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Grading Guidelines

JP and ST Grading Guidelines in Astrophysics

A+    Exceptional. Significantly exceeds the highest expectations for undergraduate work. The work should reflect a high degree of originality, independence, and understanding by the student, and contain important scientific results. The content and the presentation of the JP/ST should be at the level of a refereed journal article, and it is expected that after additional work the JP/ST will be submitted for publication.

A      Outstanding. Meets the highest standards for the assignment. Work that goes beyond simply "doing a good job". Should reflect originality and independence, excellent understanding of the topic, and high-level of presentation. At this grade level, an ST should contain important scientific results. A JP should either contain important results or demonstrate exceptional development in mastering the tools of original research in astrophysics, as applied to an important problem. In either case, it is generally expected that the student will eventually appear as co-author on a likely refereed publication.

A-    Excellent. Meets very high standards for the assignment. Between A above and B+ below.

B+    Very good. Meets high standards for the assignment. Student did what is expected at a very good level. At this level, the JP or ST will exhibit problems in either science content, understanding, presentation, or independence, and will look like it could have been improved with more work. An ST should contain substantial contributions toward the solution of an important research problem, and a JP should either contain such contributions or demonstrate significant development in mastering the tools of original research in astrophysics.

B     Good. Meets most of the standards for the assignment. The content, presentation, understanding, or independence of the student could stand some significant improvement.

B-    More than Adequate. Shows some reasonable command of the material. The content, presentation, understanding, or independence of the student is more than adequate but less than good. The work may contain some conceptual or other errors, and the work may reflect adequate but not good understanding, originality or independence.

C+   Acceptable; meets basic standards for the assignment.

C   Acceptable; meets some of the basic standards for the assignment.

C-  Acceptable; but falling short of meeting basic standards in several ways

D    Minimally acceptable; lowest passing grade

F     Fail. Very poor performance.

For students completing JP/ST in other departments the guidelines should be similar in spirit, but should take account of the different nature of the field.


Thesis Defense Grade

Each senior presents their thesis during the final oral Thesis Defense. The senior will typically present the Thesis in about 20 minutes. This presentation is followed by ~30 minutes of questions on the Thesis and Thesis-related topics: each of the two members of the Thesis committee has about 15 minutes each.

The grade on the Thesis defense will be decided by the committee based on the student presentation of the Thesis, the student answers to the questions on the Thesis, their general understanding of the Thesis topic and its execution, and their understanding of the broader Thesis-related topics.

A+ : outstanding knowledge, understanding, and presentation of the Thesis work, results, and the broader scientific topic.

A : excellent/very-good knowledge, understanding and presentation of the Thesis work, results, and broader scientific topic.

A- : very good (on above items); some misses in either the knowledge, understanding, or presentation

B+ : good; some of the knowledge, understanding, or presentation could have been better

B : some lack of knowledge or understanding of the project

B- or below: more substantial lack of knowledge or understanding of the Thesis work and related topics.

In addition, of course, each student will receive a grade on their Senior Thesis itself, following the ST guidelines listed above.


Astrophysics Comprehensive (Oral)

This is the third part of the final oral defense for seniors: 30 minutes of questions (15 minutes by each member of the committee) on general topics in astronomy and astrophysics. We generally recommend to the students to review F. Shu's introductory book in Astronomy, "The Physical Universe," as well as their class notes from their upper-level Astro courses. 

The grade on this part of the exam does not appear on the student transcript; it is only averaged together with other grades into an overall "Senior Departmental Exam."

For this grade, the grading guidelines are equivalent to those listed above for the Thesis Defense, but of course apply to the student's general knowledge of Astrophysics.

- Neta Bahcall