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Exam information for staff

Preparing exams

Do not prepare any examination questions or answers on any part of the UNIX network. The network is insecure.

Do not email any examination questions or answers. The network is insecure.

Academic staff are responsible for producing their own exams. Course unit leaders are responsible for overseeing the process.

There are 3 sets of exams during the year: semester 1, semester 2 (including full year), and resits.

All examination papers are internally moderated. A preparation pack will be provided for each course unit. The pack includes report forms for use by the moderators and the exam setters. All examinations and PG coursework are sent to the external examiners for their comments. Exam setters are required to act upon external examiner feedback and provide a formal response via Student Support Office.

For each set of exams you need to:

Set exam(s) and marking scheme(s)

At the beginning of each semester you will receive an exam call by email which includes the links to vital information (shown below).

Number of questions
  • 1st year: 1 hour papers - Answer 1 question out of 2 or 3.
  • 1st year: 1.5 hour papers - Answer 2 questions out of 3.
  • 1st year: 2 hour papers - Answer 3 questions out of 4.
  • 2nd year: 2 hour papers - Answer 3 questions out of 4.
  • 3rd year: 2 hour papers - Answer 3 questions out of 5.

The above can, if desired, include one compulsory question. Papers may be sectioned to ensure separation of answer books to aid marking by multiple examiners, but this should not compromise the choice.

Papers (and students' answers) should normally be monochrome. If you want to use colour in your questions or any accompanying pictures or diagrams, please check that this is not going to cause problems for colour-blind students by contacting the departmental Disability Support Coordinator and/or the University Disability Support Office, and establish how the pictures etc. will be reproduced and distributed.

Question style

Please try to set your paper to avoid an excessively high standard deviation (over about 15%) in the students' marks. This generally results from a paper where hard-working but weaker students can find nothing to answer. Please set questions where weaker students can do at least part of the question. When doing this please try to make your question coherent and progressive, rather than a sequence of disjoint, unrelated parts.

Please ensure the questions are not all straight bookwork. Ideally every question will have a problem element, however trivial.

Here are various pieces of advice about setting exams:

Give guidance to the students taking your course-unit

  • Do your students understand what is expected of them in your exam?
  • In particular, do they understand the level of detail and accuracy required in a good answer.
  • They must know the format of the exam in advance and whether e.g. calculators are allowed.
  • Students should have access to at least one past exam paper for the course-unit. Some staff choose to go through a past paper with their students.
  • Exam performance feedback from previous years is also available and students should be encouraged to read it.
  • If the course-unit is new, or significantly changed from previous years, you are expected to publish a "mock" exam paper so students can see realistic exam questions. (You can of course use individual questions, or parts of questions, from exam papers for the previous version of a course-unit that has changed.)
  • It is up to you whether you want to go as far as giving model solutions for old exam questions. Referring students to model solutions, lecture notes, or other materials, can aid exam performance.

Be available to the students before your exam to answer their questions

You aren't normally expected to do anything exceptional but a prompt response to email and other enquiries is vital. You are likely to get as many queries in the weeks before your exam as in the whole of the rest of the semester.

Be available during your exam to deal with any queries

During any exam that you are responsible for you must let the Student Support Office know where you are.

If you need to be away from the School you must have permission from the Head of School, have some other member of staff assume responsibility for your exam(s), and inform the Student Support Office. If a query comes up during the exam you (or your deputy) may need to go to the exam room.

Given that members of staff write their own exam papers it is vital that you proof-read your exam carefully. One legitimate query will often trigger a flood of less sensible queries that you will also have to respond to, so it is much easier to deal with problems when setting the exam!

Be available during the next few days after handing in your marked exam

There are often queries arising from the checking. If you are not in the School, please leave contact information with the Student Support Office.

Come to the various examiners' boards

For more details see below

Be available during externals' visit

For more details see below

Set resit papers

At the same time that 1st-year and 2nd-year course-units exam papers are set you must also set a resit paper. Postgraduate resit papers are set after the July board when resit students have been identified.

Please also see read the negative marking policy.

