The Role of the External Examiner

The role of the External Examiner includes, amongst other duties, consideration of examination papers and assessment questions. In addition, External Examiners are expected to  review and ensure the consistency of items of assessment, including examination scripts, course assignments, projects or dissertations and supplementary examinations. External Examiners are also required to review changes to curricular. External Examiners are expected to submit a full and frank report to the University, summarising the standard of questions, the standard of the examination process, the conduct of the examination process and the quality of the students.

Role, Duties and Responsibilities of External Examiners

All External Examiners are expected to:

  • Comment upon the standards of modules/awards and that modules/awards are comparable to all appropriate nationally recognised standards. External Examiners are primarily directed to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and applicable subject benchmark statements (see Oversight may include modules which do not directly contribute to a student’s classification results, but are nevertheless important in defining the academic standard;
  • Ensure that assessment methods are fair, that assessment is operated fairly and in accordance with University Regulations External Examiners are directed to the Code of Practice for Learning, Teaching and Assessment;
  • Review the assessment performance of students as a cohort;
  • Consider and approve all draft examination papers, including supplementary examination papers, all in-programme, practical and other assessments that contribute 50% or more of the assessment for a module;
  • Receive examination scripts/access to GradeMark, in-programme assessments, practical assignments, evidence related to oral examinations/presentations and project reports/dissertations upon which marks have been awarded. Where the cohort size exceeds ten students, a sample of examination/assessment will be submitted from all levels of performance. This is to ensure that there is robust moderation of assessments. External Examiners must not be involved in marking student work;
  • Verify that the University’s policy on moderation of marks has been applied and provide comment on the evidence provided;
  • Comment on the way in which feedback on assessments is being provided to students to promote learning;
  • Comment on any other opportunities provided to enhance the quality of the students’ learning opportunities;
  • Comment on examples of good practice and innovation relating to learning, teaching and assessment;
  • Attend and make recommendations to Examination Boards relating to the awards of degrees, diplomas and certificates or the confirmation of results for stand-alone modules Where there is a reconvened Examination Board to reconsider, for example, the result of an appeal, attendance is not required. The External Examiner should, however, be consulted about, and make their views known on, any proposed amendment to the classification;
  • Be consulted on curriculum development, including the introduction of new programmes of study and revisions to the existing programmes of study;
  • Make a full report on the assessment process to the University on an annual basis.

External Examiners should immediately report any circumstances relating to allegations of academic misconduct in writing to the Chair of the Examination Board concerned. External Examiners are not required to give approval to degree classifications or overall module marks where the decision has been deferred due to issues relating to unfair practice or if an administrative error has occurred with respect to the recording of marks or calculation of result.

External Examiners will have enough evidence to determine that internal marking and classifications are of an appropriate standing and are consistent. They will review a sufficient amount of work of the candidates to enable them to arrive at a judgement that might be applied to the assessment as a whole.

Role of the Chief External Examiner

A Chief External Examiner may be appointed in situations where a large team of External Examiners has been appointed to consider a collection of related programmes and/or standalone modules. A Chief External Examiner may also be appointed if the team of External Examiners is made up of a significant number of non-academic examiners and/or those with limited experience as External Examiners.

The Chief External Examiner will be expected to:

  • Review a cross section of assessed work in order to ensure equity across modules and quality assure the programme as a whole;
  • Identify areas of good practice or concern across the programme;
  • Assess practice and provide comment on the quality assurance of all assessment practices;
  • Liaise with other Chief External Examiners to gain an overview of the standards across the whole programme;
  • Chief External Examiners for the MBBCh programme will be appointed to cover Phase 1 (Year 1 and Year 2) and Phase 2 (Year 3 and Year 4);
  • Attend practical examinations (for MBBCh).

Oversight of the Moderation Process

The role of the External Examiner is to ensure that the University’s policy on moderation of marking has been robustly applied and not to second mark or otherwise moderate assessments.

