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Designing Assessments

This inclusive teaching guide is aligned to Baseline Standard 1, 3 & 4 and the  Professional Standards Framework A3. It provides guidance on how you can design assessments inclusively, in line with the Institutional Assessment Strategy. 

Further case studies, good practice, sector wide reports and articles relating to inclusive assessment, student success and belonging can be accessed by University of Leeds staff on the Student Success Sharepoint site

Consider barriers in assessment design

  • Try to ensure that the method of assessment does not put any of your students at a disadvantage. If you find this to be the case, consider alternative ways (where practical), for your students to demonstrate achievement of the learning outcomes.
  • The way an assessment is designed may create barriers for some of your students. Additionally, the skills required to carry out certain types of assessment may not be related to the learning outcomes. For example, if the assessment requires group presentations, this may be a barrier for some of your students who struggle with anxiety or public speaking.

Offer assessment options within a module

  • Provide your students with a choice of assessment methods from the outset. For example, instead of requiring all of your students to participate in a group presentation, offer them the option of completing the presentation alone in a one-to-one. Alternatively, you could also allow them to record their presentation in private or submit a written format instead.
  • This will enable your students to choose assessment formats that better fit their personal circumstances, learning styles and needs1,2, and will ensure they can more effectively demonstrate their learning.

Include a variety across a programme

  • Use a few different assessment methods throughout a programme. This aligns to Baseline Standard 3.
  • Your students may be unfamiliar with some assessment formats so always provide them with examples so they have a better understanding of what they are required to do.
  • Including variety in your assessments also ensures that the widest possible group are catered for. Different types of assessment will be more suited to some of your students than others. For example, students who are less confident at traditional essay style assessments may excel in video based assessments.
  • Explore the use of digital technologies which can be used for assessment, by visiting the Assessment and Feedback Practice page of the OD&PL Student Education Development site.
  • For Online Time-Limited Assessments (OTLAs), follow our Principles of Inclusive Online Assessment

Write questions clearly

  • Use the simplest and clearest possible way of asking the question, separating out multiple questions and clearly indicating the marks allocated to each part.
  • You may have students with Autism Spectrum Conditions, specific learning difficulties (SpLDs), cognitive impairments as well as students who speak English as an additional language. They may find it time consuming to decode the meaning of the question, leading to misinterpretation and wasting time3.

Include extra time for in-class tests

  • Incorporate the needs of your students who have 25% extra time allocated; this is a standard recommendation for most students with dyslexia. Do this by shortening the test e.g. from 1hr to 40 minutes so that those with extra time can still finish within the allotted hour.
  • By assuming you will likely have students with dyslexia in your group, you can reduce the need to make ad hoc arrangements, which may be time consuming.

Be explicit about requirements for written English

  • ensure you students are clear about the level and style of written English that will be required for written assessments. The University's policy on the Assessment of Written English provides further information about this.
  • Students with SpLDs and students who speak English as an additional language, will be at a disadvantage where a high threshold  is specified for this. Therefore, those students may need to access additional support in order to achieve the learning outcomes.
  • Ideally, any criteria which is assessed should be explicitly taught and built into the curriculum for all students, as noted in our Designing Curriculum Content guide.

Provide detailed assessment criteria

  • Be explicit about the requirements and the level of detail, knowledge and skill that are expected for a high mark. Discuss assessment criteria with your students at the beginning of the module and when assessments are set, explaining the meaning of the criteria.
  • Your students will find it difficult to use feedback on their work constructively if they can’t understand why some areas of their work are weaker than others. The terms used in assessment criteria are not always self-explanatory to students.


Guide written by Dr Say Burgin and Jenny Brady | Updated July 2022 by Jenny Brady and Mike Kerr

© University of Leeds 2022| Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)


  1. Waterfield, J. and West, B. (2006) Inclusive assessment in higher education: A resource for change, Plymouth: University of Plymouth. Available at: (Accessed 1 July 2016)
  2. Williams, P., Wray, J. Farrall, H. and Aspland, J. 2014. ‘Fit for purpose: traditional assessment is failing undergraduates with learning difficulties. Might eAssessment help?’ International Journal of Inclusive Education, 18 (6), 614-625.
  3. Cannon, H (2016) Examining the needs for, and establishing the efficacy of, the language modification of exam papers for university students on the autism spectrum. The Journal of Inclusive Practice in further and higher education Issue 7. Available at: [Accessed 30 November 2016]