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First Year Assessment

First-year Assessment

See also: Writing Course: Yr 1 Assessment and Thesis formalities

The first-year assessment for PhD students must take place before the end of the first year and leads to a recommendation as to whether the student should be transferred from being a Graduate Student to register as a PhD student.


The objectives of the assessment at this stage are first, to check that the student has the ability to successfully complete the PhD; second, to sort out the specifics of the project that the student is pursuing; and third, to ensure that there are no difficulties with the supervisory relationship.

Format of student’s report

The format of the assessment is as follows.  You will be asked to prepare a report on your first year’s work.  The report should be ± 6000 words in order not to take too much time out of your research schedule.  The exact content of the report will be at your discretion, but clearly it should include an overview of the field in which the research is taking place, assessment of the objectives and achievements of the first year and also assessment of the direction in which the project will progress. You should make three softbound copies so that assessors and you yourself can have one.

Time limit

You should not spend more than three or four weeks of part-time work preparing the report.   The report must be submitted by the end of the tenth month i.e.:

by the end of July for those who started in Michaelmas term,

by beginning of November for those who started in Lent term 

by mid February for those who started in Easter term).


This allows time for the assessment, so that the full process can be completed by end of the first year. Please remember that in order to hand in on time you do need to allow time for the supervisor to read and comment on a first draft and to make any revisions that you agree are necessary.  So start working on it at least 2 months ahead of the above deadlines.


There will usually be two assessors who will be appointed by the supervisor in consultation with you.  There is room for considerable flexibility in the appointment of assessors compatible with student needs; these assessors may come from within or outside of the Department. Make sure that they will be available and willing to read it soon after it is handed in.


Assessment takes the form of a meeting between the student and the assessors to discuss the first-year report and other matters bearing on the project, and last perhaps 1–1.5 hours.  You should discuss with your supervisor whether it is appropriate for him/her to be present.  The assessment is an ideal opportunity for refining the goals of the thesis.

Assessors’ report (blank form available here)

Once an assessment is completed, the assessors compile a report to go to your supervisor.  It is your supervisor who has the responsibility of recommending to the Graduate Office whether or not you should be registered for a PhD with the formal approval of this recommendation being the responsibility of the Degree Committee.  The possible recommendations from a first-year assessment are as follows:

 i)   (most usually) to change your registration from “graduate student” to PhD student

ii)  that you are not yet ready to be registered as a PhD student and should be reassessed in one further term.  (In these cases you will be given directions to help you improve your performance, and be reassessed at the end of your fourth term).

iii) (unusually) that you will not be able to achieve the standard required for a PhD.  In these cases the assessors and supervisor will consider the possibility of successfully completing an MPhil, and recommend accordingly.