Hybrid Examinations

If you are considering a hybrid exam, composed of both online questions and a paper-based section, please be aware of the following from the Examinations Office:

The practice and guidance of the exams office is that we do not endorse combination assessments within PC Clusters and/or Labs, for the reason that they are unsuitable spaces for the administration of paper examinations. We have encountered a variety of problems over the years and received several complaints with regards to the limited space available from students. Please note that the amount of space available within clusters is mostly inconsistent; one cluster may have more space than another, thus allowing some students to have better exam conditions than others. This is not a route that we recommend, nor would it be sustainable in the long-term (i.e. without incident) as it could inhibit a student's exam performance. That said, there is a need to promote and encourage the development of e-assessment wherever possible. Therefore, it would be our recommendation that the online element be sat in a PC cluster, and the written element be sat separately in a more appropriate University approved exam room.

If you decide to run a hybrid examination, it is vital that you contact Jennie Ball-Foster immediately so that she can advise Exams Office and liaise with IT Services to ensure that the additional logistical arrangements are factored into the scheduling.

Showing working

Questions involving numerical or other symbolic calculations frequently have short answers, and the marking scheme may require candidates to justify those answers, for example by showing their working. In that case, the examination paper should contain the explicit instruction "Show your working" or some appropriate reformulation thereof. Of course, candidates are expected to understand that the onus is generally on them to convince the examiner that they have mastered the material. However, students who simply write correct answers---particularly to short or undemanding questions---may, in the absence of such an instruction, legitimately complain when they are not awarded full marks.

Marking exams

Academic staff are responsible for marking their own exams. Course unit leaders are responsible for overseeing the process and producing a single marks sheet with all marks tallied.

At the beginning of each semester you will receive an exam call which includes a link to the following vital document.

When the exam timetable is known you will receive a second email containing your personal marking schedule. Please adhere to the deadlines in the schedule.

About half a day after your exam, the students' answer books will be delivered to the Student Support Office. The scripts will be prepared and a marking pack provided; an email will be sent to you when they are ready for collection.

If any student writes on their answer book about non-academic matters (e.g. illness or family or personal problems), please inform the Student Support Office and the relevant Year Tutor or Programme Director as soon as possible.

Your marking pack will include a blank marks grid ordered in ascending student id number. The answer books will be in the same order.

If you have any answer books which do not appear on the list, just add them at the end (and please put the answer books in the same order).

Negative marking policy

Negative marking is the practice of subtracting marks for incorrectly answered parts of questions.

It is often employed in conjunction with multiple-choice questions, where candidates could expect to obtain a significant non-zero mark by guessing. The preferred policy of the School is not to use negative marking, unless its absence would result in serious distortions in the overall mark. Small numbers of marks obtained by guessing the answers to a few questions do not constitute a serious distortion, and anyway scarcely justify the extra effort of implementing negative marking schemes. Recent experience has shown that negative marking generates complaints by students.

If you do decide to use negative marking on your examination - for example if there is a significant multiple-choice component - then the scheme should be made clear to candidates on the examination paper. If this cannot be done succinctly, then it almost certainly requires simplification anyway.

Moderating exams

The preferred policy of the School is not to use negative marking, unless its absence would result in serious distortions in the overall mark. If the setter(s) decide to use negative marking - for example if there is a significant multiple-choice component - then the scheme must be made clear to candidates on the examination paper.

For more guidance please see Guidance for Moderation of Examination Papers.

Preparing students

Most of what you might want or need to tell your students is in the Student FAQs.

After the exams you will need to discuss their results with them (meaning of marks, what to do next, etc.). In particular after the 1st semester results are published you are expected to meet for about 10 minutes with each of your students to review how they are getting on and discuss how they can improve their chances of achieving their personal targets.

  • See Graham Gough's PAPD related material:
    The main purpose of this exercise is to make students stop and think about how they are approaching their studies, and take more responsibility for them. It is not just an exercise for those students who are struggling, but also an opportunity for the better students to reflect on their studies and devise strategies for getting more out of them. It is important not just to identify problem areas, but to try to agree actions that the students might take to improve the situation.

Make sure you understand what information can be released, and when it is OK to do so - this is particularly important for the June exams. If in doubt check with the Student Support Office.

