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CIS Undergraduate Handbook - Assessment - 2014/15

Most of the classes you take will be assessed by two methods: coursework and examinations. These two marks are combined to give your final mark for the class - e.g. in most first year classes taught by CIS your coursework will count towards 30% of your final mark and the examination at the end of the class will make up the remaining 70%. Some classes use a different coursework/examination split and some classes are 100% coursework. Detailed information about the way each class is assessed can be found via the Undergraduate Syllabuses page as well as via the curriculum page.

Coursework

Coursework forms a key part of all Computer and Information Sciences classes - it is important that you develop skills in computing and know how to apply these in a practical setting. Doing coursework in a timely manner while you study is an invaluable learning resource as you will understand the taught material better through its application. If the coursework for a class contributes to the final mark, it is in your interest to do the coursework as well as possible - the marks you gain from the coursework will reduce the pass level required in the exam and boost your overall performance. For example, if you score 65% for coursework in a 20% coursework, 80% exam split class then you will only need to achieve 34% in the exam to pass the class. If you score 40% for coursework you will need to achieve 40% in the exam to pass the class. If you don't do any coursework at all you will need to achieve 50% or more in the exam to pass - plus you will understand the material less well because you haven't applied it, so that 50% will be a serious up-hill battle!

Some classes operate exemption schemes - if you perform well enough in the coursework then you will be exempted from taking the exam and will pass the class automatically. Details of exemption schemes are given by individual lecturers for the classes in which they apply.

Some non-CIS classes operate a non-completion (NC) scheme: if you do not pass the coursework you are required to undertake additional coursework before you can pass the class - no matter how well you did in any exams. Some non-CIS classes also use the not-qualified (NQ) scheme for students who have not participated enough in the class - this is more serious and means you will not be allowed to sit the examination. After discussion with the appropriate department you may be allowed to take the resit after you have undertaken some additional work. The University compensation scheme cannot be applied to a class if your result for that class is either NC or NQ. CIS do not operate NC and NQ schemes.

Make sure you understand the assessment mechanism for all classes at the outset. If you have any doubts, ask the lecturer.

Lecturers will make the deadlines for their coursework assignments clear to you. It is your responsibility to meet these deadlines: extensions will only be given in exceptional circumstances. While we try to balance load and not issue too many coursework deadlines at the same time, this is sometimes inevitable and you must aim to manage your time well to keep track of all deadlines.

Lecturers will also make the method of submission clear - this is sometimes electronic, sometimes paper and sometimes both an electronic and paper submission is required. Electronic submission is normally through MyPlace - you should follow the lecturer's instructions carefully. Paper submission is normally made to the general office on level 11: these should be tightly bound either in a folder or stapled (as directed by the lecturer) and include a standard bar-coded front cover page. Please remember that the general office can be very busy and it is your responsibility to be there in plenty of time to meet any deadlines.

Candidates shall not commit plagiarism, that is, shall not engage in unacknowledged or unauthorised copying or replication of the work of others
University Regulation

All assessed work must be your own work - if it is group work then the submission must be work undertaken by your group. You must not submit the work of others as your own work. You must not copy from other students without express permission from the lecturer and the other students. Any material copied from other sources, including internet sources, must be clearly attributed to those sources and authorised by the wording of the assessment. Plagiarism is a serious offence and can lead to you being expelled from the University. If you are in any doubt as to what is authorised or how to attributed authorised material you should speak to the lecturer who set the assessment in plenty time before the submission.

See the University's Student Guide on Good Academic Practice and the Avoidance of Plagiarism for more details.

Examinations

First-semester classes are normally examined in the January/February diet of examinations with whole year or second-semester classes being examined in the May/June diet (see dates). If you fail to pass a class you normally have one chance to resit the examination (normally in August). However, final year examinations are normally all held in May and there are no resit exams for the final year classes. Your first sitting of an exam is important:

  • In first, second and third year the University compensation scheme only applies to marks obtained at your first sitting - see the Progress regulations page for details
  • In third year honours, your marks for the first attempts at each exam are the marks that feed into the equation that determines your final honours grade - resit exams may enable you to pass a class but will not increase this mark.

