Good (and Poor) Practices in Student Assessment


To avoid grade inflation and maintain academic standards, assessments should be designed to be sufficiently academically challenging and of a varied nature to allow differentiation of student performance in achieving course intended learning outcomes (ILOs).

The following incorporates good practice at HKUST, which has benefited from benchmarking with sister institutions in Hong Kong and with international best practices.    


Faculty are encouraged to adopt the following Good Practices, details of which are provided below:

  • Use a variety of methods to assess the achievement of course ILOs;
  • Adopt criterion-referenced assessment (CRA) and assign grades that reflect students’ achievement of course ILOs;
  • Specify, at the start of a course, the nature, number, and timing of assessments (e.g. tests, essays, reports, assignments, presentations, classroom participation, laboratory exercises, final examination) and the percentage contribution of each to the overall course grade;
  • Design assessments that are sufficiently academically challenging to allow differentiation of student performance in achieving course ILOs and grades, to avoid grade inflation and maintain academic standards;
  • Design assessments that require students to apply, analyze, evaluate and synthesize information rather than recall facts or concepts which could be easily reproduced from websites or other sources;
  • Maintain a bank of questions related to your courses, for each assessment method;
  • Make samples of past examination papers available to students, to inform and direct their learning;
  • Review grade distributions annually in regard to historical distributions for their courses (and for Level 1000-4000 courses with reference to the University’s Guideline Grade Distribution bands), to avoid grade inflation and monitor the academic standards of assessments and the marking/grading criteria applied;
  • Provide timely and constructive formative feedback to students on their performance as an important part of the student learning process: feedback within two weeks of the submission of an in-course assessment is a good rule-of-thumb and good practice.
  • DO NOT use norm-referencing, i.e. DO NOT grade students to a curve, with reference to their peers;
  • DO NOT use just one method to assess a course, e.g. DO NOT rely solely on multiple-choice questions (MCQs) or short answer questions (SAQs);
  • DO NOT use the same, or a large proportion of the same, questions as used in previous examinations.