Marking Mad

Natalie Gil

Serious errors in the marking of second year NatScis have resulted in grades changing by up to two classes.

A marking shambles has resulted in changed results for several angry Bio NatScis.

Second year students in both Animal Biology and Ecology received emails on Wednesday, informing them of “errors” in the way the class marks were compiled.

Many students’ final grades for Part IB were changed by a whole class.

Some ecology dissertation marks were also vastly inaccurate, with several students moving from Thirds to Firsts and vice versa.

The Tab spoke to Rebecca Senior, a second year Bio NatSci at King’s, whose remarked work rose by a whole class to a First. She said she is “obviously delighted” with her rightful grade, but the whole situation has made her “hugely angry” with the University.

“I didn’t let myself think that my marks were wrong, because I had faith that a University with such a prestigious and long-standing reputation wouldn’t make this kind of mistake. This was obviously a naïve misconception.

“All my initial frustration was for nothing and others faced with the painful disappointment of their grades going down must be furious”.

For the unlucky few whose class positions have plummeted, the apologetic emails will have brought a downer to an already grim “summer”.

An anonymous student, whose grade fell from a 2.i to a 2.ii, called the debacle “unacceptable – these people are supposed to be intelligent!

“I don’t think examiners appreciate how much hard work and pressure go into exams. We have been treated like idiots, with no sufficient explanation of what caused this error.

“I will now miss out on a £750 ‘bursary’, so these marks also have financial consequences”.

In a grovelling letter to Animal Biology students, the shamed department said it is “very sorry”, with staff offering “a full apology for the errors” and their consequences.

The document ends with the reassurance that “We are reviewing our marking procedures to ensure that such a problem does not recur”.

However, students don’t hold out much hope for improvement, with the anonymous victim telling The Tab: “Although second year doesn’t count towards my final grade, this fiasco has given me no confidence in the examination system for finals.”

  • Cool story

    bro

  • hiv

    @ least u aint got aids.

  • http://www.hiv.com HIV

    At least you ain’t got Aids…

  • https://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/camdata/tripos.html voice of reason

    To the anonymous victim quoted in the final paragraph:

    There is no such thing as a "final grade"; Cambridge degrees do not have an overall class. The general habit of using the final-year class is purely informal usage.

    see:
    https://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/camdata/tripos.h

  • Not sympathetic

    While I can understand the frustration at getting the wrong mark… the anonymous student's grade didn't "fall" from a 2i to a 2ii, it was a 2ii all along. S/he isn't getting the bursary because their results aren't good enough, and the financial problems are really self-inflicted.

    • My two cents

      Yes, because getting a 2.ii is always purely 'self-afflicted'. Nobody has ever been negatively affected by circumstances beyond their control.

      • N S

        External circumstances (like illness, I'm assuming that's what you mean) is what DDH is for.

      • inflation

        definitely not worth two cents

        • My two cents

          Yeah we heard you the first time mate.

      • Lol

        Commiserations on your 2ii…

    • voice of reason

      I completely agree with your point that the mark was "a 2ii all along", and that consequently the student does not deserve the £750 (surely the correct term for an academic award should be scholarship or exhibition, as opposed to bursary which suggests a means-tested element), yet it is simplistic to argue that the financial problems are entirely "self-inflicted". If the student had known all along about their poor academic performance, then they might have had the chance to budget accordingly; as it is, they are now faced, unexpectedly, with a not inconsiderable reduction in their financial resources. That said, I find it unlikely that they would have had a chance to spend the money they are now not getting.

  • Will Bradshaw

    As one of the student reps for Animals this year, I'd like to say that I did get some additional feedback from William Foster about what happened here. No-one seems sure exactly where the errors occurred, but the mathematics of 1A and 1B marking (transformation to the appropriate mark, integration of the different papers, adaptation to the standardised marking curve, etc.) is sufficiently intricate that even a small error in the marking of one paper can cause marked changes to an individual's whole grade. This is apparently the first time this has happened in over 15 years. We made our dissatisfaction very clear, and the Zoology department is obviously working very hard to ensure it doesn't happen again (they don't want a repeat of this any more than students do).

    Regarding finals, the marking system is much simpler (since it's not marked on a curve) and much more rigorously checked. As somebody doing Part II Zoology next year, I don't think we need to worry about the marks there.

