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This QAA Collaborative Enhancement Project posed a critical enquiry into what is termed the ‘mysterious quotients’ of commonly used undergraduate assessment terms and phrases.


The maintenance of national standards across the higher education sector relies upon alignment by each higher education provider of their local standards with the descriptors set out in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.

Concerns around a lack of consistency and a perceived trend towards grade inflation has resulted in the Advance HE Degree Standards Project which provides professional development for external examiners in their role of safeguarding national standards, and promotes opportunities for the calibration of standards through social moderation activities between academics. 

However, a sector-wide shared understanding of the language of assessment and standards amongst academics does not automatically apply to students - for them, this language often remains unintelligible.

It is important for students to understand how the national standards are applied in the context of their discipline and programme. What must they do, and ‘what does good look like’ in relation to the assessments they are asked to undertake?

The project team conducted extensive field research including surveys, interviews and focus groups with staff and students to inform the development of a toolkit to support dialogue, transparency and shared responsibility in the assessment processes.

How to make best use of the toolkit

The focus of the toolkit is encouraging dialogue around the language used in assessments, between staff, staff and students, and among students.

The toolkit offers you an opportunity to interrogate your practice and support students via a series of prompt questions at key stages of the assessment and feedback process (design; introduction of assessment brief to students; marking and giving feedback) - these form a cyclical process with opportunities for reflection and enhancement throughout.

Toolkit: Making the language of assessment inclusive

Publication date: 19 Jan 2023

The aim of the toolkit is to:

  • reduce student anxiety over assessment terms
  • lessen staff time dealing with queries and complaints
  • decrease the likelihood of inconsistency in assessment standards
  • reduce awarding gaps
  • increase the use of more accessible and inclusive language
  • provide improved transparency around assessment
  • increase NSS scores on assessment and feedback
  • provide a collective understanding of the standards used for assessment by staff and students. 

Complementary resources

In addition to the toolkit, you can download access the following resources:

PODCAST [Part 1]

In the first part, we look at:

  1. drivers for the project
  2. the mystery behind mysterious quotients
  3. challenges within assessment for staff and students
  4. the how of the project and emerging themes.
PODCAST [Part 2]

In this second podcast, we speak to staff and students to cover key aspects pertaining to:

  1. the student as partners approach
  2. cross-institutional partnership - opportunities and challenges
  3. the intended vision for this project.

Project lead:

University of the West of England

Project partners:

University of Hertfordshire, University of Brighton and University of Greenwich

Other Collaborative Enhancement Projects

QAA supports a number of projects every year, covering a range of topics and interest areas. Each is led by a QAA Member, working in collaboration with other members institutions. You can find more information on all projects, and access resources and outputs, on our website.