Mark Schemes and Classifications

Mark Schemes and Classifications

Mark Schemes, penalties for late submission of work, and Honours Classifications procedures form part of the University’s Study Regulations. This section of the Code of Practice on Examinations and Assessment offers further guidance on the application of the University Regulations. In the event of any conflict of interpretation between the Regulations and the Code of Practice, the Regulations take precedence.

Conceptual Equivalents Scale

The University uses a conceptual equivalents scale for the assessment of student work. The use of the conceptual equivalents scale is mandatory unless answers are either right or wrong, for example multiple choice or numerical assessments. Exemptions from the use of the scale, for example due to the requirements of professional, statutory or regulatory bodies, require approval by the Courses and Regulations Group.

The Scales and Level Descriptors are available in regulation 1.4 of the Study Regulations for Undergraduate Programmes and regulation 1.3 of the Study Regulations for Postgraduate Taught Programmes.

Guidelines on Marking the Work of Students with Dyslexia

According to the British Dyslexia Association dyslexia is a combination of abilities and difficulties which affect the learning process in one or more of reading, spelling and writing. Accompanying weakness may also be seen in processing short-term memory, sequencing, auditory and visual perception and motor skills. The number of students with dyslexia entering higher education has increased significantly in recent years.  This is primarily due to better awareness amongst teachers at second level regarding diagnosis. This is coupled with developed support strategies to assist people with dyslexia to reach their academic potential. 

It is important to note that making any accommodation for a student with dyslexia should not undermine academic standards. Certain subject areas e.g. languages, may explicitly assess competence with grammar, spelling and written expression. There may also be professional considerations in some areas, such as Law, Education, Medicine and allied subjects, where accrediting bodies external to the institution have expectations as to the standards and formats of written expression. It is considered best practice that each programme has clear aims and objectives, taking into consideration professional considerations. These aims and objectives should then give weighting as to the importance of written language skills. The marking criteria should be made explicit to all applicants for the course or programme.

If assessed work is to be returned to a student after marking, any comments provided by the assessor should be as positive and constructive as possible. Written feedback should ideally be word processed and annotations in the margin should be clearly linked to the section of the assignment to which they refer. Red and/or green ink should be avoided since both can be difficult for some students to read. Corrections to spelling, punctuation and grammar are often appreciated but should be limited to major errors unless orthographical and grammatical accuracy are explicitly under evaluation.

The purpose of these guidelines is to highlight best practice in assessing the work of dyslexic students. Consideration was given to guidance material produced by disability organisations and policies developed by other universities.  

Guidelines for Marking:

  1. Read the work looking for ideas, understanding and knowledge.
  2. Be very clear about the marking criteria in terms of the student meeting the learning outcome.
  3. Make constructive and positive comments.
  4. Explain your comments in a straightforward way.
  5. Word process feedback if possible.
  6. If you are commenting on spelling, grammar and punctuation, select a sample section rather than correcting the entire essay and inform the student that this is your approach.
  7. Each course should have explicit marking criteria which identifies how many marks are awarded for spelling and grammar.

For further information about dyslexia, please contact disability.office@qub.ac.uk.

Late Submission of Assessed Work

Assessed work submitted after the deadline will be penalised at the rate of 5% of the total marks available for each working day late up to a maximum of five working days, after which a mark of zero should be awarded, i.e., day one is 100% - 5%; day two is 100% - 10%; day three is 100% - 15%, etc. Where the assessed work element accounts for a certain proportion of the module mark, the 5% penalty will apply to the assessed element only and not to the overall module mark. Exemptions shall be granted only if there are exceptional circumstances, and where the student has made a case in writing to the School Office within three working days of the deadline for submission or where a concession has been agreed on the grounds of a student’s disability. A list of guidelines on acceptable exceptional circumstances is contained in the Guidelines for Schools on Exceptional Circumstances. Extensions to deadlines shall be proportionate to the impact of the exceptional circumstances.

