Oxford/RG unis - harsher grading? Watch

Justmac
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(Original post by am3liepoulain)
Oh lovely! I have a (very clever) friend doing a PGCE there so I know how how prestigious their Education courses in particular are - congratulations on getting your place

I spoke to the lecturer I mentioned in my original post - she used to teach on the exact course I'm doing, and wrote one of my references, so the fact she believes in me that strongly is reassuring. Oxford also gave me a very generous studentship so they must have faith in me for now at least; here's hoping it's justified...! 😂 So that's reassuring too, in a sense.

At the end of the day I suppose all we can do is our best!
You deserve your place! Now its time to show them why you are there!
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a9493r
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(Original post by Justmac)
I didn't find that there was a jump in my undergrad tbh, even though I was expecting there to be. I'm hoping there won't be too much of a jump at MA. I work hard (most of the time) and try to be unique in my approach to assignments. I also teach which I think helps in being able to pick apart the marking criteria? I got an 89 in my last essay, how that would have been marked at an RG i don't know but the external examiner requested to see me about it and was quite impressed so probably a good sign. Thank you for the advice!
I did feel a big jump from before Uni to first year, I think everyone really struggled a lot in first year, but then you get used to it.
Wow, that sounds really amazing. Well done! Well KCL is known for their masters programs and are more reputed for Further Research so Im sure you will like it. Best of luck!
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TempestLaw
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Depends on the degree. If its a qualifying degree external regulatory bodies try to make it so universities keep their assessments as uniform as possible. Some courses will even have their the module papers created by these bodies so students at different universities sit the exact same papers.

However if it is a standard BA or a postgraduate academic degree and not a qualifying one (such as one to qualify as a lawyer) then the university has a lot more discretion as to the difficulty of assessments

As a lecturer I've found this to be most true when awarding firsts. Though strangely some universities that don't have the best reputation, perhaps due to a chip on their shoulder, will be more generous for bare passes but will be quite strict in giving anyone above 70%

However the overall fact you cannot forget is that the university you are worried about is the same university who deemed you good enough to come on to the course. I think their opinion on your capabilities matters a lot more than ours

Well done and best of luck!
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Muttley79
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(Original post by am3liepoulain)
What's your experience of this?

As I've said, I've no doubt it's much harder to do well at more prestigious unis, I'm just wondering if the difference is huge enough that I should be worried.
RG is over-rated - it certainly does not mean a higher standard nor good teaching! Enjoy your Masters.
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Anagogic
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(Original post by Princepieman)
100% yes.

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If that's the case and standards vary significantly why is it it that they don't only admit those within the russell group? As they'd easily have the numbers to get the required bums on seats and yet they don't do this...
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Princepieman
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(Original post by Anagogic)
If that's the case and standards vary significantly why is it it that they don't only admit those within the russell group? As they'd easily have the numbers to get the required bums on seats and yet they don't do this...
just because standards are high doesn't mean a high performing student from a university with a lower bar can't be just as successful.

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Anagogic
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(Original post by Princepieman)
just because standards are high doesn't mean a high performing student from a university with a lower bar can't be just as successful.

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Of course but you're missing the point.
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colourtheory
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(Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
At my current non-Oxbridge, non-RG uni where I'm doing my PhD, there is a lot of pressure on staff to award higher marks to undergrads, well into the high 70s/80s. This is despite various staff and PhD students marking the papers disagreeing with such a system!
One of my parent's is a professor at a non-Oxbridge, non-RG university and would totally agree with this!
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Wwys
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(Original post by am3liepoulain)
I'm a graduate student set to start a masters degree at Oxford in October. I did my undergraduate degree at a non-Russell Group university; while I had an amazing time there, I have the utmost respect for all the lecturers I had there, and I absolutely adored my course, this does make me feel a little anxious and unprepared. Everyone I met at the open day had studied at Oxbridge, Durham, York, et cetera. I didn't even meet one other person from a non-RG university - while I'm sure they were there, they were definitely a minority, at least for my course.

