Mark Schemes, Degree Classification and Postgraduate Award 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.
Important updates have been made to this section of the Code of Practice to ensure the continuing transparency and consistency of degree classifications at Queen’s. These updates have been highlighted in red in the relevant sections. Download a summary of these changes (QUB Staff login required).
Mark Schemes for the Assessment of Student Work
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.
- Undergraduate Conceptual Equivalents Scale (PDF)
Important note: The Undergraduate Conceptual Equivalents Scale has been updated for 2020-21 and should be used for the assessment of all student work going forward.
- Undergraduate Conceptual Equivalents Scale (PDF)
Marking Assessed Components on a Scale of 0-100
Assessed components of work should be marked to an integer on a scale of 0-100. A component is any piece of work which receives a mark.
For qualitative components of assessment, this will be either:
- one of the discrete marks on the undergraduate conceptual equivalents scale or
- an integer between 0 and 100 corresponding to the grade descriptors of the postgraduate conceptual equivalents scale.
For quantitative components of assessment, this will be an integer between 0 and 100 corresponding to the grade descriptors of either the undergraduate or the postgraduate conceptual equivalents scale.
Download Worked Examples of Module Assessment Profiles (PDF) to understand how this is applied in practice.
Guidelines for Marking the Work of Students with a Specific Learning Difficulty
Marking guidelines are part of the anticipatory reasonable adjustments that legally the University must make for students with a disability. This allows fair and consistent assessment of work across the institution. Consideration should be given when marking the work of students registered with a specific learning difficulty (SpLD), such as dyslexia.
These students can experience a range of difficulties, independent to their intellectual ability, including slow processing, organisation, memory difficulties, putting ideas into writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation and reading.
The University also has an anticipatory duty to provide a flexible and inclusive approach to learning and with recent advances in Universal Design for Learning (UDL), is becoming commonplace. This should decrease the need for the recommendation of reasonable adjustments. The assessment process must ensure students with a disability have the opportunity to show that they can meet the learning outcomes and competence standards required. This may be supported through implementation of reasonable adjustments or offering alternative forms of assessment.
Overarching principles when marking the work of students with a Specific Learning Difficulty include:
- The course must have clear learning aims and objectives, which take into account any professional body requirements.
- Marking guidelines should make clear what is expected to meet the learning outcomes, so university academic standards are not compromised.
- If spelling and grammar are a competence standard and are being marked, this must be clearly stated in the mark scheme of the module, including how many marks are being awarded for this. If it is not mentioned, it can be assumed that it is not in the criteria and there should be no penalty.
- Subjects where spelling, grammar and expression are explicitly assessed (e.g. Languages) or there are professional requirements (e.g. Law, Medicine and Allied professions), the competence standards or professional body’s requirements cannot be compromised. This often relates only to professional exams and not all University assessments. Reasonable adjustments can still be made and alternative assessments can still be offered in many cases.
- A student with dyscalculia (a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding numeracy, arithmetic and maths concepts) should have the marking guidelines applied only to those aspects covering use and application of number (although dyscalculia often co-occurs with other SpLDs).
- Reasonable adjustments do not override competence standards and must not compromise academic integrity.
- Do not give extra marks to students because they have a SpLD.
1. Written assignments and exams
- Individuals with SpLDs often cannot identify mistakes and their work may appear to be less polished than their peers. This does not mean that they have not proofread it or had access to assistive technology to support their learning. SpLD students may spend longer on assignments, but they often think in a holistic, non-verbal way and can find it harder to put their ideas into words. Even after word processing and using a spell check tool, there still may be errors such as homophone substitution (where / wear), phonetic equivalents (words that sound the same), incorrect word substitutions and American spellings.
- Students with dyscalculia may not be able to identify errors in number sequencing, basic arithmetic or time telling, but may be able to demonstrate knowledge of the concepts being assessed.
- Clarity and flow can be affected.
- Extra time in exams is often recommended to support slower processing, memory recall or slow handwriting. It will only usually lead to a very small improvement in spelling and grammar, if at all, and written expression is often still affected.
- Some students with SpLDs (only UK and ROI) will have Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) funded support, which can include 1:1 dyslexia tutor support and assistive technology. Dyslexia Tutors work with students to develop strategies to improve academic skills and foster academic independence. They do not proofread a student’s work. Some students, mostly postgraduate, are awarded proofreading support. If a student has access to assistive technology, with practice this can improve writing skills, but some errors will still remain.
- A quick initial read can sometimes increase the marker’s ability to focus on content rather than errors.
- Look for content, ideas, understanding, critical thinking and knowledge.
- Consider whether or not the learning outcomes been met and what marks are being awarded for.
- Are spelling, grammar and technical accuracy learning outcomes?
- If reasonable adjustments have been applied and the submitted work does not meet learning outcomes or does not show academic competence, then marks should not be awarded.
- Give constructive, sensitive feedback.
- If feedback is being given on spelling, grammar and sentence structure, choose a small section, rather than the whole assignment, and inform student that this is what has been done.
- Positive feedback and reinforcing good points is invaluable for SpLD students.
- Give a clear explanation of what was required, what was wrong with the work and provision of examples, so the student knows how to change their work.
- Do not use red or green pen. It may have negative connotations from past experience for the student. It can also be harder to read.
- Feedback should be word processed and clarified orally, if possible, to ensure that the student has received and understood it.
