Marking Criteria for Year 3


Guidelines for criteria used for classifying answers in examination scripts, and in other assessed work.

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.

-Work may engage with arguments in the literature clearly and with confidence.

-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.

-Good work at this level will communicate a sense that the student is developing a recognizable position in relation to debates in the discipline, and a distinct cognitive style.

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, making errors of inference, failing to identify sources adequately and accurately etc. Weighing strengths and weaknesses in each essay or exam script and arriving at a summative mark is not an exact science. The following list gives some sense of the range of strengths and weaknesses on which we base our marking judgments.



70 - 75% Evidence of extensive reading, engagement with others' ideas.

Evidence of outstanding analytical/synthetic ability and critical thinking.

Evidence of ability to argue logically and organise answers coherently.

Evidence of deep understanding of subject of course.

Evidence of wide appreciation of subject of course.

Appropriate use of notation and bibliography

75 - 80% All the above, plus evidence of originality of a sort that might make the answer publishable material.

80% + As above, plus obviously superior understanding of the complexities of the issues involved (and, for dissertations) a clear sense of the answer being publishable for its originality and penetrating analysis or productive synthesis.


('very good / good')

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

Evidence of good analytical and/or synthetic ability and critical thinking.

Evidence of ability to argue logically and organise answers/essays coherently.

Evidence of thorough grasp of concepts, effective exemplification.

Evidence of wide appreciation of subject.

Appropriate use of notation and bibliography


('quite good / satisfactory')

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

Generally accurate reproduction of ideas aired in classes and lectures without evidence of much independent engagement with the topics.

Limited ability to argue logically and organise answers or essays effectively.

Discussions may be lacking in illustrative examples, or dominated by narrative rather than argument.

Demonstrated understanding of important concepts and narratives incomplete, more or less simplistic.

Inconsistent and occasionally inappropriate use of notation and bibliography.

Work demonstrates basic competence.


('adequate / barely adequate')

40 - 49% grasp of concepts and narratives may be partial, erroneous, contradictory, or confused.

Little evidence of use of lecture/seminar material or relevant independent reading, little evidence of command of the relevant material.

Some attempt at answering questions but proneness to confusion, inaccuracy and irrelevance.

Evident weaknesses of expression tending to obscure the student's ability to express and communicate ideas and information.

Frequent errors and misconceptions.

Notation and bibliography inconsistent, often meagre or inappropriate.

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

Students are reminded that 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% Attempts to answer questions, but very limited content, and very 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.

Work may show a clear inability or symptomatic reluctance to use notation and bibliography adequately to identify the student’s debts to the work of scholars in the field.

30 - 34% No evidence of understanding of the nature of the course but some attempt at answering question.

Serious misconceptions and obvious errors.

Command of written English inadequate to the required task.

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

. Not much attempt at answering questions.

0 - 20% No significant evidence of having done the course or of being able to answer questions. Evidence of Plagiarism (may also be referred to UCL’s central disciplinary processes.

Tom Gretton October 1997, latest revision 09/07

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