Consequently, the External Examiner may not expect or encourage an Examination Board to raise or lower marks for individual students if only a sample of work has been submitted to the External Examiner. The External Examiner may wish to see a larger sample from the assessment or a wider range of assessed work if there are any concerns about the marking and moderation process.

On the advice and suggestion of the External Examiner concerning the alteration of marks for the entire cohort, the  Examination Board will consider the relevant approach to be undertaken (through arithmetic re-checking of marks, re-marking or rescaling or amendment of assessment/teaching approaches for future cohorts). Any adjustments should be reported to, endorsed and minuted fully by, the Faculty Examination Board.

For information on the handling of disputes, see Disputes Involving the External Examiner.

Volume of Assessed Work to be Scrutinised

All or a sample of assessments are made available to the External Examiner in order to check that assessment and moderation procedures have been adhered to. The volume of assessments sent to the External Examiner will depend on the following factors:

  • The number of students in the cohort – ensuring representative distribution of marks for the cohort, i.e. samples in each classification band, including fails and exceptional performance;
  • Whether this is the first cohort of a newly approved programme. Sampling arrangements will normally allow External Examiners to see a representative sample of scripts or assessed work from each class (including FAIL, where appropriate). A representative sample of approximately 10% of the total number of scripts or assessments for the module should be selected, subject to a minimum of five scripts and a maximum of twenty scripts. If the cohort is less than 10 students, all work should be made available to the External Examiner. However, a norm of ten pieces of assessment per module is suggested. In addition to actual assessments, the feedback provided on the work should also be available for scrutiny, along with evidence of the moderation process. The role of the External Examiner is to verify that the University’s policy on moderation of marks has been robustly applied. It is not to second mark assessments.

See the Postgraduate Taught Masters Degrees RegulationsExamination of the Dissertation’ for more information on sampling of dissertations.

The role of the External Examiner is to verify that the University’s policy on moderation of marks has been robustly applied. It is  not to second mark assessments.

Oversight of the Assessment Process

The External Examiner will review and approve all draft examination papers and topics for continuous assessment where these contribute at least 50% towards the module’s overall mark. The External Examiner can recommend the modification of questions if it is felt that these do not adequately assess the intended learning outcomes and/or reflect the relevant standard for the level of study.

Meeting with Students, Including Viva Voce Examinations

External Examiners may, but are not required to, meet with students on subjects or programmes that they are examining, e.g. to obtain general feedback on the quality of teaching, clarity of information, academic/personal support, etc.

Viva voce examinations are not permitted for the purpose of determining degree classifications for candidates pursuing initial degrees.

Involvement in Practical or Oral Assessments

Where the approved method of assessment for a particular module includes an oral or practical examination, External Examiners may be invited to observe such examinations.

Academic Misconduct

If, following the review of assessed work/examinations, the External Examiner considers that a student has engaged in an academic misconduct assessment practice, they must immediately report the circumstances in writing to the Chair of the Examination Board concerned. The Chair of the Examination Board will initiate the University’s Academic Misconduct Procedures.

Participation and Attendance at Examination Boards

External Examiner(s) must be present at the subject-level Faculty Examination Board at which the examination results in the subject(s) in which they have been involved are determined.
If an External Examiner, exceptionally, cannot attend an Examination Board, they must be available for consultation with the Chair of the Examination Board by telephone, video network or other suitable means. The External Examiner must have all relevant documents necessary for the due performance of the business of the meeting.

If unable to attend, the External Examiner will submit, in advance, a written report on their findings to the Chair of the Examination Board which should be distributed to all members of the Board and be considered in finalising module marks.

The External Examiner(s) are not required to attend Interim Examination Board meetings but may do so if they wish. Consultation will take place by correspondence or other appropriate means.
External Examiner(s) will be available for consultation for the Progression and Awards Board, at which credit is awarded, progression issues are determined and degrees are awarded.

Confidentiality and Security

External Examiners are reminded that all draft assessment questions and student work submitted is confidential and that appropriate arrangements should be made to ensure its security.


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