That being said, I won't be modest and say I didn't do well in my undergrad degree. I scored top of my year for three years straight and achieved a final grade of 79% in a humanities degree, so I'm very proud of myself for that. However, I was talking to some other, clearly intelligent, people who had offers who were saying how difficult they found it to get firsts on their courses, and it sounded like grades of 80+% were unheard of. I'm not saying everyone got firsts all the time at my uni - most people got the standard 2:1s - but I do know quite a few people who consistently managed firsts, including the occasional 80+%, and I never personally found it difficult to do well as long as I put some decent work in. It just seemed like other people's courses were more difficult to do well in.

I'm just worried that Oxford is going to be a shock to the system. I'm expecting the intensity of the course and prepared to work hard, but I'm scared that even with hard work I might not be able to perform as well as I'm used to being able to, gradeswise, and get the distinction I want. I'd like to do a PhD one day and pursue a career in academia, so this means a lot to me.

That being said, the lecturer who graded my work in my soon-to-be specialist area used to work at Oxford herself, and surely wouldn't mark any more leniently at one institution than she would have at a previous one?

Has anyone been in a similar situation, or have any advice? 😊
Hello!! I'm in the exact same situation you're in!

I studied at a non-RG university and will be doing a year long masters at Oxford starting October.
The intensity between a postgraduate masters and an undergraduate course will always be different, at Oxford or at any other universities. What I can say is that since people from different backgrounds will be going to do the same masters course is that they will no doubt try to teach everyone the same core material at the start of the course, so everyone will be on the same page. You will have time to adapt and get used to the different work intensity and teaching techniques.

About the grading system at non-RG universities and your final grade, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Your exam scripts are first marked by examiners at your university, then passed to external examiners at other universities for them to be marked. If your university was marking you too leniently, the external examiners would flag up on it and have your papers remarked. This will also have been the same with your dissertation.

Good luck on your masters, maybe i'll bump into you at Oxford

P.S. what college will you be at?
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TimmonaPortella
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(Original post by TempestLaw)
Depends on the degree. If its a qualifying degree external regulatory bodies try to make it so universities keep their assessments as uniform as possible. Some courses will even have their the module papers created by these bodies so students at different universities sit the exact same papers.

However if it is a standard BA or a postgraduate academic degree and not a qualifying one (such as one to qualify as a lawyer) then the university has a lot more discretion as to the difficulty of assessments
Do you lecture in law? Because my experience is that qualifying law degrees vary a lot in terms of breadth, depth, and difficulty.
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TempestLaw
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(Original post by TimmonaPortella)
Do you lecture in law? Because my experience is that qualifying law degrees vary a lot in terms of breadth, depth, and difficulty.
I do, and to an extent it does especially at higher grades but not necessarily due to difficulty, more so because of an inconsistency in marking. I also find that if there is a difference they most vary in non core modules.

In core modules for example, you'll find two tort papers that appear different in how they are structured accross the universities but when its approved by the external examiner they both require the same depth to get a bare pass, but they may differ as the grades go higher. I wish they were kept more uniform but the "basics" I have been told that are needed are mostly the same. Speaking to external markers I would say (though this is just an opinion formed from a pool of universities, ranging from ex poly to cambridge) up to a 2.1 is where you can expect the least discrepancy when marking. Beyond that I have to say I believe you would be right that there is a difference. Strangely again this is for reasons that might suprise you. Difficulty is the obvious one but what is not obvious is that there isn't a consistent trend in the difficulty of getting a first the further down the universities you go. For some reason, which I think is innappropriate, a department will take the stance that a 70% is simply unobtainable without delving into an immense level of critical analysis. This is an old school approach and despite being the least likely suspect, ex poly's sometimes do it, perhaps to change their image

That isn't to say that these universities don't spoon feed students prior to assessments to compensate and purposely set low entry grades. Unfortunately on an application (though some might argue this is fine) an assessor will not care about your lectures, they will simply want to know your classification and whether the exams sat meet a standard (bsb/sra set), assuming they aren't expecting a certain type of university, which in reality, many do

Though these are for final examinations and stronger universities will tend to be far more proficient in testing their students throughout the year within seminars, undoubtedly making stronger students

