Marking Criteria for Year 1


Students have come to History of Art at UCL from a wide range of academic backgrounds. This is one main reason why we give relatively little weight to Y1 marks in the process of classification (at the end of the Final year). Remember that the mark you get is only one part of the assessment we give you: read and think carefully about written comments: if you want to discuss them with the marker, do so.

Exam scripts, tests and essays can show a number of distinct sorts of strength at this level.

-Work may summarise a debate or a narrative succinctly and clearly.

-Work may identify aspects of works of art accurately, and discuss them in relevant contexts.

-Work may be well organised, clearly written, and manage the relationship between argument and example effectively.

-Work may show real effort: thorough reading and other preparation, full exemplification, notes and bibliography.

-Work may put an argument from one source together with argument from another source, or with evidence from another context, in a productive way (strength in synthesis).

-Work may analyse an art-object effectively from a clear point of view, or may make an informed critique of an argument (strength in analysis).

-Work may transmit energy, enthusiasm and commitment to some aspect of the subject.

This is not an exhaustive list of the strengths students may show: very few essays have every strength. In addition to these there is the list of weaknesses students may show: not completing the task set according to the instructions given, skimping on learning the subject and on reflecting on the issues raised in a course, reading incuriously, reproducing information inaccurately, making errors of inference, expressing ideas poorly, transcribing the words of others without distinguishing them from their own: especially in Y1, failing to get work in on time etc. Weighing strengths and weaknesses and arriving at a summative mark is not an exact science. The following list gives you some sense of the qualities suggested by the judgments we make.

FIRST CLASS: 'excellent'

80% + • [Rarely given; indicates work which the examiners think of as being in some sense 'a class above a First'] An impressive understanding of the issues involved, and a clear ability to formulate responses to questions in exciting ways; combined with virtues which earn marks in the 70-79 range.

75 - 80% • Sustained evidence of thorough and alert reading.

• Sustained evidence of vigorous analytical and/or synthetic intelligence, and of the ability to think independently and critically.

• Evidence of wide engagement with topics and issues raised in the course.

• Sustained writing showing high promise in terms of articulateness, and of the ability to make points accurately, clearly and forcefully.

70 - 74% • Work which shows the above qualities in a number of ways and in a number of instances, and is otherwise generally of the level of achievement which fully meets the Upper second-class criteria.

UPPER SECOND CLASS: 'very good/good' (if you also get marks in the 70s, and want to increase the ratio, talk to your tutor: if you are just missing marks in the 70s, ditto).

60 - 69% • Evidence of thorough reading and awareness of relevant points of view.

• Evidence of good analytical and/or synthetic skill, and of critical thinking.

• Evidence of the ability to construct and control a logical argument to make a coherent response to a question.

• Evidence of an effective grasp of concepts and use of examples to support points in an argument.

• Evidence of the ability to identify and discuss relevant visible aspect of works of art.

• Evidence that the student is aware of and learning to use the conventions of bibliography and notation

LOWER SECOND CLASS: 'quite good/satisfactory' (if you regularly get this sort of mark in the first year, consult your tutor. Improvement may be a matter of working harder, but it may also be a matter of essay-writing skills).

50 - 59% • Evidence of awareness of the main themes and aspects of the course.

• Competent repetition of data and ideas from lecture notes and standard texts, with limited evidence of independent reading and thought.

• Limited ability to argue logically and organise answers effectively.

• Answers dominated by narrative rather than argument.

• Understanding of concepts of limited completeness and effectiveness.

• Limited ability to identify or discuss relevant visible aspects of art objects.

• A tendency to let previous scholars speak for you, through over-dependence on quotation or failure to identify others’ words as such.

• The task only partially completed according to the instructions given.

THIRD CLASS: 'adequate/barely adequate' (students who regularly get this sort of mark in the first year should be seriously concerned, and should consult the relevant teachers).

40 - 49% • Understanding of concepts partial, inaccurate and confused.

• Little evident awareness of the main topics and issues of the course

• Little evidence of use of lecture/seminar material or independent reading.

• Answers tending to irrelevance, showing uncritical and inaccurate recall of data, and weakness in the construction of sentences and/or arguments.

• Overdependence on acknowledged or (worse) inadequately acknowledged ‘copying out’ of passages from the literature.

• The task poorly or only partially completed according to the instructions given.


FAIL: Work at this level does not contribute towards the award of a degree.

N.B. failure to answer the required number of questions in an Exam can easily produce an average mark in the 'fail' range, even though the work presented is of a higher standard.

35 - 39% If your course-result is in this band, we will offer you the chance to do another assessment before you return next year, in order to raise the mark to 40 and a pass.

• Attempts to answer questions, but very limited content, and very limited ability to organise material or concepts.

• The task completed in a way that is in breach of the instructions given,

• Limited, confused or over-simplified grasp of the topics and issues of the course.

• Frequent errors and misconceptions.

• Serious weaknesses in the ability to use written English to conduct an argument on the basis of evidence.

• At all ‘fail’ levels, work may show an inability (or other failure) to identify and acknowledge the student’s debts to the literature for words and ideas.

30 - 34% • Tenuous evidence of adequate understanding of the nature of course, but some attempt to answer question; many serious misconceptions, obvious errors.

• Very limited grasp of material of course; short and impoverished answers.

• Serious weaknesses in the ability to use written English to conduct an argument on the basis of evidence and/or of scholarly citation and bibliographic skills

20 - 30% • Not much evidence of having done the course.

• Incompetent, incoherent or perfunctory attempt to answer question.

0 - 20% • Answers non-existent, fragmentary or thoroughly irrelevant

• evidence of having done the course hard to find.

• Evidence of plagiarism (may also be dealt with via UCL’s disciplinary procedures)

Tom Gretton, ii.98, latest modification 09/07