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The Role of the Examiner

Each dissertation is read and marked by two examiners (usually senior members internal to Cambridge, who may include College Research Fellows) who are experts in, or who work in related academic fields or chronological periods to, the Dissertation topic.  Examiners are nominated and approved by the MPhil Sub-Committee.  Supervisors are disqualified from examining dissertations they have supervised.

The two examiners must not confer before marking and there is no reconciliation of the two marks into a single overall mark.  The marks are registered separately by the MPhil Sub-Committee sitting as Board of Examiners (and, if necessary, by the External Examiner) and reported separately to the Degree Committee.

External Examiner

Each MPhil Programme has an appointed External Examiner. This is usually an academic who is expert in a field relevant to the MPhil, usually from another UK University.

The External Examiner will randomly sample work throughout the programme to ensure parity of marking and standards. They may also be called upon to independently third mark written work where work is borderline, i.e. one mark falls above and one below the Fail mark (59), Leave to continue qualifying mark (70), the Distinction mark (75), or where marks show  ‘manifest divergence’ (a difference of  9 marks or more).

The External Examiner will initially read the dissertation without reference to the two original examiners’ reports and provide an independent third mark, but will also in his or her report comment on the relevant areas of disagreement between the two original reports (which should be referred to anonymously) and the judgements reached therein. The third mark will be dispositive in questions of eligibility for a Distinction or for Leave to continue, and in all cases of failure or compensation.  All three marks are recorded in the candidate’s file by the MPhil Sub-Committee sitting as Board of Examiners.

All three marks will appear on the candidate’s Transcript, except in cases where an initial partial fail or fail mark was recorded but not confirmed by the External Examiner, in which case the partial fail or fail mark shall be dropped from the transcript.

Should they be members of the MPhil Sub-Committee sitting as Board of Examiners, neither the supervisor nor any examiner (except the External Examiner) of a given dissertation shall vote on any question arising about that dissertation.