Blog post – Reviewing grades and distributions

At this time of the semester, we are marking and grading students’ achievements against the learning outcomes in our courses.

UQ's Assessment Policy (PPL3.10.02) requires we use criterion-referenced assessment where explicit criteria and standards are used to judge the quality of each student’s performance to determine a grade (as opposed to comparing one student’s achievement with other students in the cohort, called norm-referencing).

We are required to make course assessment tasks substantially different from what was used the time before to maintain academic integrity. These changes can sometimes lead to surprises, such as students being allocated grades we suspect don’t match their level of achievement (higher or lower). It is important to moderate course assessment to ensure consistency of standards – not just within the current cohort, but also across semesters – and to grade assessment in accordance with UQ grade descriptors (see section 7.1.1 Numeric grade descriptors). This includes consideration of tasks, the standards used and the task weightings in our courses.

Reflecting on the grades students receive and the distribution of those grades should be embedded in our practice each semester.

What should you do if you discover something at odds with what you expect students to achieve in relation to an assessment task or as an overall grade for the course?

While you cannot change your tasks or standards during the semester*, you can apply these insights to improve course assessment, criteria and standards for future semesters.

Many schools (or program teams) have formal processes in place to reflect on course assessment and overall grading outcomes to inform and improve future practice. Even in the absence of these processes, you can always informally discuss course and assessment outcomes with academic colleagues and learning designers. Collegial conversations can be invaluable in identifying common issues as well as improving the integrity and standard of assessment for future cohorts.

In extreme cases there are provisions for changing grade cut-offs for the current semester with approval, but these cases should be rare.


All members of the UQ teaching community are welcome to contribute a blog to be published on the ITaLI website and shared in our UQ Teaching Community Update newsletter. Contact italimarcomms@uq.edu.au to contribute or for more information.

Last updated:
7 July 2021