Frequently Asked Questions
- Why don't major and minor examiners meet together to discuss the composite honorific for each student?
- How and why do caucuses function?
- What is the purpose of the 1:30 p.m. examiners' meeting?
- What can students bring to written exams?
- What can students bring to oral exams?
- What part does Senior Honors Study (SHS) play in honors?
- How do theses, essays, or special projects/performances play a part in honors?
- What is the procedure when a student does not receive honors on any one preparation or does not receive honors overall?
Why don't major and minor examiners meet together to discuss the composite honorific for each student?
Under the new system, the individual marks are averaged by the registrar prior to the large examiners' meeting. Only in "discussible cases" where the average mark is in-between two categories (such as HHH and HH), or where there is a large spread between marks (such as HHH and P), are the student's four examiners allowed to discuss the case further and arrive at a total honorific number.
Departmental caucuses: Those examiners who are under the umbrella of a specific department and are examining majors or minors within that department will meet between 11 a.m.–noon on Saturday to discuss the students' work and to ensure that examiners have judged all students on relatively and unilaterally the same basic principles.
Caucuses for College-sponsored special interdisciplinary majors (work in at least two departments, e.g., Biochemistry, Psychobiology, Education + x, Asian Studies): The caucus for involved departments meets from 10:30–11 a.m. on Saturday to discuss the students' work and to ensure that all examiners have judged students on relatively and unilaterally the same basic principles. Special majors involving more than two departments may also be examined any of the three exam days in an oral panel (vs. individual orals) with all examiners present, followed by the caucus to affirm student's knowledge of interdisciplinary area of study.
Special majors designed by the student: Major involves at least two departments, has four related preps (one can be a thesis), and no minor. The caucus, with all examiners present, may take place between 10:30-11 a.m. on Saturday or, if the student is examined in an oral panel, immediately after the panel.
College-sponsored special majors (not interdisciplinary, e.g., Linguistics and Languages) do not have special caucuses; they function like regular departmental majors, and the examiners attend the departmental caucus at 11 a.m.
Note: Each examiner who attends special caucuses at any time during the orals weekend will also attend their 11 a.m.-noon Saturday individual departmental caucus.
Prior to the examiners' meeting, a composite honorific mark will be calculated for each student based on the four preparation marks submitted by that student's examiners. In the meeting, the examiners check their individual marks as recorded by the registrar. In most cases, they will then be finished and may then leave the meeting and campus. Or, they may remain in the meeting to resolve the honorific for a student whose composite mark lies in a "gray" area (in-between two marks) or is a "stretch" mark (where there is an unusually wide range between individual marks). When the four examiners reach a consensus on the overall honorific for the individual student in question, the involved examiners may leave. When marks for all students are resolved, the meeting ends.
No food or drinks are to be brought into the computer exam rooms. If the students must bring in water, it should be placed on the floor.
Each department must indicate or have their examiners indicate which materials / tools, if any, are allowed to be used for their written exam. Professors should relay this information to all involved students prior to the beginning of exams, and to Diane Collings, who will also try to notify the students in writing. Proctors will be given the list of allowed materials on the day of each exam.
Normally, they may bring their copy of the written exam, along with the questions, SHS work, a thesis, essay, or any work related to a project or performance. No other books or notes are allowed. Students are encouraged to go over these materials beforehand, then come to the oral exam ready to engage in a lively and energetic discussion of the subject without referring back to the materials.
Credit-bearing: SHS work is graded by Swarthmore faculty and appears on a student's transcript. It may carry a letter grade or a CR/NC. It is the prerogative of each department whether it requires SHS or not. SHS work is sent to outside honors examiners as a component of the student's work where relevant to a particular preparation, as decided by the department. An examiner will read only the SHS portfolio materials pertaining to the particular preparation being examined. The SHS work may be included in the written exam of a relevant preparation and must be included in the oral exam of a relevant preparation.
Non-credit-bearing: Work is required by a department as part of the Honors Program but is not given extra credit. No SHS is entered on the student's academic record. As in the case of credit-bearing SHS work, the examiner will read only the SHS portfolio materials pertaining to the particular preparation which is being examined. The SHS work may be included in the written exam of a relevant preparation and must be included in the oral exam of a relevant preparation.
Thesis/essay: One of the preparations of a student's program may be a thesis, dependent upon departmental requirements and/or student preference, or an essay based on a preparation of a course + attachment. Neither involves a written exam.
The thesis is graded solely by the outside honors examiner and is given a letter grade which is part of the student's Swarthmore academic record and appears on the transcript. The essay (+ course materials component) is also graded by the examiner, but that letter grade serves as the grade for only the essay (attachment) component of the preparation. The Swarthmore instructor gives the grade for the course. If the student has registered for the thesis or the essay (attachment) prior to spring of the senior year, it will be given a grade of IP, awaiting the honors examiner's mark in the spring semester. Swarthmore instructors are not to give a grade to any thesis or thesis-like project.
Special project/performance: One of the preparations of a student's program may be a composite of work involving creative writing, cultural study, fine-arts design or performance, etc., which cannot be quantified via a written exam. It is graded, as is the thesis or essay above, by the outside examiner. If any component of the preparation has been previously graded, the registrar will substitute a grade of IP until the examiner gives the preparation a grade. Swarthmore instructors are not to give a grade to any special project for honors.
Exception: No special project for an art major honors student will be graded by the outside examiner.
Grading Sheets: Periwinkle-colored grading sheets for the above preparations are included within the appropriate caucus packets on Saturday of orals weekend. The examiner is asked during that caucus to award the letter grade and corresponding honorific grade according to a system previously approved by the faculty and explained on the periwinkle grading sheet. The sheets are submitted to the caucus leader, then to the Registrar's Office, with the rest of the caucus's honors marks on the honors "ballot."
What is the procedure when a student does not receive Honors on any one preparation or does not receive Honors overall?
If P (pass), MP (marginal pass), or F (failure) is received on any one preparation, that mark is averaged into the student's composite honorific mark, and it is this average mark that determines whether a student earns a level of honors. If that preparation is a thesis, essay, or special project/performance, it shall be returned to the Swarthmore faculty advisor for grading; the grade may not be higher than a B. If a student earns an overall average honors mark of P, MP, or F, no honors are awarded. The department of the student's major must then determine whether the student has met the College's comprehensive requirement.