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2.5 Examinations


In this section it is necessary to adopt the University’s technical terminology. The terms used could seem obscure, but this is an area where the precise formal position needs to be stated.

Examinations are the responsibility of the University, not the colleges. Most take place in the second half of the Easter Term, i.e. sometime after the middle of May. You will be sent your own personalized timetable by the University at the beginning of that term. Undergraduates in a minority of subjects sit some or all of their papers at the beginning of the Easter Term and, in a very small number of cases, in mid-January. You will be given due warning by your DoS if this is the case in your subject. The format of examinations varies from Tripos to Tripos.

2.5.1 Tripos and Preliminary Examinations

Each subject has its own Tripos, divided into two or three parts. To qualify for the BA degree, you need successfully to have passed both Part I (often divided into a Part IA and a Part IB) and Part II of either the same Tripos or two different Triposes.

The College requires all undergraduates to sit an exam at the end of each year. These are normally Tripos or University Prelim exams.

In order to proceed with your studies at Selwyn, you must each year achieve at least the minimum Honours standard (Class III or above).

2.5.2 Examination Entries

The submission and checking of examination entries is a huge operation involving a number of different individuals in addition to the candidates themselves. The University is obliged to operate a very tightly controlled system. It is therefore vital you follow the procedures outlined below.

In Michaelmas Term, you will be asked by your DoS to complete an examination entry form on-line via CamSIS. During the Lent Term, the Tutorial Office Manager will ask you to check and confirm in CamSIS that your entry is correct. If it is not, you will be able to request an amendment from that page. The Tutorial Office Manager will check with the Director of Studies that the amendment is agreed and submit that request to the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee.

No corrections to exam entries are accepted by the University after the end of Lent Term. If an exam entry is subsequently found to be incorrect, the University will normally insist on the candidate sitting the papers as entered on the form. In the exceptional event of a late change of paper being allowed, the University will always insist on that paper being taken in College, in which case the full cost of invigilation will be passed on to the candidate.

2.5.3 Examination Adjustments

Some students require adjustments to be made to the examination process that mean they sit their examinations under special conditions. If you think that you may need to vary the standard conditions for an examination you should discuss with your Tutor as early as possible, if at all possible by the end of Michaelmas Term. Tutors are experienced in supporting students who face such issues and can help you navigate the University processes. In a number of circumstances sketched below, the Tutor makes the case on behalf of the candidate to the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee of the University Council (EAMC). A full medical report, which remains confidential to the Committee, is normally required as part of that exercise. It is of the utmost importance that any undergraduate who feels that their work is being adversely affected by illness, family circumstance or other issues discusses them with their Tutor at the earliest opportunity, and, if at all possible, well before the start of the examinations. There is full guidance on such matters on the University’s exam information web pages. Examinations under special conditions

In the interests of fairness to all candidates, the rules governing the taking of exams under special conditions are strict. The University provides central exam rooms for use by candidates whose adjustment is solely the provision of an extra allowance of time. That may include some who take their examinations on a computer for medical reasons. (The only exception to this is when such a candidate has two exams on the same day. This may require one or both papers to be sat in College.) If you are granted extra time, once exam entries have been made you will be sent the relevant document about examinations taken under special conditions.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may allow a candidate to sit their papers in College, with appropriate allowance of extra time or other adjustments. Such permission, which must be sought in advance by the candidate’s Tutor, can only be granted when students are suffering from a serious disability or illness that makes it impossible for them to get to the examination room and/or write their answers in the usual way. If you believe that you have good reason to need to take your exams in College you must discuss this with your Tutor by the end of the Michaelmas Term. Supporting medical evidence will be required. It should be noted, however, that the support of a doctor or other professional consultant for an allowance of extra time, while it will always be given serious consideration by the College and by the EAMC, will not automatically lead to such an allowance being granted. No consideration will be given later than the end of January to cases based on pre-existing medical conditions. After that date, applications will be made to the University only in cases of unforeseen illness or injury, and, it is emphasized, when the illness or injury is of such severity as to make it out of the question for the candidate to sit their papers under normal conditions.

