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Examination & Progression to Dissertation

Coursework and Examinations

The University Postgraduate (taught) Assessment Regulations apply to all of the MSc programmes covered in this course guide.The MSc is examined on its taught component comprising coursework and examination and on the dissertation which you start immediately after the May exams. You must pass both the taught part and dissertation to pass on the MSc overall. If, for example, you achieve only Diploma level on the 120 point taught component of the course then you will not be allowed to undertake a project.

Coursework is delivered during the semester and where a course has 30% or less of the marks you should receive feedback and marks at the time. If the course has more than 30% of the marks from coursework, it will be treated as a term paper and not returned. All marks returned during the semesters should be treated as provisional until after the Board of Examiners meets after the main examination period.

In order to pass at MSc level, and continue on to the MSc project you must meet both of the following criteria:

  • An average grade of 50% over your initial 120 credit points. Under the 2014/15 University regulations, pass/fail courses (IRR/IRP) count as either 40% or 0% in this average. As an example, if you pass IRR and IRP, the regulations mean you require a 55% average in your other taught courses.
  • Pass at least 80 out of your initial 120 credit points. Passes in pass/fail courses (IRR/IRP) count towards this total. Your graded courses require passes at 50% to count towards this total.


Most examinations for the MSc courses in Informatics take place at the end of Semester 2. A small number of courses may examine in Semester 1, this may also be true of external courses.  The correspondence between numerical scores, grades and their interpretation in terms of the MSc is given below. 




> = 70 





Very Good






Satisfactory for Diploma but inadequate for MSc

< 40 



Written examinations take place in December and then during the first weeks of the summer. The exam diet can spread over up to five weeks, so be careful to check when your exams take place before arranging any absences from Edinburgh. There is one examination paper per course and each paper typically lasts 2 hours. Each paper normally is set by the lecturer responsible for each course and is vetted by an External Examiner and appropriate members of the Board of Examiners. Questions may be set on any aspect of the lectures or coursework.

The Board of Examiners comprises the External Examiner, the Director of Teaching, the Course Organiser and the MSc course lecturers. Your overall taught mark is decided at a Board of Examiners meeting, usually held in at the end of May. The Board has the freedom to aggregate marks in any way but normally each paper is given equal weighting. The Board may take mitigating circumstances (e.g. illness) into account so it is vital that you communicate these to your Personal Tutor, along with substantiating evidence (e.g. a medical certificate), if you believe that your performance has been impaired. If you are ill on or around the date of an examination then you must obtain a medical certificate from a doctor as soon as you are fit enough to do so. Your project mark is decided at a second Board of Examiners meeting in October, along with your overall MSc award. The Board of Examiners can award distinctions to students who have performed exceptionally well on both the taught (passed all courses with average at least 70) and project (at least 70) components.

The Diploma

For students who wish to leave early (immediately after the exams) or who do not achieve sufficient grades in their exams and coursework to proceed to an MSc project (still at least 40%) the degree of Diploma can be awarded. The Diploma course ends with the exams and there is no project or summer semester work.

Borderline Cases

The Board of Examiners considers borderline cases as described in the Postgraduate (taught) Assessment Regulations. Borderline decisions may take into account the following factors:

  • cases in which a student has performed better in courses at a higher level
  • cases where the amount of credited assessed work to be used for classification or award decisions is less than the norm (e.g., where credits have been awarded for progression purposes only in recognition of special circumstances)
  • individual student profiles of performance