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Familiarising students with marking criteria

15 August 2023

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Familiarising students with marking criteria

Assessment in History makes significant use of essays, and module convenors in History are encouraged to dedicate one lecture to essay-writing skills. The following exercise, carried out in such a lecture, works to familiarise students with the third-year marking criteria (available in the History Student Handbook, pp. 39-46); it aims to demystify the precise distinctions between marking bands.

Students are given approximately five minutes to skim-read the marking criteria and are invited to pick one area of assessment and one grade boundary (i.e. ‘argument and evidence’, 2.i / 2.ii). They are then tasked with identifying what precisely ‘makes the difference’ in their given case: for instance, an argument made as part of a 2.ii-level essay at third-year must be at least ‘persuasive’, but to achieve a 2.i standard it must also be ‘logical’ and ‘supported by a selection of evidence’. Students are able to focus on an area of assessment that they find particularly challenging, and to choose the grade boundary that is most pertinent to them.

​​​​​​​From a pedagogical perspective, the table takes advantage of one particular tendency of mark schemes: their repetitiveness. The mark schemes found in the student handbook frequently repeat terminology such as ‘argument and evidence’ across multiple grading bands, with the only difference being the adjectives used (‘good’ vs. ‘excellent’); accordingly, the table takes each of these terms and frames them as sub-headings within the broader criteria.


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Dr. Edward Mills is a Lecturer in Medieval Studies in the Department of Archaeology and History. He researches and teaches topics across a medieval and post-medieval history, with a particular focus on cultural and intellectual history. In addition to contributing to first-year survey modules and the final-year Comparative, ‘Civil Wars’, he convenes the second-year ‘Medieval Paris’ Option module, and offer a first-year ‘Sources and Skills’ module based around post-medieval perceptions of the Middle Ages.

He joined the Department of Archaeology and History in 2021, after completing his PhD in French at Exeter; his research develops themes first explored in his PhD, particularly surrounding medieval French language and literature and the use of the French language in medieval England.


Dr. Edward Mills
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