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Faculty of Law and Social Sciences

SOAS: Undergraduate Essay and Exam Marking Criteria Guidelines

Part 1

The marking criteria (competence standards) for all SOAS undergraduate 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 assignments (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, pronunciation, 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.

Part 2: Coursework Marking Guidelines

The guidelines below reflect the standards of work expected at undergraduate level. All assessed essays are 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+ (First Class Honours)

A mark in the range 80+ will fulfil the following criteria which mark it as a work of outstanding quality; various criteria may apply, either singly or in combination:

  • 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 confident understanding of relevant source materials;
  • achieves an appropriate balance between factual detail and key theoretical issues;
  • provides evidence of original thinking.
70-79 (First Class Honours)

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

  • engages closely with the question;
  • shows some evidence of wide and relevant reading and an engagement with the conceptual issues;
  • shows some sophistication of argument;
  • shows an intelligent use and a good understanding of relevant source materials.
60-69 (Upper Second Class: 2.I)

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

  • offers critical insights and shows evidence of critical thinking;
  • shows a good understanding of the major factual and/or theoretical issues, and addresses the relevant literature on the topic;
  • develops a focused and clear argument and articulates a sustained train of logical thought;
  • gives a clear exposition of models/diagrams, with derivation, where appropriate;
  • shows clear evidence of planning in the formulation of the written answer and includes a judicious choice of sources and methodology.
50-59 (Lower Second Class: 2.II)

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

  • shows some understanding of relevant major theoretical and/or factual issues;
  • shows evidence of planning in the formulation of the written answer, makes selective use of appropriate sources, and demonstrates some knowledge of the literature;
  • shows, at various points if not throughout the entire text, examples of a clear train of thought or argument;
  • presents basic models / diagrams, where appropriate;
  • provides an appropriate conclusion to the textual argument(s).
40-49 (Third Class: III)

A mark in the range 40-49 will fulfil the following criteria:

  • shows some awareness and understanding of the factual and/or theoretical issues, but demonstrates limited ability to develop these;
  • provides clear evidence of misunderstandings;
  • shows some, albeit limited, evidence of planning in the formulation of the written answer, but also includes material or arguments which are irrelevant or unrelated to the question;
  • fails to develop a clear or coherent response to the question, but shows occasional knowledge or insight.
20-39 (Fail)

A Fail will be awarded in cases which:

  • fail to answer the question or develop an argument;
  • fail to demonstrate knowledge of the key issues or arguments;
  • contain clear conceptual or factual errors or misunderstandings;
  • are poorly organised and/or poorly written.
0-19 (Fail)

A Fail will be awarded in cases which:

  • fail to answer the question even in part;
  • show no knowledge of the question or topic;
  • contain blatant conceptual or factual errors;
  • are very poorly organised and/or very poorly written.

 

Examination Marking Guidelines

80+ (First Class)

A mark of 80+ 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 confident understanding of relevant source materials;
  • achieves an appropriate balance between factual detail and key theoretical issues;
  • provides evidence of original thinking;
  • shows outstanding ability of synthesis under exam pressure.
70-79 (First Class)

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

  • engages closely with the question and its conceptual issues;
  • shows some evidence of independent reading;
  • shows some sophistication of argument;
  • shows an intelligent use and a good understanding of relevant source materials;
  • shows significant ability of synthesis under exam pressure.
60-69 (Upper Second Class – II(i))

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

  • offers critical insights and shows evidence of critical thinking;
  • shows a good understanding of the major factual and/or theoretical issues relating to the question;
  • cites some relevant literature on the topic;
  • develops a focused and clear argument and articulates a sustained train of logical thought;
  • gives a clear exposition of models/diagrams, with derivation, where appropriate;
  • shows clear evidence of planning in the formulation of the written answer under exam pressure.
50-59 (Lower Second Class – II(ii))

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

  • shows some understanding of relevant major theoretical and/or factual issues;
  • shows evidence of planning in the formulation of the written answer, makes selective use of appropriate sources, and demonstrates some knowledge of the literature;
  • shows, at various points if not throughout the entire text, examples of a clear train of thought or argument;
    presents basic models / diagrams, where appropriate;
  • provides an appropriate conclusion to the textual argument(s).
40-49 (Third Class)

A mark in the range 40-49 will fulfil the following criteria:

  • shows some awareness and understanding of the factual and/or theoretical issues, but demonstrates limited ability to develop these;
  • provides clear evidence of misunderstandings;
  • shows some, albeit limited, evidence of planning in the formulation of the written answer, but also includes material or arguments which are irrelevant or unrelated to the question;
  • fails to develop a clear or coherent response to the question, but shows occasional knowledge or insight;
  • produces an incomplete answer.
20-39 (Fail)

A Fail will be awarded in cases which:

  • fail to answer the question or develop an argument;
  • fail to demonstrate knowledge of the key issues or arguments;
  • contain clear conceptual or factual errors or misunderstandings;
  • are poorly organised and/or poorly written.
0-19 (Fail)

A Fail will be awarded in cases which:

  • fail to answer the question even in part;
  • show no knowledge of the question or topic;
  • contain blatant conceptual or factual errors;
  • are very poorly organised and/or written very poorly.