Marking Criteria for Year 2


Exam scripts 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 present and contrast arguments in the literature with clarity and clear grasp of essential detail.

-Work may show evidence of hard and thorough work: extensive reading, apt exemplification, good bibliographic and scholarly skills.

-Work may put an argument from one source together with argument from another source, or with evidence from another context, in an illuminating way.

-Work may analyse an art-object from a particular point of view in a productive way, or may do a good critical analysis on an argument in the secondary literature.

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

This is not an exhaustive list of the things students may do well: very few essays do all of them well. In addition to these there is the list of things students may do badly: skimping on learning the subject and on reflecting on the issues raised in a course, reading incuriously, reproducing information inaccurately, failing adequately to acknowledge debts to sources, making errors of inference etc. Weighing the strengths and the weaknesses in each essay or exam script and arriving at a summative mark is not an easy or exact science. The following list gives you some sense of the range of strengths and weaknesses which influence the sorts of judgments we may 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 obviously superior understanding of the complexities (or, sometimes, the unexpected simplicities) of the issues involved, and a clear ability to formulate responses to questions in novel and productive ways; combined with the virtues which earn marks in the 70-79 range.

75 - 79% 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 and/or deep familiarity with the range of topics and issues addressed in the course

Sustained writing showing a high degree 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'

60 - 69% Evidence of wide relevant reading and engagement with others' ideas

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.

Appropriate bibliographic citations, sustained attempts to use notes to identify intellectual debts.

LOWER SECOND CLASS: 'quite good/satisfactory'

50 - 59% Evidence of awareness of the main topics and issues of the course.

Generally competent reproduction of data and ideas from lecture notes and standard texts, without much clear evidence of independent reading and thought.

Limited ability to argue logically and organise answers effectively.

Answers dominated by narrative rather than argument.

Bibliographic references slight, too often inaccurate; the use of footnotes too often inadequate to identify the sources of ideas, or to distinguish student’s words from those of secondary sources.

Understanding of concepts incomplete or simplistic.

THIRD CLASS: 'adequate/barely adequate'

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

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

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

Bibliographic references slight, the use of footnotes generally inadequate to distinguish the ideas of the student from those of the literature.

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


FAIL: work not judged as being of honours-level standard

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 marks given for the work presented indicates that they were 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 limited ability to organise material or concepts.

Very limited 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 a clear inability to use notation and bibliographical references to identify the student’s debts to the literature.

30 - 34% Weak evidence of adequate understanding of the topics and problems addressed in the course, but some attempt to answer question.

Many serious misconceptions, obvious errors.

Very limited grasp of material of course: short and factually impoverished answers

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

20 - 30% Engagement with the themes and bodies of information addressed in the course not adequately demonstrated

Incompetent, incoherent or perfunctory attempt to answer questions.

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 central UCL processes).

Tom Gretton, Chair of HoA Board of Examiners, October 1996 last modified 09/07

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