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Course structure


Lectures are given in the Department of Plant Sciences on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11 am. The lecture content will be supplemented with a series of seminars designed to illustrate how the lecture course content relates to current world issues.


Laboratory and field-based research are both essential for our further understanding of the function of plants and micro-organisms. The practicals provide a thoroughly integrated understanding, quite different from Part IA courses by: Providing experience of the major techniques used in plant and microbial science research; Developing skills in the design, interpretation and writing up of experiments; Addressing theoretical problems through experimentation; Increasing awareness of the social and industrial implications of plant and microbial science research; Developing ability to present and communicate scientific issues.

Practical classes are in the Department of Plant Sciences on Mondays or Tuesdays from 12 noon to 5 pm (with a break for lunch). Practical classes do not run every week. You must hand in and receive a pass mark for 6 practical write-ups during the course of the year.


Assessment of the course is divided into theory and practical elements representing 75% and 25% of the total mark respectively. Students take two three-hour written theory papers, one of which contains essay questions on specific topics, while the other comprises short answer questions, and longer more general essays on the course seminars. Practicals are assessed as two components: a 1.5 hour written paper (15% of the total mark), and lab-book style reports on the weekly practicals (10%). Write-ups for ten of the practicals are assessed and the six highest marks used.

Developing key skills

The Plant Sciences Department is committed to helping their students develop the transferable skills that will be beneficial both in Part II and as a research scientist or in many other careers. Dedicated skills sessions are delivered in lecture and practical sessions and include:

  • “How to get the most out of a scientific paper”
  • Data analysis and modelling using R
  • Designing and delivering presentations
  • Writing laboratory reports
  • Keeping a useful laboratory notebook