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School of Physics and Astronomy

9.1 General Information (16/17)

The purposes of assessment are to encourage learning, to monitor progress, to determine eligibility to proceed to subsequent years and to determine the class of the degree.

Lecture, project work and laboratory units are credit rated in a way that reflects the work needed to complete the unit satisfactorily. The norm for a ten-credit unit is 100 hours of work. Credit-rated course units are either continuously assessed or examined in January or in May/June, at the end of the semester in which they occur. Mid-semester tests are also used in some course units.

9.1.1 Examinations

Examinations on general physics are taken at the end of years two and three. These examinations test the ability to identify the general and basic concepts met in physics core units and to use them to solve problems. The Professional Skills course unit also forms part of the assessment in year 2. It includes the vacation essay, written before the start of year two, which tests the ability to explain physical phenomena by bringing together ideas from course units, books and scientific papers. General Physics examinations and PHYS20811 including the Vacation Essay are not part of the 120 credits for the year. Nevertheless, they contribute to the marks for the year, as detailed in section 9.2. The second year vacation essay (PHYS30811) contributes to the mark for third year.

In examination papers, a marking scheme is given as a guide to the relative importance of different parts of each question. Examiners follow these guidelines, but they may make small amendments in order to take into account how questions have been answered by the majority of students. No additional credit is given to students who answer more than the number of questions specified on the exam paper. If, for example, three questions have been answered (in whole or in part) when only two are required, then the last question attempted will be ignored. If you have attempted a question, but do not wish it to be marked, because you wish a later answer to be marked instead, you should cross through the unwanted attempt. Examiners will use their discretion to judge what constitutes an attempt.

If students write more than one answer to the same question part, they should indicate which they wish to have marked, i.e. by putting a line through the other. If more than one alternative attempt remains undeleted, only the first attempt will be marked.

Examinations are scheduled by the Examinations Team in the Student Services Centre. Exam timetabling is an extremely complex task given the large number of students taking a wide variety of courses in different schools and the necessity to avoid clashes for all students. Please note that this may mean you have exams scheduled on consecutive days or even two exams scheduled on one day (morning and afternoon). You should plan your revision and exam preparation well beforehand, and make sure that preparation for all papers is substantially completed before your first scheduled exam, as the intervals between exams may be short.

9.1.2 Registration for Examinations

Registration for examinations is conducted electronically around week six of each semester, and students should read their email regularly. Students should consult the School Teaching and Learning Office if there is uncertainty about assessment arrangements.

9.1.3 MPhys and BSc degree programmes, Certificates and Diplomas

Most students initially register for an MPhys programme. Whatever their initial registration, however, the point at which they need to make their final decision between BSc and MPhys is before the start of the third year. Eligibility to continue on the Masters programme depends on satisfying the relevant criteria at the end of the second and third years; these are more stringent than the criteria for the BSc programmes and are set out in section 9.2.3 and below.

MPhys and classified BSc degrees are described as being "with honours", which is the norm for degrees in England. An ordinary BSc may be awarded to a third-year honours candidate who has failed to satisfy the requirements for third-class honours.

Students who successfully complete the first year but do not continue are eligible for a Certificate in Higher Education. Similarly after the second year a Diploma may be awarded.

Undergraduate degrees at the University of Manchester are based on the National Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ). This framework requires students to achieve credit at every level of the award. For a standard undergraduate programme this will normally mean passing 120 credits in each of your three or four years of study.

The University sets standards relating to your performance on every unit but also on your progression from one year to the next. Your programme and course unit specifications (section 9.2) set out the requirements for passing the credit on individual units; however, the University requires that you pass all 120 credits in order to progress to the next year of an undergraduate degree programme.

9.1.4 What happens if I fail some units in first or second year?

The regulations require you to pass (a mark of 40% or more) a minimum of 60 credits at the first attempt in each year, including lab. If you don't achieve this the Examination Board will probably withdraw you from the course.

If you pass a minimum of 60 credits including lab, but fail up to 60 of the remaining credits, you will be able to have one more attempt at the assessment. This is known as 'referred assessment' and these referrals (or 'resits') will take place in August or early September.

