Assessment is an important element of university curricula for both teachers and students. It provides evidence that students have learned what their teachers expected them to learn. There is good evidence that teachers’ use of exemplars in a dedicated marking class held before an assessment task helps students understand what is expected of them in regards to standards of work; the level of students’ assessment task performance is consequently enhanced. However it is unclear whether students’ process of marking exemplars, or a teacher’s explanation of the quality of exemplars, contributes more to students’ understanding of expectations. In this small-scale mixed methods study involving exam answer exemplars, we found that undergraduate and postgraduate Nutrition students value both marking and the teacher’s explanation for different reasons, and overall perceive the teacher’s explanation as being most beneficial for their learning. An important factor to also consider is students’ emotional reactions to the marking class and the potential implications of this on learning and exam preparation. We recommend that teachers be supported in implementing an interactive exemplar-based approach to help students learn about what is expected of them in assessment tasks, including exams.