Biological Sciences (Including Placement Year)

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Course overview
(BSc) Bachelor of Science
Biological Sciences (Including Placement Year)
University of Essex
University of Essex
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Honours Degree
BSC C102

Professional accreditation


Admission criteria

A-levels: BCC, including Biology at grade B.
GCSE: Mathematics C/4

If you have not met the GCSE Mathematics requirement for this course but are pending or have achieved Level 3 Physics, please contact the Admissions Office for advice

IB: 28 points, including Higher Level Biology grade 5 and Standard Level Mathematics or Maths Studies grade 4, if not taken at Higher Level. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Please note that Maths in the IB is not required if you have already achieved GCSE Maths at grade C/4 or above or 4 in IB Middle Years Maths.

Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) code

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. Different requirements apply for second year entry, and specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels listed above. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Course qualifiers


Rules of assessment

Rules of assessment are the rules, principles and frameworks which the University uses to calculate your course progression and final results.

Additional notes


External examiners

Dr Clive Butler

Associate Professor of Microbial Biochemistry

The University of Exeter

Prof Anne Borland


Newcastle University

External Examiners provide an independent overview of our courses, offering their expertise and help towards our continual improvement of course content, teaching, learning, and assessment. External Examiners are normally academics from other higher education institutions, but may be from the industry, business or the profession as appropriate for the course. They comment on how well courses align with national standards, and on how well the teaching, learning and assessment methods allow students to develop and demonstrate the relevant knowledge and skills needed to achieve their awards. External Examiners who are responsible for awards are key members of Boards of Examiners. These boards make decisions about student progression within their course and about whether students can receive their final award.

eNROL, the module enrolment system, is now open until Monday 27 January 2020 8:59AM, for students wishing to make changes to their module options.


Core You must take this module.
You must pass this module. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options You can choose which module to study.
You must pass this module. No failure can be permitted.
Compulsory You must take this module.
There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.
Compulsory with Options You can choose which module to study.
There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.
Optional You can choose which module to study.
There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.

Year 1 - 2019/20

Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Credits
01  BS141-4-AP  Quantitative methods for Life Sciences  Core  15 
02  BS101-4-AU  Molecular Cell Biology  Core  15 
03  BS102-4-AU  Genetics and Evolution  Core  15 
04  BS113-4-AU  Animal Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour  Core  15 
05    BS131-4-SP or BS112-4-AU  Core with Options  15 
06  BS104-4-SP  Microbiology  Core  15 
07  BS111-4-SP  Plant Biology and Ecosystems  Core  15 
08  BS143-4-AP  Transferable Skills in Life Sciences  Core  15 

Year 2 - 2020/21

Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Credits
01    BS211-5-FY or BS215-5-SU & BS257-5-FY  Compulsory with Options  15 
02    Option from list  Optional  15 
03    Option(s) from list  Optional  30 
04    Option(s) from list  Optional  30 
05    Option(s) from list  Optional  30 
06    BS417-5-SU or BS418-5-SU  Core with Options 

Year Abroad/Placement - 2021/22

Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Credits
01  BS834-5-FY  Placement Report  Core  120 

Year 3 - 2022/23

Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Credits
01    BS831-6-FY or BS832-6-FY  Compulsory with Options  45 
02    BS303-6-SU or BS304-6-AP  Compulsory with Options  15 
03    Option(s) from list  Optional  30 
04    Option(s) from list  Optional  30 

Exit awards

A module is given one of the following statuses: 'core' – meaning it must be taken and passed; 'compulsory' – meaning it must be taken; or 'optional' – meaning that students can choose the module from a designated list. The rules of assessment may allow for limited condonement of fails in 'compulsory' or 'optional' modules, but 'core' modules cannot be failed. The status of the module may be different in any exit awards which are available for the course. Exam Boards will consider students' eligibility for an exit award if they fail the main award or do not complete their studies.

Programme aims

This course aims to develop in our students:

An understanding of living systems, and the varied levels of complexity from molecules to populations and ecosystems.

An understanding of biological methods and approaches and of the main body of biological, evolutionary and ecological knowledge.

An ability to analyse current biological and ecological questions and to suggest solutions.

A general scientific education including training in handling and interpretation of quantitative information and the ability to plan and carry out desk, laboratory or field based research under supervision.

The key skills of communication, numeracy, ITC use, problem solving, working with others, self-evaluation and self-improvement, and autonomous learning using biological science as a context and focus.

The key laboratory, field and workplace skills required for careers in biological sciences, or other careers that require an integrated understanding of biological processes.

A foundation of knowledge, understanding and skills required for further study and research.

An awareness of the need for compliance with health, safety and ethical policies in biological work.

An appreciation of the need for, and importance of, lifelong learning and personal development planning.

Learning outcomes and learning, teaching and assessment methods

On successful completion of the programme a graduate should demonstrate knowledge and skills as follows:

A: Knowledge and understanding

A1: Basic physics, maths and chemistry that are relevant to biological sciences

A2: The different levels of organisation and complexity, from molecules, through cells, tissues, organs, organisms and populations

A3: The structural and functional organisation of cells including key cellular, genetic and developmental processes and their regulation some of which is at an advanced level

A4: The organisation of cells into multicellular organisms including cell and organism metabolism and physiology

A5: Key biological processes at either the molecular or population level some of which is at an advanced level

A6: Appropriate practical scientific methods and approaches: observation, experimentation, modelling; and techniques used in their analysis

A7: Key biological issues facing society (e.g. cloning, GMOs, animal experimentation)

Learning methods

Lectures are the principal method of delivery of A1 to A7.

Lectures direct students to textbooks and on-line material (Years 1 to 3), and reviews and research papers (Year 2 and particularly Year 3).

