Assessing Students VET

The Assessment Cycle

The Assessment Cycle Plan Validatae Gather Evidence Assessment Decision and Feedback Record Results

Competency-based training and assessment

Competency-based assessment is the process of collecting evidence and making judgments about whether competency has been achieved.

In this section you will find information about the six steps in the assessment cycle.


All staff engaged in training and assessment will require access to the relevant training package. Training packages can be accessed at

CDU.(2013). Academic Assessment and Moderation Policy (.pdf). This policy aims to ensure that all processes for students’ assessment are flexible, fair and provide for University-wide quality and consistency in assessment.

Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015. The standards provide an essential mechanism for the regulation of vocational education and training (VET).

Code of practice for assessors. From (2010) Assessment Guidelines for Training and Education Training Package, Melbourne: Innovation & Business Skills Australia (.pdf 107KB) for assessors is from the Assessment Guidelines section of theTAE10 Training Package. It is intended to support professionally responsible and ethical assessment practice and to guide assessors in the responsibilities of their work.

Department of Training and Workforce Development WA. (2013). Publications. This site lists a set of  VET Publications published by the Western Australian Government that address assessment issues.

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Assessment tools in VET, also called evidence-gathering tools, contain both the instrument and the instructions for gathering and interpreting evidence in an assessment process.

They form part of the bank of resources used for effective and safe assessment practice in the VET sector.

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When designing assessments, lecturers need to ensure that the four principles of assessment are met. This is not only good practice but also a requirement of the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015, with which lecturers must comply. The principles require that assessments are valid, reliable, flexible and fair.

Validity refers to the extent to which the interpretation and use of an assessment outcome can be supported by evidence. An assessment is valid if the assessment methods and materials reflect the elements, performance criteria and critical aspects of evidence in the evidence guide of the unit(s) of competency, and if the assessment outcome is fully supported by the evidence gathered.

Reliability refers to the degree of consistency and accuracy of the assessment outcomes; that is, the extent to which the assessment will provide similar outcomes for students with equal competence at different times or places, regardless of the lecturer conducting the assessment.

Flexibility refers to the opportunity for students to negotiate certain aspects of their assessment (for example, timing) with their lecturer. All students should be fully informed (for example, through an assessment plan) of the purpose of assessment, the assessment criteria, the methods and tools used, and the context and timing of the assessment.

Fair assessment does not advantage or disadvantage particular students or groups of students. This may mean that assessment methods are adjusted for particular students (such as people with disabilities or cultural differences) to ensure that the method does not disadvantage them because of their situation. An assessment should not place unnecessary demands on students that may prevent them from demonstrating competence (for example, an assessment should not demand a higher level of English language or literacy than that required to perform to the workplace standard outlined in the competencies being assessed).

Designing assessments is part of the process of developing a Training and Assessment Strategy.

There are four simple steps in the design process:

Plan assessment


To ensure that lecturers develop and/or purchase assessment resources that are consistent with the requirements of the training package, and maintain their currency, sufficiency and effectiveness, it is important that the tools are reviewed by fellow lecturers and trialled before they are used. See the section on validation for more information.


CDU has a range of templates available as part of the VET Quality Management System (VETQMS) for developing assessment tools. An Assessment Matrix is also available and is a mandatory document designed to demonstrate the mapping of assessment tasks to the unit of competency and must be completed for each unit. These forms are located in the VET Resources and Forms, in the Course Registration area of the VET Resources and Forms intranet. For further information or advice contact your VET Developer.

There are a wide range of assessment tools from several publishers, including Skills Service Organisations.

The WA Department of Training and Workforce Development provide a range of resources to assist with developing assessment tools, such as Guide to developing assessment tools (.pdf)
ASQA Guide—Developing assessment tools 1 April 2015

Clustering is the process of grouping units into combinations which related to work functions in an industry or enterprise, and is a process that can be used when developing learning and assessment materials. It involves the development of processes and materials that meet the requirements for groups of units of competency rather than individual units for a variety of reasons, including to:

  • Meet the required competency profile of the student
  • Reflect the workplace in the learning and assessment experience
  • Maximise the opportunities for holistic evidence gathering in the assessment process
  • Address the co-requisite requirements of the unit of competency
  • Maximise efficiency of effort for the trainer/guide assessor and the student.

