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Online examinations for Part II of the Law Tripos will take place in Easter Term. In certain circumstances, however, the University has indicated that students will be able to seek to participate instead in examinations that will be administered during a second assessment period. Assessment will be on an open-book basis, word limits will apply and a no-detriment principle will ensure that no student receives a class for Part II that is lower than the class in which they were placed in Part IB. The deadline for Part II dissertations has been revised.

The information on this page is intended to explain why online examinations are going ahead in Part II and how they will work. It is hoped that the information below will answer most of the questions that Part II students will have about online assessment. If you have questions that are not answered below, you should contact your Director of Studies or Tutor in College in the first instance (particularly if your question relates to your own individual circumstances and how they may interact with the mitigation arrangements that are referred to below). If, in due course, it becomes clear that there are questions that a number of students have that could usefully be clarified for everyone, we will add to this page in order to provide such clarification.

General matters

Q. Why are Part II examinations going ahead?

The Law Faculty’s Contingency Planning Group reflected very carefully on what should be done in relation to Part II assessment this year. In doing so, the Contingency Planning Group read and considered every email received from students. The Contingency Planning Group also took account of a range of other matters, including the regulatory requirements for Qualifying Law Degrees, which require assessment to occur in foundation papers, the University’s policy regarding assessment, which requires all final-year undergraduate students to have the opportunity to be classed, and practice within the UK HE sector (with particular reference to the approaches being adopted at other leading UK Law Schools). In the light of these considerations, the Contingency Planning Group concluded that summative assessment should take place for Part II students, subject to appropriate mitigation measures. The nature of those mitigation measures is set out below. 

Q. Why online examinations? Why not some other form of assessment?

We concluded that it would not be appropriate to replace examinations with extended essays, on the ground that this would require students to undertake, at short notice, a form of assessment radically different from that which they had worked towards all year  and without the guidance provided by past papers and examiners’ reports. Nor did we consider that basing our assessment on supervision essays and reports would be appropriate, given that supervision essays were written without any expectation that they would count for the purpose of summative assessment. The Faculty also took account of the University’s instructions that assessment should proceed on a basis that is as close as possible to the normal model of assessment for the relevant degree programme. In the light of this, it was decided that the fairest and most appropriate way forward would be to deliver examinations online.

Q. Is it fair to expect students to be assessed at this time?

We fully recognise that the current situation is difficult for everyone, and that it is particularly difficult for some students. This may be due to a variety of factors, such as illness, caring responsibilities, home circumstances, access to the internet and/or resources and the anxiety that many of us are experiencing at this time due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its implications. The Faculty’s Contingency Planning Group reflected at great length on these matters, and was clear that it would be fair to expect students to be assessed only if certain conditions were satisfied. One of those conditions concerns the availability of suitable mitigation measures (on which see the section below on mitigation measures). The Contingency Planning Group also felt that it would be fair to examine students only if an appropriate approach to assessment could be adopted in the circumstances. The approach to assessment set out below is intended to reflect these considerations.

Q. Why not assess only foundation subjects?

This option was carefully considered by the Contingency Planning Group. However, it was felt, on balance, that assessment should go ahead in all Part II subjects. In approaching this question, we were conscious that some students’ preference was to be assessed, if at all, only in foundation subjects (in order to make assessment less burdensome in the current circumstances) while others’ preference was to be assessed in all papers (in order to ensure a full set of results for the purpose of job applications or applications for further study). We also considered a number of further factors, including University guidance indicating that assessment should be capable of determining whether students have met their programme learning outcomes (which extend beyond foundation subjects), the University’s policy that final-year undergraduates should have the opportunity to be classed, and the practices being adopted at a number of other leading UK Law Schools. The Contingency Planning Group’s conclusion, that assessment should proceed in all papers, was reached in the light of these considerations, and particularly bearing in mind that it would not reasonably be possible to class students on the basis of their performance in foundation papers only.

Q. Why isn’t assessment on a pass/fail basis only?

Assessment on a pass/fail basis is not possible in Part II, given the University’s policy that all final-year undergraduate students should have the opportunity to be classed.

Q. I’d have liked to choose my own mode of assessment. Why isn’t that possible?

The University has determined that to ensure fairness, all students enrolled for the same paper will be required to undergo the same method of assessment. Exceptions will, however, be made if necessary for students requiring alternative modes of assessments on medical or disability grounds.

Q. Will online assessment in respect of foundation subjects meet the regulatory requirements for a Qualifying Law Degree?

Our clear understanding is that the regulatory regime for Qualifying Law Degrees is compatible with online assessment, provided that suitable integrity-assurance measures are in place. Reports indicating that online assessment is not permitted in respect of Qualifying Law Degrees are inaccurate.

How online exams will work

Q. How will I access question papers?

Question papers will be released via Moodle. Further information about this will be provided in due course.

Q. What will the question papers be like?

Although examiners will be invited to review their question papers in the light of the new arrangements, it is anticipated that this year’s question papers will follow the usual pattern in terms of the number and style of questions.

Q. How will I be expected to produce my answers?

You will be expected to type your answers into a template document that will be made available via Moodle. Further information about this will be provided in due course.

Q. How will I submit my answers?

Answers will be submitted by uploading them via Moodle. Instructions about how to do this will be provided in due course.

Q. How long will I have to write my answers?

You will be required to submit your answers within 24 hours of the release of the question paper.

Q. Why was a 24-hour assessment window adopted?

The Contingency Planning Group carefully considered a number of possible approaches. It was decided that a 24-hour window would be the fairest model in the circumstances. This decision was reached in the light of representations made by students, technical considerations and the need to accommodate students taking the examinations across multiple time zones.

Q. If I am in a different time zone from the UK, will this disadvantage me?

No. Irrespective of the time zone you are in, you will have, during the 24-hour assessment window, the same number of daylight/normal working hours as everyone else to complete the assessment.

Q. Will I need internet access throughout the 24-hour assessment window?

No. You will only need internet access in order to download the question paper and to upload your answer paper.   

Q. When will online assessment happen?

Online assessment will begin no earlier than normal examinations would have started in Easter Term. The assessment period is likely to be elongated. The examination timetable is being revised in the light of the shift to online assessment. The University is responsible for drawing up examination timetables and you will hear from the University about this in due course.

Q. How will the academic integrity of examinations be maintained?

In line with University guidance, answers will be scrutinised using software that is capable of identifying plagiarism and collusion. Any pieces of work that give rise to concerns following the use of such software or otherwise will be carefully reviewed by the Examiner and, if necessary, the Chair of Examiners. Decisions taken in relation to such concerns will be made on the basis of careful judgement, and not simply on the basis of 'similarity scores' generated by the software. In addition to the use of software that is capable of identifying plagiarism and collusion, some students may be asked to take an online viva. Such vivas will not form part of the assessment per se, meaning that there will be no need for students to make preparation for vivas an integral part of their preparation for assessment. Rather, the purpose of such vivas would be to detect academic misconduct. In addition, the Law Faculty will issue ethical guidance, details of which will be made available in due course.

Q. What rules of conduct will apply to online examinations?

The rules relating to University of Cambridge examinations apply to the online exams to the extent the rules are relevant for take-home exams. The University’s rules on plagiarism and academic misconduct also apply. In addition, the cover-sheet for each exam will contain an originality statement to which you will be agreeing, by virtue of submitting your answers, to adhere.

Form of examinations

Q. How many questions will I have to answer?

Part II students will be required to answer the same number of questions as usual — that is, the number of questions specified in the Form and Conduct Notice. (Different arrangements apply to Part IA and IB students. For the avoidance of doubt, if you are taking a paper in Part II that is shared with Part IA or Part IB, this will not affect the number of questions that you are required to answer as a Part II student.)

Q. Why do Part II students have to answer the usual number of questions given that Part IA and Part IB students are required to answer fewer questions than normal?

There are two reasons for this. First, the University’s policy is that the assessment of final-year undergraduate and one-year taught postgraduate students must be prioritised. Reducing the number of questions that Part IA and Part IB students are required to answer will reduce the overall marking load for those examinations. In turn, this will enable resources, if necessary, to be diverted to the marking of Part II and LLM examinations, in line with the University’s policy. Second, reducing the number of questions that Part IA and Part IB students are required to answer is intended to reflect the fact that they, like all students, will be preparing for and participating in assessment in unusual and challenging circumstances, even if their circumstances are not such as to trigger the possibility of mitigation via access to the second assessment period. These unusual and challenging circumstances are also taken into account in relation to Part II students, but in a different way: namely, by application of the no-detriment principle (on which see below).

Q. Is there a word limit?

Yes. The word limit for each Part II paper is 5,000 words for full papers and 3,500 words for half papers. You are advised to write roughly equal amounts for each question, but the word limit will apply on a per-examination basis and not a per-question basis. You should treat the word limit as a maximum, not as a requirement. Your answers should be as long as you feel they need to be, subject to the word limit. There is no requirement that your answers, in combination, should reach the word limit. (Different word limits apply in Part IA and Part IB. For the avoidance of doubt, the Part II word limit applies to all papers taken by Part II students, irrespective of whether the paper is a Part II-only paper or a paper that is shared with another Tripos Part.)

Q. What if I exceed the word limit?

Examiners and assessors will stop reading your script when the word limit is reached.

Marking and expectations

Q. Will examiners have greater expectations given the 24-hour assessment model?

No. The shift to a 24-hour model will not result in examiners having greater expectations or applying higher marking standards. The Faculty’s normal marking criteria will continue to apply.

Q. How long should I spend writing my answers?

Although there will be a 24-hour assessment window for each paper, there is absolutely no intention that students will spend 24 hours, or anything close to 24 hours, writing their answers. Examiners’ expectations will be the same as they would have been under the normal assessment model, and the word limit specified is intended (on the basis of analysis undertaken by the Faculty) to approximate to the amount that students generally write by hand under normal examination conditions. You should not therefore expect to spend significantly longer writing your answers than you would have done under normal circumstances.

Q. How will marking work?

As usual, each paper will be marked out of 200.

Q. Should I write my answers differently given the shift to online assessment?

No. You should write your answers just as you would have done if you had been sitting in-person examinations in Cambridge.

Q. Should I use footnotes or otherwise include full references to cases and other sources?

You should not use footnotes. There is no expectation that references will be fuller than those that you would have provided under normal circumstances. This means, for instance, that you do not need to include neutral or Law Reports citations for cases.

Q. Can I refer to notes and other resources while writing my answers?

Yes. The online examinations will be administered on an open-book basis. This means that it is permissible to consult notes and other resources during the assessment.

Q. What if performance across my cohort is lower this year?

In recognition of the current circumstances, steps will be taken to guard against this possibility. During and at the conclusion of the marking period, examiners will be required to consider the profile of marks for their paper against the norm for the relevant paper during the last three years. Examiners will be expected to ensure that this year’s mark profiles for each paper are no lower than the three-year norm for the relevant paper. In respect of papers that are shared between two Tripos Parts, these comparisons will normally be made with reference to performance in the relevant Part, subject to the possibility of making reference to performance in the other Part where necessary to allow for very small numbers having taken the paper in the relevant Part in previous years.

Q. Will I get a class for Part II this year?

Yes. Part II students will be classed. However, students will not be ranked.

Q. How will classing work this year?

Classing of Part II students will proceed as follows. First, the examiners will determine your provisional Part II class. This will be determined on the basis of your Part II marks by applying the normal classing conventions for Part II of the Law Tripos. Second, the no-detriment principle, or 'safety net', will be applied. This means that your provisional Part II class will be confirmed as your Part II class unless your provisional Part II class is lower than your Part IB class. In those circumstances, you will be placed in the same class for Part II as that in which you were placed for Part IB. For example, if you got a 2.1 in Part IB and a provisional 2.2 class in Part II, your Part II class would be a 2.1. However, if your provisional Part II result is a Fail (on application of the normal classing conventions), you cannot benefit from the safety net.

If you were not classed in Part IB, then you will be classed in Part II solely on the basis of your Part II marks and by application of the normal Part II classing conventions: it will not be possible to apply the safety net automatically with reference to the class you obtained in the year before that. In such circumstances, however, if your Part II classification is lower than that which you obtained in Part IA, it will be possible to apply through your College to the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee (EAMC) for a review of your Part II classification. Further information about the possibility of applying to the EAMC in such circumstances can be found in the update on assessment policies circulated by the Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor on 7 April 2020.

Q. If I benefit from the no-detriment principle, what happens to my transcript marks?

The no-detriment principle has no bearing on the marks that students are awarded for individual papers. This means that if your class is improved by application of the no-detriment principle, the marks recorded on your transcript for Part II will not change. As a result, students who benefit from the no-detriment principle will have mark profiles for Part II that would not, but for the application of the no-detriment principle, have warranted the award of the class that they receive for Part II.

Dissertations

Q. What is the new deadline for Part II dissertations?

The deadline for all Part II dissertations has been changed from 27 April to 4 May 2020.

Q. How should I submit my dissertation?

You will be required to submit your dissertation in electronic form via Moodle. Instructions about how to do this will be circulated in advance of the revised deadline.

Q. Can I apply for an extension beyond the revised deadline?

The University has authorised Faculties and Departments to grant extensions to coursework deadlines in certain circumstances. The Faculty anticipates that extensions beyond 4 May 2020 will be granted to students whose dissertation-related work was delayed by illness and caring responsibilities but who will be in a position to submit their coursework in time for it to be marked as part of the Easter Term assessment period. Applications for such extensions should be submitted to the Faculty via College Tutors or Directors of Studies by 24 April 2020. Information about how to make such applications will be provided shortly. Different arrangements concerning dissertations will apply to students who participate in the second assessment period. Those arrangements will be notified in due course.

Q. What should I do if there are relevant materials I cannot access?

If there are materials that are important to your dissertation but which you cannot access while away from Cambridge, you should draw attention to this by means of an additional section in your bibliography. For each such item, the additional section in your bibliography should (a) state the full reference for the item, (b) briefly set out its anticipated relevance and (c) indicate what steps you took to attempt to obtain access to the item. In all cases, you must, before concluding that an item is inaccessible, contact the Squire Law Library to find out whether access can be arranged.

Mitigation

Q. What if I cannot participate in online assessment in Easter Term?

The University’s expectation is that most students will be able to undertake their assessment in the normal examination period in Easter Term, but the University understands that there may be legitimate reasons why this is not possible, such as illness, caring responsibilities or technical difficulties. Therefore, those students whose assessment is disrupted in Easter Term may apply to sit the examinations during a second assessment period, which is expected to take place once the University is fully operational again. You should discuss this with your College Tutor. If you are able to participate in neither the first nor the second assessment period, you should contact your College Tutor to discuss the possibility of applying to the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee (EAMC) for an Examination Allowance.

Q. What form will assessment during the later period take?

Assessments in the second assessment period will be delivered in the same way as those delivered in Easter Term. The second assessment period will only be available to those students who were unable to take assessments in the Easter Term.

Q. Do I qualify for the second assessment period?

Information on the circumstances in which deferral of assessment to the second assessment period may be available can be found on the student page of the University’s Covid-19 website.

Q. Who should I contact if I want to discuss the possibility of seeking access to the second assessment period?

You should contact your College Tutor or Director of Studies about this.

Q. What happens if I experience technical problems during the assessment?

You should report any such difficulties to your College Tutor or Director of Studies as quickly as possible. Depending on the level of disruption, it might be that you are able to take it again in the second assessment period when the University is back in full operation.

Q. I have agreed Exam Access Arrangements in advance, or require new adjustments due to a changed assessment method. How will my needs be met?

If your Exam Access Arrangements require additional time or rest breaks, it is not anticipated that the 24-hour assessment window will be extended or the assessment arrangements otherwise adjusted as a matter of course. This is because there is no expectation that any student will spend significantly longer writing their answers than they normally would have done, meaning that those who would have been entitled to extra time or rest breaks under normal examination arrangements will have sufficient time to complete their answers under the revised assessment arrangements. If, however, you feel that this would not meet your needs, you should contact your College Tutor to discuss this.