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Marks and degree classification

Each piece of written work will be awarded a numerical mark (0 to 100 per cent) and a literal mark (A to F). You will also receive written comments in the margins of the essay and on a cover sheet, and markers will be very willing to discuss these with you.

Work that does not count for assessment, and work done for the three first year units, will normally be marked only by one person; this means that it can be marked and returned to you as quickly as possible.

How the final mark is awarded for a module is usually explained in the course unit description. For more information on how your work is assessed, take a look at your course handbook.

Scale of literal marks and their numerical equivalents

Literal Mark Numerical Mark Degree classification
75-100 First
69 Upper Second






59 Lower Second





C++ 49

C+ 46-48
C 43-45
C- 40-42


30-39 Fail (compensated)
0-29 Fail

Determination of Honours Classification:

The classification of the honours degree to be awarded shall be based on the average of all the weighted results for completed modules from Levels 5 (I) and 6 (H) that have been assigned a mark of 0-100.

The College sets the class of Degree that may be awarded as follows:

First: 70% or above for the average weighted module results
Upper Second:
60% or above for the average weighted module results
Lower Second:
50% or above for the average weighted module results
40% or above for the average weighted module results

The final Degree classification agreed through the assessment process is based on academic judgement and the above calculation is only used as a guide.

Once a student has fulfilled the criteria for the honours degree they may not undertake further modules in order to improve his/her average result.

Whilst the arithmetical average will be the main factor under CAS regulations, a preponderance of marks in a particular class, with good support, will normally ensure a degree classification in that class should the average result be borderline. The classification of a degree is at the discretion of the BA English Sub-Board of Examiners. All marks are provisional until agreed by the College Board of Examiners.

  • First: At least four full unit marks or the equivalent in the A range (i.e. above AB) plus at least four full unit marks or the equivalent above B and one other normally of B= or above, except that one mark in the C range can be compensated by a fifth A mark.
  • 2:1: At least five full unit marks or the equivalent above B with at least two others in the B range [i.e. B++ to B=]. Marks in the C range can be compensated by marks of B++ or above.
  • 2:2: At least five full unit marks or the equivalent of B= or above and support in the C range [i.e. C++ to C-].
  • 3: Seven marks of C- or above. Of the two remaining marks (F marks) at least one must be in the 30-39 (compensated fail) and this mark must be for a level-6 module [see below for levels and weightings].
  • Fail: Any profile with two non-compensated fails (29 or below) is a failure.

Levels and Weightings

For degree classification all modules (course units) are assigned a ‘level’ and a ‘weighting’.

Levels: BA degree programmes are made up of 12 modules, some of which are at level 4, some level 5 and some level 6. Degree programmes at Birkbeck differ in the number of modules required at each level. For example, in BA English the three first-year core modules are at level 4, the two compulsory second year modules and the option module taken by full-time students in the first year are at level 5, and most other modules and half modules are at level 6. (Thus the balance of levels four, five and six is generally 3-3-6 on this programme. Other programmes have different balances, e.g. 4-4-4).

Weighting: First year core modules (level 4) are weighted at zero, that is, they are not included in the final degree qualification. Compulsory second year modules (level 5) and any level 5 option taken by full-time students in the first year are weighted at 1. Optional modules (level 6) are weighted at 2.

These weightings come into effect only at the end of the degree course. In final degree classification, when the exam board works out a student’s average numerical score, weighting is a way of giving more prominence to work done in the third and fourth years. It is based on the idea that students progress during their course and that progression should be rewarded. Building in a reward for progression is common practice in universities, and it has been regularly used in other departments at Birkbeck in the past. It is now an integral part of the Common Awards Scheme.

In final degree classification the weighted average will be used only in the framework of the ‘criteria for degree classification’ given above.

This weighting scheme does not apply to students who began their course prior to CAS standardization. Please see your administrator if you have questions regarding your CAS status.

Please note: The assessment criteria given here apply only to Inter-disciplinary courses run by the Department of English & Humanities. It is the responsibility of the student to make sure they have correct information about assessment criteria in each Department in which they take modules. Please see the Common Awards Scheme ( for more detailed information.

Examiners are invited to assess the following aspects of the work:

  • originality of candidate’s ideas, aims and approach
  • understanding of literary and critical issues
  • quality of analysis
  • relevance
  • awareness of secondary literature
  • coherence and rigour of argument
  • clarity of expression and quality of English
  • organisation
  • presentation