[skip to content]

Faculty of Arts and Humanities

SOAS: Postgraduate Coursework and Dissertation Marking Criteria Guidelines

Part 1

The marking criteria (competence standards) for all SOAS post-graduate  programmes draw upon the following minimum “core” criteria, which are applicable to the assessment of most or all assignments:

  • understanding of the subject;
  • utilisation of proper academic [or other] style (e.g. citation of references, or use of proper legal style for court reports, etc.);
  • relevance of material selected and of the arguments proposed;
  • planning and organisation;
  • logical coherence;
  • critical evaluation;
  • comprehensiveness of research;
  • evidence of synthesis;
  • innovation / creativity / originality.

The language used must be of a sufficient standard to permit assessment of the above criteria.

These minimum core criteria form a part of the School’s core academic standards, applied to all coursework and as such they would not usually be subject to any modification, even as a “reasonable adjustment” to the needs of a specific disabled person.

The minimum core criteria intentionally do not include standards concerning the presentational aspects of the work, such as spelling and punctuation in written assignments; nor do they include the criteria for certain specialist assigments (e.g. musical performance).    Departments select additional criteria for certain assignments, as appropriate to the learning outcomes being assessed on that occasion.   Such additional criteria are not standard to all courses, but they are part of the “competence standards” for the specific course and assignment to which they apply.  

The additional criteria could include:

  • appropriate spelling / grammar / punctuation;
  • other skills as appropriate to the form of assessment (e.g. quality of  accent, pronunication, diction and other vocal qualities for an assessment involving speech);
  • The demonstration of specific knowledge or abilities relevant to the assignment / examination (e.g. practical skills in archaeology or playing a musical instrument).

Your department will provide you with information, on request, about any additional criteria which may be used to mark a particular assignment.

The guidelines below reflect the standards of work expected at postgraduate level. All assessed work is marked by a Teaching Assistant (TA) or a full-time member of staff, and a sample is then moderated by another member of staff. Any essay may be made available to the external examiner(s). Please feel free to discuss your essay and how your grade was arrived at with the appropriate member of staff.

Part 2

PG marking criteria – coursework and dissertations

The guidelines below reflect the standards of work expected at postgraduate level. All assessed work is marked by a Teaching Assistant (TA) or a full-time member of staff, and a sample is then moderated by another member of staff. Any essay may be made available to the external examiner(s). Please feel free to discuss your essay and how your grade was arrived at with the appropriate member of staff.

80+ (Distinction)

A mark of 80+ will fulfil the following criteria:

  • very significant ability to plan, organise and execute independently a research project or coursework assignment
  • very significant ability to evaluate literature and theory critically and make informed judgements
  • very high levels of creativity, originality and independence of thought
  • very significant ability to evaluate critically existing methodologies and suggest new approaches to current research or professional practice
  • very significant ability to analyse data critically
  • outstanding levels of accuracy, technical competence, organisation, expression
70-79 (Distinction)

A mark in the range 70-79 will fulfil the following criteria:

  • significant ability to plan, organise and execute independently a research project or coursework assignment;
  • clear evidence of wide and relevant reading, referencing and an engagement with the conceptual issues;
  • capacity to develop a sophisticated and intelligent argument;
  • rigorous use and a sophisticated understanding of relevant source materials, balancing appropriately between factual detail and key theoretical issues. Materials are evaluated directly and their assumptions and arguments challenged and/or appraised;
  • correct referencing;
  • significant ability to analyse data critically;
  • original thinking and a willingness to take risks.
60-69 (Merit)

A mark in the 60-69 range will fulfil the following criteria:

  • ability to plan, organise and execute independently a research project or coursework assignment;
  • strong evidence of critical insight and thinking;
  • a detailed understanding of the major factual and/or theoretical issues and directly engages with the relevant literature on the topic;
  • clear evidence of planning and appropriate choice of sources and methodology with correct referencing;
  • ability to analyse data critically;
  • capacity to develop a focussed and clear argument and articulate clearly and convincingly a sustained train of logical thought.
50-59 (Pass)