- Be clear if the student has not been penalised for spelling and grammar and that only content is being marked.
2. Oral presentations
It is not just written work that can be difficult for students with SpLDs. Oral presentations can be hard for a number of reasons. These are detailed below:
- Memory weakness can result in the student forgetting what they had planned to say
- Students may be unable to quickly retrieve and organise their ideas.
- It is often challenging for SpLD students to read aloud and they may experience anxiety connected with previous negative experiences.
- Students may misread their own slides, mispronounce words and find quickly answering questions about their presentation difficult.
- Have clear learning outcomes.
- Mark for content and ideas, not fluency.
- Positive feedback is valuable, both verbal and typed.
3. Viva Voce, Differentiation, APR assessments, Spoken exams
Students with SpLds can face a number of challenges in a Viva exam or exam with a spoken element. Difficulties include:
- ordering sequentially
- organising ideas
- memory difficulties which can result in forgetting questions
- finding it difficult to locate information in their submission
It can be helpful if:
- Questions are clear, with unambiguous wording.
- Questions are repeated or broken down if necessary.
- Answers just address a single point, not multiple parts.
- The student is given extra thinking time to find the words to respond and explain their work.
- The student is given extra time to allow for organisation and sequencing difficulties, finding and referring to specific pages.
- Consideration is given to the fact that reading aloud may be extremely stressful for the student.
- Short breaks can help the student refocus if there are difficulties.
- Mark for content rather than fluency.
For further information about these guidelines, please contact email@example.com.
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 component accounts for a certain proportion of the module mark, the 5% penalty will apply to the assessed component 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.
Degree Classifications and Postgraduate Awards
The Study Regulations for Undergraduate Programmes, regulation 7 outlines the University regulations for the conferral of degree classifications for undergraduate programmes.
The Study Regulations for Postgraduate Taught Programmes, regulation 7 outlines the University regulations for the conferral of postgraduate awards for postgraduate taught programmes.
The information below provides further guidance on the application of these regulations.
Calculating Programme Marks for Classification and Award: Further Guidance
Calculation of Marks
- Module marks are calculated from the weighted average of the assessed components, rounded to an integer. The integer is the module mark that is released to the student and that is used in calculating the programme mark.
- The programme mark is calculated from the weighted average of the module marks*, truncated to one decimal place.
*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.
Determining Degree Classification or Award
For students enrolled prior to 2020-21: The programme mark is rounded to an integer for the purpose of determining degree classifications or award. For example, a weighted average mark of 59.7 is rounded up to 60, giving the student a 2.1.
For students first enrolled in 2020-21 and thereafter: The programme mark must be used for the purposes of degree classification or award (i.e. this should not be rounded to an integer). For example, a weighted average mark of 59.7 is retained to determine the degree classification or award. For Classified Undergraduate Programmes this mark would allow the student to be considered for predominance.
Discounting a Module for Degree Classification: Further Guidance
Important note: Discounting a module for the purposes of degree classification is not permitted for students first enrolled in 2020-21 and thereafter.
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, four criteria must be met:
- The student must have been enrolled on the programme prior to 2020-21.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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 four 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. However, medical evidence is not required if a Board of Examiners wants to discount a module under the degree classification procedures.
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.
Decisions must be based on clear evidence, and Boards of Examiners must ensure that all students are treated fairly.
Calculating Degree Classification
Where a module is discounted, the programme mark should be based on the weighted average mark of the remaining modules. For example, if a Level 3 module was discounted, the calculation for Stage 3 would be: (((Module Mark 1 + Module Mark 2 + Module Mark 3 + Module Mark 4 + Module Mark 5) / 5) *0.6).
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 section on the Predominance Rule 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.
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.
Recording Discounted Modules
The actual mark for the discounted module should be recorded on Qsis in the normal way using the ‘DTD’ Exam Board Note to identify that it has been discounted for degree classification purposes. The actual mark will appear on the student’s transcript and will be identified on the transcript as ‘discounted’ (‘DTD’).
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.
The Predominance Rule: Further Guidance
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.
Important note: the zone of consideration for predominance has been reduced from 3% to 1% for students first enrolled in 2020-21 and thereafter.
The programme mark (i.e. the mark arrived at once all the weighted individual module marks are brought together) is truncated to one decimal place. This decimal place is discarded for the purpose of determining eligibility for predominance.
For students who were enrolled prior to 2020-21, they are eligible to be considered under the predominance rule where their programme mark is within 3% of the higher classification. Therefore, the thresholds for eligibility to be considered for a higher class of degree under the predominance rule for students who were enrolled prior to 2020-21 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 students who first enrolled in 2020-21 and thereafter, they are eligible to be considered under the predominance rule where their programme mark is within 1% of the higher classification. Therefore, the thresholds for eligibility to be considered for a higher class of degree under the predominance rule for students who first enrolled in 2020-21 and thereafter are as follows:
69+ for consideration for First Class
59+ for consideration for Second Class, First Division
49+ for consideration for Second Class, Second Division
39+ for consideration for Third Class
For a higher classification to be awarded under predominance, the following must apply:
- The programme mark, truncated to an integer, must be at or above one of the thresholds set out above; and
- At least half the contributing weighted module marks must be in the higher classification.
Predominance calculations should be made using the formula outlined in regulation 7.2.5 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
Discounted Modules in Predominance
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 programme).