Interpretation of Grades
This guide outlines the qualitative judgements implied by the various grades awarded for written work in the History Department. A more precise evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of individual essays will be provided in assessors’ comments. Assessors will also take into account the specific requirements of different assessment tasks: not all of the criteria mentioned here may apply to a given piece of work. For example, a primary source analysis may not require any discussion of historiography; conversely, a short discussion paper may not require analysis of primary sources. Assessors will bear in mind the different standards likely to be achieved by junior and senior students, and may be more inclined to reward evidence of promise at junior level.
FAIL (Below 50%)
Work not of an acceptable standard.
Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons: lack of sufficient research using appropriate sources; irrelevance of content; failure to answer the specific question or treat the specified theme; irrelevance of content; wholesale lack of analysis or interpretation; unacceptable levels of paraphrasing; significant deficiencies in presentation, grammar or structure; incomprehensible expression; very late submission without an extension.
Low Pass (50-54): Work of a barely acceptable standard.
Written work contains evidence of minimal reading and some understanding of subject matter. It typically features summary and paraphrase of relevant material with little interpretation or analysis. It reflects a reasonable attempt to organise material logically and comprehensibly and to provide scholarly documentation. There may be gaps in any or all of these areas.
Medium Pass (55-59): Work of a satisfactory standard.
Written work meets basic requirements in terms of reading and research. It demonstrates a reasonable understanding of subject matter, offers a synthesis of relevant material and shows a genuine effort to avoid paraphrasing, to offer interpretation and to provide acceptable documentation. It has a comprehensible structure organised around an identifiable theme. There may be weaknesses in particular areas.
High Pass (60-64): Meritorious work containing some elements that are of credit standard.
Written work contains evidence of a broad and reasonably accurate command of the subject matter and some sense of its broader significance. It identifies the principal issues and some key scholarly approaches to them, and shows some awareness of the nature and pitfalls of historical evidence. It goes beyond synthesis to propose an argument, although there may be weaknesses of clarity, structure or use of evidence in the case as presented. Properly documented, it shows signs of one or more of the following: attention to expression and fluency; independent thought; and critical response to secondary sources.
Low Credit (65-69): Promising work suggesting potential for further development.
Written work contains evidence of broad reading, offers synthesis and some critical evaluation of secondary material, argues a position in relation to one or more existing scholarly approaches and/or shows some sophistication in its use of primary material. The introduction clearly states the approach being taken and/or the position being argued. The essay is characterised by good selection of evidence, logical argument and grasp of relevant historiography. It shows some evidence of independent thought and an extra spark of insight.
High Credit (70-74): Work of significant promise.
Written work provides evidence of extensive reading and initiative in research, sound grasp of subject matter and appreciation of key issues and context. It engages critically with the question and attempts an analytical evaluation of primary and/or secondary material as required for the task assigned. It makes a good attempt to critique various scholarly approaches and offers thoughtful comment on the issues in an existing historical debate. It shows some evidence of ability to think theoretically as well as empirically and to conceptualise and problematise issues in historical terms. Work awarded a high credit is generally well written and always well documented; it often contains evidence of original interpretation or creative thought.
Work that shows proficiency in the discipline of History.
Written work reflects successful initiative in research and reading as well as complex understanding and original analysis of subject matter, with attentiveness to both the historical and the scholarly context. It engages perceptively with the underlying assumptions of primary-source texts and takes a critical, interrogative stance in relation to historical argument and interpretation. It has near-flawless documentation, and, especially at the higher levels, the writing is characterised by style, clarity and some creativity.
HIGH DISTINCTION (85-100%)
HD (85-90): Work that is outstanding for the student’s present level of enrolment and shows potential for distinguished performance at higher levels.
Written work demonstrates initiative and ingenuity in research, pointed and critical analysis of material, and innovative interpretation of evidence. It offers an insightful contribution to historical debate, engages with values, assumptions and contested meanings contained within primary-source evidence, and develops sophisticated, theoretically inflected arguments on the strength of detailed historical research and interpretation. It shows a high degree of professionalism in presentation, and the writing is characterised by creativity, style and precision.
HD+ (90-100): Work whose quality exceeds normal expectations for outstanding work at the student’s present level of enrolment.
Written work more than meets the criteria for a High Distinction, displaying a marked degree of originality and/or scholarly professionalism. Depending on the task assigned, the exceptional qualities might include suggestion of a new perspective from which to view a problem, identification of a problem not adequately recognised in the standard literature, methodological and/or conceptual innovation, or a particularly creative approach to writing.