Where permission is granted for special conditions, the Tutorial Office Manager usually asks candidates to come and see her to talk through their precise requirements. In all other cases, the University expects candidates to take their papers as usual, even if they feel they are suffering from factors which they consider could detract from their performance.

When a specific learning difficulty has been formally diagnosed, an allowance of extra time is granted only in severe cases and based upon a Student Support Document issued by the Accessibility & Disability Resource Centre (ADRC), or other appropriate medical evidence. In less serious cases, examiners, provided the University has been given due warning following an application by the candidate’s Tutor, are asked to disregard errors of spelling and other minor mistakes of a purely linguistic nature.

If permission is granted to take papers in College, it will apply solely to the year in question. On-going medical conditions must be re-assessed for this purpose each year. Examination Warnings

Every year, some undergraduates find their preparation for their examinations, or the actual examinations, hindered by serious illness or other difficulties (e.g. bereavement). The University does not allow candidates in such circumstances to have additional marks awarded to them to change their level of performance, but the University does take a sympathetic view of candidates who are so affected by illness or other good cause that they are unable to pass their examination. In such circumstances it is possible for an exam warning to be lodged with the University and notified to examiners, alerting them to the serious issues that have arisen and to ensure that they are properly considered. In the event of failure, the EAMC, in consultation with the examiners, then determines whether the student should be allowed to progress to the next part of the Tripos, or, in the case of final-year students, to graduate with honours. Coursework and Dissertation Extensions

Students who find that for medical reasons they require an extension for the submission of coursework or a dissertation may, where their department permits it, self-certify for short extensions (up to 7 days) where the course allows. For extensions longer than 7 days, or where the course restricts self-certification, an application is required to be submitted to the EAMC. It is expected that Faculties and Departments will make their policy clearly available to students and staff. Further guidance and details on both types of extensions has been issued by the University. Before self-certifying please consult with both your Tutor and your Director of Studies and consider with them both the benefits of the extra time and the potential detriment to other academic activities. 

2.5.4 Examination Success: Scholarships and Prizes

The College is always delighted when its students produce distinguished results in their exams and has a system of scholarships and prizes to recognize and to reward academic achievement. Scholarships and exhibitions take the form of credits on the student’s bill. Scholars are admitted to their scholarships at a ceremony held later in the Michaelmas Term, following which a special Scholars’ Dinner is held in Hall to celebrate their achievements, at which the scholars are joined by the Master and Fellows.

Most prizes are in the form of book prizes, but provided one book has been selected (and stamped with the College’s crest), the remainder of the prize may take the form of digital media, pictures or prints, or computer software of the prize-winner’s choice.

The differences in the way in which the various Triposes are organized means that the rules governing these awards are a little cumbersome, but you should be able to find what is on offer in your subject, year by year, without too much difficulty. Those who are placed in the First Class are awarded scholarships or exhibitions (tenable for one year), and prizes in accordance with the following rules:

Tripos Awards and Prizes

a. All Subjects (other than Part IA Modern Languages)
For a First or Distinction in any Tripos or classed Preliminary exam; or for a result considered equivalent to a First in an unclassed Preliminary or College exam or the First Exam for the BTh; or for grades deemed equivalent to an overall First in courses followed on an official University exchange:

  • a Scholarship of £150, if remaining in residence to read for a Tripos, otherwise the Title of Scholar (if not already held)
  • a Prize of £80.

b. Part IA Modern Languages
For a First in both languages in Part IA of the Modern & Medieval Languages Tripos:

  • a Scholarship of £150;
  • a Prize of £80.

For a First in one language in Part IA of the Modern & Medieval Languages Tripos, and a 2.1 in the other:

  • an Exhibition of £100;
  • a Prize of £80.

There are also named prizes for outstanding performances in certain specified subjects and certain other prizes for various non-academic activities, such as the reading of Grace in Hall.

