The marking scheme for the dissertation, expressed in percentage points, used by all MPhils, is as follows:
Marks of 75 and above indicate work of Distinction level: a candidate with confirmed marks of 75 or better will be awarded a Distinction for the Dissertation. The conditions for achieving a Distinction in each M.Phil vary and are explained in Section 4.
Work qualifying for a mark of 75 or better will clearly meet or exceed all or almost all of the requirements for an M.Phil dissertation. It will be ambitious in scope, show depth of research and sophistication of conceptual understanding, and be of high quality in its argument, while being aware of any necessary limits to its findings.
MPhil dissertation examiners should not hesitate to award marks of 75 and upwards, including marks in the 80s, if they feel it appropriate. Examiners should bear in mind that even the best of MPhil candidates are just at the beginning of their scholarly careers, in many cases producing their first piece of sustained scholarly work.
Marks of 70 to 74 are awarded for work of high quality, which nevertheless falls below the level required for a Distinction. These marks clearly support leave to continue to the PhD.
Work qualifying for these marks will comfortably meet all or the majority of the requirements for an M.Phil. dissertation, demonstrating some or all of ambition in the choice of topic, depth of research and conceptual understanding, quality of argument and a due awareness of the limits to its findings.
Marks of 67 to 69 are strong marks which will help the candidate securely to pass the course but will normally exclude leave to continue to the PhD.
Work qualifying for these marks will meet the majority of the requirements for an M.Phil. dissertation, demonstrating a measure of ambition in the choice of topic, depth of research, conceptual understanding, and quality of argument, as well as an awareness of the limits to its findings.
Marks of 63 to 66 are solid but medium-range marks.
Work qualifying for these marks will satisfy the basic requirements for an M.Phil. dissertation, demonstrating an appropriate choice of topic, some depth of research and quality of argument, as well as an awareness of the limits to its findings.
Marks of 60 to 62 are weak pass marks which indicate that the work deserves a bare pass in itself but is not strong enough to offer compensating support should other work be of marginal fail quality.
Work awarded these marks will barely satisfy the requirements for an M.Phil. dissertation. It will have a potentially appropriate topic, be the product of some research, advance a coherent argument, and show some awareness of the limits to its findings.
59 marginal fail
Marks of 59 and below indicate work which falls below the requirements set out above; the implications of these marks are very serious and must be understood: see below for Marginal Failure and Failure.
Weaknesses which suggest the award of a marginal fail or fail mark include: an inadequately or inappropriately-defined topic; insufficient research; the absence of coherent argument; claims of findings which manifestly exceed the evidence and argumentation adduced.
A mark of 59 is a marginal fail mark, which may be redeemable by evidence of more than borderline performance overall in Part I of the course. In awarding a mark of 59 an examiner is indicating that the dissertation alone is not sufficient evidence that the candidate should pass the course, but that it is sufficiently close to passing that evidence of reasonably strong performance elsewhere in the course would warrant the award of the MPhil degree.
In the case of one examiner awarding a Marginal Fail (59) and the other a Pass (60 or above), the dissertation will be marked by the External Examiner. The External Examiner will examine and award a mark independently, without reference to the marks already awarded, but will have the marks and reports of the initial examiners available for consultation in preparing his or her independent report. Whenever possible, the External Examiner’s mark should give a clear recommendation of Pass or Fail. If the third mark is a Pass the candidate is deemed to have passed and the marginal fail mark will be discarded. If the third mark is a Marginal or an outright Fail, a viva will be held (see section 17.3 on viva voce examinations). In the case of both examiners awarding a Marginal Fail, the External Examiner is also asked to examine the dissertation independently, and award a mark. If this third mark is a Pass, a viva will be held. If the third mark is a Marginal or outright Fail, the candidate will be deemed to have failed.