If you pass a minimum of 60 credits including lab, and only 'just' fail some of your course units, there may be a possibility of the examination board compensating this failed credit. This means if your mark was between 30-39% the examination board is able to compensate up to a maximum of 40 credits, per year. Your transcript of results will show the actual mark achieved (e.g. 38C) and this will be used to calculate your final degree classification.

If you have more than 40 credits with marks in the compensation zone, or any marks less than 30%, the exam board will probably ask you to resit all failed core courses, and any options less than 30%. Referred assessment will be capped at 30%, or the first attempt mark if higher, and this is the mark that will be shown on your transcript, as 30R. It is this mark that will be used to calculate your final degree classification.

9.1.5 What happens if I fail my resits?

If you fail to pass 120 credits after resits (including up to 40 compensated credits), the examination board will make a decision with regard to your progression. This may in principle include carrying forward a maximum of 20 credits into a subsequent year (you will have to have passed 100 credits) in order to retake these units in attendance. The physics exam board does not normally allow this, and very rarely for core courses. Exceptionally it may allow carrying forward option credits if your year average is high, and then it does not normally allow more than10 credits to be carried in this way. Otherwise resit failure normally results in an exit award.

9.1.6 What if I fail units in third or fourth year?

Compensation does not apply in third or fourth year and you will not be able to take referred assessments. However, you may be eligible for 'special' compensation of up to 60 credits in your final year. But a penalty may be applied and your classification reduced to below that which would have been awarded had you passed everything.

9.1.7 How is my degree class calculated?

To be considered for a Bachelors degree with honours a student must have achieved 120 credits in each year of a three year programme, totalling 360 credits passed. Referrals or compensated fails count towards your credit total. See section 9.2 for details of the year weightings, degree class boundaries and decision-making at the boundaries.

9.1.8 When and how are decisions made about results and progression?

There are normally three available assessment opportunities: January, May/June and August/September within each academic year. It is expected that all your attempts at referred assessment will take place in the same academic year in which the assessment was first taken. After the June and August assessment periods there is a meeting of the school 'Examination Board'.

Members of the Examination Board normally include your course unit tutors, programme directors and one or more external examiners from other universities. It is the job of the Exam Board anonymously to review all the results and make decisions on the awarding of credit, who can resit exams, and who can progress to the next year. It is also the job of the Examination Board to decide who cannot continue and may leave the University with an exit award.

External Examiners are individuals from another institution or organisation who monitor the assessment processes of the University to ensure fairness and academic standards. They ensure that assessment and examination procedures have been fairly and properly implemented and that decisions have been made after appropriate deliberation. They also ensure that standards of awards and levels of student performance are comparable with those in equivalent higher education institutions.

Some students will narrowly miss the threshold for a degree classification and so we look at their pattern of marks (Mark Distribution) and their examined work (Mark Review). If neither of these results in a recommendation for the higher class, you will be called for a viva voce (oral examination) as part of Mark Review.

9.1.9 Degree Classification

The process of determining degree classification is given below (section 9.2.5 and 9.2.6).

9.1.10 Borderline students and interviews

Students who are borderline between classes of degree or borderline for progression to year 4 may be called for an interview. This is in order to make decisions about degree classification and to decide on progression to year 4. For details, see section 9.2 below. Dates when students may be called for interview will be communicated well in advance; it is students' responsibility to ensure that the office knows how to contact them in this period. This may apply to any student in year 3 or year 4.

9.1.11 Examination Results

Overall examination results are posted on the Blackboard. Individual course unit results are accessible through the student system.

9.1.12 Transcripts

Official transcripts should be requested from the Student Services Centre. There is a charge for this and students should note that it usually takes around 6-8 weeks.

9.1.13 Mitigating Circumstances

Unfortunately students may suffer from some illness or misfortune that adversely affects their ability to complete an assessment or the results they obtain for an assessment. Therefore, the University has a Mitigating Circumstances Form and a process to support such students during these difficult times.

The Mitigating Circumstances Form should be completed by any student who experiences unpreventable or unforeseeable circumstances that could have a significant adverse effect on their academic performance either in progression to the following year or their final degree classification. Such requests will be considered by the School's Mitigating Circumstances Committee.

We strongly recommend that you read through the advice below before submitting your form. You may also wish to refer to the http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=4271 (updated September 2015).

