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Marking Descriptors for Master Programmes

A. Marking Scale for Postgraduate Master Students

1 For Postgraduate Master degrees, marks awarded on individual modules are categorised as follows:

90 to 100

Outstanding

Distinction

80 to 89

Excellent

70 to 79

Very Good

60 to 69

Comprehensive

Merit

50 to 59        

Competent Pass

Pass

40 to 49

Compensable Fail

Fail

30 to 39

Deficient

 0  to 29

Extremely Weak



B. Introduction to Assessment Tasks

2 Assessment tasks in the subjects studied within the University lie between two extreme types:

2.1 Type A tasks where there is a correct answer and little or no opportunity for alternative approaches or displays of insight. For time-constrained assessments, the assessor must ensure that there is a reasonable allowance of time for the student to be able to recall, work out and write down the correct answer.
Examples: the definition of a term or unit, a schematic or diagrammatic figure, a graph showing the relationship between characteristics, the implementation of a standard procedure (e.g., a calculation), a computer programme to carry out a straight-forward task.

2.2 Type B tasks where there is no definitive right answer; a range of possible answers could satisfy, to a greater or lesser extent, the question posed. The assessor can provide a sample answer that indicates one general approach to answering the question, the main points expected, the quantity and depth of points expected, etc. There is no logical limit to the number of relevant points that a student could make. Therefore the assessor has to apply some form of constraint on the length of answer (e.g., time in an exam or word-count in a coursework submission) and must therefore make his/her assessment bearing in mind the best answer that could reasonably be expected from a student at that level of study under the prevailing conditions (e.g., exam or coursework).

Examples: a discussion or evaluation of a concept or theory, a design solution to an open-ended problem, a report on a project, essay writing.

2.3 Many assessments lie between these extremes. For instance, a report on a laboratory exercise will have definable ‘correct’ aspects (report structure, grammar, experimental arrangement and procedure, format of tabulated and graphed results) but there are also opportunities for the student to demonstrate understanding and originality in discussing and evaluating the results, suggesting experimental improvements and drawing conclusions. Taught Postgraduate dissertation is a Type B task. Since the assessment of dissertation is a more complex process, it is dealt with in a separate section in 5.

3 Assessment of Type A Tasks

3.1 Students will have been given (or referred to a source for) the required definition, figure or procedure and may have been told how it would be assessed (e.g. reproduce it, describe it, carry it out).

3.2 The assessor will set the assessment task, bearing in mind how it relates to the module Learning Outcomes. He/she will then prepare the correct answer and an associated Marking Scheme (the total marks available being allocated to the various steps in the answer, according to volume and difficulty of the work required).

3.3 Answers will be marked according to the extent and correctness of each student’s progress through the steps. The examiner should distinguish between correctness of the process and accuracy of the mathematics (thus a student who follows the correct process but makes an arithmetic error in an early step will get the wrong answer but may be awarded most of the marks).

4 Assessment of Type B Tasks

4.1 Students may or may not be formally taught the subject matter of the task.

4.2 The assessor will set the assessment task, bearing in mind how it relates to the module Learning Outcomes. He/she may provide (or refer to a source for) guidance on how to tackle the task and perhaps an outline of some aspects of the answer or an example answer to a related task. Alternatively students may be required to develop their own approaches to the task. Unless time-constrained, the assessor must indicate the length of answer expected. Furthermore, he/she may provide the criteria by which student submissions will be assessed, and the relative weighting of criteria, for example: extent to which the requirements and constraints of the task have been satisfied; correctness of use and interpretation of relevant knowledge; extent of coverage of the topic; evidence of wider reading; display of insight, understanding, originality, creativity, etc.; quality of analytical and problem-solving skills; quality of communication skills.

4.3 He/she may prepare a sample answer that is within the length constraint and matches the stage of development of understanding of the best students. He/she should check that, by applying the stated criteria, the answer would be assessed as at least ‘Very Good’. Some adjustment of the criteria may then be necessary.

5 Assessment of Postgraduate Master Programme Dissertation / Research Project

5.1 Master’s programme, shall involve a substantial piece or pieces of independent work which together with other range of assessed modules reflect the level of further intellectual development appropriate to the equivalent of 18 months’ advanced study beyond Honours degree level. This independent research consisting of a single project or dissertation module would be worth 20 credits for taught Master programme students or 40 credits for Master of Research programme students.

5.2 Students may discuss with the programme director to propose a specific topic related to their area of programme study for their dissertation; Or Students may be offered a range of choices on a research project with a nominated supervisor appropriate to the allocated pathway.

5.3 Then the Taught Master programme students should be allocated a supervisor who provides general guidance on the progress of the student’s work on the dissertation/ research project. The Master of Research programme student should be allocated both a supervisor and another co-supervisor in the related area to provide additional support when and where appropriate and to be responsible for guidance and supervision of the dissertation/ research project.

5.4 The department and the programme should provide (or refer to a source for) guidance on how to tackle the task. The module specification must indicate the length of dissertation expected. Furthermore, students should be provided with the criteria by which student submissions will be assessed, and the relative weighting of criteria, for example: extent to which the requirements and constraints of the task have been satisfied; correctness of use and interpretation of relevant knowledge; extent of coverage of the topic; evidence of wider reading; display of insight, understanding, originality, creativity, etc.; quality of analytical and problem-solving skills; quality of communication skills.