    • confused

      Given their intricacy, why are the mathematics of mark standardisation not explained or published? I don't know what it means to mark on a curve – I'm not sure phys NatScis or William Foster do either – but I do feel uncomfortable that my scores in each paper are subjected to mysterious witchcraft before they reach me. Whilst I don't doubt that the marking systems are justified, I would be keen to understand how they work.

    • CR1

      You don't need to worry about the marks there because even mediocre students are upmarked!

      I know someone who finished part 2 Zoology with a first having never done better than scraping a 2:1 in any other subject prior in Natsci.

      The ease of Natsci subjects like zoology is a joke when students doing subjects like physics or chemistry have to deal with much more complicated subject matter and get marked much more harshly.

      A review into standardising marking across Natural science subjects to compensate for difficulty is urgently required. This applies also to Part 1, where marks are often not indicative at all of a candidate's true intelligence.

      • Pandora

        You don't need to worry about the marks there because even mediocre students are upmarked!

        I know someone who finished part 2 English with a first having never done better than scraping a 2:1 in any paper in part 1.

        The ease of arts subjects like English is a joke when students doing subjects like physics or chemistry have to deal with much more complicated subject matter and get marked much more harshly.

        A review into standardising marking across Triposes to compensate for difficulty is urgently required. This applies also to Part 1, where marks are often not indicative at all of a candidate's true intelligence.

        • Pandora

          PS: I was being sarcastic.

      • Physnatsci

        This such a stupid comment. Whilst its completely true that physics / chem have much harder concepts, the biology subjects have a much greater volume of information to memorise. Obviously some people are good at memorising so will find bio easier, some are good at understanding stuff so prefer phys, and some are sick at both and will smash whatever they do. Tons of phys natscis crumble in cells, e&b etc in first year cos they struggle with continuous prose, but are comfy with numbers.
        Stop blaming the system for your part 1 failure

  • Pingback: Cambridge science students win re-marking battle | Ones to Watch

  • Trying to help

    To the student who's grade fell from a 2.i to a 2.ii, and then lashed out at examiners: "these people are supposed to be intelligent".

    They obviously made the same false assumption about you

    • not a natsci

      You do realise loads of people get 2.2s in IB NatSci because it's graded on a curve? Being in the bottom 25% of 2nd year NatScis doesn't mean they aren't intelligent.

      • Stats man

        It does however mean that you are less intelligent than 75% of the others.

        • Sarcasm

          Yes the tripos is an accurate measure of intelligence.

    • Perplexed

      I wonder why some people in Cambridge love to be gratuitously offensive. Are they born like that or is it the manifestation of some sort of intellectual insecurity.

  • Casual.

    The whole system is pretty opaque. Not that we can do anything about it. I'm gonna go watch Olympics now.

  • Angel sent from God

    I wonder how many of the yes/yes campaigners see themselves as the first UUEAS president? going to be one hell of an awkward election…

  • Rebecca

    I thought one of the points made in other articles, like the YesYes blog, was that the current roles don’t match their titles? My understanding of the word president is that it is an authoritative position with power, but this is saying that this president wouldn’t have any extra power… Surely that would mean that their job description wouldn’t match their title and so kind of be going against the premise of the first ‘yes’ vote.

  • John

    Having a Campaigns and Democracy officer empowers students. President is (seen as) an authoritative figure (although it isn’t) who holds power (even though they don’t). Why is this ‘token’ job title seen as more important than Campaigns and Democracy, two of the Union’s core values?

    • O

      That would be fair if that was what is happening. With the creation of a President, there is no abolishment of the Campaigns and Democracy role, it is simply merged into the new President’s roll.

      • John

        Therefore diluted.

  • Ross

    John, as we like dictionary definitions, I found scaremongering to mean ‘spreading frightening or ominous rumours’. I then looked up ominous: ‘giving the worrying impression that something bad is going to happen’.

    I would say speculating and creating rumours that a President might make the position of Union Council Chair redundant, as the YesNo campaign has done, gives the worrying impression that something bad is going to happen. The definitions are there. Its scaremongering.

  • Sam

    2 lines different in a job description that hasn’t been properly decided yet? Seems a bit risky, doesn’t it?

  • Victoria Finan

    I’m a Yes Yes campaigner, I shan’t be running either.