Your mark is a measure
of quality, not quantity;
These four points are explained in more depth below.
Your mark is presented as a percentage. However, getting a mark of 66%, say, does not mean that you got 66 things out of 100 right. It does not mean that your work was exactly twice as good as a piece of work awarded 33%.
The judgments that markers make are qualitative rather than quantitative. The main question they ask is not ‘How many things did this person get right’? They ask, ‘Is the quality of this work good, or very good, or excellent?’
Markers do use numbers to represent those qualitative judgments, but the number scale we use is arbitrary. For instance, we use the number 40 to represent the boundary between ‘nearly sufficient’ and ‘just sufficient’. We use the number 70 to represent the boundary between ‘very good’ and ‘excellent’. We could, however, have chosen quite different numbers. Or we could have converted them into colour codes, or letters of the Greek alphabet.
We have chosen these numbers because they make it easier for us to combine marks from lots of different assignments, and lots of different modules, and work out an overall result for you at the end of your programme. (You can find out more about this process here.)
To understand what your mark means, you need to understand what qualitative judgment it represents.
The module you are studying is designed to help you meet some specific learning outcomes. Those outcomes should have been communicated to you clearly by your tutors. You can find them in the ‘module outline’ for your module, which will be available on our website.
For instance, in TMM1011 ‘Introduction to the New Testament’, you’ll find six learning outcomes. By the end of that module, you’re expected to be able to ‘Discuss a range of New Testament texts intelligently and place them within their broader contexts’, and to ‘Evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches, communicating their findings sensitively and accurately’ – and so on.
The module teaching and the preparatory work you do are intended to help you towards these outcomes. The assessed work you do gives you the opportunity to show whether you have met them. Your mark measures how well you have met them.
Your tutors design assessment tasks that they believe will help you display your meeting of the module learning outcomes.
Your marker will ask ‘How well has this student met the learning outcomes by completing the specific task they were set?’ After all, these assessment tasks are meant to help you prepare you for future ministry and mission – and most of the tasks you face in ministry and mission will come with their own constraints. You are demonstrating that you can be closely attentive to the needs and constraints you face, and that you can work within them.
As well as looking at the module learning outcomes, therefore, you need to look closely at the title, at any instructions you were given for this specific piece of work, and at the generic guidance on particular kinds of assessment available on our website. Your mark measures how well you have done what you were asked.
The list of learning outcomes, and the specific instructions you were given, don’t mention any numbers. They do not themselves, therefore, tell you how to interpret your numerical mark. For that, you need to look at our ‘Assessment Criteria‘.
These assessment criteria are very generic. They have to work for many different assessments, in many different subject areas. On their own, they are inevitably rather empty or bland. It is important to read them in conjunction with the module learning outcomes and your assessment instructions.
The first row in all our sets of assessment criteria is highlighted. It says ‘Evidence of fulfilment of all relevant learning outcomes’ – and it refers to the module learning outcomes. In many of our sets of assessment criteria, there is a second highlighted row as well. It says, ‘Response to the question / task’ – and it refers to the specific instructions you were given.
The other rows in our tables of assessment criteria help you fill out what those first two rows mean. Suppose, for example, that you are writing an essay at level 4. What does it mean to write an essay that displays ‘Good’ evidence of fulfilment of the learning outcomes, and a ‘Good response’ to the specific task you have been set? Looking down the relevant column, you can see that it normally means, amongst other things, that you are displaying ‘Secure understanding of relevant material’ – material relevant to the task set, and to the learning outcomes. It means that you are displaying that you have met those outcomes, and completed the task you were set, by making points that you have ‘consistently supported’ with evidence, or reference to relevant sources. And so on.
Of course, most work is uneven. It might be ‘very good’ in some respects, ‘good’ in others, ‘sound, but with limitations’ in others. Markers try to put all this unevenness together into a single overall mark. There is no formula for how that works; it is always a matter of academic judgment. Your mark reflects what, on balance, your markers think of the overall quality of this piece of work.