Re-marking exams

It is the policy of the School of Computer Science not to selectively remark examination papers or coursework on request.

The School will not remark work simply because students believe that they should have obtained a better mark than that shown on their transcript.

After results are published, the School receives numerous requests from students for us to check their answer books for irregularities. Checks of the answer books in question will be done. If the checks disclose any anomalies the Director of Studies will be advised.

Examination papers and coursework will only be remarked where the school officers (Director of Studies or Examinations Officers) have good cause to believe that there has been a marking irregularity.

MCQ Policy

It is current University practice that sections of examination papers featuring MCQs (where printed on paper) be collected in after the examination, and not published. Nevertheless, for obvious security reasons, MCQs must be changed every year, just like any other questions, in order to prevent the leakage of information likely to be useful to candidates. Basic changes should go without saying: wording of the questions and responses, values of numerical parameters and---most obviously of all---order of responses. In addition, however, exam setters are expected to build up a bank of questions from which a non-predictable selection may be made each time the exam is run. As recent experience shows, these concerns are not purely theoretical: it has to be assumed that information about multiple choice examinations will escape, even when question papers are supposed to be collected in.

Delegation of Marking

Examinations are an integral part of teaching and must always be set and marked by the members of staff who are allocated to teach the course unit in the School's duties allocation. If there is any reason why you will have difficulty setting or marking an examination in a particular year then alternative arrangements must be agreed in advance with the Director of the Undergraduate School or the Director of the Postgraduate School as appropriate.

Students' marks

Undergraduate
  • First and second year semester 1 COMP marks are available in ARCADE. All other marks are in Campus Solutions.
  • Third year semester 1 marks are available in Campus Solutions.
  • Semester 2 marks for all years are available in Campus Solutions (details of first and second years will also be in ARCADE).

Postgraduate

Postgraduate marks for both semesters are available in Campus Solutions.

Students' problems (mitigating and special circumstances)

If students have problems they should be strongly encouraged to fill in a Mitigating Circumstances form.

You should let the UG Year Tutor or the PG Programme Director know via the student support office. This information can then be considered by the Undergraduate Mitigating Circumstances Committee or the Postgraduate Mitigating Circumstances Committee which meets throughout the year with final considerations made just before the examiners' boards in June and July.

The committees consider all students with illness or other factors affecting their performance, which will not be considered in detail in the main examiners' board. If you hold any relevant information about individual students (your tutees, project students etc.), a copy should be deposited with the student support office for the Action file as soon as possible.

Staff without teaching in a semester

All course units MUST be represented at examination boards. Note that summer exam boards also deal with first semester marks.

Please ensure any marking you might need to do for labs or projects is completed as soon as possible.

Please be available during the externals' visits in June/July, as they may want to talk to you about e.g. your tutees (for more details see what do the external examiners do?).

Examiners' boards

There are three exam sessions (January, May/June and August) which have corresponding sets of examination boards in February, June/July and September.

The School's Examination Officers, Year Tutors, Programme Directors and Lab Managers are detailed in the Staff Loads.

All marks are displayed in exam grids where students are identified by ID number rather than by name. Students, who have been considered by the Mitigating Circumstances Committee, are flagged with an "M". Staff must ensure that all personal issues raised by students are brought to the attention of the Mitigating Circumstances Committees via the Student Support Office. See above for further information if your students have serious problems. The Year Tutors/Programme Directors will report the Committee's recommendations and particularly where this will help the student. The Examinations Officers will have made calculations informally to see what effect such recommendations would have on a student's result and report this to the Board to aid their decision-making. There may be further voting on whether to promote a student or not.

Staff are not permitted to remove any exam grids from the meetings.

All meetings and boards use the regulations provided in the crib sheets which takes their information from the regulations published by the University's Teaching & Learning Support Office. This is also detailed in the Computer Science Undergraduate Handbook and Postgraduate Handbook.

February

There are two Marks Review Meetings: one for UG and one for PGT. Staff are not expected to attend these meetings, which are attended by UG Year Tutors. PGT Programme Directors, Examination Officers, Project Managers and Lab Managers respectively.

