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Differences in course organisation, study methods and grading systems

An important characteristic of “Russian” education is the unified and fairly severe standards in terms of course content, study methods and grading.  Depending upon the type of organisation, practically all undergraduate courses in the CIS can be classed as study programmes.  At the next levels, postgraduate and doctorate, both study and research programmes are offered as a rule.  The choice of vocational, applied and combined courses is, as yet, extremely limited.

The most widespread teaching methods in the “Russian” education model include: lectures, seminars, independent work, meetings with a supervisor, work in laboratories and in the field (depending upon the specialism). In contrast with the UK, there is no mentoring system, group exercises are not set, and multimedia study tools are used minimally.

The model also has its own specific system for assessing study outcomes. Students in the CIS take tests and exams at the end of every semester.  The procedures in the CIS and in the UK for grading knowledge acquired have a number of substantial differences:

  • In CIS universities, in a number of liberal arts subjects, tests are taken where the result is not awarded as a differentiated grade, but rather just “pass”/“fail”;
  • In CIS universities, more often than not exams are conducted orally, as part of a dialogue with the examiner – in the UK, written examinations are more widespread;
  • In CIS universities, exam questions are distributed in a random way (students choose one of a number of examination tickets lying face-down in random order) – in the UK, as a rule, the group responds to identical test questions;
  • In CIS universities, the examiner evaluates the student’s knowledge in accordance with educational standards described in guideline documents; theoretically, the whole group can obtain “good” and “excellent” grades if the students demonstrate a high level of preparation.  In many UK universities, only 5 to 10 per cent of students in the class can attain the highest grades, since a student’s results correlate with the results of the whole group.

A lack of understanding of these differences can create substantial hurdles for students from CIS countries at British universities in the course of their studies.