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Department of Computer Science and Technology



Part II projects are assessed primarily on the dissertation which is awarded marks based on the following categories:

  • Introduction and preparation (30 marks)
  • Implementation and contribution (45 marks)
  • Evaluation and conclusions (25 marks)

Every dissertation will be read by at least two assessors. A viva voce examination or additional assessment by an expert may also be considered. Source code may be consulted. A proportion will also be read by an external examiner.

Professional Practice and Presentation

The assessors will determine whether you have taken a professional and ethical approach in your work. In particular, they will check that you have used appropriate methods and tools, understood software licenses, deployed appropriate review and evaluation techniques and been aware of the social and ethical impact of your work. You must demonstrate a structured design approach, including high-level design planning, design-for-test, consideration of human factors and systematic evaluation including confidence metrics within your evaluation where appropriate. You should explain how you would show conformance with appropriate legislation, such as that for intellectual property, data protection, human subjects and software licenses such as those for open source. Show that you understand the consequences of your project (or a more fully-formed variant of it) in terms of how it might affect commercial markets, contribute to society and/or the research community.

Regarding presentation, assessors primarily require the dissertation to be literate and tidy. It is not necessary to spend hours using an advanced graphics design package but it is necessary to write with correct grammar, in a clear and focused expository style using properly constructed sentences.

Strict adherence to the top-level arrangement of the chapters is regarded as part of the presentation. Candidates who fail to put their names on the top right-hand corners of cover sheets, misunderstand the phrase "at most 100 words", or omit the Proforma altogether, will not receive high marks for presentation.

The five chapters

Most of the marks are scored in the five chapters in the body of the dissertation.While these chapter headings must be strictly followed, assessors recognise that the style of material in each section may vary depending on topic. A writer might, for example, feel that it is essential to discuss some aspects of the implementation in earlier chapters. Assessors will credit implementation marks ahead of time in such circumstances. It is unnecessary to repeat discussion in the "correct" chapter in order to earn the marks.

The Appendices

The dissertation should be fully comprehensible without reference to any appendix. Do not rely on content in an appendix providing any examination credit because appendices are not marked. A consequence of following up a reference to an appendix may result in an adjustment to the mark for a chapter in the main body of the dissertation.


Assessors are well aware that some projects are more challenging than others and take this into account as they read the dissertation.

A trivial example might be the comparison of two projects which are very much the same except that one is written in Java and the other in BCPL. The project written in BCPL will be regarded as a little more challenging if only because Java receives significant coverage in the Computer Science Tripos, while BCPL does not. In consequence an assessor might expect marginally more from the candidate who wrote in Java.

Late submission

The penalty for late submission of the dissertation is extremely severe. The formula is penalty = mark  * (10 + n) / 40 where n is the integer part of the number of days late. This formula comes into play immediately after the noon deadline, when a quarter of the marks are lost.

If there should be substantial network or system failures within the University of Cambridge (including the Department, but not including Colleges), on the morning of the dissertation deadline, Student Administration will accept manual submissions. Whether substantial failures have occurred, and what the alternate procedure is, will be declared by The Examiners for Part II by the noon on the deadline day. A manual submission may involve handing in of a USB flash drive or uploading to an alternative online service.

Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct

Project work is conducted in your own time and is not under constant control and supervision. It is expected that work will be done fairly, and that the dissertation will be a proper report on the work performed. If you get unusually large amounts of assistance during the year, or use code written by somebody else you must record it in your dissertation. Results shown in your dissertation must have been produced by your programs and not concocted. Obviously both general and particular claims (including ones made implicitly rather than explicitly) must be true. Note that none of these points prevent you from obtaining assistance with your project: they simply require that you present a sufficiently detailed explanation of how your results were achieved to allow the Assessors to assess the strengths of your contribution.

The University views academic misconduct as a serious offence, and all staff members involved in the assessment of dissertations are expected be alert to, and report any suspected cases.

Please read the Department’s advice on plagiarism and academic misconduct and make sure you give the correct acknowledgement to the ideas and work of others. You should be aware that the electronic copy of your dissertation will be submitted to plagiarism-detection software such as Turnitin for checking.

