University of Oxford Undergraduate Prospectus 2015 entry

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Biological Sciences

A BA in 3 years

UCAS code: C100

Course statistics for 2013 entry

Interviewed: 74%

Successful: 30%

Intake: 111

Entrance requirements

A-levels: A*AA with the A* in a science or Mathematics

Advanced Highers: AA/AAB

IB: 39 (including core points) with 7 in HL Mathematics or a science

Or any other equivalent

Candidates are expected to have Biology (or Human Biology) to A-level, Advanced Higher, or Higher Level in the IB, or another equivalent.

How to apply see page 118 [Transcriber’s Note: page number of the printed edition. End of note]

Tests: None required

Written Work: None required

Tuition fees for 2014

Home/EU: £9,000/year

No upfront costs: you can get a loan for the full amount

Grants, bursaries and scholarships available

More on student finance: p 120 [Transcriber’s Note: page number of the printed edition. End of note]

More information

+44 (0) 1865 281214

Oxford Open days

2 and 3 July, and 19 September 2014

What is Biological Sciences?

Biological Sciences is an exciting and rapidly developing subject area, with many applications in fields as diverse as conservation biology and molecular genetics. The study of living things has undergone tremendous expansion in recent years, and topics such as cell biology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology and ecology are advancing rapidly. These developments will have a considerable impact on society, in areas such as medicine, the environment and agriculture. The rapid expansion has been accompanied by a blurring of the distinctions between disciplines: a biologist with an interest in tropical plants may well use many of the tools and techniques that are indispensable to a molecular geneticist.

Biological Sciences at Oxford

Oxford has large departments of both Plant Sciences and Zoology, with extremely well-equipped modern laboratories. In addition, there are extensive zoological and botanical collections in the Zoology and Plant Sciences Departments, University Museum of Natural History, Botanic Garden, Herbarium, Arboretum and University Parks that support work on the animal and plant kingdoms. The departments also have access to nearby Wytham Woods and the Food Animal Initiative site at the University Field Station that are used for practicals and fieldwork. The Oxford course permits a flexible combination of molecular and whole-organism biology with opportunities to specialise in particular areas.

Practicals and fieldwork

Practical laboratory work is an integral part of teaching and there is a one-week field trip for all first-year students to Pembrokeshire to study ecology. Fieldwork is a crucial part of some courses; for example, there are field days associated with a number of the second-year practical courses and in the third year students may be able to attend an overseas field course. Furthermore, many students carry out their research projects in the field, either in the UK or abroad.

A typical weekly timetable

Your work is divided between lectures (normally around ten a week), tutorials (normally one a week) and practical classes (normally around six–nine hours a week in the first year; at least 50 hours over two terms in the second year).

What are tutors looking for?

Tutors are looking for your enthusiasm for biology and your potential to study it at university. Interviews are not to test your factual knowledge – they are designed to enable you to show your ability to think and to understand whatever facts you have encountered up to that time. If you express an interest in a particular aspect of Biology, be prepared to talk intelligently about it. The process is rigorous but sympathetic, so that you can show us your best. You may be asked to examine and comment on biological objects, or to interpret a written passage or a simple set of data, given to you during the interview.

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Biochemistry (Molecular and Cellular), Biomedical Sciences, Earth Sciences (Geology), Geography or Human Sciences.


A significant proportion of Oxford biologists embark on a professional, scientific or technical career after graduating, while more than one third go on to further study such as a research doctorate or a postgraduate course in an applied field. Others will take up careers in fields such as industry or finance, where their scientific problem-solving skills are excellent training.

Recent Biological Sciences graduates include an occupational therapist and a scientist within a multinational pharmaceutical firm. Jenny graduated in 1996.


After several years in a medical communication agency environment, she now has her own business, working directly with major global pharmaceutical companies. She explains that ‘the tutorial system and writing opportunities during my degree were critical in developing the skills needed to analyse and interpret data, present them clearly and concisely in context and discuss results of clinical trials with leaders in the oncology field.’

Jeremy graduated in 1975 and has spent his career in business and finance, specialising since 1994 in media and marketing services. He now has a number of business interests in the media and communications industry. He says that ‘studying Botany required a combination of analytical and communication skills which is invaluable for a financial professional and businessman. And the challenges of the weekly tutorial system helped produce independence of thought and a willingness to challenge convention.’

Hannah, who graduated in 2007, and is now a research assistant at the Royal Veterinary College, says: “My degree gave me a keen interest in my subject and the skills to pursue it. So far I have tracked rhinos across deserts, chased birds across oceans, and am currently working with chickens!

For more information about careers after Oxford, please see p 122 [Transcriber’s Note: page number of the printed edition. End of note].

1st year


Four courses are taken:

  • Cells and genes

  • Organisms

  • Ecology

  • Quantitative methods (a two-year course, assessed during the second University examinations)


First University examinations: Three written papers; Satisfactory practical record

2nd year


Eight courses are offered. Students are encouraged to attend lectures in all themes


  • Evolution

  • Quantitative methods


  • Animal behaviour

  • Cell and developmental biology

  • Disease

  • Ecology

  • Plants and people


Second University examinations:

Three written papers:

  • Evolution

  • Essay paper covering the six themes

  • Quantitative methods paper

Satisfactory practical record

3rd year


Around 20 options covering the full breadth of active research In the departments. Students are expected to take 6–8 of these specialist options, which are chosen freely. 2 overseas field courses are also available but numbers able to attend are capped for logistical reasons.


Final University examinations:

Four written papers:

  • A general paper

  • A data interpretation paper

  • A short essay-based paper

  • A long essay-based paper

Two course assignments and research project (prepared work counts for 30% of overall assessment)

Student statement

You hear things and it changes the way you thought about stuff before. You feel like a real scientist!


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