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Department of Computer Science assessment guidance for Students

I have problems taking exams

If you have a specific learning difficulty (e.g. dyslexia), a medical condition or a disability you may be entitled to extra time or other allowances in your examinations - please contact the Disability Support Office as soon as possible.

If you have more general problems with exams, our page about exam technique also has links to people who may be able to help you.

How do I enter for the exams?

To ensure you are entered for the exams you must be registered on the correct course units by the end of the second week of teaching each semester. You should register your course unit choices within the University online Campus Solutions System.
If you do not enter the correct course units on Campus Solutions you will not be entered for the correct examinations. If you have any difficulties choosing course units please e-mail the Student Support Office .

When (and where) are the exams?

Personalised timetables are published via the StudentNet by the Student Services Centre, who email out to all students to advise them that the timetables are ready. The timetable includes information about date, time and location.

If the list of exams on your personal timetable is wrong (for example because you have changed course units) you must notify the Student Support Office who will provide you with a form to complete to take to the Student Services Centre.

A copy of the timetable for each course unit goes up on the Examinations Noticeboard just outside the Student Support Office on the Lower First Floor. The Student Services Centre also publish a composite list of all exams.

What do I do if I have a holy day in the middle of the exam period?

Why are my exams bunched up?

When you access your personal exam timetable, you may well find that your exams are not spread out evenly through the exam period. In an ideal world this would not happen, but the reality is that the Student Services Centre is trying to schedule hundreds of exams for thousands of students, most of whom are taking some slightly different combination of subjects, and fit them all into a couple of weeks.

The best the Student Services Centre can do is to try to avoid two exams on one day but even this is not always possible - the University does not regard two exams in one day as unreasonable.

We have absolutely no control over the exam timetable. All we can do is ask the Student Services Centre to try to put the larger exams earlier on so we have a chance of getting them marked in time!

Are there any answers to the past papers?

This depends on the individual lecturers but there is no systematic effort to provide answers.

We do provide general feedback about exams. We hope that this will give you some clues about:
- what you did right or wrong in exams you took last year, so you can try to improve your exam technique
- what to look out for or avoid in exams that you are taking this year.

Many exam questions either ask you to write an essay to prove you can remember what you were told in lectures, or else ask you to prove your understanding by applying what you were told to solve a problem. You may even be asked to write an essay and then solve a related problem. Some questions ask you to prove you understand what you remember, by writing an essay that links together information from the lectures in a different way.
For essays, you should already have the answer in your notes, and the only uncertainty is how much and how clearly you can write in the time available - try it! For problem-solving questions, you need to practice until you can solve such problems without needing to refer to your notes. Remember that in some cases it is the methodology that counts, not the answer, and there could be many correct ways of answering the same question.

You may well find that, if you put the effort in to seriously attempt a past paper, the lecturer will be willing to have a look at your solutions and give you some feedback. Compare your answers with those of your friends.

What if I miss an exam?

If you can get to the exam roon within half-an-hour of the start time, you can still take the exam (but you will not be given extra time). If you can't get there in time, get in touch with the Student Support Office immediately. You are expected to attend all your exams before you can complete a year, so make every effort to get to the exam and to contact us to sort things out as soon as possible.

What if I am ill during the exam or revision period?

If you are ill (or anything similarly catastrophic happens) this can obviously make a big difference to your performance, whether or not you manage to attend all your exams. It is essential that you let us know as soon as possible. You should get a doctor's note, and contact us while you are still ill if possible, as we need to get some idea of how badly you are affected.

In the 1st and 2nd years, we will not normally be able to pass you if you miss or fail an exam through illness, but we can usually allow a second attempt at the exam (resit) and treat it as if it was your first attempt. (It is particularly important that you sort this out if you are on the 4-year MEng course, or if you are in the 2nd year, as we may otherwise end up penalising you even if you pass your resit.)

In the final year, things are much more difficult, as we somehow have to grade you despite your illness. You will need to discuss things with your tutor and other staff, as we need to deal with each case individually.

Can we trust the exam results?

The answer books are specially designed to hide your names while they are being marked, to minimise the chances of any sort of bias in the marking process.

Once your answers are marked, they are returned to the Student Support Office where the books are checked to make sure that everything you have written has been marked, and that the marks have been added up correctly. Then these totals are transferred to Campus Solutions. Further checks are made that all component marks are accounted for. e.g. that the course units you got lab marks for and the ones you have exam marks for and the ones you are registered for all match up. We also check that the distribution of marks for different course units are comparable.

We moderate the marks for final year and postgraduate exams. A different member of staff checks that sampled exam answers have been marked according to the marking scheme. More details can be found in the section on moderation of exam marks.

Any serious issues that arise from the examinations process are referred to our external examiners who are professors or senior staff from other universities. We invite the external examiners to visit during the summer to check a sample of your answers to make sure they match the marks given. They also check our overall standards, and advise on borderline cases, and are present at the final examinations board.

What do the marks mean and what form do the results come in?


1st semester results in February: after the first semester exams, we do not yet have any pass/fail decisions, so all we can publish are the raw marks, available towards the end of the second term. All marks at this stage are provisional and may on rare occasions be subject to change and will be ratified by the examiners' boards in the summer.