Unless you are referring to teaching quality then yes I would have to unfortunately agree with you as well on that point. Though it is difficult to judge because sometimes a university will suprise you with their quality of teaching, the fact that some purposely lower their entry grades, others that do the same but make their assessments more difficult, and even some red brick universities breaking the 300 cohort point resulting in almost no one to one interaction

Finally, many students might be suprised to learn of which universities externally mark each other
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FeminineEminem
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Absolutely they are. Think of it in this way: assume that there was no deviation in difficulty from Oxbridge all the way down to the bottom of the league tables. If someone that studies (e.g.) law at Oxbridge can struggle to get a 2:1, how on earth would anyone at a bottom-tier university get even close to a 2:1? Considering the fact that Oxbridge A-Level requirements are often A*AA or higher, whereas the bottom tier unis will accept stuff like CCC or worse, it's obvious that it must be harder to get a 2:1 at a higher uni (and therefore easier at lower unis), otherwise there simply would be no 2:1s or 1s at the lower unis at all, because the students there would not be smart enough.
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Wwys
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(Original post by FeminineEminem)
Absolutely they are. Think of it in this way: assume that there was no deviation in difficulty from Oxbridge all the way down to the bottom of the league tables. If someone that studies (e.g.) law at Oxbridge can struggle to get a 2:1, how on earth would anyone at a bottom-tier university get even close to a 2:1? Considering the fact that Oxbridge A-Level requirements are often A*AA or higher, whereas the bottom tier unis will accept stuff like CCC or worse, it's obvious that it must be harder to get a 2:1 at a higher uni (and therefore easier at lower unis), otherwise there simply would be no 2:1s or 1s at the lower unis at all, because the students there would not be smart enough.
Then why would Oxbridge accept students from lower-tiered universities? Surely they would get enough students from top-tier/mid-tier universities wanting to do a postgraduate course
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Ol94
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gotta consult the stats if one could find them. but i would think if all exams and grading was equal the lower the uni the lower the pass rate. surely CCC students couldnt in general perform as well as the A*A*A* folks. but if the 2:1 rates were fairly equal then the classification would effectively be the uni ranking. but my bro goes to a uni about 60 places below and hes gonna get a 1st i got a 2:1 - even tho i got better a-level grades i dont think im anymore intelligent therefore wouldnt neccessary do better
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FeminineEminem
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(Original post by Wwys)
Then why would Oxbridge accept students from lower-tiered universities? Surely they would get enough students from top-tier/mid-tier universities wanting to do a postgraduate course
Multiple reasons, the main one being that accepting more people to the courses make them more money, and they have the capacity so why not accept them? Masters courses are very different to undergraduate courses - to be honest, from what I've heard from many fellow students that did masters, they tend to not be as difficult as undergraduate courses at the same university (hence why many people that attended lower universities go on to complete the masters' at a higher university). So there is no need for them to discriminate against those coming from lower-tiered universities - they likely won't fail, and make the university more money. Win win.
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TimmonaPortella
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(Original post by TempestLaw)
I do, and to an extent it does especially at higher grades but not necessarily due to difficulty, more so because of an inconsistency in marking. I also find that if there is a difference they most vary in non core modules.

...
I hope you won't take offence at my not quoting you in full, but I don't have the time to respond point-by-point, as I'd prefer to do. I have taken the time to read what you said.

What I would say is that, having taken the qualifying law degree at Cambridge, I have noticed the following things:

(1) Our course required, to a far greater extent than some other courses, based on papers that I've seen and people that I've spoken to, a full understanding of the materials for any particular exam. Thus, for instance, a given problem question in an equity paper might contain issues relating to trustees' powers, dishonest assistance, bribes, tracing, and maybe a bit of charities. It seems to me that on a lot of courses there is a much greater ability to cherry pick, enabled by the fact that there is more likely to be just a 'certainties problem', a 'charities problem', and so forth. Of course, for some papers we were able to drop some topics for the exam, but this had to be done carefully at the best of times, and for some papers, like equity, it wasn't really possible to drop anything at all.

(2) We seemed to cover more topics in any particular subject than people on some other courses. Thus, to continue with the same area of law, I know people on some courses did not cover charities and cy pres, or unincorporated associations.

