4.1 The student assessment context at LSE

Students at LSE are expected to do two types of assessment during their studies. Class work or course work is submitted to the class teacher for formative assessment, to help the students develop their skills and understanding. This work may well be graded, to give students a feel for how they are progressing. (The National Student Survey identified the requirement for feedback to be provided as early as possible so that students can respond to it in future assessments.) But much more important will be the feedback you provide, which should help them to improve and develop - this is often termed "feed-forward" as it is future focussed. In addition, students are required to produce assessed essays and projects and to take unseen written examinations for summative assessment, designed to evaluate the student's current level of academic achievement (for grading).

Formative course work

Normally, GTAs will only be involved in marking course work assignments that are designed to help the students with their studies and to provide opportunities for individual feedback.

Below are examples of formative course work required by two different departments.

Introduction to Political Theory, offered by the Government Department

Students are required to write two 1,500 word essays in the MT and two 1,500 word essays in the LT. These essays will be due at the middle and end of each term - the precise submission date will be set by your class teacher. Extensions or departures from these submission dates are with prior permission only.

Titles for the essays are to be found on the class reading for each thinker. Students can prepare their own titles at the discretion of their class teacher - please seek permission BEFORE departing from the listed essay topics. The essay questions are designed to assess your understanding of the arguments of the thinkers covered - they are expected to be expository and critical.

All essays will be marked by class teachers and moderated by the Course Convener.


Economic Theory and Its Applications, offered by the Economics Department 

Class Work: The work for each week consists of one or more exercises taken from the textbook and some additional problems. Answers to exercises will be posted on the website throughout the year. You are expected to make a reasonable attempt at the classwork in advance of the class. In weeks 6 and 10 of LT written assignments are required. These assignments will be of similar scope and difficulty as exam questions. You are expected to be diligent about meeting the deadlines for submission. 

Class teachers should keep an accurate record of student grades and performance and include a summary of this information in their class reports (see Writing class reports in this section).

The Code of Good Practice for Undergraduate Programmes indicates (paras 3.7 and 4.4) that permission to sit exams may be denied to students who regularly miss class or fail to complete course work. You may wish to point this out to students. However, before taking students to task, do check whether there are good reasons for their apparently poor work record (eg some disability-related reasons such as hospital appointments, or particular personal and emotional difficulties). Depending on the situation, this could be done by talking directly with the student or, perhaps preferably, through your supervisor or the lecturer in charge of the course.

Marking of formative essays is an ideal moment to check that students are fully aware of referencing and citation practices, and know what they need to do in order to avoid accusations of plagiarism (for more on this, see A note on plagiarism in Section 3.6). Students will benefit from having this information in advance of preparing their first assignment. 

Summative course work

A growing number of courses include some in-course assessment as part of the summative assessment. This normally takes the form of essays, extended essays, dissertations, projects, and occasionally more practical assignments such as conducting and reporting small empirical or data analysis projects. An important point to note is that where students are working on formally assessed essays which count towards the final degree classification, you need to check with your department on the nature and extent of advice you can give the students. For example, many departments allow students to seek tutorial advice prior to getting down to writing, including advice on literature and format specifications, and possibly on the structure of an outline. However, many departments do not allow students to get feedback on draft essays that will be summatively assessed and on dissertations after the end of the Summer term. Very few undergraduate courses currently have formally assessed course work, but it is more and more common on MSc courses. For disabled students, it is also important to be aware of the advice in the Individual Student Support Agreement (see a sample ISSA at Appendix 9|).


As noted above, most courses at LSE include a closed, fixed time examination. These are usually of three hours' duration, though some are slightly longer, eg some Law and Accounting courses add a further 15 minutes' 'reading' time for long papers, - and some are shorter, such as some half units or courses where there are essays as well as exams. As mentioned earlier, most GTAs are not involved in marking exams, but may well want and be expected to help students with exam preparation: see more on this in Helping students to prepare for their examinations in Section 3.6|.

Some departments do involve GTAs in marking. Where this is the case it is important that you:

  • are clearly briefed to this effect, and agree to it in your contract;
  • are paid for marking (usually on a 'piece' rate, rather than an hourly rate);
  • are properly trained and advised on marking standards, criteria and practice;
  • have your marking double marked by a member of academic faculty.

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