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Assessment Guidelines and Marking

Criteria for assessment at undergraduate level.
Updated 27 October 2011.

Criteria for assessing coursework

Degree Class equivalentCourse work gradePercentage rangeCriteria
High First A** 90-100 Outstanding work, going far beyond simply answering the question. Full achievement of objectives, coupled with an original and scholarly contribution to the topic(s) addressed. As good a piece of work as could be achieved in the time available. Shows a sophisticated understanding of the question, presenting a highly persuasive and original response, completely immersed in contemporary debate in the field. May display characteristics more usually found at postgraduate level or that demonstrate the potential for publication. Offers a very wide range of references and is fully and comprehensively referenced throughout. Analysis of numerical material will be completely accurate and appropriate.
Clear First A* 80-89 Excellent work, worthy of retention for future reference and application to teaching or research. Based on critical appraisal of a large volume of material, and showing a deep approach to the subject. Presents an elegantly structured argument that displays sustained critical independence and cogent analysis. Comprehensive and logical with first rate presentation and written in unambiguous, readable English. Offers a wide range of references and is fully and correctly referenced throughout. Communication of ideas showing a sophistication not normally found at undergraduate level. There should be synthesis, with a critical weighing of evidence, and quotation of authorities in recent literature. Engages critically and imaginatively with secondary literature, moving well beyond the material presented in lectures and seminars and positioning its own argument within academic debates. The candidate's own conclusions should be evident, if appropriate. Analysis of numerical material will be complete, accurate and appropriate.
First A 70-89 Shows critical insight and appreciation of the topic and associated literature. Both introductory material and the critical discussion show a logical sequence of ideas, and conclusions are fully justified. Totally focused on the subject matter, with evidence of understanding and reading beyond that provided by the lecturer. Skill in synthesis should be obvious. Engages critically and imaginatively with the literature, moving beyond the material presented in lectures and positioning its own argument within the academic debate. Abundant evidence of background research and citations of references from relevant research. Written in unambiguous, readable English, with complete and accurate referencing. Analysis of numerical material will be complete, accurate and appropriate.
Upper Second B 60-69 Thorough, clear treatment showing a good understanding of the relevant arguments, facts, theoretical underpinnings and context. A complete account of the material, with a well-written discussion showing substantial evidence of understanding. Shows sound understanding of the question, presenting a perceptive and relevant response. Presents a lucid and well-structured argument that displays critical independence and effective analysis. Sound and coherent conclusions. Engages critically with secondary literature and/or material from lectures and seminars, doing so in the service of an independent argument, with full and accurate referencing. Efficient and substantial use of literature/data with no serious flaws of misconceptions; minor errors are acceptable. Analysis of numerical material will be complete, accurate and appropriate.
Lower Second C 50-59 Pedestrian treatment of wide literature or database OR adequate treatment of incomplete data or literature with little spark or critical insight. Fair knowledge or understanding of the material studied, but characterised by one or more of the following: lack of critical analysis, lack of independent thought, argument not very well structured or relevant, some gaps in planning, or flawed use of evidence. Attempts a structured argument, but may be prone to the general, the arbitrary, the derivative, the incomplete and/or the descriptive. No substantial evidence of synthesis. Reproduces material covered in lectures/seminars but adds only a little that comes from the student’s own research and investigation. Makes use of secondary literature and material from lectures and seminars, but not always in the service of an independent argument. Approach and content give some evidence of reading and awareness of debate but may be too descriptive and generalised or needing a clearer focus. May have some gaps in argument, planning or use of evidence. Less well organised, accurate and detailed than a 60%+ answer. Analysis of numerical material should be largely accurate, if incomplete.
Third D 40-49 Shows a limited understanding of the question and presents a less than competent response that lacks focus. Basic approach to a narrow or misguided and selection of material. Deficient in background or flawed in arguments. Either fails to present an argument or presents one that is incoherent, incomplete and/or flawed. Lines of reasoning not sustained and conclusions not supported by text/project analysis. Makes little or no use of secondary literature or uses it inappropriately and derivatively; is heavily reliant on material derived from lectures and seminars without evidence of independent assimilation of it. A less than complete account of the subject matter, with significant omissions both in text and/or analysis of data. Organisation is adequate for only part of the answer, as irrelevant material, omissions, and inaccuracies all reduce the quality of the work. Referencing poorly presented according to departmental criteria. Analysis of numerical material inaccurate and/or incomplete.
Fail F 30-39 Adequate effort, but work is shallow and poorly presented and the approach is very basic. Shows a scant understanding of the question and presents a minimal or partial response that is severely limited. Either fails to present an argument or presents unrelated weak assertions or opinions. Demonstrates little or no reading of literature; makes poor use of material from lectures and seminars that reveals little coherent understanding of it. Overall, partial, superficial, deeply flawed with only the minimum amount of relevant material. Organisation is poor, with serious omissions or major errors, but with some understanding of concepts. Lacking in sustained lines of thought or reasoning. No conclusion or conclusions incorrect. Poor planning and presentation. Referencing incomplete and poorly presented according to departmental criteria. Analysis of numerical material inaccurate and incomplete.
Fail F 20-29 Shows little or no understanding of the question, and presents an irrelevant or confused response. Fails to present an argument or demonstrate any significant analytical ability. Demonstrates little or no reading of secondary literature; makes no or garbled use of material from lectures and seminars. Predominantly composed of inadequate material without any serious scholarly content. Shows little understanding of what is required, being marred by inaccuracies and omissions. Referencing inadequate or absent.
Fail F 10-19 No adherence to project/essay outline or title. Completely inadequate knowledge and understanding; may contain a few partially relevant facts. Often trivial and anecdotal.
Fail F 0-9 As above, but highly foreshortened and with clear absence of effort. Totally inaccurate or irrelevant answer. No evidence of understanding. Individual correct facts may attract marks.
Fail F 0 Copied or plagiarised answer with no intellectual input from the student OR work penalised for late submission, having been submitted without mitigating circumstances.

