Diversity in assessment

Extended writing tasks

In many departments, extended writing tasks are still by far the most commonly-used method of assessment. In fact a study by Brown and Glasner (1999) found that 90 per cent of UK undergraduate degree awards were based on marks from written examinations and tutor-marked essays and reports.

One reason for their popularity is that essay questions and report briefs are easy to construct, and can be re-used or adapted by departments from year to year. A disadvantage of such tasks, however, is the time required for marking, as well as the ease with which students can predict likely topics and plagiarise from work completed by former students - or even buy assignments that are written to order.

Students often complain that they are unsure of what makes a good essay, report or other written assignment and that they are ill-prepared for what is expected of them. Tutor controlled access to anonymised examples can be helpful, and can provide an opportunity to raise awareness of plagiarism and academic honesty.