College Prizes

  • Prizes of £30 may also be awarded to undergraduates who narrowly miss a First, on the nomination of their Director of Studies or Tutor. The prizes in this category will not exceed twelve in any one year and will be awarded by a committee consisting of the Master, the Senior Tutor, and one other Tutor in rotation.
  • Following a benefaction from an alumnus, the Jagpal Prize is awarded annually to the student or students in Mathematics, Natural Sciences or Computer Science who have shown the most improved academic progress during the year.

In addition to the Scholarships and Prizes that are awarded for academic excellence, the College makes some further awards upon the nomination of Tutors.

  • Tallow Chandlers Awards
    Each year two students are nominated by the Tutors for Tallow Chandlers Awards on the grounds of their academic excellence and general contribution to the life of the College.
  • Christopher Johnson Awards
    Each year two students are nominated by the Tutors for Christopher Johnson awards on the grounds of their academic and other contributions to the life of the College. These awards are made to mark the long service of our Honorary Fellow, Dr Christopher Johnson, to the Selwyn College Association.

2.5.5 Examination Failure

The number of students affected by the contents of this section is usually no more than one or two a year and is often zero. It is, however, necessary to make clear the procedures in the event of academic failure.

All undergraduates are required to sit an exam at the end of each year. These are usually Tripos or Prelim examinations. Where no such exam is set, or where a Director of Studies judges it more appropriate, a College exam will be set. In order to proceed with your studies at Selwyn the next year, you must achieve the minimum of a Third Class, i.e. to have performed to Honours standard. Failure is, therefore, defined as not being included in the class list for Honours in a classed exam, not being approved by the examiners in an unclassed Prelim, or obtaining a mark below Honours standard in any other sort of exam. Where the College enters a student for part of a Prelim but not for all papers, the marks on those papers sat will be the ones considered.

The University’s regulations governing the award of degrees do not permit resits.

Where failure is the demonstrable outcome of ill-health or other incapacitating circumstances, the University is ready to take this into account. In such cases a student’s Tutor will make a case to the University’s Access and Mitigation Committee, setting out the mitigating circumstances and requesting that the student be allowed to continue with their course. If the case is accepted, the College would usually, but not invariably, allow the student to continue. It is usual for the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee to impose some conditions before a student is allowed to return into residence.

If there are no mitigating circumstances, exam failure means that a student loses their right to continue with his or her course. In all such cases, the undergraduate has a right of appeal against the decision to send him or her out of residence. Such appeals are heard at a special meeting of senior members of the College Council in the Long Vacation following the result.

The Council has the right to permit any undergraduate to return into residence notwithstanding his or her failure, and to attach any conditions it feels fit to that decision (for example, by requiring a further College exam immediately before the Michaelmas Term next following, or by requiring that specific academic work be successfully undertaken during the Long Vacation).

An undergraduate making an appeal to the College Council has the right to appear in person, as well as to be represented by their Tutor. The undergraduate’s Director of Studies and any Fellow of the College by whom they have been taught may also be present. Before the meeting, the Senior Tutor shall produce a document providing the student’s supervision reports, precise examination marks and other relevant information, before concluding with a recommendation. The student (with the help of their Tutor or another Fellow if the student wishes) shall also produce a written case providing the Council with the grounds upon which the appeal is based. These documents shall be circulated to the Council and shared between the Senior Tutor and the student (through their Tutor) at least 24 hours before the Council meeting. At the meeting itself, members of Council shall have the opportunity to direct questions both to the Senior Tutor and other Fellows who are in attendance and to the undergraduate or their Tutor. The student (or their Tutor) and the Senior Tutor will then be given the opportunity to make brief concluding statements before they withdraw for the Council to deliberate and decide. They may recall the undergraduate and their Tutor and the Senior Tutor during the deliberations should clarification be required on any point. The decision of the appeal body is final.

The Council does not have the power to set aside the University’s Tripos regulations. If it decides that the student should be allowed to return into residence, but the latter is not, as far as the University is concerned, in standing to proceed to an honours degree in the subject in question, it becomes necessary either for the student’s Tutor to make a retrospective case to the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee of the University Council for the grant of an ‘Allowance’, or for the student to be allowed by the College Council to change to a subject for which he or she is in standing.