Information on examination & progression to dissertation.

Coursework and Examinations

The University 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 returned throughout the year. 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. 
  • Pass at least 80 out of your initial 120 credit points. All courses count towards this total. Passes at 50% are required 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 examine in Semester 1, this may also be true of external courses. Some courses list different examination diets for visiting students and Edinburgh students. In these cases it is not possible to elect to take the exam with the visiting students, please ignore the parts of the DRPS course listings meant just for them.

The correspondence between numerical scores, grades and their interpretation in terms of the MSc is given below. 

Score Grade Interpretation 
> = 70  A Excellent 
60-69  B Very Good
50-59 C Good
40-49  D Satisfactory for Diploma but inadequate for MSc
< 40  E Unsatisfactory

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 is normally 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 Convenor, 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, averaging at least 70 over those with marks) and project (at least 70) components, and Merits to students who have obtained both an average of 60 on the courses and 60 on the project.

Calculators not provided at Informatics exams

If the use of a calculator is permitted in an exam, it is your responsibility to bring your own calculator to the exam. 

Only a calculator from the approved list specified in Policy 4.1.3 of the College of Science and Engineering Policy and Procedure of the Use of Calculators in Examinations 2015-16 may be used in Informatics exams.


Please note: You are entirely responsible for the working order of your calculators and batteries.   You are warned that although electronic calculators have a high degree of reliability, you should check the correct entry of data and the credibility of results. The commonest form of malfunction is due to the run down of batteries. 

Invigilators will remove calculators not in the approved list; candidates may collect them at the end of the examination (Policy 4.3).

Other schools within the University may have different policies on providing calculators; please make sure you check this before any exams.  If in doubt, take an approved calculator with you to the exam, just in case.

The Diploma

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 will be considered for a Diploma or Certificate according to the Taught Assessment Regulations. 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 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