Mark Scales

Undergraduate Programmes

The pass mark for undergraduate University examinations is 40%, except for professional examinations in Medicine and Dentistry and in the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

For unclassified results (e.g. a Foundation Degree) there is a common mark scale as follows:

            70+                  Pass with high commendation

            60+                  Pass with commendation 

            40+                  Pass

            Below 40         Fail

This mark scheme must be applied by all Boards of Examiners except where the Director of Academic and Student Affairs has, following application from the School, granted exemption from its use.

For classified results there is a common mark scale as follows:

            70+                  First Class

            60+                  Second Class, First Division

            50+                  Second Class, Second Division

            40+                  Third Class

            Below 40         Fail

Postgraduate Taught Programmes

The pass marks for taught postgraduate University examinations are as follows:

            40%                 Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma

            50%                 Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma and Master’s Degree

For Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma and Master’s Degree, students must pass all modules before an award can be made.

For Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma results there is a common mark scale as follows:

            70+                  Pass with distinction

            60+                  Pass with commendation

            40+                  Pass

            Below 40         Fail

For Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma and Master’s Degree there is a common mark scale as follows:

            70+                  Pass with distinction*

            60+                  Pass with commendation

            50+                  Pass

            Below 50         Fail

*For Master’s Degrees, a pass with Distinction will be awarded only when the following three conditions have been satisfied: an overall average of 70+ is achieved, and a mark of 70+ is achieved in the dissertation module, and an average of 65+ is achieved in the other modules.

These mark scales must be applied by all Boards of Examiners except where the Director of Academic and Student Affairs has, following application from the School, granted exemption from their use.

Honours Classification and the Predominance Rule: Regulations

The Study Regulations for Undergraduate Programmes 1.4.27-1.4.30 outline the University regulations concerning Honours Classification and the Predominance Rule.

Module Weighting for Degree Classification: Further Guidance

The weighting applied to a module depends on the stage in which the module is taken. For example, the relevant Stage 2 weighting would be applied to a Level 3 module taken in Stage 2. Likewise, a Level 2 module taken in Stage 3 would be weighted as a Stage 3 module.

Rounding of Marks for Award and Classification: Further Guidance

Rounding of Marks: Classified Undergraduate Programmes 

All marks must be recorded and returned as integers. The following arrangements apply where a mark contains a fraction:

  1. Individual module marks must be rounded up or down and returned by the Board of Examiners as integers. The integer is the final mark that is released to the student and that is used in calculating the final overall mark for classification purposes.
  2. The overall final degree mark (i.e. the mark arrived at once all the weighted individual module marks are brought together) should be truncated to one decimal place and rounded to an integer for the purpose of determining degree classification. For example, a weighted average mark of 59.7 is rounded up to 60, giving the student a 2.1.
  3. The overall final mark (i.e. the mark arrived at once all the weighted individual module marks are brought together) should be truncated to one decimal place and the decimal place discarded for the purpose of determining eligibility for predominance. For example, a weighted average mark of 56.7 does not qualify for consideration under the predominance rule as the .7 must be discarded.

Rounding of Marks: Unclassified Undergraduate Programmes and Postgraduate Taught Programmes

The following arrangements apply where a mark contains a fraction:

  1. Individual module marks must be rounded up or down and returned by the Board of Examiners as integers. The integer is the final mark that is released to the student.
  2. The overall final degree mark (i.e. the mark arrived at once all the weighted individual module marks are brought together) should be truncated to one decimal place and rounded to an integer. For example, a weighted average mark of 59.5 is rounded up to 60.

Discounting a Module for Degree Classification: Further Guidance

At the degree classifying programme board meeting, the Board of Examiners may exercise discretion by discounting the lowest-scoring module mark (or up to two half-modules) for classification purposes, where there is clear evidence that the module mark (un-weighted) does not reflect the student’s normal level of performance. Double modules may not be discounted.

For a module to be discounted, three criteria must be met:

  1. The student must have achieved a pass in the module concerned at the first attempt. Compulsory and core modules may be considered for discounting provided they have been passed and the criteria below have been met. Resits recorded as ‘ph’ cannot be discounted.
  2. The un-weighted mark must, in the judgement of the Board of Examiners, be out of line with the rest of the student’s mark profile and be unrepresentative of the student’s performance and ability. Each Board of Examiners is responsible for formulating its own policy as to what constitutes ‘out of line’ and ‘unrepresentative’.
  3. There must be evidence to support the examiners’ view that the mark does not reflect the student’s performance and ability. Relevant evidence may include the student’s attendance record, tutorial performance and assignment marks for both the module in question and for other modules taken at the same time.