An excellent resource on clustering is Clustering units of competency: a guide to how to cluster for delivery and assessment.

VOCEDplus- NCVER’s international tertiary education research database website

CDU requires the use of assessment cover sheets  and must include the following:

  • Student name
  • Student declaration they have submitted their own work
  • Record of the assessment decision
  • Feedback on the assessment submission
  • Note/s of any adjustments made during  the assessment.

The VET cover sheet can be found in VET Resources and Forms, in the Course Registration area.

Validation means confirming that an assessment is fit for a purpose. A lecturer should validate a units’ assessment strategies by:

  • Reviewing, comparing and evaluating the assessment processes and tools at least annually
  • Documenting any action taken to improve the quality and consistency of assessment.

Validation should occur pre and post-assessment. Validation requires assessors to meet, physically or virtually, at least once a year to discuss and confirm that assessments (including RPL):

  • Meet the requirements of the endorsed components of the training package and the outcomes specified in the course/units of competency
  • Comply with the assessment guidelines included in the applicable training package or the assessment requirements specified in the accredited course
  • Are valid, reliable, fair and flexible
  • Provide clear instructions for the assessor and the candidate,  and the candidate is informed of the context and purpose of the assessment and the assessment process
  • Enable effective collection of evidence
  • Have a level of difficulty  appropriate to the qualification level
  • Have appropriate literacy and numeracy levels
  • Are user-friendly
  • Focus on the application of knowledge and skill to the standard of performance required in the workplace and cover all aspects of workplace performance, including dimensions of competency
  • Involve the evaluation of sufficient evidence to enable judgments to be made about whether competency has been attained
  • Provide feedback to the candidate about the outcomes of the assessment process and guidance on future options in relation to those outcomes
  • Are equitable for all persons, taking account of individual needs relevant to the assessment
  • Provide for reassessment on appeal

The CDU Assessment Validation Report form is located in the Intranet in VET Resources and Forms, under Course Registration.


Guide to developing assessment tools (.pdf) contains helpful information on trialling assessment tools, which is one of the pre-assessment validation methods.

Gathering evidence of student work is the next step in the assessment cycle. Decisions have to be made about the types of evidence to be collected, what is considered sufficient evidence, Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) in assessment, and about reasonable adjustments for assessment events


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The Rules of Evidence guide assessors in developing assessment tools that will collect evidence that is valid, current, authentic and sufficient. For the first time Table 1.8-2 in the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 provides an explanation for each of these terms.

Table 1.8-2: Rules of Evidence

Validity The assessor is assured that the learner has the skills, knowledge and attributes as described in the module or unit of competency and associated assessment requirements.
Sufficiency The assessor is assured that the quality, quantity and relevance of the assessment evidence enables a judgement to be made of a learner’s competency.
Authenticity The assessor is assured that the evidence presented for assessment is the learner’s own work.
Current The assessor is assured that the assessment evidence demonstrates current competency. This requires the assessment evidence to be from the present or the very recent past.


AssessItNow provides assessment resources for trainers, assessors, industry personnel and students including a wide range of assessment resources for Training Package qualifications.

Evidence is information upon which an assessor makes a judgment of competency.

Evidence may include:

Performance of a task, or range of tasks, either in the workplace or in a simulated work environment, witnessed directly by an assessor
Indirect demonstration Use of photographs, videos, etc. showing performance of a task when the assessor cannot be present
Products Models, items, objects that have been made, fixed or repaired by the candidate
Workplace documents Rosters, budgets, reports, standard operating procedures etc. developed by the candidate
Questions - written and oral Asking the candidate about real or hypothetical situations to check understanding, task management and contingency management skills. May be short answer, discussion, multiple choice, etc.
Assignments Projects, reports, essays, etc. relevant to the LLN requirements of the unit of competency
Third party reports Documented and verified reports from supervisor, colleague, subject expert, trainer or others
Self-assessment A candidate’s personal statement on their performance (not generally sufficient in isolation)
Simulation Simulated activity to accommodate difficult to demonstrate criteria e.g. emergencies, contingencies, difficult behaviours etc.
Portfolios Collections of evidence compiled by the candidate