The meetings start by looking at the mark averages and spreads for each course unit and overall to ensure that they are reasonable or else that we understand and accept any anomalies. It may be that the meetings recommend scaling of marks for some exams, but this is not be applied until the summer boards have considered the full array of marks in order to make a final decision.

The meetings consider the semester 1 provisional marks. The purpose of the meetings is to highlight struggling students in order to provide support and to identify any issues from the assessment process. The meetings agree to publish the provisional results and minute any recommendations or actions to be undertaken in time for the summer boards.

June/July

Third Year Undergraduate

The first board is the 3rd Year Internal Single Honours Examiners Board for final year students (except for Joint Honours Maths). The board makes provisional decisions about degree classifications and prizes.

Classifications for those students on borderlines/affected by mitigating circumstances are subject to in-depth academic discussion (no personal details about mitigating circumstances are revealed) and the board will vote on whether to promote a student or not. All the provisional decisions and recommendations of the board are referred to the External Examiners for consideration during their visit; particularly those students on borderlines or where the board found difficulty in making a decision.

The next board is the 3rd Year External Examiners Board for final year single honours students. The External Examiners are present at the board, having been in School for two days considering all issues including those raised by the internal board's deliberations. The Externals will look at the work of the students involved and will provide guidance and advice to the board about how to proceed. There are instances when the External Examiners will disagree with initial decisions and further discussions can result further voting and changes to those decisions. See below for further information about what the external examiners do.

Finally, the board will agree on the award of prizes. Note is also taken of students whose results cannot be released due to debt.

The 3rd year joint-honours Maths board is held after the single honours boards have been held in both Schools. Any adjustments to marks decided at the earlier meetings (e.g. where final-degree class borderlines have been placed) and the degree classes for 3rd-years established are made known to the joint honours board for comparison and guidance. The external examiner from Maths will be present to give advice. The Computer Science External Examiners will be consulted separately if necessary. The board follows the same process as the single honours boards.

1st and 2nd Year Undergraduate

The 1st-year and 2nd-year single honours examiners board decides passes and fails for individual course-units. We explicitly use the marks obtained by each student for each individual course-unit and automatically apply compensation for up to 40 credits of course units as outlined in the crib sheet. The Year Tutors will advise about recommendations from the Mitigating Circumstances Committee. Such students are flagged on the exam grids with an "M". The Examinations Officer will advise about the effect of applying those recommendations. The Board will discuss the impact of those changes on the final outcome for each student and make final decisions about resit requirements and whether students should sit at 1st attempt or 2nd attempt for each course unit failed. This is particularly important for 2nd year students, as the marks can affect their final degree class. Notes for such students will be carried forward for their 3rd year.

The 1st-year and 2nd-year joint honours Maths examiners board sits separately after the single honours boards for both Schools and follows the same process as the single honours boards. Decisions from the earlier single honours boards are made known to the joint honours board for comparison and guidance.

4th Year MEng/Postgraduate

The 4th Year MEng/PGT Internal examiners board decides passes and fails for individual course-units and identifies students who are in the Distinction classification and looks at all individual marks for the Progress Project Report. The board explicitly use the marks obtained by each student for each individual taught course-unit and automatically apply compensation for up to 30 credits of course units as outlined in the crib sheet. The Programme Directors will advise about recommendations from the Mitigating Circumstances Committee. Such students are flagged on the exam grids with an "M". The Examinations Officer will advise about the effect of applying those recommendations. The Board will discuss the impact of those changes on the final outcome for each student and make final decisions about resit requirements and whether students should sit at 1st attempt or 2nd attempt for each course unit failed. Students will also be identified for resubmission of the Report.

Resit Boards

The UG single honours Resit Examinations Board sits in September and considers all students who have been flagged to do resit assessments either by exam and/or coursework or lab. Any students affected by mitigating circumstances are flagged with an "M" on the examination grid. The Year Tutors report on the recommendations of the Mitigating Circumstances Commtitee and the Examinations Officer reports on the effect of those recommendations on the student's results. Compensations still available under the rules will be applied to individual course units and final decisions made about students' progression.

The UG joint honours Maths resit examinations board sits in September and follows the same process as the single honours board.

