Rules of the Game questionnaire

Rules of the Game questionnaire


This questionnaire was originally designed for psychology students to ascertain to what extent certain myths and folklore existed around what they thought tutors would give marks for in their essays. We called these strategies ‘rules of the game’ (Norton, Dickins & McLaughlin Cook, 1996a,b). By this term we meant tactics that students believed would influence their tutor to give them higher marks than their essay deserved (either by flattering them or by trying to mislead them). ROGs were not explicit strategies or criteria that tutors had expressly promoted.  What we found were that use of these tactics was widespread, and not confined to one subject (i.e. Psychology) or to one institution. We also found that use of ROGs was closely related to cheating behaviours and to a fear of failure (Norton, Tilley, Newstead & Franklyn-Stokes, 2001).

Using the Questionnaire

As well as being a research instrument, this questionnaire works very well in sessions with students aimed at helping them to understand the assessment system and the importance of assessment criteria.


Responses score 1 for ‘Yes’ and 0 for ‘No’ giving a possible maximum overall score of 25 and a minimum overall score of 0.  The higher the score the more likely it is that the student needs guidance on the explicit assessment criteria that tutors use when marking their essays.


Norton, L. S., Dickins, T. E. & McLaughlin Cook, A. N. (1996a) Rules of the Game in essay writing, Psychology Teaching Review, 5, 1, 1–14.

Norton, L. S., Dickins, T. E. & McLaughlin Cook, N. (1996b) Coursework assessment: what are lecturers really looking for? in: G. Gibbs. (Ed.) Improving Student Learning. Using Research to Improve Student Learning ,Oxford: The Oxford Centre for Staff Development.

Norton, L.S., Tilley, A.J.,  Newstead, S.E. & Franklyn-Stokes, A.. (2001)  The pressures of assessment in undergraduate courses and their effect on student behaviours.  Assessment & evaluation in Higher Education, 26, 3, 269-284.

Rules of the Game


In this questionnaire there are listed a number of ‘tactics’ that undergraduates have been known to adopt in the past in the belief that it may favourably influence their tutor when s/he is marking their essays. These tactics have been called ‘Rules of the Game’.

Please read each statement carefully and indicate by circling either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, whether you have ever (meaning at least once) used any of these tactics.

Item As an undergraduate have you ever: Yes No
1 Chosen the easiest title to give you a good chance of getting a high mark? Yes No
2 Tried to include information not covered in the lectures/obscure references? Yes No
3 Used up to date/interesting references/lots of references/contradictory references in your essay? Yes No
4 Played the role of a good student? Yes No
5 Used big words/technical terms/jargon to impress your tutor? Yes No
6 Wrote a lot/wrote big/made the essay look longer/exceeded word limit? Yes No
7 Presented a false bibliography? Yes No
8 Tried to reflect your tutor’s opinions/views/style as closely as possible? Yes No
9 Made your essay visually exciting? Yes No
10 Put your greatest effort into getting a high mark for the first submitted essay in a course? Yes No
11 Asked tutor for help so s/he will approve of you and think you are a keen student? Yes No
12 When feeling confident, argued a position regardless of your tutor’s views in order to appear insightful/clever etc? Yes No
13 Avoided criticising your marker’s views and/or research in the essay? Yes No
14 Avoided putting simple/basic textbooks in the bibliography even though you have used them? Yes No
15 Acted extra ‘nice’/asked for sympathy to get an extension for your essay? Yes No
16 Chosen an essay title nearest to the tutor’s subject or research area? Yes No
17 Put a theorist’s name against your own point/criticism/comment to make it look erudite? Yes No
18 Avoided writing anything controversial in the essay? Yes No
19 Found out who would mark the essays so that you could choose the title set by the easiest marker, or the tutor you get on best with? Yes No
20 Invented studies/research/articles to include in the essay? Yes No
21 Handed the essay in before the deadline to create the impression that the assignment was mastered without difficulty/to show eagerness? Yes No
22 Chosen an unpopular essay title so that your answer is distinctive? Yes No
23 Chosen a difficult title in the hope of being given extra credit? Yes No
24 Got to know the tutors socially in order to favourably influence them? Yes No
25. Changed dates of old research to make it look like up to date research? Yes No

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