Assessors can use the following steps to identify appropriate evidence to target as part of an assessment:  

  • Unpack the unit/s of competency to develop a picture of competence
  • Check the evidence guide for recommendations and or requirements
  • Identify where the evidence will come from (that is, the workplace or off-the-job)
  • Identify the evidence required to demonstrate competence
  • Map the proposed evidence against the performance criteria for the relevant unit of competency or cluster of units
  • Check that the evidence complies with the rules of evidence
  • Validate assessment strategy
  • Validate assessment tools

It is good practice to adopt student-centred and workplace-centred approaches to the collection of evidence, rather than relying on a one-method-fits all approach. Negotiate with employers and learners to determine what evidence is already available, or to develop appropriate assessment methods.

Assessment activities may be undertaken in work or project teams, and therefore may provide evidence of competency for more than one candidate. In this situation a personal statement, additional questioning or a third-party report may be required to confirm an individual’s contribution and performance.


A number of assessment guides, templates and exemplars are available in the VET Resources and Forms section of the VET Quality Management System (VET QMS) on the Staff Intranet. These include Assessment Cover Sheet, Assessment Observation Checklist and Assessment Tool – Questioning.

One of the questions most frequently asked by assessors is: how much evidence is needed?

Although there are cases of specific training packages/units of competency where required evidence is prescribed, generally there are no rules for quantity. This is because the volume of evidence needed will vary according to the competency being assessed, the candidate and the context of assessment. Rather than focusing on the quantity of evidence, assessors need to ensure that assessment decisions are based on quality evidence that demonstrates the learner is competent against the criteria for the unit of competency.

The lecturer should consider the language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skill level of the candidate and the requirements of the units of competency when selecting and/or developing assessment tools and when determining what evidence to target as part of an assessment.

There is often a tendency to rely on written tests and essays, particularly when assessing  underpinning knowledge. However, in many units of competency writing is either not required or is a minimal requirement of the described work task.

Evidence that requires skills beyond those specified in the unit of competency should be avoided.


Department of Education and Training QLD. (2011). The Crux of the Matter 2011: LLN and VET. Brisbane: Author (.pdf 4.4MB). This resource provides information about RTO and trainer obligations in regards to LLN.

Reasonable adjustment is where an accommodation or allowable adjustment is made  to ensure that candidates are treated equally in the assessment process. Reasonable adjustment may mean:

  • Making learning materials and methods accessible
  • Adapting the physical environment and equipment
  • Making adjustments to the procedures for conducting assessment
  • Making adjustments to the evidence gathering techniques.

Equity groups that may need reasonable adjustments may include, but are not limited to:

  • Students with English as a second language
  • Students with literacy or numeracy difficulties
  • Indigenous students
  • Students in remote locations
  • Women in non-traditional industries
  • Students with sensory impairment
  • Students with physical or intellectual disabilities.


O’Grady, C. & Honeywill, S. (2003). Acknowledging Diversity in Assessment Practices, Sydney: NSW Adult Migrant English Service.  (An order form is available from the NSW AMES site.)

Guide 7 Reasonable adjustment – A Guide to working with students with disability
Department of Education and Training East Perth WA 6004

Staying the course: A guide to working with students with mental illness Facilitator Guide. (2nd Edition). Perth: Department of Training and Workforce Development (2012)

Department of Education and Training, QLD (2010).  Reasonable Adjustment in teaching, learning and assessment for learner’s with a disability, A guide to practitioners

State of Queensland (Department of Education and Training)


Feedback on assessment outcomes can be provided on the Assessment Cover Sheet. The Standards for registered Training Organisation (RTOs) 2015 clearly outlines the rules about timely issuance of AQF qualifications and the maintenance of learner’s records.

Standard 3

3.3. AQF certification documentation is issued to a learner within 30 calendar days of the learner being assessed as meeting the requirements of the training product if the training program in which the learner is enrolled is complete, and providing all agreed fees the learner owes to the RTO have been paid.

