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Each essay and dissertation is read by two senior academic members of staff, neither of whom will have supervised the work being marked. Both will submit independent reports.

The two assessed essays must show evidence of a critical engagement with health, medicine and society; they are not required to present original research in order to pass. The dissertation must be clearly written, take account of previously published work on the subject, and represent a contribution to learning. It must show evidence of independent research.

The MPhil is formally classed only in pass/fail terms, and no marks are made publicly available. However students will receive feedback, including provisional marks, throughout the year, and internal transcripts at the end of the year.

The standard for a pass begins at 60, and the Degree Committee internally describes several different categories of pass.

80 and above - Starred Distinction

An outstanding and memorable performance in which all the qualities deemed to constitute first‐class work are present in a remarkable degree. The work should be well researched and substantially original, bearing in mind that originality has many dimensions: It may reside, for instance, in the thesis defended; or in the way a known thesis is presented and defended. Such work might well form the basis for publication. Potential for outstanding PhD work.

70–79 - First Class (boundary for PhD)

Mark 70–79: FIRST CLASS

Work which is of high calibre both in the range and in the command of the material and in the argument and analysis that it brings to bear. The assessor would expect some elements of originality — which may consist in putting together material in novel ways — although originality alone would not guarantee marks in this range.

Work in this class will generally meet the following criteria: the argument may be sophisticated, incisive or demonstrate flair; there may be a wealth of relevant information, showing exceptional knowledge and understanding of the issues involved; the approach may be unorthodox in the best sense, suggesting new and

worthwhile ways of considering material. The submitted work may display evidence of extensive research imaginatively and convincingly deployed.

Work which receives a mark of 75 to 79 will be classed as DISTINCTION and in addition to the criteria listed above will show evidence of a very strong performance demonstrating clear originality, and in which the qualities deemed to constitute first‐class work are consistently well represented. Clear potential for good PhD work.

Work which receives a mark of 70 to 74: A solid performance in which some of the criteria for first class work will clearly be present but not necessarily all. Shows potential for PhD work.

65–69: High Performance

Clearly proficient with a proper coverage of relevant material. Work may indicate broader range than the Pass. Category and should be reasonably well presented. Solid but on occasion unimaginative. Ambition of work clearly visible but not always carried through. The analysis and argument are generally good. Work at the upper end of this category shows evidence of a good and broad‐based engagement with, and understanding of, the relevant material and organised in a clearly‐argued, well‐illustrated and relevant fashion. The essay or dissertation will usually contain material which displays evidence of high intelligence, and which is regularly, but not consistently, sophisticated in analysis, impressive in its display of relevant knowledge, and occasionally demonstrates flair.

60–64: Pass

Work which is basically competent, and, in the case of dissertations, reasonably independent. Interesting and provocative ideas may not be not carried through fully convincingly. The main thesis may be vague, too general, too unambitious or else over‐ambitious. There may be gaps in the bibliography, deficiencies in the overall structure; and weaknesses of analysis and argument. A piece of work which is not always clearly written.

59 and below: Fail


Work which although it is broadly relevant and in parts competent lacks organisation or breadth of reference. Work in this category will often be derivative rather than independent. Essays and dissertations in this range may show evidence of poor judgement, contain sections which are poorly related to the main argument, display cogent argument only fitfully or display lack of clarity in writing.

Mark 0–57: FAIL

Work that, while it may show reasonable knowledge of the material, and serious effort, reveals deficiencies in understanding, organisation or breadth of reference. Work that is derivative or irrelevant, ignorant or extremely superficial. Work showing minimal understanding of material or serious deficiencies in argument.

 Students are required to pass in each part of the examination separately (i.e. the essays, which together account for 40% and the dissertation which accounts for 60%), except in the following special circumstances:

  • A student whose failure in the essays is marginal shall be allowed to submit a dissertation, and a high performance in the dissertation may be taken into account by the Degree Committee in determining their recommendation.  Students whose overall essay mark is a marginal fail will be warned by the MPhil Manager in April. There is no provision for submitting a revised dissertation.
  • Where a student's failure in the dissertation is marginal, a high performance in the essays may be taken into consideration by the Degree Committee in determining their recommendation to the Board of Graduate Studies.

At the end of the course, examiners may decide to hold an oral examination. Such an examination will in any case be necessary if the essays are judged to be a marginal fail or if the agreed mark for the dissertation is a fail.


The Benyamin Habib Prize is awarded each year to the MPhil student who has the best overall performance in the formally assessed essays.


Students receive informal verbal feedback on their MPhil performance from the MPhil Manager after the Degree Committee meeting on Monday 25 June. Transcripts and copies of the examiners' reports will be available after marks have been formally ratified by the Board of Graduate Studies.

Degree approval

More information about this process can be found at the Student Registry website. Students’ Colleges are their primary contacts regarding graduation arrangements.