Coursework Marking Scheme

The middle tier 63-66%, you need to do 'sufficiently well' in 1-7, as well as a a ‘good performance’ on 1-3, showing some critical flair and further reading (marking criteria 2), as well as (you guessed it) a strong response to the question (marking criteria 1).

67-69% requires a ‘good performance ‘in most’ of the marking criteria. Now this is a little vague, and a number for ‘most’ would be nice, as would a definition for 'good performance'. But there is a reason for such vagueness. Essays can take a million and one different forms, and as markers, we don't want to stop you being creative and original. A good mark-scheme has a tightrope it deftly navigates between encouraging structure on the one hand, and avoiding a formulaic, unoriginal response on the other.

What's more, the use of the word 'most' draws my attention to one thing. I know that to get 67%, I have to hit more more than half of the criteria with a good performance. Again, one brilliant aspect of an essay will not save you if you want to score in the high 60s. Lots of reading, exceptional analysis and impeccable referencing, but no direct answer to the question? Forget it, you haven’t done a good performance on 1-3 to even hit the 63-66% let alone most of the criteria.

This scheme is particularly nice, as it tells us what a 'critical' piece of looks like. Students often struggle with this word, and it is hard to define. But the sub division for 57-59% goes some way in explaining what this department views as critical: A good attempt but insufficient critical analysis (criteria 2-4) for a 2:1. Critical analysis is defined as criteria 2-4, so all three have to be present in the essay for a critical response. This means you can answer the question very well,  and still not be critical, and vice versa. You can write an exceptional essay with critical analysis, and not answer the question.

Too many students don’t know that the mark-scheme can be used this way to check their essays before submission. Proofreading is great for a broad overview of the argument and typos, but a mark-scheme is surgical. It forces you to address different aspects of the essay.

I think academics are partly to blame for this lack of knowledge. We don’t ever tell you how we write our version of the essay (the journal article) or the dissertation (the book). You are lead to then believe when we have an idea or some research findings, we simply sit down, crack our fingers and and blast away at a keyboard until a couple of days later an 8,000 word magnum opus appears in a journal. You then try to copy this style, writing a flowing, beautiful essay in one or two sittings. It’s a convenient myth for us; we look erudite, knowledgeable, and like we have ‘cracked it’ when it comes to academic writing. All we rely on is our own formidable intellect.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The peer review process is how we assess each others' writing. It’s a bloodbath, a cruel, confidence crushing forum for ridicule. Go to Twitter. Type in @YourPaperSucks. That’s the peer review process in a nutshell, where two or three anonymous reviewers will read an academic paper, and with the protection of namelessness, will trash the errors in that work.

So yes, the feedback on your essay can seem blunt, cold and unsympathetic. But we will never write this on your essay:

“I am afraid this manuscript may contribute not so much towards the field’s advancement as much as toward its eventual demise.” 

Not all of the peer review is as callous and funny as the above example, but the ability to critically evaluate a manuscript is a vital hallmark of academic writing. And it can take a long time to do it, much longer than you wait for feedback for your essays. The last article I submitted (which was outright rejected, by the way, a FAIL on the academic mark-scheme) took from January to September to get back to me. That’s how knowledge progresses: slowly and painfully. We have to be able to honestly appraise a paper to assess its findings. Are they credible? Are they repeatable? Is it plagiarised? Are they made up? Sometimes, ask Alan Sokal.

Academic papers are the result of a long, arduous and sometimes soul-destroying process of criticism, a game of manuscript whack-a-mole. My published paper was returned twice, once with major errors (in the argument, content), then again with minor errors (spelling, grammar, references). It was only after those two important assessments that I produced an article that was journal ready. It took 7 months.

When writing, I had to check the ‘Guide for Authors sections’ repeatedly. It was my mark-scheme, with the journal’s aim, the rules and descriptions for what my paper needed to get published, from font size, to referencing to paper’s content and scope. All journals have them, and all academics who want their paper published read them. You can read the ‘Geopolitics’ one here.

So you should examine the mark-schemes the same way we examine ‘Guides for Authors’ sections, as a method for avoiding an intellectual trouncing further down the line.

The University Senate Scales outline the marking criteria for all types of assessment for students and assist in the marking of Coursework, Dissertations and Oral Presentations.

Some Schools (such as those whose courses lead to professional qualifications such as Medicine and Nursing and some postgraduate courses) may provide their own senate scales via their own course handbooks or Blackboard sites.


The UEA senate scales:

Senate Marking Scale - Undergraduate Level - Coursework

Senate Marking Scale - Undergraduate Level - Dissertations

Senate Marking Scale - Undergraduate Level - Oral Presentations

Senate Marking Scale - Masters Level - Coursework

Senate Marking Scale - Masters Level - Dissertations

Senate Marking Scale - Masters Level - Oral Presentations

The following policies and guidance may may also be referred to when marking coursework and examinations

Guidance for Staff on the University Policy on Plagiarism and Collusion

Guidance Note on Groupwork

SpLD Marking Guidelines

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