5.5 Exemplars from previous year students’ dissertations together with the feedback of those exemplars may be made available, after the permission from the students are obtained. The actual mark of the exemplar can be omitted if the student of the dissertation requires, but the quality of the exemplar against the assessment criteria must be clear to students (e.g. the description in the Marking Scales as listed in A. 1 could be used to indicate the quality of the exemplar).

5.6 The assessed component (e.g. dissertation proposal, proposal presentation, or oral examination) and its weighting of the Dissertation/ Research project Module can be decided by each programme according to specific programme learning outcomes as defined. For Master of Research programme students, each candidate should undergo an oral examination of no more than 30 minutes with two internal examiners on their research project(s) to validate the standard of grading of the programme.

5.7 The dissertation writing should be reviewed and marked independently by the supervisor and another expert from XJTLU in the related discipline area (namely ‘Marker’), with detailed feedback against the assessment criteria provided. Each marker will submit separately their mark sheet with assessment criteria and calculation to the Module Leader of the Dissertation/Research Project Module. It is not permissible for the supervisor and the second marker to communicate with each other details of marks awarded to the same student work. The mark assigned will be the average of the two marks if the marks awarded by the two assessors are within the same description (see listed in A.1 above). In the case where the two marks are significant different (above 10%) or fall across a description boundary, the submitted dissertation should be marked independently by a third marker whose view should prevail after she or he has also reviewed the marks and mark-sheets of the other two markers. In this instance, the External Examiner should be made aware that that a third marker was used.

C. General Marking Descriptors for Postgraduate Master Assessment

6 The university has general requirements for work at Masters level. The overarching standards set govern the interpretation of the performance criteria for specific courses. The subject specific criteria for each programme can be developed by each department.

6.1 For submitted course work (Task A or Task B), students’ achievement is categorised as follow:

 

Knowledge and Understanding

Intellectual Skills

Transferable Skills

100%

The best answer that could reasonably be expected from a student at that level of study under the prevailing conditions (i.e. exam or coursework)

 

90-99%

‘Outstanding’

Total coverage of the task set. Exceptional demonstration of knowledge and understanding

appropriately grounded in theory and relevant literature.

 

Extremely creative and imaginative approach. Comprehensive and accurate analysis. Well-argued conclusions. Perceptive self-assessment.

Extremely clear exposition. Excellently structured and logical answer. Excellent presentation, only the most insignificant errors.

80-89% ‘Excellent’

As ‘Outstanding’ but with some minor weaknesses or gaps in knowledge and understanding.

As ‘Outstanding’ but slightly less imaginative and with some minor gaps in analysis and/or conclusions.

As ‘Outstanding’ but with some minor weaknesses in structure, logic and/or presentation.

 

70-79%

‘Very Good’

Full coverage of the task set. Generally very good demonstration of knowledge and understanding but with some modest gaps. Good grounding in theory.

Some creative and imaginative features. Very good and generally accurate analysis. Sound conclusions. Some selfassessment.

Generally clear exposition. Satisfactory structure. Very good presentation, largely free of grammatical and other errors.

60-69%

‘Comprehensive’

As ‘Very Good’ but with more and/or more significant gaps in knowledge &

understanding and some significant gaps in grounding.

As ‘Very Good’ but analysis and conclusions contain some minor weaknesses.

As ‘Very Good’ but with some weaknesses in exposition and/or structure and a few more grammatical and other errors.

50-59%

‘Competent’

Pass

Patchy coverage of the task set. Patchy knowledge and

understanding with limited grounding in literature.

Just meets the threshold level at the bottom end.

 

Rather limited creative and imaginative features. Patchy analysis containing significant flaws. Rather limited conclusions. No self-assessment. Just meets the threshold level at the bottom end.

Competent exposition and structure.

Competent presentation but some significant grammatical and other errors. Just meets the threshold level at the bottom end.

40-49%

‘Compensable

Fail’

Some parts of the set task likely to have been omitted. Major gaps in knowledge and understanding. Some significant confusion. Very limited grounding. Falls just short of the threshold level.

 

No creative or imaginative features. Analysis and conclusions rather limited. Falls just short of the threshold level.

Somewhat confused

and limited exposition. Confused structure. Some weaknesses in presentation and some serious grammatical and other errors. Falls just short of the threshold level.

25-39%

‘Deficient’

 

As ‘Compensable Fail’ but with major omissions and/or major gaps in knowledge and understanding. Falls substantially below the threshold level.

 

As ‘Compensable Fail’ but analysis and/or conclusions may have been omitted. Falls substantially below the threshold level.

As ‘Compensable Fail’ but with more serious weaknesses in presentation and/or grammar. Falls substantially below the threshold level.

0-25%

‘Extremely

Weak’

Substantial sections of the task not covered. Knowledge &

understanding very limited and/or largely incorrect.

No grounding in theory.

 

No creative or imaginative features. Analysis extremely weak or omitted. No conclusions.

Largely confused exposition and structure. Many serious grammatical and other errors.

The overarching standards set below govern the interpretation of the performance criteria for dissertation at Postgraduate Master level. The subject specific criteria for each programme will be interpreted within the flowing general: (see attached)

(Last review date: 9-Apr-2014)

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