How MSc/MRes courses are assessed
Assessment requirements for core courses
- Assessment of core courses is by a three-hour unseen written examination taken at the end of the academic year, in May or early June.
- Written examinations at Birkbeck normally take place on weekdays between 10am and 5.30pm. An opportunity to take a practice examination is offered in March.
- You will be required to submit one essay of 3000 words in length, chosen from a list of approved questions or on a question agreed with the lecturer teaching the course.
- The mark for the essay does not contribute towards final assessment, but it is an essential requirement for completing the course.
Assessment requirements for option courses
- Half of each option unit is assessed by a three-hour unseen written examination taken at the end of the academic year (in late May or early June).
- The other half is determined by one written assignment submitted on set dates. The essay is of 3000 words in length, chosen from approved titles or, exceptionally, on questions agreed with the lecturer teaching the course.
- For some courses, such as Research Methods, other types of assignment, such as data analyses, are employed..
- MRes students should note that Research Methods, although required, is assessed on the same basis as an option course. Students on this course are required to submit two coursework assignments and must sit an unseen examination in May or June.
- The dissertation for the MSc/MRes counts for one-third of the entire degree.
- The dissertation requires you to treat a chosen subject in depth (12,000-15,000 words), involving sustained and independent research.
- It must address a well-defined question, have precise objectives and must present a sustained, coherent argument.
- A dissertation will typically involve the use of a far wider range of sources and materials than would normally be consulted for a course essay, including primary documentation, databases, interviews and other primary sources.
- Most often, students choose a case study which they use to assess/explore/validate/critically examine a relevant argument or theory, but it is also possible to undertake a comparative study - for example, to compare a particular system or development in two or more places, or to use quantitative data to test, or to form, a hypothesis.
- Marking for dissertations is similar to those for all other assessed work: they are double-marked, blind, internally and a sample is also referred to an external examiner for consideration.
Exams and your availability
- The exam period starts in early May and ends in mid-June.
- You will need to make sure that you are available during the full exam period, since no alternative arrangements for sitting the exams can be made.
- In order to accommodate the number of exams set across the College, exams are taken during the working day.
- It will, therefore, be necessary for you to arrange time-off with your employer once the exam timetable is known. The exam timetable is published in March.