by Emily Allbon and Stephanie de Howe.

How the City Law School visually explained their new essay marking criteria in just one page.

At the City Law School we were aware that LLB students often found the programme assessment criteria to be complex and confusing. Commonly students would be told that their essays were “too descriptive” or “lack clarity”, but comments like this often left students more puzzled than before.

Truth be told, we academics also often found the assessment criteria to be confusing too!


To address this problem, we convened a cross-diciplinary working group. Our task was to investigate whether the City Law School assessment criteria were clear enough, or whether they could be improved.

After multiple rounds of consultation within the group and with the wider LLB team, we created a brand-new set of assessment criteria and a complementary set of feedback requirements for the 2019 course.  These new criteria are summarised by our acronym RACER, which stands for:

  • Relevant legal knowledge
  • Analysis
  • Communication
  • Evaluation
  • Research and ethics

Our LLB modules are designed to teach students these five vital skills. The examinations on the LLB assess how well students have learned these skills. Our Programme Assessment Criteria (or “PAC”) defines each of these skills in clearly. Furthermore, each Module on the LLB has a Module Assessment Criteria (or “MAC”) which explains to students how RACER will be examined on this specific module.

We decided that if we were to overhaul the criteria, we should also look at the way in which we communicate these – we needed something eye-catching that would prompt students to take the time to understand what was required of them, and what we were looking for. It needed to be visually bold and use other pictorial triggers to aid comprehension.


I felt we should make much more of the letters of the acronym; filling them with visual clues to hint at what concepts they encompass. So R for "relevant legal knowledge" would include icons to represent primary and secondary legal materials, as well as a brain, the A for ‘analysis’ would be composed of jigsaw pieces…

I also felt strongly that we should include the human element in there; putting a student into the document worrying about her lack of understanding of how lecturers decide on the marks for her essay. This reinforced the point of the document and hopefully allowed students to see we were taking their worries on board.

After many pencil sketches I put together a rough draft of what the document could look like before passing it on to Steph the designer to make it more polished and easier to read! We made some minor tweaks re ‘look’ of the characters and layout but otherwise stuck reasonably close to the original draft. We’ve been really pleased with how it turned out – now to see what the students think in the 2019-20 academic year…


Our gratitude goes to all those who participated in the RACER working group developing the guidelines. It was chaired by the Programme Directors Patrick Goold and Edward Bates, with the help of Deborah Rafalin who was seconded from the School of Arts and Social Sciences. The group worked closely with the City University Undergraduate Assessment and Feedback Project, and was composed of members of LLB academic staff, administrative staff, with input from our Learning Enhancement and Development Team.


Stephanie de Howe

Stephanie de Howe

Graphic Designer
Stephanie is an experienced print and digital designer who likes incorporating illustration into her designs. She specialises in education and retail.

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