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What’s changing?

The Policy on Assessment of Student Learning (PASL) will come into effect
in Fall 2024!

PASL will replace the existing University Student Assessment Policy (USAP) in Fall 2024. The name change to “assessment of student learning” (PASL) rather than “student assessment” (USAP) stresses the shift towards assessing student learning and not evaluating the student.

Some benefits of PASL

  • Using assessment criteria can make grading more efficient for instructors.
  • Sharing criteria with students provides them with a learning target and promotes equity, fairness, and consistency.
  • Formative feedback helps both students and instructors focus on learning and understand student progress.
  • More clarity for students about expectations for their work means fewer questions for instructors.
  • Flexibility in assessment tasks and due dates enables instructors to respond to their unique course contexts.

Key differences between PASL and USAP



Provides “a set of common principles to guide assessment of student learning throughout McGill University” (2.1).

Primarily process-based

Aims to bring together into a single document all the disparate policies at McGill with regard to all types of student assessments (1.1).

Criterion-referenced assessment (definition)

To encourage assessment for learning, instructors must include in the course outline expectations for all assessment tasks, including for participation, detailing explicitly the variety of ways in which grades can be earned.

Instructors must include explicit criteria to describe the key elements of the students’ learning.

Instructors are to provide concrete descriptors for each level of performance when the assessment task is formally assigned to students (5.5).

Primarily norm-referenced assessment (definition)
USAP offers no specifications about establishing criteria for assessment tasks. 

Healthier learning environments

Students can make informed decisions about workloads with the right to receive some formative feedback on their progress before the course withdrawal without refund deadline (5.3).

Ensures that breaks are in fact breaks: 

Specifies which in-term assessment tasks can be due in the last 10 working days of classes (6.7).


States that the policy is meant to protect students from excessive workloads (1.1) but does not outline how to do so.

Does not stipulate that students should receive timely formative feedback.

Equity a central consideration

Regardless of where exams take place, all students in the same course must be provided with the same access to instructions (9.5).

Pregnant and care-giving students can request reasonable accommodation in fulfilling an assessment in accordance with guidelines (7.1).

Graded assessment tasks, including third party rereads, must be available to the student at no financial cost. Access to assessment tasks must not require the payment of fees other than approved course fees (5.6).


Equity was not a consideration when USAP was drafted but today it forms part of the principles that fulfill the University’s mission and is key to the EDI Strategic Plan.

Formative feedback

Students must have the opportunity to receive some formative feedback before the University's official course withdrawal (without refund) deadline (5.3).

Students have the opportunity to receive timely and ongoing feedback they can use to improve (formative assessment), and feedback used to judge students’ knowledge, understanding, and performance at the end of a unit, course, or program to determine if they have achieved the learning outcomes (summative assessment) (4.3).


USAP makes no mention of formative feedback.

Less exam-centric 

Final assessments can include assignments as well as exams (3.1).

All assessment tasks must have a due date before the last day of exams (6.6).

Allows the exam period to be used for other (non-exam) assessment tasks (9).


Exam period intended for exams only.

More clarity

Course outlines shall include:

  • Expectations for all assessment tasks, including participation, detailing explicitly the variety of ways in which grades can be earned (5.5). 
  • The due date, weight, structure, mode of delivery, and late penalties of each assessment task contributing to the final grade (6.1).  


Normally, participation will not exceed 10% of the final grade. If participation is to exceed 10%, instructors must include a clear rubric in the course outline (3.1.6). 

More flexibility

Allows Faculties to develop local guidelines that fit their circumstances.

Allows for:

  • Reasonable scheduling of completion of assessment tasks (4.1).
  • Reasonable accommodation of student needs (4.1).
  • Choice of alternative assessment tasks available to students (6.1).
  • Instructors to modify an assessment task on the course outline (6.3).
  • Students to choose if the original or modified assessment task counts towards their final grade (under certain conditions) (6.4).


Exceptions are named in the Notes section.

No possibility of modifying assessment once course outline distributed.

More transparency

Provides students with a path for contesting an assessment practice and a clear accountability process (10).

Before requesting a third party reread, a student must make a request to the instructor for an explanation of the grade. This request must be in writing and include a rationale for any requested change (8.2).


No clear path or accountability for reporting violations.

► Access a more detailed comparison of the changes between PASL and USAP.


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Podcast aims to shift the conversation on assessment and well-being

Get some inspiration on improving well-being with the Teach.Learn Share podcast. Learn more.

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Help to spread the word about PASL!

Find promotional resources including an infographic slide, a poster, and an email signature to share with students and colleagues. Learn more.

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New resource! Examples of assessment tools

Find a bank of example rubrics and other assessment tools used by McGill instructors that you can adapt to your course context. Learn more.



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