Got your Exam Marks! Got your Exam Feedback?

Later today, you will have all received your marks for the year (if you haven’t had them already) – and I hope they’ve all gone well so you can look forward to the summer!

For many of you, you’ll be waiting on the results of those all-important exams that took place just a few weeks ago, but is receiving the mark enough for you to understand how you can improve in the future?

Feedback generally is a perennial issue for students, with Southampton being ranked 128th in the country for Assessment Feedback in the National Student Survey (2011). However, it seems that for exams in particular, there is a wide range of experiences for students across the University, especially around having access to exam scripts and comments. This problem comes from the fact that the Data Protection Act for Examination scripts is a little confusing, and can be interpreted in different ways, or can lead to highly bureaucratic processes.

There’s a range of possibilities, and I’m working with the University to develop a policy on how best to provide feedback. Just some of the options include:

  • Generic feedback to all students (including overall strengths and weaknesses, the distribution of marks, and good/bad examples of answers)
  • Publishing annotated model answers
  • Access to your exam script to read comments
  • Individual feedback on request (“surgeries”)
  • A lecture/seminar discussing exams that had been recently sat

We’ve recently conducted an audit of the University and how each Academic Unit provides feedback on exams – and I want to hear from you, what you think is the best way to learn and develop your academic skills?

Have a look at the examples below, and give your thoughts on what you think would work best for you, either by writing a comment or emailing me directly at

I’d also want to know whether you knew you were able to receive these levels of feedback – because a lot of students don’t necessarily realise they can look at their exam scripts if they ask. Should this process change?

  • Law – Access to scripts if you fail a module via a meeting with personal tutor
  • Management – You can formally request individual feedback before the end of March (Semester 1) and July (Semester 2). You may be provided with a group meeting.
  • Engineering programmes – Students can contact the Student Office to view their scripts. Individual feedback on exams is not normally given.
  • Health Sciences – Access to scripts on written exams upon request at the Student Office. Not for multiple choice or online exams
  • Archaeology – Each module co-ordinator will be available at a set time to discuss the paper if students wish to know more about their performance (3rd year handbook only)
  • History – 1st year students can collect their marked exam scripts from the Student Office. 2nd and 3rd years cannot [assumed to be because they count towards degree classification], but instead provide detailed feedback forms and coversheets
  • Modern Languages – Access to scripts and feedback, but by request.
  • Philosophy – Oral one-to-one voluntary meetings held in “Feedback Week”, as well as meetings at the start of 2nd and 3rd year with academic advisor to review feedback from the previous year.
  • Medicine – Generic feedback on cohort performance and strengths and weaknesses are placed on School website after examination.
  • Chemistry – Generic feedback provided to students via Blackboard, alongside model answers. Access to exam script available following written request to the Exams Officer – students are not given individual feedback, and are not normally expected to need to inspect their scripts.
  • Ocean & Earth Science – Generic Feedback given on Blackboard, and can receive further feedback if they approach the School
  • ECS – Can have access to the exam scripts, but only for 15 minutes, with no notes or photos allowed to be taken. No individual feedback is given.
  • Physics – Generic Feedback is made available on Web pages and in School Office, as well as model answers. Exam script access available on request.
  • Geography – Feedback available on Blackboard, and each student has a 15 minute meeting with their tutor (not module co-ordinator) with the scripts. Drop-in sessions also provided for certain modules.
  • Maths – Generic Feedback provided, with access to scripts and consultation with module lectures on request.
  • Psychology – Generic Feedback provided, and individual feedback available at the discretion of the instructor. It cannot be given to all students as a matter of course, due to the time-consuming nature of the process.
  • Social Sciences – Generic Feedback provided, with access to scripts and consultation with module lectures on request.

I’d love to hear what you think, even if it’s just about how we can best make students aware about their rights. Thanks, good luck for your results – and enjoy the summer!

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13 Comments on "Got your Exam Marks! Got your Exam Feedback?"

  1. Sasha
    22/06/2012 at 2:42 pm Permalink

    The option to get feedback in Law is a complete and utter joke – even if you get 41%, you’ve evidently done shockingly bad yet you still can’t get access to your exam script and absolutely no idea where you’ve gone wrong. Any way of getting this changed? Even feedback sheets for end of year exams would be nice – for all I know the examiner has just given whatever figure pops into their head when marking the script … and we don’t even have a true clue as to where they allocate marks! Any way of getting this changed for future years?

  2. Sasha
    22/06/2012 at 3:24 pm Permalink

    It’s something we’re definitely looking at – Law is one of the “worse” exam script access is done, and by reviewing all processes, we can make a standard University policy for all to adopt. Generic feedback sheets is another area which is very simple to do, and they have the data anyway as part of the marking system, so its just a little effort extra to give a summary of the good/ bad points of the questions people answered. So hopefully, by future years – it will be this year!

    Would you want individual feedback sheets as standard or upon request? If it was as standard, it would be harder to push for, because it’s an incredible amount of people who dont collect coversheets and feedback, so its a lot of wasted work for admin peoples. If it was upon request – that’d be easier, but then the difficulty is making students aware that they can request extra feedback.

  3. Sasha
    22/06/2012 at 11:29 pm Permalink

    From where I’ve talked to people in other subjects, even having the option of requesting a 15 minute slot would be highly beneficial – even if you are just seeing pages of ticks and crosses you can then gauge exactly where marks are being awarded.