Full year results in June: in your final (usually 3rd) year you get a classified degree (such as 2(II)Hons), and in other years you just get a pass/fail - if you fail, you will also be told which individual course units you have passed and failed.

The following list is to give you an idea of what the marks mean - it does not mean that e.g. if you get 60.0% you automatically get a 2(I) but if you get 59.9% you automatically get a 2(II).

Mark 1st & 2nd year Final year
70% or more Pass First Class
60% to 69% Upper Second Class - 2(I)
50% to 59% Lower Second Class - 2(II)
40% to 49% Third Class
below 40% Fail

All first and second year students are honours students and the pass mark is 40% (inclusive) for all course units. You must pass 40 credits of course units to progress. If you have achieved marks between 30% and 39% (inclusive) they may be compensatable. Please refer to these degree regulations for further details. If you have achieved less than 30% in any one course unit you will be required to resit.

As well as the Honours Degrees mentioned above there are Ordinary degrees, which can be awarded to final-year students who get less than 40% but have significantly better marks from enough individual exams - for details see the section on Assessment Regulations in the Computer Science Undergraduate Handbook.


1st semester results in February: after the first semester exams we publish provisional marks as an overall percentage for each course unit and programme directors will discuss any concerns with individual students in preparation for semester 2 assessments. Full year taught results in July: full year taught marks are also published as an overall percentage for each course unit. The examinations boards make a decision about compensations and resits. Students are notified by email and letter about resit requirements. There is an overall Taught Average which is made up of the 6 x course unit results. Final Programme result: in November students will receive their final degree which is awarded as a fail, pass, merit or distinction, based on whether they have sufficient credits and high enough marks to meet the Regulations for the programme.

What if I fail my exams?

  • It is vital that you discuss your concerns with your personal or year tutor.
For details, please refer to the Computer Science Undergraduate Handbook and particularly the section on Assessment and Examinations, including Assessment Regulations and Regulations for students who fail exams.

If you have failed a 1st semester exam there is no provision to resit it during the May/June exam period. No decision about whether a resit will be required is taken until the June examinations board when decisions about compenstations will also be made.

Final year students are not permitted to resit failed exams. Final year students may be permitted to repeat part or the whole of the year.

1st-year or 2nd-year students who fail up to 80 credits normally get one more chance to pass them (resit) during the August examination period. If you are allowed to resit you will be sent details of which exams and continuous assessment (labs or essays) need to be undertaken. It is essential that you complete the lab/essay part by the deadline stated in the resit letter.

If you have missed exams for no good reason (or no reason you have told us about) it may be that you are not allowed to take resits. If you missed exams for e.g. medical reasons, it may be that the resit exams will be treated as if they were your first attempt. It is essential that you let us know what happened if you miss an exam.

I didn't fail, but can I resit anyway to improve my marks?

Students cannot resit an exam which they passed in an attempt to improve their marks.

A passed exam can only ever be re-taken as a result of mitigating circumstances.

I don't believe my exam marks!

Every year we receive complaints from students who believe that their mark for one or more exam papers is too low. We perform lots of checks (see above) and the chances of a mark being significantly in error are tiny. (To change your overall average by 1% there would have to be an error of around 10% in the mark for a single course-unit.)

The most common reasons are because the question has not been answered in sufficient depth or some of the required points in the answer have been missed. Answers are sometimes self-contradictory or illegible or the main point of the question has been missed. (See the information about exam technique and some feedback about students' answers to individual questions in previous exams.)

We also offer students an opportunity to ask to see their marked exam answers - details about when and how to do this will be published after each set of exams. Graduating students who wish to view their papers for the purpose of feedback, or understanding where they went wrong, may be able to do so during the August feedback session. Please email the Student Support Office with your request once semester two results have been published.

If you have problems with exam technique, forget about past exams and concentrate on your next set of exams - you can still do something about them! Try answering some questions from old exam papers for the course-units you are currently taking and then ask the lecturers if they will look at your answers and give you some feedback e.g. during an examples class. Try to write your answers in conditions that are as realistic as possible - half an hour per question, no looking at your notes, etc.

If you are still not satisfied, then you should look at the next section, about the complaints procedure.

How do I complain?

Before initiating an appeal, a student is strongly advised to discuss the matter with his or her personal tutor, supervisor, programme director or other appropriate person in the Department.

Start by talking to the lecturer or lab supervisor for queries about a lab or your year/programme tutor for other problems. They should normally be able to satisfy you, but if not, you can talk to your personal tutor, or to an exams officer, or to the head of UG/PGT, or to the head of the department, or to a member of the Student Support Office.

The decisions of the examiners regarding passes, fails and degree classification are taken with extreme care and attention, with one of the primary considerations being fairness to all students. Once those decisions are made, the opportunities to change them are very limited; in particular, students do not have the right to have their papers remarked simply because the published mark does not match their expectation. Only if we are presented with prima facie evidence that a student has been treated unfairly will we even consider a change of decision.

We realise that some students will inevitably be disappointed with their results, particularly if they think the are close to a borderline. The brutal truth is that, wherever we choose to draw that borderline, someone has to be the wrong side of it.

Should you feel that the department has not treated you fairly, every student has the right to use the University's Academic Appeal procedure, which can be found at Complaints and academic appeals.