University Mathematics Assessment Practices During the Covid-19 Pandemic


  • Matthew Henley
  • Michael Grove
  • Rachel Hilliam



Assessment, Covid-19 adjustments, Academic integrity, Open-book assessment.


In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic departments of mathematical sciences within the UK and Ireland needed to adapt their teaching approaches and methodologies from March 2020 to incorporate not only government social distancing requirements, but also periods of national lockdown and the fact that students were necessarily studying online. In planning for the many different and possible scenarios, universities implemented a range of emergency measures and regulation changes to provide frameworks for adapting teaching, learning and assessment approaches, and at a subject level, departments also needed to correspondingly respond to specific disciplinary needs. Here we specifically consider the changes made by mathematical sciences departments to their assessment practices in the period from March 2020 until January 2021 and their proposed adjustments for the remainder of the 2020/21 academic year. We found that departments were using a range of different approaches regarding the release of their assessments and this paper considers the implications of each for future practice. In particular we identified a concerning issue that emerged across a number of departments in relation to academic misconduct that will now require a community-wide approach if open-book online assessments are to prove a valid, reliable and fair method of assessment in the longer-term.


BERA, 2011. Ethical guidelines for educational research. Available at: 2014/02/BERA-Ethical-Guidelines-2011.pdf.

Clark, T., Callam, C., Paul, N., Stoltzfus, M., Turner, D. and Spinney, R., 2020. Testing in the time of Covid-19: a sudden transition to unproctored online exams. Journal of Chemical Education, 97 (9), pp. 3413–3417.

Eaton, S. and Turner, K., 2020. Exploring academic integrity and mental health during COVID-19: rapid review. Journal of Contemporary Education Theory & Research, 4 (2), pp. 35–41. Available at

Grove, M., Croft, T. and Lawson, D., 2019. The extent and uptake of mathematics support in higher education: results from the 2018 survey. Teaching Mathematics and its Applications: An International Journal of the IMA, 39 (2), pp. 86-104. Available at:

HESA, n.d.(a). HESA subject codes. Available at documentation/jacs/hesa-codes (Accessed 22 March 2021).

HESA, n.d.(b). Table 13 - HE student enrolments by HE provider and subject of study 2014/15 to 2018/19. Available at table-13#note (Accessed 5 February 2021).

Iannone, P., and Simpson, A., 2012. A survey of current assessment practices. In: P. Iannone, A. Simpson, eds. 2012. Mapping university mathematics assessment practices, pp. 3–15.

King, C., Guyette, R., and Piotrowski, C., 2009. Online exams and cheating: an empirical analysis of business students’ views. Journal of Educators Online, 6(1), pp. 1–11. Available at

Lancaster, T. and Cotarlan, C., 2021. Contract cheating by STEM students through a file sharing website: a Covid-19 pandemic perspective. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 17(3).

Phiri, P.A., 1993. A comparison of assessment by closed book and open book test. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 24(1), pp. 23-26.

Rovai, A., 2000. Online and traditional assessments: What is the difference? Internet and Higher Education, 3 (3), pp. 141-151.

Trenholm, S., 2007. A review of cheating in fully asynchronous online courses: A math or fact-based course perspective. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 35(3), pp. 281–300.

Trenholm, S. and Peschke, J., 2020. Teaching undergraduate mathematics fully online: a review from the perspective of communities of practice. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 17(37).

Trenholm, S., Peschke, J., and Chinnappan, M., 2019. A review of fully online undergraduate mathematics instruction through the lens of large-scale research (2000-2015). PRIMUS, 29(10), pp. 1080–1100.


Additional Files