Copies of examination papers from previous years can normally be obtained from the University Library (and sometimes a class's own web pages).

Examination Boards

Official examination boards meet during each academic year to discuss your exam results and to decide whether or not you may progress to the next year of your degree programme or whether to award you a degree. The Faculty of Science holds two examination boards each year to consider the results for students in years 1-3 of the BIS, CS, CSL, MEng CS and SE degrees (years 1-3 of the CES amd MEng CES degrees are considered by the Faculty of Engineering examination boards). The first examination board takes place in June to consider the results from both the January and May examination diets, while the second examination board takes place in September to consider the results of the August resit examination diet. The Department of Computer & Information Sciences holds an internal examination board after each examination diet (January, June and August) to consider the exam results for each of our classes and, if appropriate, to make recommendations to take forward to the Faculty of Science (or Faculty of Engineering for CES/MEng CES students) examination boards.

For students in years 4 and 5, the Department of Computer & Information Sciences holds an Honours/Integrated Masters examination board to consider making the awards of BSc (Hons) or MEng degrees. This examination board meets either late in May or early in June and considers the examination results for all students in fourth and fifth year. The Department has two external examiners who attend the Honours/Integrated Masters examination board for BIS, CS, CSL, SE, MEng CS. In 2014-2015, these external examiners are Professor Ruth Aylett, School of Mathematical & Computer Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, and Dr Thorsten Altenkirch, School of Computer Science, University of Nottingham. The external examiner for the BEng/MEng CES degrees is Professor Evan Magill, Computing Science and Mathematics, School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling. The external examiners carry out the following duties.

  • Prior to the examination diets, they check exam papers and coursework assignments.
  • They spend the day prior to the final Honours/Integrated Masters examination board visiting the Department and undertaking the following tasks.
  • They scrutinise all exam papers, exam scripts and coursework. This involves looking at the means and standard deviations of all examinations to ensure they are consistent and within acceptable limits. They also ensure that all exams are consistent with previous years’ exams.
  • They look at the individual and group project reports and marking forms. Failing projects are referred by the Department to the external examiners who will examine these projects in detail.
  • They meet with a cross-section of students which provides students with the opportunity to discuss any specific issues with individual classes. The external examiners will examine any issues closely to make sure the department has treated all students fairly. The Department also informs the external examiners about any issues raised by students individually or through staff student committees.
  • They examine any issues that may have arisen, such as issues relating to projects or to the way classes are been taught or assessed.

Any recommendations made by the external examiners are taken seriously by the Department and, in the case of any doubt, any action taken will be to the benefit of students.

The decisions that can be made by examination boards can be found in the section Examination Results.

Illness, Absence and Personal Circumstances

The University can take personal, medical or other circumstances into account when assessing your position at an examination board - but we can only do this if you provide us with documented evidence. If you cannot attend University because of illness you must submit an appropriate medical note to the Student Business section in the McCance Building. For short absences a self-certification form is sufficient. For longer illnesses or if an illness significantly affects your ability to undertake assessed coursework or leads to you missing a deadline or an exam, a formal medical certificate is required (e.g. from your GP, doctor, hospital).

If you are absent or distracted from your work for other reasons - for example, because you have to face housing, emotional or serious financial problems - it is vitally important to talk to your personal development adviser or year adviser of study as soon as possible. There are various ways in which we can support you, but we need to know first!

When circumstances beyond your control affect your performance in assessments (this includes both coursework and exams) you should report these circumstances to the University as soon as possible as Personal Circumstances. Guidance on how to report personal circumstances can be found on the University's Personal Circumstances Procedure. You should submit evidence of any personal circumstances as soon as you feel you have not performed as well as you expected. You should not wait until exam results have been published.

If an entire semester or exam diet has been affected by personal circumstances, you must either record those circumstances on Pegasus or submit a Personal Circumstances Form to Student Business by at least one working day before the relevant Pre-Board meeting. This is to ensure that these circumstances can be taken into account by the examination board.

