part assessment unit?

A. In this case the whole unit will be capped at Pass because it is not possible to grade or cap an individual assessment. This is only for students who hand in late and have not requested an extension or applied for extenuating circumstances. Both routes are available to students to avoid the penalty of capping at a Pass.

Q.  What happens if a student fails one assignment in a multi-part unit?

A. The student is entitled to the normal resubmission opportunities and if the (re-submitted) assignment meets the learning outcomes this will be included in the evidence for assessment of the unit (in other words the unit will not be capped).

Q.  What feedback/feedforward can we give to students on individual assignments?

A. As grading will only take place once a student has passed a unit you will not be able to provide any grade information for individual assignments within a multi-part assessment unit. There will be generic examples of the type of feedback/feedforward that can be provided on the QAA website in due course. For information 69.0% of practitioners testing the Grading Scheme reported that managing the change to holistic (unit) assessment and grading did not present an issue.

Q.  What help is there to support us through these changes?

A. AVAs will be updating their normal guidance for providers/centres and will be arranging training and information sessions. On the QAA website there will be updated versions of the Grading Scheme handbook, the Tutors Quick Guide to Grading and a new publication of a Students Quick Guide to Grading. There will also be a range of generic materials such as a guide to transitioning assignment briefs, exemplar assignment briefs, and examples of feedback/feedforward to students taking multi-part assessments.
All support materials are being developed to help address the queries raised by practitioners and we will be adding to our FAQs throughout the year to ensure that further queries are responded to.

Q. Will every Diploma impacted by this change need to be revalidated in advance of delivery in August 2024? 

A. Talk to your AVA who will advise about the process to be followed in your case. The process will differ depending on whether your units and/or Diploma are AVA designed or provider/centre designed, but either way your AVA will find the most efficient way to implement the change. There will be a process in place to ensure changes made meet the revised grading scheme and that any changes to units or assessments do not impact the overall quality and academic integrity of the named Diploma. If other changes are being proposed to named Diplomas (that is, changes proposed by AVAs or providers/centres) for 2024 it may be necessary for a full revalidation to take place. All scheduled revalidations for 2024, as part of the normal cycle of revalidation, are expected to go ahead as planned.

Q. What are the arrangements for continuing students who started their course before 1 August 2024?

A. QAA will issue separate guidance to AVAs for managing continuing students (that is, students who started their Diploma before 1 August 2024) before the end of August 2023. AVAs will consider the guidance in their own specific context to determine the most appropriate way forward and will communicate with you in due course.


The Grading Scheme is part of QAA Recognition Scheme for Access to Higher Education, which also includes the Diploma Specification and Licensing Criteria