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Course Design Blueprint

Assessment Workload


Consideration should be given to the planning and scheduling of assessments in order to provide balanced workloads across the students’ study time and to avoid over-assessment. As explored below, workload associated with assessments within a module is impacted by the size of the artefact being submitted (such as the word length of an essay or the duration of a presentation), by the amount of time students are expected to spend preparing for the assessment components, and by the complexity of the assessment tasks and their cotexts. 

An Assessment Loading Benchmarking tool (available below) has been produced to support teams in the exploration and review of student assessment workloads:

Course assessment loadings


The University expects all courses to adopt a consistent approach to assessment loadings that is cognisant with the benchmarking tool set out above, but is also aligned with subject based expectations and practices.  Course teams should seek to balance the assessment loads across their course modules in proportion to the credits and weighting associated with the assessment components. 

  • Assessment component workload: rather than simply considering the size (word count, duration) of a planned assessment component, the overall assessment load of a single assessment component should also take into consideration:
  • The amount of background research students will need to engage with in order to enable them to complete the assessment.
  • The number of different components that the students will need to gain an understanding of.
  • The ‘thinking’ time that is involved in problem solving and critical analysis
  • Time to design, plan and complete practical work, including allowing for mistakes and experimentation where pertinent.
  • Module assessment load: while it is simplest to think of a module’s assessment load as the total of the assessment component workloads, in reality there may be many other aspects to consider:
    • Where students are tackling a type of assessment component for the first time, there may be significant learning and development that will be required in acquiring the requisite skills and developing confidence. 
    • Where exams are to be completed, the student engagement in preparatory activity will vary greatly depending on the nature of the exam, and engagement with mock exams and previous exam papers can be a significant task.  Compared to preparing for multiple choice and short answer question based papers, preparing for long or essay based questions may require students to embark on significant practice and background research in preparation for the possible questions they have been guided to prepare for.  Similarly, where exams require students to prepare by completing a study and analysis of a complex case study, this may require significant time and energy.
  • Level and course assessment workload: many courses involve further demands on student’s time and effort that need to be recognised when determining the appropriate assessment workloads that should be set.  In particular:
    • Courses with significant periods in placement, particularly those where students are required to complete zero credited competency workbooks or portfolios, are likely to set lower overall assessment workloads within any levels including such placement requirements.
    • Courses which require students to spend considerable time developing and practicing technical, constructive, practical or creative skills will need to ensure that sufficient time is allowed for this key learning activity, and to avoid creating situations where students feel the need to start engaging with summative assessments before they have had sufficient time to develop their abilities in preparation for their engagement with the tasks involved.