Assessment Types in Higher Education

1st November 2019

Jack is from West Sussex and studied Physical & Sport Education at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. During his degree, Jack got involved with a range of additional activities, which included volunteering in schools, working in the childcare industry and helping to organise events for local children.  Upon completing his degree, Jack started work as a Higher Education Engagement Assistant at Hepp.

Universities are often thought of as institutions that can only be attended by students who are well-suited to taking exams. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Considering the types of assessment on different courses can be pivotal, not only to the application process, but to your whole higher education experience.

Prior to my degree, I attended a local college close to the village I grew up in. My first year was spent studying AS Levels, which were assessed through exams. My tutor suggested studying a BTEC qualification in my second year, which introduced a deviation from the previously ever-present exam-based assessments. This was the first time in my educational journey that exams were not the means by which my grade was calculated; instead, it was decided through a series of coursework assignments. For someone who wasn’t a fan of exams, this was perfect, and it gave me an appetite for different assessment types.

I then had the experience of visiting different universities’ open days and hearing the wonderful news that on all of the courses I was interested in, a variety of assessment types would be available rather than just exams. Although courses may have the same title from one higher education institution to the next, they may not all be assessed in the same way. Perhaps through design or perhaps through coincidence, the decisions I made led me to a course with only one exam throughout my entire three year degree. Instead, I was assessed through a range of practical assessments, essays, presentations and portfolios.

One such portfolio – possibly my favourite assessment from my time at university – involved teaching a series of Physical Education lessons to a class of 7-9-year-olds at a local special school (a school for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities), analysing the successes (and potential failures) of the lessons, and writing a portfolio with recommendations for running similar lessons.  This portfolio, the quality of the lessons themselves, the way in which the lessons were taught, the recommendations, and the research I collated when designing the lessons all contributed to my final grade. Although this is a specific example from my course, it’s common for higher education courses to be assessed in innovative, non-traditional ways.

If you’re worried that going to university, or studying any higher education course, will involve numerous exams, don’t be put off. Read each course description carefully and make sure you attend an open day to find out more about assessment types. Researching different courses and their assessment made a huge difference to my decision about higher education, and ultimately meant I made the right choice for me!

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