The form should be downloaded from the University Intranet http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/DocuInfo.aspx?DocID=23160 and submitted in person to the School Teaching and Learning Office based on the first floor of the Schuster building in the library.

Please also see the Basic Guide to Mitigating Circumstances http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=23886

What are 'mitigating' circumstances?

Grounds for mitigation are unpreventable or unforeseeable circumstances that could have, or did have, a significant adverse effect on the academic performance of a student. Possible mitigating circumstances include:

  • significant illness or injury
  • the death or critical/significant illness of a close family member/dependent
  • significant family crises or major financial problems leading to acute stress
  • absence for public service, e.g., jury service

Circumstances that will not normally be regarded as grounds for mitigation include:

  • holidays, moving house and events that were planned or could reasonably have been expected
  • assessments that are scheduled close together
  • misreading the timetable or misunderstanding the requirements for assessments
  • inadequate planning and time management
  • failure, loss or theft of a computer or printer that prevents submission of work on time (students should back up work regularly and not leave completion so late that they cannot find another computer or printer)
  • consequences of paid employment (except in some special cases for part-time students)
  • exam stress or panic attacks not diagnosed as illness or supported by medical evidence
  • disruption in an examination room during the course of an assessment which has not been recorded by the invigilators

Events may arise during pregnancy that may constitute mitigating circumstances, and these need to be judged on an individual basis.

If your problems are chronic and/or ongoing and relate to an illness or disability, you should register with the University's Disability Advisory and Support Service - http://www.dso.manchester.ac.uk/ rather than submitting mitigating circumstances applications. Bear in mind that if your problems are continuing, the panel will look for reassurance that you are able to manage them in the future.

Do I need to submit supporting evidence?

Yes! All mitigating circumstances applications must be supported by independent evidence.

The nature of this documentation will vary according to the nature of the circumstances, but it must be sufficiently independent to confirm the case you are making. Examples of evidence include a signed and dated letter from a medical or health practitioner or a letter from a registered counsellor.

  • Because of the importance of independent evidence, it is strongly recommended that you register with a local GP when you arrive in Manchester, even if you are an international student and plan to return home for treatment. It is vitally important that you submit your application as early as possible, and it must be supported by evidence. Guidance on finding and registering with a GP can be found your My Manchester Wellbeing page https://my.manchester.ac.uk
  • If your evidence is in a language other than English, it is your responsibility to include certified translation(s).
  • Hospital attendance slips, not including any diagnosis signed by a medical practitioner, are not considered to be evidence.
  • If you are unsure about the type of evidence to provide, please contact the Student Support Administrator, G√©raldine Garrabet Geraldine.Garrabet@manchester.ac.uk Tel: 0161 275 4100

If supporting evidence has not been received before the Mitigating Circumstances Committee meets, your application will not normally be processed further. However, Students should still submit an application form, to ensure that the School is aware of their situation, even if evidence is not available in time for the Mitigating Circumstances Committee to accept it. You should hand in your supporting evidence to the Teaching and Learning reception desk. If needed, we can photocopy evidence and return the original to you. If the evidence is confidential, please put it in an envelope and mark it confidential.

Students who have a disability

This year there have been some changes to the assessment of applications for mitigating circumstances from students who have a disability in order to improve the support we provide.

If you need to apply for mitigating circumstances due to issues directly related to your disability, you do not need to provide any additional supporting evidence if you are registered with the Disability Advisory and Support Service (DASS). These are normally dealt with by reasonable adjustments to the teaching or assessment process. In cases where the reasonable adjustments have not been put in place in time, or a change, worsening or flare-up of the condition has meant that the reasonable adjustments were not sufficient, the student may apply for this to be taken into account as mitigating circumstances. You do not need to provide any additional supporting evidence. However, you must provide a detailed explanation of how your disability is currently affecting your studies. It is not sufficient to indicate only that you are registered with DASS. A Disability Advisor from DASS will be in liaison with the Mitigating Circumstances Committee that will consider your application.

If you need to apply for mitigating circumstances for an issue that is not directly related to your disability, or you have a disability but are not registered with DASS, you must provide supporting evidence (see above for details).

When should I submit my mitigating circumstances form?

