Audits of 23 degree programmes in eight universities showed wide variations in assessment patterns and feedback. Scores from Assessment Experience Questionnaire returns revealed consistent relationships between characteristics of assessment and student learning responses, including a strong relationship between quantity and quality of feedback and a clear sense of goals and standards, and between both these scales and students’ overall satisfaction. Focus group data helped to explain students’ learning responses but also identified ambivalent responses to the use of formative-only assessment, particularly when it was optional. Frequently, students were unclear about goals and standards, and found feedback unhelpful when assessment demands differed across modules, and when marking standards and approaches varied widely, making it difficult for feedback to feed forwards. The methodology underpinning the Transforming the Experience of Students through Assessment study described here has been used in more than 20 universities worldwide and is helping teachers to redesign assessment regimes, so that teachers’ efforts support learning better.