3.4. Records of learner AQF certification documentation are maintained by the RTO in accordance with the requirements of Schedule 5 and are accessible to current and past learners.

Note that records are required to be accessible to current students as well as past students. The period of time indicted in Schedule 5 for retention of records for 30 years.

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In VET, individuals are considered competent when they are able to consistently apply their knowledge and skills to the standard of performance required in the workplace.

Both workplace and off the job training and assessment aim to ensure that individuals participating in the training have the competence to undertake their work role to the standard expected in a range of employment situations.

Students are judged against competency standards (benchmarks) outlined in the unit of competence which contains the essential information needed to assess the student. Assessment guidelines are also included in the Unit of competence to assist in making assessment decisions.

If the assessment process has been valid, reliable, fair, and flexible and the evidence is sufficient then the professional decision on a candidate’s competency should be a straightforward appraisal of the evidence.

For formative assessments within a unit of competence results are recorded as:

S – Successful
U – Unsuccessful.

For the overall result for the unit of competence results are given as:

CA – competency achieved or
NYC – not yet competent.

If an assessor is uncomfortable with making a decision they should review:

  • The assessment process, or
  • The evidence provided.

An unsuccessful assessment outcome should not be viewed as a failure by either the assessor or the candidate, but rather as a means to identify additional learning needs. Candidates should be given the opportunity for reassessment and detailed explanation of where weaknesses exist in performance.

For further information refer to the following CDU policies:

CDU - Academic Assessment and Moderation Policy (.pdf)

CDU - Grading Policy (.pdf)

According to the Standards, learners have the right to timely access to current and accurate records of their participation and progress (SNR16.5).This means that:

  • Assessment must provide for feedback to the applicant about the outcomes of the assessment process and guidance on future options in relation to those outcomes
  • Assessment must provide for reassessment on appeal

Feedback on assessment outcomes can be provided on the Assessment Cover Sheet.

Moderation in the VET sector is a process of bringing assessment judgments and standards into alignment. It is a process that ensures the same standards are applied to all assessment results within the same Unit(s) of Competency. It is an active process in the sense that adjustments to assessor judgments are made to overcome differences in the difficulty of the tool and/or the severity of judgments. (NSSC, 2009)

Where the assessment validation process supports quality review and continuous improvement, assessment moderation provides quality control.

Features Moderation
CDU VETQMS Quality Control
Primary Purpose Bring assessment judgments and standards into alignment
Timing Prior to the finalisation of candidate results
Focus Candidate evidence, including assessor judgments
Type of Approaches Consensus Meetings External (Moderators or panels)
Outcomes Recommendations for future improvements, and adjustments to assessor judgments (if required)

(Reference NSSC - Implementation Guide Validation and Moderation)

Note in the CDU - Academic Assessment and Moderation Policy (.pdf), the term “moderation” has the broadest of meanings which includes assessment validation, moderation and post assessment validation.

To facilitate the moderation process there is an Assessment Moderation Report form that can be found VET Resources and Forms – Course Implementation section of the VET Quality Management System (VETQMS) on the Staff Intranet.


Templates and exemplars for recording evidence and moderation forms are available in the VET Resources and Forms section of the VET Quality Management System (VET QMS) on the Staff Intranet. These include Assessment Cover Sheet which provides space for student feedback and VET 111 – Amendment to Grade 2013.

Guide to developing assessment tools
ASQA Guide—Developing assessment tools 1 April 2015

CDU. (2013). Academic Assessment and Moderation Policy. Darwin; Author (.pdf) This policy aims to ensure that all processes for students’ assessment are flexible, fair and provide for University-wide quality and consistency in assessment.


At CDU, the Assessment Cover Sheet is used to record the outcome of any assessment task and to provide constructive feedback to the student. The cover sheet is given to the student, and a copy placed in the student file. When all assessment tasks for a unit have been completed satisfactorily, or at the end of the teaching period, a grade is issued. This cover sheet can be found under VET VET Resources and Forms on the Staff Intranet, under (2) VET Course Registration.

It is essential that grades are correctly entered into Callista (the CDU student management System) in order to:

  • Ensure the student has accurate information on their progress through MyStudentInfo
  • Allow other relevant CDU staff to access correct and current student information
  • Ensure that national reporting is accurate and correct.

