To ensure that student workloads across Modern Languages are reasonably comparable, the Department has agreed a framework for the assessment of modules (modules taught in the Foreign Language Centre, however, follow a different assessment framework). Within this framework, all language disciplines operate according to the same system, requiring students at each level of study to produce the same number of words for an essay or sit the same length of exam.

A distinction is made between examinations, either taken in the exam hall or seen exams, and assessed coursework, that is, essays, presentations, sequence analysis, class tests and portfolios of work. Each module in the Department assesses students either by examination or assessed coursework. This information is contained in the module outline for each module.

Assessment procedures

Progression, condonement, and referral

The University operates a process known as condonement which allows students to pass a Stage, subject to certain conditions, even if they have failed modules to the value of up to 30 credits. This means that if you have passed at least 90 credits, and if your overall average mark for the Stage is at least 40%, you will be allowed to progress to the next Stage.

Certain modules are not subject to condonement if you fail them. To progress to the next Stage you will have to pass a referred assessment. These modules are not condonable because you will not be able to cope with the next Stage of your course without passing them, and you will not have achieved the learning outcomes for your programme if you do not pass these modules at the end of your final year.

If you are taking a Single Honours degree programme in a Modern Languages subject, a Combined Honours programme with either two ML subjects or one ML subject and a subject offered by another College or the BA in Modern Languages , you will have to pass the following non-condonable modules:

• First-year core language modules (for example MLR1030, MLI1052,MLG1052, MLM1052 and MLP1052)
• Second-year core language modules (for example MLX2001, MLI2051, MLM2052 and MLS2156)
• All year abroad modules.
• Final-year core language modules (MLX3111)

For full details of which modules in your degree programme are non-condonable, check the relevant programme specification in Programmes (old).

If you fail non-condonable modules, or if you have over 30 credits of failed modules, or if you do not meet the requirements for condonement set out above, you will need to take and pass a referred assessment in the relevant modules. If a fail mark in one part of the assessment only (either in the assessed coursework or in the examination) causes you to fail the module overall, you will only be asked to repeat the relevant part of the assessment. If you pass a referred assessment, you will be awarded a mark of 40% for that module. Failing a referred assessment will have significant consequences, and may lead to you having to repeat the year. You should be aware that it is not possible to have a 2nd attempt at an assessment in order to improve a mark. There is no right to transfer to the 3 year programme if you do badly in your year abroad assessment(s).

Year Abroad assessment

The Year Abroad (third year of a four-year programme, except for students on programmes involving Arabic, for whom the Year Abroad takes place in Year 2), like all other Stages of the degree programme, is worth 120 credits, and you must pass these credits to progress into the fourth and final year.

To pass the Year Abroad you must complete one of the following assessments:

SML3010: Working and Learning Abroad (120 credits)

SML3020: Study Abroad at a Partner University (120 credits)

SML3025: Internship Abroad combined with Study Abroad at a Partner University (120 credits)

All students will take an Oral Exam on return to study in Stage 4; this is usually stiplulated well in advance.

See the Year Abroad Handbook on the Modern Language Handbook homepage for more detail about these assessments.

If you fail SML3010, SML3020 or SML3025 you will normally be allowed to start your next year of study, subject to your re-submitting the portfolio/ reports and/or repeating the oral presentation.

Failure of the year abroad will require you to transfer to the BA European Culture.

Seminar presentations

Most non-language modules include student seminar presentations, which may or may not be formally assessed. Here are some points to consider when preparing a seminar presentation:

  • The tutor will set a time-limit for the presentation. Avoid running out of material well before the time limit, but don’t significantly overrun the time slot either.
  • A seminar presentation is not the same as an essay, although it may subsequently be written up as an essay. The presentation should be direct and informal, without being chatty. Don’t read word-for-word from a written text: such presentations don’t engage the audience.
  • Address the whole group, not the lecturer.
  • Interruptions may or may not be invited or expected during the paper; you can expect this to be clarified beforehand.
  • Give your audience the page references, act and scene numbers, or line numbers for any quotations you cite; similarly, identify clearly the point in a film at which a cited sequence occurs.
  • Unless the tutor tells you otherwise, produce a handout for your listeners, which should be brief, ideally no more than one side of A4 and certainly no more than two. Check carefully for mistakes before you distribute it. Summarize the main points of your presentation. Include any quotations or sources you have cited and any factual information (names, dates, data) that your listeners might not otherwise write down accurately. Write your name(s), the module number and the presentation topic clearly at the top of the handout.
  • If you are using IT or audio-visual equipment, check it out before you start.
  • If you are presenting film clips, briefly contextualize each clip before you press the Play button: tell the audience where in the film the sequence appears, why it is important, and what to look out for while watching.
  • If you are asked to give a group presentation, meet to discuss your ideas in good time beforehand. Aim to have a logical running order for your contributions, with each contribution building on the previous one and a smooth changeover between contributors. Your presentation should be coherent but it is legitimate for you to express different points of view on a topic where the topic allows this. Produce a single handout and edit it together.
  • The tutor may ask follow-up questions. Be prepared to defend your point of view, clarify ideas or add detail. If your seminar presentation is being formally assessed, the assessment includes your answers to any follow-up questions that the tutor asks.
  • The tutor’s role is to chair the discussion, to draw the group’s attention to points of particular interest, to fill in any gaps, and to summarize the position at the end.
  • The Marking Criteria for Seminar Presentations give further advice on what makes a good presentation.

Prizes and commendations

The Department awards the following prizes annually:

Bertie Black Prize for the best all-round performance by a final-year undergraduate in Italian.
Keith Dickson Memorial Prize – an annual first-year German prize.
Roger Cockrell Prize in Russian.
Robert Niklaus Prize for the best academic performance in 18th-century French Studies.

Nominations are made by staff in the language units and approved by the Exams Board.

Students who meet the following criteria are recommended by the Board of Examiners for a Dean’s Commendation:

(i) students who pass a Stage despite severe exceptional circumstances; and/or
(ii) students who, in a Stage, perform exceptionally at the top end of the first class range.

School Commendations are agreed by the Board of Examiners in recognition of marked improvement in performance and contribution to the life of the School or University.

Advice on Language Exams

• Read the whole of the paper before you start.

• Read translation passages several times before you begin writing your answer, noting phrases and structures that are likely to cause difficulty in the transition from one language to the other. Make notes in the margin, but do not begin to write until you have grasped the overall sense and until you have a clear idea of the grammatical structures of the passage.

• Write legibly. Do not assume that an examiner will give you the benefit of the doubt if the exact spelling, punctuation or use of accents cannot be made out.

• Write on alternate lines. This makes it easier for you to make corrections and for the examiners to read and mark.

• Do not leave gaps or alternatives. It is up to you to consider possible alternatives and choose between them. When translating from your native language into a foreign language a simplified paraphrase is preferable to a gap. When translating from a foreign language into your native language an informed guess, based on your understanding of the passage as a whole, is preferable to a gap.

• Allow time to check your work thoroughly, including making a fair copy if you think this is necessary. If you correct one word, remember to make all consequential corrections as well: for example, if you change the gender of a noun, make sure you change the corresponding adjectives as well; if you change a verb tense, check the other tenses in the same sequence.