  1. If you have missed an examination or assessment deadline, or your performance has been affected, you should submit your mitigating circumstances application before the examination or assessment deadline or exceptionally, within 5 working days.
  2. If your problems are ongoing or you feel that circumstances have affected your performance in examinations, or caused you to miss any examinations, you should submit your mitigating circumstances form by the following deadlines.

For 2016/17 academic year: Please note all claims for mitigating circumstances must be submitted in time for them to be considered by the Examinations board e.g. by the end of the examination period.

  • Semester one - late deadline for issues arising during the examination period: 4pm on Monday 30th January 2017.
  • Semester two - late deadline for issues arising during the examination period: 4pm on Thursday 8th June 2017.
  • Resit period - late deadline for issues arising during the examination period: 4pm on Monday 4th September 2017.

Late requests for mitigation will not be considered without a credible and compelling explanation as to why the application was not made at the appropriate time.

Requests made after the above deadlines will be treated as appeals under Regulation XIX, but again, there should be a credible and compelling explanation why you did not bring the circumstances to the attention of your School at an earlier stage.

Academic and professional support staff are here to help you. We understand that students may be reluctant to discuss personal problems, but please note that whatever you disclose to us will be treated confidentially. For this reason, reluctance to disclose problems cannot be considered as sufficient justification for submitting a late application for mitigating circumstances.

Personal Tutor

  • All personal tutors are provided with comprehensive guidance and advice regarding mitigating circumstances to ensure they are following the correct procedure.
  • Just telling your personal tutor that you are ill is not considered to be evidence.
  • It is a student's responsibility to submit the mitigating circumstances application and ensure it complies with University and School rules

Always submit your mitigating circumstances form as soon as you can. Do not wait for evidence before you submit your form.

What happens next?

Mitigating Circumstances Committee (MCC)

  • The Mitigating Circumstances Committee (MCC) meets to rule on requests for mitigation. If the MCC accepts the case then the MCC proposes mitigation to the examination board.
  • Mitigating Circumstances relating to coursework are normally dealt with by the relevant course tutor and reported to the MCC to ensure consistency of practice.
  • At times, decisions may have to be made outside of the MCC and such cases will be dealt with by the Director of Teaching, Chief Examiner and the relevant year examiner.
  • Students will be contacted and informed of their Mitigating Circumstances outcome by the Teaching and Learning team within 10 working days from when the committee meets. Remember to check your University email account regularly.

PLEASE NOTE: The decision of the panel is provisional and is reviewed by the Board of Examiners at their meeting in June or September.

Possible Mitigation

It is extremely rare for a student to be excused a full year or given a degree on the basis of previous performance. In general the MCC will attempt to give students who have accepted mitigating circumstances opportunities to retake assessments where possible within University regulations, but this is usually not possible in the 3rd and 4th years. The options discussed below are always at the discretion of the MCC and should not be considered as guaranteed even once a given circumstance is accepted. Please note, in some cases, mitigating circumstances can be flagged for consideration in future years.

  • 1st and 2nd years: In cases where accepted circumstances are localized to a particular assessment then students will normally be allowed to take the resit exam for that particular course as a first attempt if it is preventing their progression. NB. there are no resits for lab and some other continuously assessed courses. If the student has demonstrated their ability to pass a course unit, but the MCC accepts that the circumstance has had a significant effect on their performance, one or more course units may be excluded from the year average. This does not normally extend to excluding the whole year. In more serious cases, affecting a full semester or the whole year, the MCC may allow any failed courses to be re-taken as a first attempt, and others compensated. In very serious cases the MCC may advise the student to interrupt their studies in order to clear up their problems.

  • 3rd and 4th years: In cases where accepted circumstances are localized to particular assessments then students may be excused specific courses. In this case the year average is computed over all non-excused course units. In more serious cases, affecting a full semester, the MCC may allow the student's average for the year to be computed on a single semester, or if it has affected the whole year, then give some leeway, typically not more than an additional 2%, in the selection for viva-voce at a class boundary. In very serious cases the MCC may advise a student to interrupt their studies in order to clear up their problems.

What support is available to help me complete my application?

There are two main sources of support outside of the School of Physics and Astronomy for completion of Mitigating Circumstances applications.