Coursework can be of many different types: seminars, oral presentations, poster sessions, field course reports etc., but usually a single module will utilize only a small number of these alternatives. Coursework is part of the examination for the module, and so like the written examination it is marked by your Module Convenor (or appropriate lecturer) and moderated by another member of the department concerned. You will receive feedback on your coursework accompanied by a provisional grade. However, the provisional grade may be subject to change following internal moderation or under advice from the External Examiner. All coursework is available for the External Examiner to consult.

Criteria for assessing examination answers

It is not possible to generate a simple set of criteria for all examination answers because of the different levels of courses and kinds of topics. However, examination answers for unseen, written papers will be often of the essay type. The criteria below were devised mainly for essay answers. To obtain a high mark, you have to demonstrate sound understanding of the topic or different topics. We judge understanding in terms of the ability to analyse and synthesise information, rather than the recall of a multitude of detailed facts.

Degree Class equivalentGradePercentage rangeCriteria
High First A** 90-100 An outstanding answer with logical sequence of ideas, sensible presentation of subject matter and written in unambiguous, readable English. Presentation of ideas showing sophistication not normally found at undergraduate level. There should be synthesis, critical weighing of evidence and reference to authorities in recent literature. The answer does more than paraphrase other scholars’ ideas and demonstrates a conceptual understanding of the issues at stake. The essay may develop or introduce new ideas that are thought-provoking or which challenge received views. If appropriate, the candidate's own opinion should be evident.
Clear First A* 80-89 Excellent presentation of discussion with logical sequence of ideas and sensible organisation of subject matter. The answer engages closely with the question set and shows a critical understanding of its wider implications. The structure of the answer facilitates a coherent and convincing argument. Descriptive material from a accurately cited literature and factual evidence is used to support and develop the writer’s argument. Skill in synthesis should be obvious. The answer may develop ideas that are original, and may be structured in a way that enables the writer to develop independent lines of thought. If appropriate, the candidate's own opinion should be evident.
First A 70-79 Answer shows a capacity for original thought, together with an ability to write clearly and sustain an argument. The essay is well-balanced, complete, maintains a good quality of discussion throughout, shows an ability to synthesise complex ideas, avoids repetition and includes well-reasoned conclusions. focused on the question and showing evidence of understanding and significant reading beyond the lectures.. Appropriate choice of examples with relevant diagrams where necessary. Written in unambiguous, readable English. If appropriate, the candidate's own opinion should be presented in a logical and coherent narrative.
Upper Second B 60-69 A complete answer with good presentation of discussion; well-written and informative. Accurate recall of material, including citation, drawn from a variety of sources, evidence of breadth of reading, and good understanding of principles underlying subject. Evidence of clarity of thought, focussed argument and ability to discuss theoretical issues. Although the answer may not demonstrate real originality, the candidate presents ideas with a degree of intellectual independence, and demonstrates an ability to reflect on the relevant issues. Descriptive material and factual evidence are deployed relevantly. The structure of the answer facilitates a clear development of the candidate’s argument; however, towards the lower end of the class candidates may not sustain an analytical approach throughout. Low 2i answers are less effective at explaining the argumentative implications of evidence cited. Organisation not so critical as for first class answers; any weakness in presentation should be compensated for by appropriate examples and synthesis.
