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Exams and assessment

Over-length work

Penalties for over-length work

Limits are specified for some assessed work in order to maintain equity between all students doing the same assessment. Module Leaders must clearly communicate this information to students in the assessment brief.

Assessed work should not exceed the prescribed word limit. Students may be subject to a penalty if they exceed that limit.

Providing an accurate word count

For written work, the student must provide an accurate word count for each piece of work they submit. This will normally rely on the word count system within Microsoft Word.

The word limit specified for written assessments excludes:

  • Tables (tables may not include large amounts of text)
  • Graphs
  • Equations
  • Footnotes
  • Bibliography
  • Appendices – Appendices may contain diagrams, tables or visual images but not large amounts of text

Excess use of any of the above may result in the word count being checked and a penalty being applied.

Markers will check the declared word count on the cover sheet against the word limit specified for that assessment. If the word count exceeds the specified word limit, the appropriate penalty is applied. It is reported to the School Assessment Board.

Work is marked normally, and the over-length penalty is applied to the raw provisional mark. This applies when marking first attempt work or reassessment work.

If it is suspected that the student has not declared the word count honestly, and that the work is longer than declared, the word count may be checked, and a penalty applied. The School Assessment Board may reserve the right to refer a student for consideration under the University’s Academic Misconduct Policy.

Penalties for over-long work

Amount over the limit


Up to 10%

Deduct no marks, but note in feedback

Between 10-24%

Deduct 5 marks*

Between 25-49%

Deduct 15 marks*

More than 50%

Eligible only for the capped pass mark

 * or given a capped pass mark, whichever is greater e.g. a raw mark of 43 would be capped at a mark of 40 for an Undergraduate student if the work was 20% over the word limit.

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