All three of these criteria must be met before a module can be discounted. A Board must not, for example, discount a failed module, or discount the lowest module mark without supporting evidence that it is unrepresentative.

It is not necessary for Boards to consider in detail every student for discounting. In some cases it will be evident from the spreadsheet of marks that there is no module that could be discounted that would make any difference to the student’s degree classification. In such cases, there is no need to go through the procedure of looking for evidence and considering the appropriateness of discounting a module.

A Programme Board of Examiners may wish to consider discounting a module from a different subject area where applicable. The Chair or Secretary of the Board of Examiners should be delegated to contact the other subject area in advance of the Board’s meeting to establish whether there is any evidence to support discounting the module.

The Secretary to the Board of Examiners must ensure that the reasons for any decisions relating to the discounting of modules are recorded in the minutes. This includes any cases where, after considering the evidence, the Board has decided not to discount a module. Decisions must be based on clear evidence, and Boards of Examiners must ensure that all students are treated fairly.

If a module is discounted under the degree classification procedures, the Predominance Rule may be applied if the candidate’s resulting mark is at or above the relevant threshold. Please see below for further details.

The existing procedure for dealing with exceptional circumstances also makes provision for a Board of Examiners to discount a module or part of a module for classification purposes where medical certificates or evidence of exceptional circumstances are produced. By contrast, medical evidence is not required if a Board of Examiners wants to discount a module under the degree classification procedures. The requirement in this case is for evidence that the module is unrepresentative of the student’s performance and ability.

Where a module that would normally count towards classification has been discounted under the exceptional circumstances procedure, the Board of Examiners may not discount a further module under the degree classification procedures.

The Predominance Rule: Further Guidance

The thresholds for eligibility to be considered for a higher class of degree under the predominance rule are as follows:

            67+      for consideration for First Class

            57+      for consideration for Second Class, First Division

            47+      for consideration for Second Class, Second Division

            37+      for consideration for Third Class

For a higher classification to be awarded under predominance, the following must apply:

  1. The overall weighted percentage mark, before rounding, must be at or above one of the thresholds set out above; and
  2. At least half the contributing weighted module marks must be in the higher classification, e.g. six stage 2 modules in the higher classification at a 40% weighting is less than half the weighted module marks.

Predominance calculations should be made using the formula outlined in regulation 1.4.27 of the Study Regulations for Undergraduate Programmes:

Let n1, n2, n3, n4 be the number of modules at Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4 respectively in which the mark is above the relevant borderline.

Let p1, p2, p3, p4 be the percentage weights at Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4 respectively (for example, if Stage 3 is weighted at 60%, then p3 = 60).

The higher classification is awarded if:

Bachelor’s degrees: n1 x p1 + n2 x p2 + n3 x p3 ≥ 300

Integrated Master’s degrees: n1 x p1 + n2 x p2 + n3 x p3 + n4 x p4 ≥ 300

If a module has been discounted under the degree classification procedures, the Predominance Rule may be applied if the candidate’s resulting mark is at or above the relevant threshold as outlined above. In such a case, the actual mark for a module that has been discounted is not included in the predominance calculation. Instead, the average of the remaining marks for the stage in which the discounted module was taken is calculated. The discounted mark is then replaced for predominance purposes with this average mark. For example, if the discounted mark is 51 and the average of the five remaining modules in the stage is 67, the predominance calculation will use the mark of 67 in place of the actual mark of 51. Predominance will therefore still be based on 18 modules (for a three-year degree with first enrolment in 2009-10 or thereafter). The actual mark will, however, be published in the normal way, and will appear on the student’s transcript. The mark will be identified on the transcript as ‘discounted’ (‘dtd’).

The Predominance Rule must be applied by all Boards of Examiners except where the Director of Academic and Student Affairs has granted exemption from its use. Exemption will be granted only where it is required by validating/accrediting bodies.

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