The death of exams? Grade inflation and student satisfaction when coursework replaces exams

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A mid-sized advanced undergraduate economics module has undergone an assessment reform, where a typical 60% final exam was replaced by four scaffolded coursework assignments, each carrying a 15% weight in the final grade. As a result, student satisfaction with assessment and feedback went up at the expense of higher staff workload. In addition, the reform raised the final grades over and above the increase typically associated with an improvement in learning and engagement, effectively triggering grade inflation. The paper identifies the coursework assignment that inflated the grades. It then proceeds with grade simulations, whose purpose is to formulate an assessment reform agenda aiming to maintain high student satisfaction, disinflate grades, and stabilise staff workload. Finally, the paper evaluates the scalability of assessment reforms where final exams are targeted for replacement by coursework assessments. The evaluation suggests caution with such reforms, if they are necessary in the first place. They may both be feasible and desirable in small classes, but compelling arguments caution against a premature wholesale rollout.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100289
JournalInternational Review of Economics Education
Early online date14 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 May 2024


  • Assessment reform
  • Coursework
  • Exam
  • Grade inflation
  • Student satisfaction

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