Lower Second C 50-59 Clear, relatively complete answer to the question set, with some extra relevant information. The answer displays some understanding of the question set, but may lack a sustained focus and may show only a modest understanding of the question’s wider implications. The structure of the answer may be heavily influenced by the material at the writer’s disposal rather than by the requirements of the question set. Ideas may be stated rather than developed. Descriptive material and factual evidence are deployed, but not necessarily with the kind of critical reflections characteristic of answers in higher classes. Information is largely relevant and accurate, but with no or very limited evidence of synthesis. The answer shows some understanding of scholars’ ideas, but may fail to reflect critically upon them. The answer is unlikely to show originality in approach or argument, and may tend towards the assertion of essentially derivative ideas. Knowledge is significant, but may be limited and patchy. There may be some inaccuracy but basic knowledge is sound. The range of reading implied by the answer is limited. The candidate may want to display knowledge without reference to the precise requirements of the question. Information may be used rather uncritically, without serious attempts to evaluate its status and significance. Some sections may be poorly written, making the essay uncompelling or difficult to follow, obscuring key points or leading to over-generalisation.
Third D 40-49 A less than complete recall of information gained only from lectures and handout sheets, but showing some understanding of principles. There may be relevant material but the answer lacks sufficient focus on the question, or sparse coverage of the material. There is sufficient knowledge to frame a basic answer to the question, but it is limited and patchy. The answer has a structure but this may be underdeveloped, and the argument may be incomplete and unfold in a haphazard or undisciplined manner. There is an argument, but the candidate may be prone to excessive narrative, and the argument may be signposted by bald assertion rather than informed generalizations. Key theoretical aspects or points of information are lacking. The answer displays little understanding of the question, and the candidate may tend to write indiscriminately around the question. Some descriptive material and factual evidence is deployed, but without any critical reflection on its significance and relevance. Evidence of some reading and attempt to address the question, but generally descriptive and/or not well supported by evidence or examples. Information is used uncritically as if always self-explanatory. Organisation is adequate for only part of the answer. There is some inaccuracy, but adequate material is present to frame a rudimentary answer to the question. However, irrelevant material, omissions, and inaccuracies all reduce the quality of the answer.
Fail F 30-39 A partial and superficial answer with some material relevant to question and some understanding of principles. The answer is very poorly structured and lacks a clear narrative. Some factual evidence is presented, but it is inaccurate and/or irrelevant. Serious omissions, or major errors, show misunderstanding of the question. Uses a minimal range of reading or shows no evidence of reading. May be repetitious, consisting of a string of weak assertions / opinions which may not relate to each other and without supporting evidence. Deficient in the knowledge of relevant material, understanding of the question set, or the presentation of clear and rational arguments. The style, grammar and syntax may be inadequate. Essays which completely miss the point of the question also fall into this class.
Fail F 20-29 Answer predominantly composed of irrelevant material. Some understanding of question set, but answer inadequate. The writing is not coherent and may be in the form of disjointed sentences. Makes reference to themes anticipated by the question but is seriously deficient for one or more of the following reasons: ran out of time; includes insufficient relevant material; limited understanding of the question leading to superficial and irrelevant comments; lists key themes in note or diagrammatic form, without comment or explanation.
Fail F 10-19 Trivial and anecdotal; unfocused and irrelevant. No adherence to topic of question. Completely inadequate knowledge and understanding; may contain a few partially relevant facts. Marks may be awarded for individual accurate facts.
Fail F 0-9 As above, but highly foreshortened and with clear absence of effort. Totally inaccurate or irrelevant answer. No evidence of understanding or no material of relevance to the question asked. No recognition of the demands of the question asked and/or no serious attempt to answer it. Individual correct facts may attract marks.
Fail F 0 No evidence of understanding or knowledge. A completely inadequate answer.