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Marking Tripos Essays

The Faculty of Biology makes this information available to both staff and students.

The following guidance is intended to cover the assessment of individual essays for the MVST and biological subjects within the NST. Other forms of assessment are also used, e.g. "Steeplechase" practical exams involving specimen identification, multiple-choice questions, short-answer questions, data-handling. In such forms of assessment, the adoption of generally applicable guidance for classification purposes would not be appropriate; examiners must rely on their judgement and experience.

It is important that candidates appreciate that the guidance is to assist examiners in forming a judgement on the quality of individual essays with the Tripos. For Parts IA and IB of the Natural Sciences Tripos and Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos, a candidates class is more a measure of their relative standing with their peers than an absolute measure of ability. Marks in individual subjects are often moderated to ease comparison across subjects and to aid students and Directors of Studies in determining future courses of study.

Information about the way that marks for individual subjects are combined in the NST is available from the examinations section of the NST website.

 

Part I

Class Description
First Work, which is excellent in the range and command of the material covered. Work that is excellent in its understanding of the subject; that has engaged closely with the question; and that is well planned and complete.

A first class mark may be awarded on more than one set of criteria: there may be a great deal of relevant information, displaying substantial knowledge and understanding; the arguments and presentation may be stylish; the approach may be original, critical or unorthodox. An upper first would be an outstanding performance, meeting all, or virtually all, of these criteria; a low first would meet at least some of these criteria.
Upper Second Part IB Work that shows a good knowledge of the topic and the material covered in lectures; that is presented in an organised way; and clearly argued and focused on the set question.
Second Class Part IA Work ranging from Upper Second (above) and Lower Second (below)
Lower Second Part IB Work that overall shows a reasonable competence in the understanding and presentation of the relevant material.

Certain types of uneven work would fall into this class: detailed factually-correct work that did not relate a broad knowledge of the topic to the specific question asked, or work with clear organisation and some insight but with serious omissions of factual knowledge.
Third At the upper end of the class, work that just shows competent knowledge of the basic, core material.

At the lower end of the class, work that shows some knowledge of the material but with serious deficiencies in understanding, coverage and organisation; this will include work that is unduly brief or largely misses the point of the question.
Fail Work that is irrelevant, shows a considerable degree of ignorance or is short and superficial. Where the question is barely attempted.

 



Part II

 

Class Description
First Work, which is excellent both in the range and command of the material covered and in the argument and analysis. Work that is excellent in its understanding of the subject; that has engaged closely with the question; that has shown some originality and treated the evidence critically; that brings in relevant material from an appropriate range of sources; and that is well-planned and complete.

A first class mark may be awarded on more than one set of criteria: there may be a great deal of relevant information, displaying substantial knowledge and understanding; the arguments and presentation may be stylish; the approach may be original, critical or unorthodox. An upper first would be an outstanding performance, meeting all, or virtually all, of these criteria. A low first would meet at least some of these criteria.
Upper Second Work that shows a good broad-based knowledge of the topic and the lecture material; that is presented in an organised way; and clearly argued and focused on the set question.

Answers at the top end of this class would often include material from outside the taught material and where relevant, from different lecture courses and would include some attempt to treat the evidence critically and to synthesise arguments. Answers at the lower end of this class would be competent, accurate in reproducing lecture material and show evidence of reading of the principal sources of published work on the subject.
Lower Second Work that overall shows a reasonable competence in the understanding and presentation of the relevant material.

Answers at the top end of this class would show competent understanding of the basic lecture material or reasonable organisation and focus; an answer at the lower end would show gaps in understanding and coverage together with poor organisation and focus.

Certain types of uneven work would fall into this class; detailed factually-correct work that did not relate a broad knowledge of the topic to the specific question asked, or work with clear organisation and some insight but with serious omissions of factual knowledge.
Third At the upper end of the class, work that just shows competent knowledge of the basic, core material.

At the lower end of the class, work that shows some knowledge of the material but with serious deficiencies in understanding, coverage and organisation. This will include work that is unduly brief or largely misses the point of the question.
Fail Work that is irrelevant, shows a considerable degree of ignorance or is short and superficial. Where the question is barely attempted.