If the outcome of a viva is itself a marginal fail mark of 59, this would constitute a ‘marginal fail’ of Part II of the MPhil (dissertation), and point 3(b) of the Student Registry ‘Memorandum to Examiners and Assessors for the Degree of Master of Philosophy (one-year course) would apply, giving the Degree Committee discretion to judge whether the essays in Part I taken as a whole had achieved what the Memorandum calls ‘high performance’ and to take this into account in recommending a pass to the Student Registry. Such ‘high performance’ would for this course be constituted by a set of essay marks none of which falls under 63 (and excluding for this purpose any mark of 59 which was not confirmed by a third marker). Conversely, agreed dissertation marks (or a post-viva third mark) of 63 and above may be used to compensate a marginal fail in Part I.
Failure: In the case of one Pass and one Fail mark (i.e. 58 or below) from the initial examiners, the dissertation is sent to the External Examiner to award a third mark. If the third mark is a clear Pass, the dissertation will be deemed to have passed. If that marker awards a Fail mark (i.e. 58 or below), the candidate will be deemed to have failed. If the third mark is a Marginal Fail, a viva will be held.
The External Examiner will examine and award marks independently, without reference to the marks already awarded, although the initial examiners’ marks and reports will be made available to the External Examiner, to enable his or her report to take account of them. Whenever possible, the third reader’s mark should give a clear recommendation of Pass or Fail.
In the event of two clear failing marks, the candidate will be deemed to have failed.
In each case where a candidate is deemed to have failed, a viva may be held, but only if the candidate wishes it. Candidates must be informed of their right to request a viva in such cases. In the event of two low failing marks, it is appropriate to advise the student that a conversion of the fail to a passing mark, though theoretically possible, is in practice highly unlikely.
Referral of the dissertation for further work and for re-examination at a later date is not permitted for MPhil dissertations. A fail mark (58 or below; or uncompensated marginal fail mark of 59) confirmed after the viva is grounds for failure of the MPhil course overall. The MPhil Sub-Committee sitting as Board of Examiners will make a recommendation to this effect to the Degree Committee of the Faculty of History. A failed candidate, however, may at the discretion of the Degree Committee receive a Certificate of Attendance or be transferred to postulate for the Certificate of Postgraduate Study.
First year students take the Prelim to Part I examination at the beginning of the Easter term.
The Part I examination consists of five 3-hour examinations (one for each of your outline papers) and one long essay, for Themes and Sources, which is submitted in the January of your second year.
The Part II examination comprises three or four 3-hour examinations (depending on whether you offer a dissertation) and one long essay. For each Part II Specified Subject, you take one paper and answer three questions. Part II Special Subjects are examined by means of a Long Essay and a three-hour examination on 'gobbets' taken from the set sources. For the Historical Argument and Practice examination, you sit one paper and answer only one question.
Optional Part II Dissertations are submitted at the beginning of the Easter Term. The compulsory Part II Special Subject Long Essay is submitted at the beginning of the Easter Term.
Students taking Part II over two years (either as Affiliated Students or having transferred from another Tripos) are required to sit a Prelim to Part II examination at the end of their first year. This examination comprises Paper 1 (HAP) and two papers chosen from Sections C-D. These three papers are not classed and do not count towards Part II. The following year, these papers are re-examined, together with a Special Subject (Papers 2 & 3) and either two more papers from Sections C-D, or a dissertation and one more. The Part II classification is determined entirely by the results achieved in these examinations.
Links to guidance and further information about exams in the Faculty of History:
Tripos Examination Timetables 2018:
Prelim to Part II
This is not classed, and does not count towards Part I. It is intended to provide you with informal guidance about your progress to date. To appear on the list of successful candidates, students must pass an examination in three papers: the first two of the Part I outline papers that they have studied, together with Historical Argument and Practice (HAP).
Prelim to Part I papers 2–18 correspond exactly with Papers 2-18 in Part I of the Tripos.
Prelim to Part I Paper 19 is specifically designed to examine any first year students who choose to study one of the World History papers (Part I Papers 21 or 23).
Part I papers 19 and 20 (Political Thought) and 22 and 24 (American history) are not available in the Prelim to Part I examination.
Prelim examination timetable 2018 - available in February 2018
The Part I and Part II examinations are in late May and early June. Each examination paper has equal weighting in the assessment.