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General remarks on assessment

credit and grading system

Assessed work is worth 50% of the total credit for the module. The first worksheet will be worth 20% and the second worksheet will be worth 30%.

The questions on Worksheets 1 and 2 should be answered individually and will be marked individually. The assessed work will be graded as A, B, C or D standard rather than as a percentage mark. The grade will be supplemented with written and verbal feedback. Grades will be converted into numerical marks at the end of the module, according to the following conversion table:

Grade A+++ A++ A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C-
out of 100 85 82 78 75 72 68 65 62 58 55 52

credit for clarity

15% of the credit for the assessed work is for presentation, clarity of explanation and (especially important) quality of graphs and plots. The ability to present your scientific results in a clear and professional manner is a skill which for many people is as difficult to acquire as the technical skills required to obtain the results in the first place. This is a generally useful skill which we expect students to acquire during their MSc. Top grades will not be awarded in this module for scrappy plots even if the results are all technically correct. In particular a professional quality graph should:

  • have labels on all axes with units included if appropriate.
  • have the ranges on both axes chosen appropriately so that the features which the plot is supposed to illustrate are clearly displayed.
  • have a caption summarising the contents of the plot .
  • not be pixelated or smudged as often happens if inappropriate file formats are used (eps or pdf are usually best).
  • have all fonts appropriately sized.
  • allow the reader to distinguish between different quantities (if more than one quantity is plotted on the graph).
  • contain a legend (if more than one quantity is plotted on the graph) indicating which symbols or lines correspond to which quantity.
  • be comprehensible if the graph is printed on a black and white printer (thus the use of colour as the sole means of distinguishing two quantities is to be avoided).

A note about clarity: you are not expected to type your solutions to the worksheets or projects unless you feel that you cannot produce a legible handwritten answer (or wish to use this module as an opportunity to learn LaTeX). Clarity is about explaining your reasoning and laying out your calculations in a clear and logical fashion rather than producing a type-set answer.


Deadlines for submitting assessed work will be publicised in advance. If you submit work late (without prior agreement from the lecturer) you will incur a standard penalty of 3% per day as outlined in the university regulations.

oral exam (viva)

50% of the credit for the module will be based on an individual oral exam (viva) to be held in week 10. A set of material and potential questions to be asked in the viva will be made available in advance. The viva will consist of 15-20 minutes of examination, starting with a topic/question of your choice. After a few minutes the discussion will quickly move on to other topics.

If you have never taken an oral exam before, you might feel intimidated. Don't be! The atmosphere will be informal and collegiate and the examiners will be trying very hard to find out what you do know rather than what you don't know. They will not be trying to catch you out.