Inclusive assessment

Assessment is a compulsory element of all programmes and is a useful structure to assess student’s knowledge and skills. It is important that assessment is inclusive and accessible to all students. The aim of this guide is to enable you to consider the issues around inclusive assessment. Assessment procedures should ensure that while maintaining academic standards, individual students are neither disadvantaged nor advantaged.

Assessment at Oxford Brookes University is governed by the following principles:

Constructive alignment

A well designed course aligns the learning and teaching methods and assessment to the stated learning outcomes. In the context of Equal Opportunities and Diversity, this means that providing achievement of the learning outcomes can be demonstrated, teaching and assessment methods should be as flexible as possible to best meet the individual learning needs of the student.

Reasonable adjustment

Reasonable adjustment must be made to any aspect of teaching or assessment that would substantially disadvantage a student in relation to their peers, unless this would compromise the maintenance of academic standards.


Unless there are sound defensible academic reasons for exclusivity curricula should strive to be as inclusive as possible. Striving for inclusivity should apply to all aspects of teaching, learning, and assessment, from avoiding the use of sexist language and English idioms to including appropriate international examples and contexts, and avoiding an inappropriately Anglo-centric curriculum. When designing or scheduling assessments, serious consideration should be given as to whether any student would be, or feel, excluded either by the subject content, the assessment methodology or the schedule, or whether any student would need alternative arrangements to be made.


Given that all forms of assessment could disadvantage somebody, it is recommended that programmes of study include a variety of different assessment methods. (Agreed at Academic Board 16 June 2004)

Choosing appropriate assessment

  • Are you able to offer students alternative methods of assessment to demonstrate the same learning outcomes? eg for a student whose first language isn’t English; for a student with dyslexia who has difficulties writing essays; for a student who is blind or deaf (is it reasonable for them to present their work in British Sign Language?).
  • Do you use a variety of assessment methods? eg examinations; in-class tests; multiple-choice questions; group presentations; viva voce examinations; course work; creation of audio-visual material; performance; reflective diaries; laboratory work.
  • Do your assessment questions enable students to demonstrate their understanding of issues by providing examples from their own experience?
  • Are your assessment questions inclusive? Do they refer to inclusive case studies? Do they perpetuate a certain view?
  • Rather than offering special examination arrangements for specific students can you offer an alternative assessment instead?

Timing of assessments

  • Consider the gaps between assessments.
  • Do students have to submit several assessments at the same time?
  • Can hand-in dates be staggered?

Preparing students for assessment

  • Ensure that students understand the content and method of the assessment. Some students will have no or limited experience of the type of assessments they have to undertake. Clear communication is essential, both verbal and written.
  • Provide information about assessments in alternative formats if needed eg on tape, on the School’s web pages.
  • Discuss the skills needed in academic writing eg how to structure an essay; how to reference; how to write an examination; how to discuss the literature critically.
  • Explain the concept of plagiarism. Some students may have studied in a culture where to copy literature is seen as a mark of respect.
  • Explain to students how marking criteria will be used to assess their work.

Preparing students for examinations

  • Familiarise yourself with the university regulations governing exams. There are a number of policies, procedures and regulations covering alternative assessment.
  • Explain procedures to students early in the module, and ask anyone who needs any alternative arrangements to contact the Exams Unit as soon as possible. This will be done for disabled students by the Student Disability Service. Now is a good opportunity to invite disclosure of disability.
  • Students who have requested alternative examination arrangements will be notified by letter at the end of Week 8. Encourage students to check that arrangements are correct for each exam.
  • If exam dates coincide with religious festivals, a student may request an alternative date.
  • If a student has two exams on one day, both with extended time, check that they do not overlap.
  • Reading time is now a compulsory part of the exam time. Explain to students how to make the best use of this time. They will not be admitted to the examination room during reading time.
  • Examinations are marked anonymously.

Reasonable adjustment in examinations

  • Dyslexic students who have registered with the Dyslexia/Specific Learning Difficulties Support Team are automatically entitled to certain arrangements:
    • A smaller exam room
    • Extra time of 15 minutes per hour of exam
    • Question papers on tinted paper
    • A rough book
    • A blue card to fix to their exam, alerting the examiner to mark it in accordance with agreed dyslexia marking guidelines.
  • Individual disabled students, and dyslexic students requiring other arrangements, should discuss their needs with the Student Disability Service, who will pass on details to the Exams Unit.
  • Special arrangements could include provision of a computer; an amanuensis; someone to read the questions aloud; rest breaks; alternative format question papers; an individual room.

Class tests

  • Class tests that count towards the overall assessment of a module are organised by the Module Leader, and it is their responsibility to organise the alternative arrangements that would be provided in examinations eg additional rooms, provision of computers, extra timing.

Assessment submission arrangements

  • Is it clear what the assessment submission arrangements are?
  • Is this information available in alternate formats?
  • Can the deadline be flexible to take into account individual student’s needs eg illness, effects of medication, longer hours of study required.

Marking work

  • Do the grading criteria for assessments require students demonstrate inclusivity in their work? eg the School of Health and Social Care use grading criteria which include elements related to inclusivity in terms of reading, language, use of case studies etc.
  • Mark for content, rather than language, since otherwise you may disadvantage students with dyslexia and students whose first language is not English.
  • Mark work accompanied by a blue dyslexic marking card according to the agreed guidelines.
  • Are your expectations congruent with the assignment brief and the grading criteria? eg do you expect a certain number of references to be used, without reflecting this in the assignment brief or the grading criteria.

Reasonable adjustments to non-examination assessments

Academic standards should not be compromised

Where possible a choice of adjustments should be offered where a student with a disability cannot perform the assessment as easily as other students. A lecturer might expect a reference list of at least 10 references in an essay. Blind students might have difficulty working through a large amount of books/journal articles. A ‘reasonable adjustment’ might be the student submitting 3-4 references or the lecturer offering key sources relevant to the assignment.


  • Evaluate assessments in terms of the experience for students. Consider any difficulties that may have arisen for students. Can you change or modify the assessment to prevent this from happening again?

Further information