The Callista Team provides all CDU staff with training and support in the use of the Student Management System.

Accurate Callista data entry also facilitates the annual Invalid Enrolment (IE) Audit. This audit ascertains the level of non-participation within the enrolments that CDU has claimed for funding.

ASQA has issued a General direction on the retention requirements for student assessment items which is incorporated in the CDU Records Management – Retention and Disposal of University Records Procedures. CDU requires that assessment items submitted by a student must be retained for: the duration of the University assessment appeal period; or six (6) months from the date a judgment of competence was made; or for the duration of the student’s enrolment, whichever is the longer.

The principles of good assessment are the same whatever the method and should be considered before looking into the options for online assessment (see plan assessment).

E-assessment guidelines for the VET sector describes the use of e-assessment is increasing rapidly in the vocational education and training (VET) sector in Australia. Recent national benchmarking surveys, conducted by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework), revealed that over 40 per cent of Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and more than 60 per cent of teachers and trainers are using some form of e-assessment (Australian Flexible Learning Framework 2010). E-assessment is the use of information technology for any assessment-related activity.

VOCEDplus- NCVER’s international tertiary education research database website

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Online assessment can take many forms

  • Written assignments
  • Essays
  • Interactives e.g. drag-and-drop, labelling, sequencing
  • Online quizzes and questions
  • Collaborative assignment work
  • Portfolios
  • Online Exams (open-book; structured; timed)
  • Practicals
  • Simulations
  • Case studies
  • Participation in online discussions
  • Publication of student work /presentations
  • Experiential activities, such as role-play
  • Debates
  • Reviews
  • Discussions
  • Journals and reflection
Advantages Disadvantages
Instant feedback
Easy individual and group feedback
Statement banks – minimise Lecturer’s effort
Monitor group progress as well as outcomes
Assessment software
Assignments can be confidential or easily shared
Easy distribution to markers
Less time marking
Increased opportunities for practice and feedback
Technical ability needed
Anxiety about reliability of technology
Is the student alone? i.e. authenticity
Practical tasks difficult


To learn more about creating online assessments contact a VET Developer or the Learnline Support Staff.


The Grade Centre resembles a spreadsheet. Each row is populated by a user in the course and each column includes information for an item, such as an assignment, test, graded blog entry, or survey. Lecturers can also use columns to calculate grades. It is also possible to provide grades and comments directly on the Grade Centre page, on the Grade Details page, and from a tool, such as the discussion board.

Lecturers are able to customise their view of the Grade Centre and create grading schemas, grading periods, categories, and columns to present and gather the information they need. To learn more, see Setting Up the Grade Centre.

The My Grades page for students shows the status of gradable items, such as tests, assignments, journal and blog entries, and discussion posts.

The My Grades page may include item names, details, due dates, student and instructor dates of activity, posted grades, points possible, links to rubrics used for grading, and Lecturer's comments about the items.

Students can access the My Grades page from their course, the My Institution tab, the global navigation or My Blackboard.

To learn more about using Grade Centre in Learnline contact a VET Developer or the Learnline Support Staff.



Recognition of Prior learning (RPL) is an assessment process that assesses an individual’s formal, non-formal and informal learning to determine the extent to which that individual has achieved the required learning outcomes, competency outcomes, or standards for entry to, and/or partial or total completion of, a VET qualification. (Standards for NVR Registered Training Organisations 2012, p7)

CDU has established an RPL One Stop Shop to improve and build on our strengths in offering suitable candidates the opportunity to have their existing skills and knowledge formally recognised. The RPL Intranet page gives full details of the procedure to be followed and includes templates and RPL forms. For more information on RPL contact the RPL Coordinator on (08) 8946 7209.


Recognition of Prior Learning: An Explanation
Australian Qualifications Framework Council

RPL CDU and students – What the students sees when considering RPL at CDU
CDU website

RPL CDU Intranet for staff – A staff resource for RPL CDU Intranet

RPL Assessment Toolkit – Externally developed by the government, this toolkit shows another technique for carrying out RPL assessments
Australian Government. Department of Education and Training