When designing and setting assignments staff should have some concept of the notional time required by a student to complete the assignment.
Previous discussions have tended to focus on word limits as a measure of assessment load, however this is an inappropriate measure. For example, a 2000-word essay may be identified as being more work than a 500-word summary of a research article, however, the knowledge, understanding and student effort required to summarise a research article may be the same, if not greater, than the student effort required to write a 2000-word essay.
The following guidelines are therefore based on student effort as a measure of assessment volume (indicated by an estimation of the time required by a typical student to produce the work) enabling a more appropriate quantification of student workload and therefore enabling equivalence across modules.
When considering a 15 credit point module, the total hours associated with the module is 150hrs. The contact time for the module must be considered:
e.g. Class contact = 44hrs
Independent study = 106 hrs
If the module is weighted 50% exam:50% coursework, then the independent study associated with each component should be divided between the two elements i.e., 53 hrs each.
For the coursework, we can consider that half the independent study time is related to reading and understanding leaving approximately 25 hrs devoted to directed coursework assignments.
For example, the module described above may have 2 assignments worth 20% each and a progress test worth 10%. The time guidance regarding student effort could be 10hrs for each of the assignments and 5 hrs for the test.
The following table has been produced to give examples of assessment loading.
Table 1: Assessment loading
Independent Study Hours
Hours related to Exam
Hours related to CW
53 – half of which is directed
53 - all of which is directed
Coursework element (Weighting % of module)
2 assignments (20% each); 1 test (10%)
Assignments 10 hrs each; Test 5 hrs
Time allocated to coursework elements
2 assignments (40% each)
1 test (20%)
Assignments 20 hrs each; Test 10 hrs
The above table provides examples of assessment loads for 15 credit point modules. It is to be used as a guide to aid in the development of module assessment. There will obviously be debate as to whether one student would spend 10 hrs doing an assignment whereas another student may only spend 3 hrs and we recognise the diversity of the student body. However, we are trying to provide guidance to students to give them an indication of how long we think an assignment should take. Module teams should agree on appropriate time expectations for assignments which should then be stated within the assignment information on module sites.
e.g. “We would normally expect you to spend approximately 10hours on this assignment in addition to your regular independent study on this module”
In addition to summative assessment, formative assessment should be incorporated into the module and could be in the form of quizzes, progress tests, writing exercises. The time taken for formative assessments should be considered when determining the student effort for the whole assessment diet.