The PG Resit Examinations Board sits in September and considers all students who have been flagged to do resit assessments either by exam and/or coursework or lab. Also students who have resubmitted their Progress Project Report are considered. Any students affected by mitigating circumstances are flagged with an "M" on the examination grid. The Programme Directors report on the recommendations of the Mitigating Circumstances Commtitee and the Examinations Officer reports on the effect of those recommendations on the student's results. Compensations still available under the rules will be applied to individual course units and final decisions made about students' progression

Dissertation Board

The PG Dissertations Board sits in late October/early November. The External Examiners are in attendance and have considered any issues arising from the dissertation submission and marking process, including any students affected by Mitigating Circumstances.

Examination grids and Dissertation results spreadsheets are tabled at the board. Any students affected by mitigating circumstances are flagged with an "M". The Programme Directors report on the latest recommendations of the Mitigating Circumstances Commtitee and the Examinations Officer reports on the effect of those recommendations on the student's results so that the board members can make final decisions about the students classification for the December graduation. Students are identified who need to resubmit dissertations.

Examiners' board attendance

All staff who have tutored, lectured or examined students are required to be present at the examiners' boards that deal with those students. (See what happens at the examiners' boards for details of the meetings.) In exceptional circumstances, a member of staff may not be able to be present. However, permission to be absent from the board(s) must be sought from the appropriate Director of Studies. There is then an obligation on that member of staff to find a substitute who can speak to the former's students, courses and examination results, and who is willing to do so, and who will be present at all relevant examiners' boards. The Director of Studies must also be informed of the substitute.

Even if you have not had contact with a particular group of our students, you are still welcome to attend any of our examiners' boards and express an opinion.

External examiners

The University's definition of external examiners duties casts them as auditors for the academic quality of our students and thus also for the process by which we assess it. In addition, we have Chief External Examiners for each of the Undergraduate and Postgraduate Schools. They adjudicate in any dispute or impasse where a final decision cannot be made by the examination boards.

All examinations and PG coursework are sent to the external examiners to check our exam papers and provide feedback comments. Exam setters are required to act upon external examiner feedback and provide a formal response via Student Support Office.

The External Examiners are asked to visit the School for the summer boards.

The Undergraduate Externals visit for 2 days after the June internal examiners board. They mainly concern themselves with considering issues and problems raised by the internal board.

The Postgraduate Externals visit for 1 day after the July internal examiners board. Their focus is to consider the Progress Project Reports and any issues and problems raised by the internal board.

When External Examiners first arrive, they are briefed by the appropriate Director of Studies and Year Tutors/Programme Directors on the results of the internal examination boards. They examine answer books and project/dissertation reports of borderline and other students, and also written reports by project/dissertation supervisors. They may want to discuss a student's work with the supervisor, personal tutor, year tutor/programme director and/or any other relevant member of staff.

During the course of their visit the External Examiners will have the opportunity to meet with students.

Only once the External Examiners are happy that they have been able to consider all issues raised, the External Examiners' Board is convened. If the advertised time is delayed to allow for this process, staff will be advised by email.

Final decisions are made based on the externals' recommendation and advice. During this meeting, they present a verbal report on the examination results, standards and procedures. Finally, the External Examiners, Director of Studies and Examinations Officer sign off the results for publication.

The external examiners submit a written report at the end of the academic year (UG after the summer boards; PG after the Dissertation Board in November) which goes to the University and Faculty. The report is forwarded to the School for consideration by the appropriate Undergraduate or Postgraduate Committee and a formal response provided.

Alternative assessments (e.g. lab work)

Undergraduate
1st/2nd/3rd year lab/coursework (marks returned via lab organisers)
Make sure marking is complete (and mark-list etc. up-to-date!) as soon as possible after end of semester
3rd year projects (marks returned via project organisers)
Read and mark on time - usually before/during exams, but please try and do this BEFORE you have to mark any exams.
Anything else e.g. seminars, reports, essays, mid-term tests
If you use them, mark them and tell us the marks ASAP!
Postgraduate

The course unit leaders are responsible for producing a list of overall coursework marks and should ensure that these are returned to the Student Support Office by the deadlines advertised in the examination calls.