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How MSc/MRes courses are assessed

MRes Students

    'MRes' stands for Masters in Research, and is designed specifically for students who wish to continue on to a MPhil/PhD research degree or to pursue a career in social research. It is similar to an MSc, but is distinct in the following ways.

    1) You must take Qualitative Social Research and Quantitative Social Research as your option choices on the MRes programmes. (Except when you take MRes Politics in which case those modules are your compulsory/core modules.

    2) As an MRes student you will do a dissertation/final project in the same way as an MSc student, however in the dissertation you are required to demonstrate that you have applied concepts or used methods taught on the Qual and Quant modules.

Assessment requirements for core modules (MSc only)

  • Assessment of core modules is by a three-hour unseen written examination taken at the end of the academic year (held between the end of April and early June). Students must also submit and pass 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.
  • Written examinations at Birkbeck normally take place on weekdays between 10am and 5.30pm. An opportunity to take a mock examination is offered in March.

Assessment requirements for option modules (MSc and MRes)

Your dissertation

  • 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 normally starts in late April 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.