Teaching Methods

The academic year at LSE is made up of the Autumn, Winter and Spring terms.

Most taught master's programmes span a full calendar year (September - September), though a few are only nine or ten months long, finishing in July or August, and a few others span two years.

Some programmes, notably in the Departments of Economics, Finance and Management, require you to attend introductory courses before main teaching begins. For some other programmes you may need to take these introductory courses if you wish to take Economics options as part of your degree. Your department will let you know about this once you have an offer.

The majority of taught programmes comprise:

  • Taught courses, usually including substantial independent study, lectures, seminars and other group activities. These may be examined through sit down examinations, essays and other assignments
  • A piece of independent research culminating in a dissertation

Teaching is usually spread over the Autumn and Winter terms, with the Spring term generally reserved for one week of teaching and revision sessions, followed by preparation for exams or other assessment, and/or the writing of your dissertation.

Examinations and assessment

Coursework, feedback and examinations

In all programmes of study, you will have some opportunity to get feedback on your work prior to undertaking any formal assessment/examination. This 'formative' work can take different forms. It might involve presenting in a seminar, writing a short individual assignment, working on a set of problems, or undertaking a group project of some kind. All assignments should provide useful preparation for the examinations and formal assignments on which your degree classification is based.

The vast majority of examinations take place in the Spring term and are usually two or three hours in length. For some courses they account for 100 per cent of the final mark.

Dissertation or thesis

Many taught master's programmes include a specific research element, culminating in a dissertation or long essay (usually 8,000 - 15,000 words). In most cases, dissertation support will include a combination of some taught elements and individual support from a dissertation supervisor. The taught element often comprises a series of workshops on how to approach your research, along with some opportunity for students to present work in progress to their colleagues.

Lectures, classes and independent study

Independent study

Most LSE graduate programmes expect students to manage the majority of their study time themselves. This varies depending on the programme of study but you will certainly find plenty of opportunity to read and research those aspects of courses that most interest and excite you. You should expect to spend a significant amount of your time reading, note-taking, thinking and undertaking research.


Most taught master's students can expect to have between three and eight hours of lectures each week. All students on a given course attend the same lecture, with anything from a handful to more than 50 students in attendance. Academic lecturing styles vary considerably - some will be highly interactive, others more didactic.

Seminars and classes

In addition to lectures, most courses will have an associated series of seminars or classes. A few courses opt to have a longer session, incorporating more formal lecturing with group activities/discussions built in. Some seminars will be run by the lecturer responsible overall for the course, others may involve other teachers from the department. The purpose of seminars and classes is to give you the opportunity to discuss the reading or preparatory work done for the seminar and building on the lecture. It is very important therefore that you prepare for each seminar carefully and bring questions you would like to raise.

Course capping (master's and diploma courses)

To keep within School guidelines on graduate class size (a preferred maximum of 15) and/or in the event of demand exceeding departmental expectations, the School may limit the number of places on certain optional courses.

Research students

Research students are expected to manage their own research with guidance from their supervisor. In addition, the majority of programmes require research students to take a number of taught courses in their first year, and some courses in the second and third years (see Lectures, classes and independent study tab above for more information about taught course teaching methods). Requirements will vary across programmes but will usually include methodology and skills training courses as well as subject-specific courses. Full details of individual programme requirements are published in the Calendar. All research students are also expected to attend, and usually present at, regular doctoral workshops held in their department.

Requirements for progress reviews are set within each department but could include passing compulsory taught courses to a particular standard and/or producing particular pieces of work relating to the research topic.

The final award is determined either by a traditional thesis (60,000 words for an MPhil or 100,000 words for a PhD) or, for some programmes, a thesis containing a series of publishable papers, an introduction, critical discussion and conclusion. Where a department does not permit submission by papers, this will be clearly indicated. A viva oral examination forms part of the final assessment for all students.

Your work and progress as a research student is supported by LSE's new PhD Academy: