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Online examinations for the LLM 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 adjustments will be made to the LLM classing conventions. The deadline for dissertations has been revised.

The information on this page is intended to explain why online examinations are going ahead in the LLM and how they will work. It is hoped that the information below will answer most of the questions that LLM 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 LLM examinations going ahead?

The Law Faculty’s Contingency Planning Group reflected very carefully on what should be done in relation to LLM 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 University’s policy regarding assessment, which requires all one-year taught postgraduate students to have the opportunity to be classed. In the light of these considerations, the Contingency Planning Group concluded that summative assessment should take place for LLM 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 formative essays written by LLM students would be appropriate, given that such formative essays have been 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 isn’t assessment on a pass/fail basis only?

Assessment on a pass/fail basis is not possible in the LLM, given the University’s policy that all one-year taught postgraduate 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.

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?

LLM 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.

Q. Some undergraduate students are being required to answer fewer questions than normal in their exams. Why aren’t LLM students being treated in the same way?

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 first and second year undergraduate 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 final year undergraduate and LLM examinations, in line with the University’s policy. Second, reducing the number of questions that some undergraduate 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 the LLM, but in a different way: namely, by modification of the classing conventions (on which see below).

Q. Is there a word limit?

Yes. The word limit for each LLM paper is 5,000 words. If you are submitting an essay in lieu of an examination question, the word limit for the examination component of the relevant paper is 3,500 words. 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.

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?

Changes to the LLM classing conventions (see below) are intended to take account of the unusual and challenging circumstances in which LLM students will be preparing for and participating in assessment this year. In addition, examiners will have regard to relevant performance norms for each paper.

Q. Will I get a class for the LLM this year?

Yes. LLM students will be classed. However, students will not be ranked.

Q. How will classing work this year?

LLM students will be classed using modified classing conventions. The current classing conventions are available on the Faculty website. The modified conventions will be published in due course. Two modifications will be made.

First, LLM convention 1C will be amended so as to alter the requirement that, for the purpose of that convention, both marks in the ‘class next below’ must be equal to or greater than the relevant mid-point mark. As amended, convention 1C will require only one of the marks in the 'class next below' to be equal to or greater than the relevant mid-point mark. This means, for example, that whereas on the current conventions marks of 140, 140, 130, 120 would yield a 2.1 (because one of the marks in the lower class is below the mid-point of 130), those marks will, on the revised conventions, yield a First (because the mid-point requirement now applies to only one, rather than to both, of the marks in the 'class next below').

Second, where a candidate’s lowest mark is at least one class below the candidate’s second-lowest mark, the lowest mark will be treated for classing purposes as though it were in a class one class higher than that in which it actually is. For example, on the current conventions, marks of 140, 140, 130, 108 would yield a 2.1 (applying the compensation convention), but under the modified conventions those marks would yield a First (because the mark of 108 would be treated for classing purposes as if it were a 2.1 mark and the mark of 130 satisfies the modified mid-point requirement). Where a mark is treated in this way, for the purpose of applying convention 1C it will be regarded as equal to or greater than the mid-point mark of the class into which it has notionally been moved up, if it was equal to or greater than the mid-point mark of its original class, and vice versa.

These changes to the classing conventions are being made in recognition of the unusual and challenging circumstances in which LLM students will be preparing for and participating in assessment this year.

Q. What about my transcript marks?

The modifications to the classing conventions will have no bearing on the marks for each paper as they appear on your transcript. All marks will appear on transcripts as usual.


Summative coursework: Theses and essays

Q. What is the new deadline for LLM coursework?

The deadline for all LLM coursework has been changed from 1 May to 8 May 2020.

Q. How should I submit my coursework?

You will be required to submit your coursework 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 will be granted to students whose completion of coursework 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 Tutors or Directors of Studies by 30 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 coursework 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.


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 their 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.