    I don’t think you need to go down the route of individual feedback sheets – a lot of the time in Law, yet again, the tick-box system of 1-5 seems literally to be a case of the marker ticking whatever box they feel like at the time … and as this has been brought up with individual tutors time and time again and still nothing has changed. For example, there has been plenty of occasions where i.e. on clarity of argument, Person A would get a 3 and the comment “Very good” and Person B would get a 4 and an “Okay” comment. This tells you absolutely nothing, is of no help whatsoever in seeing where you can improve, and as certain tutors in the Law School seem to be more keen in dedicating time on their research rather than actually helping the students enhance the quality of the learning which we pay them to do, Individual Feedback sheets of any kind seem a complete waste of time in pursuing.

    I think that if you did introduce a system whereby you could request certain information, I think it would certainly be appreciated by the vast majority of Law students especially. Certain tutors over my time at University have been extremely unwilling to even look over one practice exam paper before an exam – & we only have exams once a year so it isn’t asking very much time at all. You don’t have a clue how to improve, and this is particularly true if you are on a borderline 2:1/1st. Personally, I would be more than hacked off if I was getting this sort of response if I was paying £9,000 fees as particularly in the Law School it seems that it is more research focused than actually focusing on the students, and this cannot be right seeing as we are paying them to be there.

  4. Sasha
    23/06/2012 at 2:57 pm Permalink

    I’ve been working with Callum on how to improve that this year – and this is really useful as well, I’ll make sure Stevie keeps the pressure up!

  5. Sasha
    Tom Steadman
    22/06/2012 at 3:46 pm Permalink

    ECS is a joke. I requested to view my scripts after January exams. It took well over a month to organise, and when I looked all there was on the paper were ticks and crosses. How can students be expected to improve and learn if they don’t have any help. How hard would it be for students to sit down with their tutors for half an hour and have some of the mistakes explained/have the opportunity to be explained.

    This is not helped by having very few opportunities to get feedback prior to exams, but that’s another issue.

  6. Sasha
    22/06/2012 at 3:52 pm Permalink

    As before with Law – this whole exercise was to root out the bad practice, and ECS is up there – but at least you get access to the scripts! Part of the University centralising how exam scripts are accessed means that they can manage the admin staff who are responsible for it – so if they’re slow, they can get in trouble.

    Again, the worry will be about having set times for students to come in, because invariably, they wont come – but if it was a request system (even with deadlines like in Management), then that would probably work quite well. Again, its just about making people aware that they can actually do this stuff, rather than assuming that because the University hasnt handed it to them that they cant get any more than that.

  7. Sasha
    23/06/2012 at 12:38 am Permalink

    In my experience a lot of people in ECS know about the ability to access the scripts, but don’t as the end result is pointless due to the lack of feedback, basically the only thing it allows you to do is check your examiner can count, not a factor when you are wondering why you didn’t pass/got a low mark!

  8. Sasha
    23/06/2012 at 2:58 pm Permalink

    Duly noted – I said a similar line of argument about why people didnt do online module evaluations in ECS, because there was no seen outcome… Although hopefully if that data is published, it might provide an incentive! I’ll make sure Arinze keeps up the pressure next year as Academic President for ECS

  9. Sasha
    22/06/2012 at 4:18 pm Permalink

    Quality of feedback depends on the tutor. I’ve had great tutors who explain anything and will talk through things with you at topic. But I’ve had others who are simply more concerned with how little time they can waste dealing with you. For my recent dissertation I emailed my tutor for 3 weeks wanting feedback and only got it when the exams officer emailed her. When I went in she didn’t have my dissertation, couldn’t remember it in any useful detail and told me she was ‘sorry’ I disagreed with or didn’t understand her ‘clear’ feedback. Very dissatisfied. But she has technically done nothing to complain about.

  10. Sasha
    22/06/2012 at 4:50 pm Permalink

    Well this is where ticking boxes isnt really good enough – and now that there is a clear line management system, this issue can be raised and dealt with regarding expectations as well as provisions. I’ll raise that with your Academic President specifically as well to discuss with the Head of department, so thanks for saying!

  11. Sasha
    30/06/2012 at 4:22 pm Permalink

    Ocean and Earth Science – feedback not given on blackboard but individual feedback usually very detailed (if debatable in terms of mark scheme)… The problem here is the lack of mark scheme/model answers, rather than the feedback given. Nonetheless, feedback was often not received before 2nd assignment set.

    As for Geography… well… I had a bad experience due to a lack of tutor but, even when appointments were had, I rarely saw any marked exam scripts (even in final year). Coursework feedback was usually detailed (lecturer dependent) but often too late (as in, not received before next piece complete)… As for exams, I’ll never know why I got the results I did and that’s particularly frustrating. The office is not as efficient as the one at the NOC and yet it deals with fewer students.

    Something else (separate topic) to work on is seminars… Geography say they have seminars and tutorials and yet I didn’t really experience this at all. Oceanography were better as classes were smaller and guest lectures were well advertised… In addition, staff mostly had an open door policy, compared to Geography, where most staff have 2 office hours a week…

  12. Sasha
    30/06/2012 at 4:23 pm Permalink

    What I was trying to say in the above is that there appears to be a lack of standardisation…

  13. Sasha
    01/07/2012 at 10:16 am Permalink

    Thanks for that – it was what I was trying to highlight and get people to say what they think is best. It’s difficult, because different cohort sizes means not everyone can get the same with the ease (with regards to small classes), but processes for reviewing feedback and exams, and timeliness of it all – should all be standard. Thanks for your personal insights, I’ll liaise that with the SOES and Geography Presidents so that they know too!

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