Examination Results

Exam results are given on Pegasus as soon as they are available, but there can be a very long delay between you taking the exams and the marks being available for publication: your papers need to be marked, all classes are then considered at exam boards and the results of the exam board sent to Student Business and verified before publication. Student Business can also post your results to your home address if you wish.

After the June, and if needed September, exam boards Pegasus will also show your progression decision. This can be one of the following:

Award You have qualified for the award of a degree - congratulations!
Pass You have passed all your exams and can continue to the next year of your course. If your credit-weighted average mark after first sitting is 60%-69% you will Pass with Merit and if it is 70% or higher you will Pass with Distinction.
Proceed You have failed some exams but may still continue to the next year of your course as you have obtained sufficient credits. However, you will still normally have to resit and pass any failing classes as part of your degree regulations.
Resit This is normally only used at the June exam board. You have failed to pass one or more classes and must resit those classes during the August resit diet.
Transfer You are required to transfer to a different degree course (e.g.  from MEng to Honours, or from Honours to the Pass degree). You may also have to resit failed classes.
Suspend This decision is only recorded at the September exam board which considers the results from the August resit diet. You cannot continue to the next year of your course because you have not passed enough classes. As such your next attempt will be in the exams which take place during the following year which means you will be recorded as being in "academic suspension" as you are no longer a normal full-time student. If, during your period of suspension, you pass any required exams, you will then be able to enter the next year of your course (a year late). You may use the University Library and other facilities while in suspension but have limited rights as a student and will not normally attend classes.
Do Not Proceed An alternative for "Suspend".
Caution Unless your performance at the next examination diet shows substantial improvement, you may be required to withdraw. This is often used at the June exam board if you have failed a significant number of classes.
Warn This is often used when you are about to use up your last resit opportunity to pass a class (e.g. if you have failed your third attempt at a class you will normally only be allowed one further attempt to pass the class).
Withdraw You have not reached the minimum standard for progression and are not permitted any further opportunities to pass classes. Unfortunately, you have now finished your study and have been withdrawn from the course.
Special A decision fitting none of the above categories which has to be explained by an individual letter! The two commonest varieties are that you have been allowed to continue (despite the degree regulations) for some special reason such as illness, and that you have qualified for the award of a pass degree but are being given a chance to resit certain exams in order to transfer back onto the honours course.
Reattend This decision is only taken in exceptional circumstances and permits you to repeat the current year of study.

If you do not understand your results or do not understand what you should do now, please speak to your personal development adviser or Student Business immediately.

Result Appeals

It is possible to appeal against the decisions of Examination Boards, but the system is very different from that which operates in school. Appeals may be made on the following grounds only:

  1. Relevant medical or personal information not available at the time of the Examination Board (for example, a belated medical certificate);
  2. Procedural irregularities in the assessment process;
  3. Inadequate assessment, prejudice or bias amongst the examiners.

Information about how to appeal can be found via the Student Lifecycle web pages on Appeals as well as in the document Personal Circumstances & Academic Appeals Procedure.

Letters of appeal with supporting evidence should be sent, by the appropriate deadline, to the Faculty Officer. For a successful appeal it is vital that you include appropriate supporting evidence. Before submitting an appeal you are advised to contact either your personal development adviser, your year adviser of study, the Advice Centre (see Advice & Support) which is located on level 1 of the McCance building) and/or The Advice Hub which is located within the University of Strathclyde Students' Association (ussa.advice@strath.ac.uk, who will be able to advise you and also, should you wish, to help with the drafting of the appeal. Your letter of appeal should be succinct and, wherever possible, supported by independent evidence. It should state what it is that you are hoping the appeal will achieve; note that very good reason would be needed before you were permitted to re-attend a year and also that in general marks achieved for an individual class will not be adjusted.

There is a further level of appeal, namely an appeal to Senate, but that is only available if you have reasonable grounds for disputing the decision of a Faculty Appeals Panel.