Viva voce examinations

The Examiners will issue a notice indicating whom they are calling for viva voce examination.  Only a small proportion of candidates will be invited for a viva voce examination , and in recent years these have spanned the entire range of ability, not just concentrating on borderline caes. If selected for a viva voce examination you will be asked to make a short presentation and discuss your project. You might like to take along a copy of your program and any useful output from it not included in your dissertation. The viva voce examination is concerned only with your project, not with other aspects of the Computer Science course.

Marking guidelines for assessors

These marking guidelines are not a detailed mark scheme. Part II projects are different for every student, and so marking necessarily relies upon the informed judgement of the Examiners. For example:

  • What constitutes good evaluation practice can vary widely depending on the topic.
  • The implementation phase of a machine learning project may involve multiple rounds of critical appraisal or evaluation as the architecture is developed.
  • Where a project involves only routine use of machine learning libraries, it is unlikely that sufficient challenge will be present for a high mark to be awarded.
  • For a project with a major theoretical component, some mathematical development may be suitable for inclusion in the implementation section.

As a result, the guidelines should be understood as a qualitative guide only, giving indications of the appropriate mark level for a range of examples of possible dissertation content. Examiners will always use their judgement to take into account the specific nature of each project when assigning marks.

Introduction and Preparation (30 marks)


Poor or missing motivation, little or no relevant background material presented.
Requirements analysis is very unclear or incomplete.
Poor understanding of appropriate techniques.


Reasonable motivation and background material, with occasional gaps. 
Some good discussion on requirements, clearly presented.
Chosen approach and tools mostly appropriate.


Well-motivated project with success criteria well-justified.
Challenging and well-presented background covering Comp Sci topics beyond Part IB.
Good requirements analysis, justified selection of suitable tools, good engineering approach.

Implementation and Contribution (45 marks)


Substantially incomplete or missing implementation.
Little software written, hardware built, or analysis conducted.
Description of work is very unclear or substantially incomplete.
Minimal evidence that chosen methods or tools have been used appropriately.
Repository overview missing or fragmentary.


Project not particularly ambitious, or not entirely completed.
Reasonable deliverable produced, with major limitations of execution or approach.
Description of work has significant flaws in presentation.
Chosen methods and tools used appropriately in places.
Repository overview present, possibly with considerable flaws or omissions.


Challenging project meeting success criteria, using techniques beyond Part IB. 
Project has a strong deliverable, with occasional flaws or limitations.
Clear presentation with use of figures and diagrams where appropriate.
Generally appropriate use of chosen scientific or engineering techniques.
Full repository overview, with only minor limitations.


Contribution to the field, with genuine potential for impact outside the tripos.
Challenging goals and substantial deliverables, all methods and tools deployed expertly.
Original techniques or methodologies going beyond what was previously known.
Presentation is clear and concise throughout, with creative use of figures or diagrams.
Excellent repository overview, giving clear insight into project structure.

Evaluation and Conclusion (25 marks)


Minimal or incomplete evaluation against the success criteria.
Limited or incoherent results presented.
Conclusions do not provide an effective summary of work completed.


Evaluation against the success criteria, with reasonable justification for any incomplete areas.
Good interpretation of results which explore the effectiveness of the project.
Conclusions provide a summary of work completed.


Compelling argument demonstrating success criteria met, or well-justified explanation of different direction taken.
Excellent critical thought and interpretation which substantiate any claims of success.
Conclusions provide a clear and thorough summary, with interesting future work suggested.
Thoughtful personal reflection on the lessons learned.


Where a project makes a genuine contribution to the field, that is strong evidence that it should score in the 36-45 band for implementation and contribution. However, this is not a requirement of the band.

Where a project has a concrete deliverable artefact, such as an audio/video file, software program, or data file, students are encouraged if appropriate to make this available, either as an attachment at the point of submission, or as an anonymous hyperlink within the dissertation text, if they feel this would help the examiners understand their contribution.