(3) It seems to me that we were expected to have a much fuller understanding of and familiarity with the case law than people on some other courses. When I talked about supervisions at Cambridge to others, a lot of people seemed to find it pretty incredible that we were expected to have actually read, and be able to talk intelligently about, judgments given in the cases we were told to read, on a weekly basis (as opposed to just the couple of seminal cases in any particular area).

I will grant that I cannot measure the extent to which (3) is true, or, if it is, the extent to which it impacts actual grading on the basis of exam papers. I cannot evidence (2) particularly thoroughly either, other than to give that particular example off the top of my head. (1), though, I am convinced is a major factor in the difficulty of law exams.

I am unsure of the extent to which there are gradations of what we always referred to as 'dropability', my point (1), down through the universities, listed in terms of, say, entry requirements. I just know that ours seemed to differ markedly in this respect from the courses of many others I've spoken to about it. Perhaps you can address this point from experience.
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drsfgdg
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(Original post by am3liepoulain)
I'm a graduate student set to start a masters degree at Oxford in October. I did my undergraduate degree at a non-Russell Group university; while I had an amazing time there, I have the utmost respect for all the lecturers I had there, and I absolutely adored my course, this does make me feel a little anxious and unprepared. Everyone I met at the open day had studied at Oxbridge, Durham, York, et cetera. I didn't even meet one other person from a non-RG university - while I'm sure they were there, they were definitely a minority, at least for my course.

That being said, I won't be modest and say I didn't do well in my undergrad degree. I scored top of my year for three years straight and achieved a final grade of 79% in a humanities degree, so I'm very proud of myself for that. However, I was talking to some other, clearly intelligent, people who had offers who were saying how difficult they found it to get firsts on their courses, and it sounded like grades of 80+% were unheard of. I'm not saying everyone got firsts all the time at my uni - most people got the standard 2:1s - but I do know quite a few people who consistently managed firsts, including the occasional 80+%, and I never personally found it difficult to do well as long as I put some decent work in. It just seemed like other people's courses were more difficult to do well in.

I'm just worried that Oxford is going to be a shock to the system. I'm expecting the intensity of the course and prepared to work hard, but I'm scared that even with hard work I might not be able to perform as well as I'm used to being able to, gradeswise, and get the distinction I want. I'd like to do a PhD one day and pursue a career in academia, so this means a lot to me.

That being said, the lecturer who graded my work in my soon-to-be specialist area used to work at Oxford herself, and surely wouldn't mark any more leniently at one institution than she would have at a previous one?

Has anyone been in a similar situation, or have any advice? 😊
Very similar situation myself, although I had A*A*A*/AS levels ABOVE the Cambridge average just came from a really **** background so never applied anywhere good due to no confidence.

Just don't worry about it, all you're going to get here is people who went to oxbridge and did badly/dropped out screeching about you having no chance and people who got rejected from oxbridge saying it will be piss easy. You're very likely not going to be top but unless you put zero effort in I'd be amazed if you fail. This is how I'm looking at it.
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TimmonaPortella
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(Original post by drsfgdg)
You're obviously not going to be top but unless you put zero effort in I'd be amazed if you fail.
Not with that attitude.

Someone is going to be top.
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drsfgdg
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(Original post by TimmonaPortella)
Not with that attitude.

Someone is going to be top.
Could have used better wording I think. Assuming ops on a large/competitive course they're very unlikely to be top and it's a unrealistic goal.
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Minerva
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(Original post by Anagogic)
If that's the case and standards vary significantly why is it it that they don't only admit those within the russell group? As they'd easily have the numbers to get the required bums on seats and yet they don't do this...
Let's just remember what the Russell Group is - a self-selected group of universities, of varying positions in the (reasonably) credible league tables. There are non RG universities that rank higher than many RG universities - Lancaster, for example.

OP - If Oxford have offered you a place it's because they think you are up to it. It is an intense sort of place to study, and people set themselves very high standards - doesn't sound unlike you . Just go into it with an open mind, and don't allow yourself to be intimidated. Help and support are there if you need them.
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