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No longer exempt from good practice: using exemplars to close the feedback gap for exams

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2013
JournalAssessment and Evaluation in Higher Education
Number of pages15
Original languageEnglish


In this paper, we discuss the anomaly between the increasing interest in feedback in current education research, the continued role of time-limited, unseen examinations as a form of assessment and the dearth of literature on feedback related to such exams. We argue that while exams have long been regarded as different from other forms of assessment, it is not justifiable to exempt them from the good practice that can, and does, inform these other types of assessment. We suggest a solution to providing timely, effective feedback for end of course examinations is to move the feedback emphasis to ‘feedforward’ by implementing exemplars (examples of real students’ work, generally of different qualities). This study adopts a mixed-methods approach to investigate whether there was a relationship between student use of exemplars before the exam and the final exam grade achieved (n = 520), and to explore students’ and lecturers’ perspectives about the effectiveness of and engagement with exemplars. Quantitative findings suggested that those students who accessed exemplars did score better in their exams than those that did not. Qualitative data revealed that exemplars were received positively by students and lecturers, and we use this to provide practical suggestions on exemplar good practice.