A mark in the range 50-59 will fulfil the following criteria:

  • Ability to plan, organise and execute a research project or coursework assignment;
  • a reasonable understanding of the major factual and/or theoretical issues involved;
  • evidence of some knowledge of the literature with correct referencing;
  • ability to analyse data;
  • shows examples of a clear train of thought or argument;
  • the text is introduced and concludes appropriately.
40-49 (Fail)

A Fail will be awarded in cases in which there is:

  • limited ability to plan, organise and execute a research project or coursework assignment;
  • some awareness and understanding of the literature and of factual or theoretical issues, but with little development;
  • limited ability to analyse data;
  • incomplete referencing;
  • limited ability to present a clear and coherent argument.
20-39 (Fail)

A Fail will be awarded in cases in which there is:

  • very limited ability to plan, organise and execute a research project or coursework assignment;
  • fails to develop a coherent argument that relates to the research project or assignment;
  • does not engage with the relevant literature or demonstrate a knowledge of the key issues;
  • incomplete referencing;
  • contains clear conceptual or factual errors or misunderstandings;
  • only fragmentary evidence of critical thought or data analysis.
0-19 (Fail)

A Fail will be awarded in cases which:

  • no demonstrable ability to plan, organise and execute a research project or coursework assignment;
  • little or no knowledge or understanding related to the research project or assignment;
  • little or no knowledge of the relevant literature;
  • major errors in referencing;
  • no evidence of critical thought or data analysis;
  • incoherent argument.

 

PGT Marking Criteria - Examinations

80

A mark of 80+ will fulfil the following criteria:

  • very significant ability to evaluate literature and theory critically and make informed judgements;
  • very high levels of creativity, originality and independence of thought;
  • outstanding levels of accuracy, technical competence, organisation, expression;
  • shows outstanding ability of synthesis under exam pressure.
70-79

A mark in the 70-79 range will fulfil the following criteria:

  • shows clear evidence of wide and relevant reading and an engagement with the conceptual issues;
  • develops a sophisticated and intelligent argument;
  • shows a rigorous use and a sophisticated understanding of relevant source materials, balancing appropriately between factual detail and key theoretical issues. Materials are evaluated directly and their assumptions and arguments challenged and/or appraised;
  • shows original thinking and a willingness to take risks;
  • shows significant ability of synthesis under exam pressure.
60-69 

A mark in the 60-69 range will fulfil the following criteria:

  • shows strong evidence of critical insight and critical thinking;
  • shows a detailed understanding of the major factual and/or theoretical issues and directly engages with the relevant literature on the topic;
  • develops a focussed and clear argument and articulates clearly and convincingly a sustained train of logical thought;
  • shows clear evidence of planning and appropriate choice of sources and methodology, and ability of synthesis under exam pressure.
50-59

A mark in the 50-59 range will fulfil the following criteria:

  • shows a reasonable understanding of the major factual and/or theoretical issues involved:
  • shows evidence of planning and selection from appropriate sources;
  • demonstrates some knowledge of the literature;
  • the text shows, in places, examples of a clear train of thought or argument;
  • the text is introduced and concludes appropriately.
40-49 

A Fail will be awarded in cases in which:

  • there is some awareness and understanding of the factual or theoretical issues, but with little development;
  • misunderstandings are evident;
  • there is some evidence of planning, although irrelevant/unrelated material or arguments are included.
20-39

A Fail will be awarded in cases which:

  • fail to answer the question or to develop an argument that relates to the question set;
  • do not engage with the relevant literature or demonstrate a knowledge of the key issues;
  • contain clear conceptual or factual errors or misunderstandings.
0-19 

A Fail will be awarded in cases which:

  • show no knowledge or understanding related to the question set;
  • show no evidence of critical thought or analysis;
  • contain short answers and incoherent argument.