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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


The examination for HPS Part IB consists of two separate examination papers, one on historical topics (Paper 1) and the other on philosophical topics (Paper 2).

Papers 1 and 2 are both divided into two sections:

  • Section A consists of general questions that range over the subject. Candidates must answer one of the two questions.
  • Section B consists of more specific questions. Candidates must answer three of the ten questions.

Each question answered, whether from Section A or Section B, carries the same weight.

Guidelines for open book exams 2024

Past exam papers

The Department of History and Philosophy of Science uses the following marking scheme for the Part IB examination:

Mark 85+
First Class
An outstanding and memorable performance in which all, or virtually all, the qualities deemed to constitute first-class work are present in a remarkable degree.
Mark 70–84
First Class
Work which is excellent both in the range and in the command of the material and in the argument and analysis that it brings to bear. The examiners would regard independence of thought as a clear sign of first-class potential. A first-class mark may be awarded on more than one set of criteria. The argument may be sophisticated, incisive or demonstrate flair; there may be a wealth of relevant information, showing exceptional knowledge and understanding of the issues involved: the approach may be unorthodox in the best sense, suggesting new and worthwhile ways of considering material. Many first-class performances will combine elements of all three.
Mark 60–69
Work showing evidence of a good and broad-based engagement with and understanding of the relevant material and organised in a clearly-argued, well-illustrated and relevant fashion. Work at the top end of this class will usually contain material which displays evidence of high intelligence, and which is regularly, but not consistently, sophisticated in analysis, impressive in its display of relevant knowledge, and occasionally demonstrate flair. The bottom of the range would be competent and accurate in the reproduction of received ideas, the upper end more stylish in thought or apt in its use of examples.
Mark 50–59
Competent and broadly relevant work. Essays in this class may occasionally show evidence of poor judgement, contain sections which are poorly related to the main argument and read more like 'prepared material' than an answer to the question, or display lack of clarity in writing. A good answer to the wrong question should not be marked higher than II.ii. An answer which would normally fall into the II.i category may fall into this class if it is too short, rushed, unfinished, badly organised, or does not answer the question, even though it may make some good points in other ways.
Mark 40–49
Work that, while showing some knowledge of the material, is yet seriously deficient in understanding and breadth of reference. Candidates whose work falls into this class may have occasionally completely missed the point of the title, be unduly brief, or fail to adhere to the rubric (for example, by answering intelligently, but on material which was specifically excluded).
Mark 0–39
Irrelevant, ignorant or extremely superficial work. Minimal understanding of material. Writing little or nothing is a common reason for being placed in this range.