Staff within The Atrium ( https://uomtheatrium.wordpress.com/ ) can help you complete your application, as can the Student Union Advice Centre ( http://manchesterstudentsunion.com/top-navigation/advice-service/academic-advice/mitigating-circumstances )

The Student Union Advice Centre has produced a booklet to guide you through the process which is available to download here.

http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/nusdigital/document/documents/7108/42839c8986ee8e9c51d07e0111df7162/AG2.Mitigating.Circmstances.pdf .

We strongly advise all students to speak to their personal tutor before submitting a mitigating circumstances application. However, please note that your personal tutor will not be eligible to provide a supporting statement as evidence to support your application.

How do I submit my form?

Download the Mitigating Circumstances form here http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/DocuInfo.aspx?DocID=23160

The form should be handed in person to a member of the School of Physics and Astronomy Teaching and Learning team at the School Office who will confirm with a receipt at the time of submission.

You should bring any outstanding supporting evidence to the Teaching and Learning Office reception in the School of Physics as soon as possible after submission of the form.

Teaching and Learning Office

School of Physics and Astronomy

Room 1.61

Braddick Library

Schuster Building

Brunswick Street

M13 9PL

Tel: 0161 275 4100

Email: Geraldine.Garrabet@manchester.ac.uk

9.1.14 Penalty for Late Submission of Continuous Assessment

Students should take note of the deadline set for the submission of a report, essay or other continuously assessed work. They should see the appropriate member of staff if they are uncertain about the deadline or if there are special circumstances which prevent them from meeting the deadline.

The penalty for late submission is as follows.

Work submitted after the deadline will be marked but the mark awarded will reduce progressively for each day, or part thereof by which the work is late. The mark awarded will reduce by 10 marks per day for 5 days (assuming a 0-100 marking scale), after which a mark of zero will be awarded. Loss of marks is applied after conversion to a percentage; thus a piece of work graded at 60% which is up to one day late will be awarded 50%.

Unless specified to the contrary, this will apply to coursework for any unit with a component of continuous assessment. This includes lab reports, vacation essays, BSc dissertations and MPhys projects. Currently the only exceptions are lab interviews, PHYS20161 Introduction to Programming for Physicists and the "Mastering Physics" element of PHYS10101 Dynamics. The penalties associated with late submission in these are detailed in the corresponding syllabus pages.

9.1.15 Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a serious offence, akin to cheating in exams. However past experience suggests that not all students realise what may constitute plagiarism. The full University guidances on the avoidance of plagiarism and other forms of academic malpractice are in the appendix to this handbook and at hoop://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=2870

Please note in particular that both the words and the ideas in a text are the copyright of the author. The following actions are therefore plagiarism:

  • Copying someone else's words, even as little as a sentence or phrase;

  • Paraphrasing someone else's words but following the structure of their text;

  • Using striking analogies or metaphors from someone else's text,

  • Reproducing or copying images or figures without acknowledgment.

If in doubt, use quotation marks and give the source explicitly; merely including the source in the bibliography is not enough.

Please note that it is an offence to hand in work for assessment which is based on the work performed by other students, or to allow other students to submit your work as their own for assessment.

Penalties will always be imposed; these can be as severe as the denial of a degree. Plagiarism, cheating in exams, and other student misconduct are covered by Regulation XVII, "Conduct and Discipline of Students", which can be found at


9.1.16 Use of Calculators in Examinations

Small calculators may be used in all physics examinations. However calculators with facilities for storing and retrieving information are not permitted. In particular, calculators with a full range of alphabetic keys (i.e. A-Z) are not permitted.

Any candidate found using an unauthorised calculator in an examination will be reported for suspected cheating and the calculator will be confiscated.

9.1.17 Checking of Examination Marks

The School has in place a number of measures for ensuring fair and accurate marking of examination scripts and recording of marks, including double checking of marks entered on grids and checking of first and second year scripts where progression or resit decisions could be affected. For graduating students near borderlines all scripts are seen by an External Examiner.

If a student has genuine cause to believe that a mistake has been made in the marking, they may request, via the School Office, to have the marking checked. There is a fee for this, currently £15 per paper, which is refunded if the mark is found to be wrong by more than 5%. Checking is done by an independent member of the academic staff, using the original marking scheme. The checking could result in a lower mark. Such checks rarely lead to any changes. Any requests for checking must be made no later than 20 working days after the publication of examination results.

