External Examiner A
Let me begin by stating that I do not have an interest to declare. The quality of examination papers reviewed by me in this academic session has been, as in the three previous years when I served as External, of a very high standard. The range of courses on offer and the scope and breath of those subject areas they address is challenging and academically rewarding. I found that all are comprehensively planned with clear academic aims and expectations and propose critical engagement with the subject broadly and the relevant historiography specifically. I also examined freestanding work and twelve dissertations. This was the first year when I served as a moderating External Examiner, and I am not entirely sure it was clear to me, or to my two colleague External Examiners, just what that involved. Unlike in previous years, I was not disposed to suggest changes to marks awarded internally, as I was not entirely confident that this is what was being asked of moderating External Examiners in this academic session. That said, I did raise the marks awarded to a small number of dissertations (I raised them upwards in each case), because I felt that where excellent had been seen internally, and where I too saw excellent, then a greater range of marks at the top end ofthe scale could be used.All work sent to me was read. The examination papers, and dissertations, were generally of a high standard with –as reflects a quality and percentage slightly higher than the national average –and some 15-20% of all finalists attained First-class degrees, with the majority of candidates falling in the 2:i category. Marks awarded by the Internal Examiners were at all times, to my mind, fair and honest: Firsts were a true expression of high-quality, critical and analytic work of afirst-class range. Those few candidates who performed poorly typically did so (and I saw a very small sample of such scripts), because they signalled a more general lack of engagement with the subject in the particular academic session, as well as, typically, a failure to produce any supplementary work. This is not reflective of the average. Keeping a tally of the marks range in awarding degree classifications, I noted that, for the BA in History, one 2B classification was awarded with marks totalling 512; there was a range, then from the lowest total of 512 (2B degree) to 634 (the highest First class awarded); in sum, the range of marks for the classification First-class degree went from 634 to 607; the range in award of the 2A degree went from 623 down to 534 (a range of 89 marks; noting that the top 2B degree was 16 marks higher than the lowest First awarded). In the BA in International Relations and History, the top First was awarded with a total of 636 marks; the lowest First had 605 (a range of 31 marks); the 2A classification ranged from 596 to 500 (a span of 96 marks); and in the 2B range, from 516 (16 marks higher than the lowest 2A) to 483 (where 516 marks is the aggregate to get a 2A).In sum, I would (again) encourage internal examiners to beconfident in awarding marks across the full range; there is no ceiling at 70 or 80, and it in in students’ best interest to have examiners recognise solid Firsts, solid 2A and 2B classifications. Those candidates who did very well were very impressive indeed; this was particularly evident in dissertation work where independent research work was of a very high standard. Internal examiners were fair and consistent and appropriate in their comments. Internal examiners should be congratulated on the achievements of their students in the academic session 2013-14.
External Examiner B
This is an extremely impressive programme, which covers the history of many different places and issues. The courses that I examined focus on nineteenth-and twentieth-century political and diplomatic history, and give students a real opportunity to master their chosen fields of study.Judging by the standards achieved by students, methods of teaching are exemplary. In particular, students benefit from being able to take courses that span multiple academic terms, and thus to develop a realdepth of understanding and breadth of knowledge. The opportunity to submit un-assessed, formative coursework really benefits the students, who are able to take risks and work in a creative fashion, without fear that a wrong step will lower their final marks. This shows in their assessed essays and exams, where they carry their creativity over into their summative work, and display the originality and critical insight that marks out the really excellent scripts.The department’s rigorous internal marking procedures have ensured that student work is assessed in a fair and consistent manner. There is a great deal of transparency when it comes to presenting work and justification for marking decisions to the external examiners. The assessment process is scrupulous and extremely well-run. The standard of student performance was very good. Most students are performing to a consistently high standard, and among the best students the level of attainment is very high indeed. Candidates often deployed a great deal of detailed evidence in a structured way, in order to support their own arguments. Dissertation work often shows a real ability to deploy the historian’s scholarly tools when working with primary sources. In some courses, students should be encouraged toengage more with historiography, and to demonstrate a critical understanding of historiographical debate. This would allow them to improve their marks by showing their mastery of another key aspect of the historian’s craft.
External Examiner C
The major change this year was the shift from double marking to moderation. The process worked smoothly and did not, I think, causeany substantial problems. That said, moderation asks different questions of the second marker (now moderator) and the external examiner. Instead of “is this the right mark?”, the question is now “is this in the right degree band?” As a result, marks that might have been changed in the past, didn’t get changed this year and won’t in the future. The team may be happy with this –and I would not say they would be wrong to be satisfied –but some positive reflection on the change would be a good thing.The second issue I would like to highlight is marking in the first class band. This encompasses a large spread, namely 70-100%. However, while some of the staff are prepared to use a wide range within this band (I saw marks in the mid-80%), others seem unwillingto do so. This is not only inconsistent, but can disadvantage the student. Where a marker refuses to award marks above 70-72%, s/he makes it much more difficult for a student with a single mark below a first to end up with a first overall –70%, 70%, 65% will be a 2.I, whereas 75%, 75%, 65% will be a First. Another point that might be worth considering is the method of marking in assessed presentations. In most of the HEIs with which I am familiar it is standard practice to double mark all such presentations after the first year. This entails a considerable investment of staff time, but is the only way of protecting the institution from student complaints about procedure or even equity of marking. International History at the LSE might wish to consider ifit wishes to move in line on this. My recommendation is that it should do so as it takes only one student complaint, with all that this entails, to make this a sensible investment.