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The University of Southampton
EnglishPart of Humanities

Assessment methods

We have a wide and imaginative range of assessment methods, which have been repeatedly singled out for praise by our external examiners and quality assessors.

Most of your assessed work will be done outside the exam room; the largest single component will be essays of various length, but you'll also be assessed by other methods, including short exercises and critical analyses, course journals, creative writing, seminar presentations, blogs, book searches and annotated bibliographies, group projects, and a dissertation (where you produce an extended piece of research on a topic of your own choice).

We don't use a high proportion of examinations (approximately one sixth of your final mark will be based on examinations), but find them a useful way of developing your ability to think effectively under pressure, and of testing some kinds of skills (e.g. language knowledge). Most of our exams are two-hour closed examinations, but we also use 'open book' examinations (in which you're allowed to take a copy of a specified text into the exam room for reference) or 'take-away papers' (in which you collect an exam paper from the Faculty's Student Office and return your completed script at a specified time).

First year
First-year undergraduate courses are assessed partly by examination and partly by coursework. The descriptions under course details specify the assessment methods used for each module, and the arrangements will be made clear to you well in advance.

Second and final years
After the first year, most English undergraduate course modules are assessed by written work assignments. These usually take the form of essays, but other forms of assessment include shorter commentaries, course journals, presentations, and creative work. To assess your knowledge and understanding of the module as a whole and your ability to make connections between the different texts and approaches studied, 35 per cent of the assessment for 'double modules' is normally by two-hour closed examination at the end of each module. Final-year marks have double the weighting of second-year marks; this weighting is a general policy to allow for your academic development over the course.

The dissertation

Final-year undergraduates do an 8,000-word dissertation, which counts as the equivalent of a double module. A dissertation allows you to do independent research under individual supervision on a topic in literature or culture which particularly interests you, and gives a good foundation for postgraduate study.

Seminar tutors will give you essay titles at the beginning of each semester; you're strongly advised to start planning and reading for your essays well ahead of the deadlines. Tutors will mark and return your written work promptly (normally within three weeks of receipt in term-time; short exercises may be turned round more quickly). Your seminar tutor will be happy to discuss the content, style, and structure of the essay with you, and will in any case provide detailed written feedback on the essay cover sheet. You'll be given a percentage mark for each assessed element within a module, and for the module as a whole at the end of the course.

You should note, however, that all marks are provisional until the final examining board. English follows standard practices to ensure fair and consistent marking of coursework and examination scripts: all second- and final-year modules are moderated by another member of English staff, and all dissertations are double-marked, in order to reach agreement about final marks for a course. A third reader and/or the external examiner may also be used to resolve internal problems or disagreements.

Full details on presentation and essay-writing, our marking criteria, and the regulations on written work, including current deadlines, are provided in the English handbook for students.

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