Students should note that each individual paper contributes relatively little to the overall final average degree marks, although it is important to achieve consistently good marks to obtain a good degree.

In line with the University Policy on Feedback to students, an opportunity will be granted to students who request to see their exam scripts, but this will usually be some time after the exam, and is not formally connected with the checking procedure specified here.

9.1.18 Academic Appeal

If a student is concerned about their examination results, this can usually be resolved by contacting their Personal Tutor, or the relevant Year Tutor.

If a student decides to make a formal appeal against a decision of the Examiners, an application should be submitted in writing with supporting evidence to the Science and Engineering Faculty Officer for Appeals, Complaints and Discipline not later than 20 working days after the publication of the examination results. There is no provision for appeal against the academic judgement of the Examiners. An appeal may be made only on the grounds alleging:

1. That there exists or existed circumstances affecting the student's performance of which the Examiners had not been made aware when the decision was taken; or

2. That there was a material administrative error or procedural irregularity in the examination process; or

3. That there is evidence of prejudice or bias or of inadequate assessment on the part of one or more of the Examiners.

Academic Appeal is covered by Regulation XIX. Other student complaints are covered by Regulation XVIII. See



The Academic Appeals Procedure is also described in the website of the University Teaching and

9.1.19 Interruption of Studies

The expectation is that a degree course is taken over three or four consecutive years, and interruptions are exceptional.

A student who encounters circumstances which make it impossible to continue studying, (exceptional circumstances, exemplified in the University Guidance on Interruptions, Appendix 1, http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=4779 ) should apply to take temporary leave of absence from their studies, with the intention of resuming at a later date, not more than one year after interrupting.

An interruption may also be requested to take advantage of an opportunity, such as a placement or intern position, which would be likely to have a significant positive impact on a student's future employability or career prospects.

There is no automatic right to interrupt. Applications should be submitted to the School Office, and students who wish to explore this option should contact their Personal Tutor in the first instance. An application to interrupt must be made before the proposed leave of absence.

Applications for interruption are considered by the school Interruptions Committee, who delegate this duty to one or more members of the Committee between meetings of the Committee.

Where a student is granted an interruption for medical reasons, they must supply, prior to re-registration, a note from a healthcare professional which states that they are fit to resume their studies.

Regulations which Apply on Resumption of Studies

Students should note that permission to interrupt will be given subject to the condition that the regulations on compensation, progression, award of degree etc. will be those applying to the cohort which they join, rather than those which applied before interrupting.

Repeating all or part of a year after an application for mitigating circumstances (see section on Mitigating Circumstances above)

Note that one possible outcome of a mitigating circumstances application will be a recommendation by the mitigating circumstances committee for a repeat of all or some of the assessments which were affected, with or without attendance again at the course units involved. This is a distinct process from applying for an interruption, and will be initiated by the mitigating circumstances committee, or member delegated to act on the committee's behalf.

9.1.20 Religious Observance and Examinations

In accordance with University Policy ( http://www.tlso.manchester.ac.uk/map/teachinglearningassessment/assessment/sectionb-thepracticeofassessment/policyonreligiousobservance ):

"7. If you have strict religious requirements that may affect your attendance at examinations arranged centrally, you must complete the Examination and Religious Observance form obtainable from the Student Services Centre in person or online. (Note that the major Christian festivals occur during vacations and hence are avoided automatically by examination periods.) You should then return the form to the Student Services Centre by dates that are published annually for each examination period. If you fail to submit a completed form to the Student Services Centre by the published date, we cannot accept responsibility if you are timetabled for an examination at a time when your religious requirements make it impossible for you to be present. The information about your faith is not given to anyone else, or used for any other purpose, or stored on computer.

8. Every effort will be made to accommodate your legitimate religious requirements, including discussing with your School whether it could make an alternative arrangement for the examination if you give adequate notice. However, if no reasonable alternative can be found, the University reserves the right to hold examinations on any days and times during examination periods. If that means you have to miss the examination, you will be required to take it when it is next held. This may involve an interruption of your programme and an extension to your period of study."