Laboratory and field practicals in Years 1 and 2 complement lectures and develop A1 to A6.

Coursework associated with lecture modules in Years 2 and 3 develop A1 to A7 The research project in Year 3 teaches and develops A6 and also a range of A1-A5 and A7 (depending on project topic).

Team work for A7 is developed in the Issues module (Year 3).

The ‘‘‘‘Skills’‘‘‘ module and Summer course (laboratory or field) in Year 2 teaches and develops A1 to A6 Seminars with small groups are used in A1 (mathematics and chemistry, Year 1).

Assessment methods

A1 to A7 are assessed by:

Multiple Choice Questions (Year 1)

Essays (Years 2 and 3)

Oral and written practical reports (Years 1 and 2) Summer course (laboratory or field) reports (Year 2)

Exercises in data analysis and interpretation (DAI), (Years 2 and 3)

Unseen written exams: short answer, essay (Years 1 and 2) and questions involving DAI (Years 2 and 3)

The individual Year 3 research project, covering a range of A2 to A7 (depending on project topic) tests understanding in depth and is assessed by an individual written report and an oral presentation.

Team oral and individual written presentations in the Issues module (Year 3) are used to assess A7.

B: Intellectual and cognitive skills

B1: Retrieve, select and collate appropriate biological information

B2: Evaluate primary and secondary evidence and arguments

B3: Analyse and interpret quantitative information in graphs, figures, tables and equations and use appropriate statistical tests

B4: Integrate and link information across course components, including material met in different years, from different disciplines and covering different scales of organisation.

B5: Plan and conduct a research task (including logistics, risk assessment and ethical approval where appropriate)

B6: Present data correctly, choose and apply an appropriate statistical test and interpret the output

Learning methods

Setting of directed learning topics (Years 1 and 2) develops skills in B1, B2 and B4.

B1 and B2 are partly covered by training in exam essay writing in Year 1 tutorials and further developed by coursework essays (Years 2 and 3).

B2 and B3 are taught by specific inclusion of data analysis in lectures and classes in Years 2 and 3 and through progressive development of DAI coursework in Years 2 and 3.

B1 to B3 and in some cases B4, are developed through analyses and presentation of results of practical work in Years 1 to 3.

B4 is achieved by progressive subject development through the 3 years; the summer course (laboratory or field) and the "Issues" course in Year 3.

B5 is taught via team project work in the summer course (laboratory or field) in Year 2 and the Year 3 individual research project module.

B6 is taught in Year 1 LSKS module and developed throughout the degree via practical coursework (Years 1 and 2) and in the final year research project.

Assessment methods

B1, B2 and B4 are assessed by coursework and exam essays (Years 1 to 3).

B2 and B3 are assessed by coursework and compulsory exam DAI questions (Years 2 and 3), practical reports (Years 1 and 2), summer course (laboratory or field) reports (Year 2) and the research project report (Year 3).

B4 is assessed by integrative exam questions and coursework in the Issues/Field Course module in Year 3.

B1 to B5 are also assessed in the Year 3 individual research project.

B6 is assessed in Year 1 & 2 practicals and Year 1 LSKS module, and in the Year 3 research project.

C: Practical skills

C1: Able to carry out basic experiments in the laboratory and the field safely and effectively following a written schedul

C2: Use appropriate laboratory equipment safely and efficiently

C3: Able to explain the principles and limitations of a range of more advanced practical techniques

C4: Use appropriate techniques to study diversity at different levels (e.g. identification of species using hierarchical keys and sequence databases)

C5: Able to use appropriate software packages for simulations, modelling, statistical analysis, etc.

Learning methods

Skills C1 to C3 are taught in supervised practicals in Years 1 and 2, and one week long summer course (laboratory or field) in Year 2.
Lectures in Years 1 to 3 teach aspects of C1 and C3.

Independent project work in research laboratories or in the field in Year 3 also teaches and develops C1 to C3.

As part of C1 to C3, safety and ethical issues are addressed through practical documentation (Years 1 and 2) and developed by students preparing risk assessments and ethical permissions and consents where appropriate for Year 3 research projects.

C5 is addressed through IT and statistics training in Year 1, and the use of more specialised software is taught or developed in practicals, the summer course (laboratory or field) in Year 2 and the project in Year 3

Assessment methods

C1 is assessed through Year 1 practicals, Year 2 summer course (laboratory or field) and the Year 3 research project.

C2 is assessed in some Year 1 and 2 practicals.

C3 is assessed in many practicals in Years 1 and 2 and in theory exams in Year 1 to 3.

C4 is assessed in the summer course (laboratory or field) and practicals in Year 2.

C5 is assessed in several Year 2 practicals, the skills module and in the final year Research Project module.

D: Key skills

D1: Able to write clearly in: a) logically argued essays; b) longer reports, including basic scientific papers; c) a variety of other pieces of work for different target audiences; d) e-communications, in particular email. Plan, write and give oral presentations

D2: (i) Use of current networked PC operating systems for normal file management, (ii) Use a current common word-processing, spreadsheet, web browsing and email packages, (iii) Ability to locate and use on-line catalogues and databases

D3: (i) Use appropriate precision, scales, units, scientific notation, ratios, fractions, percentages, powers of 10, logarithms and exponentials. (ii) Use simple algebra and trigonometry. (iii) Use approximations for mental arithmetic estimation and verification.

D4: Explore, analyse and find effective solutions for problems involving moderately complex information.

D5: Work effectively as part of a team to collect data and/or to produce reports and presentations

D6: Study independently, set realistic targets, plan work and time to meet targets within deadlines. Reflect on assessed work, feedback, and progress; Plan, record and document personal development

Learning methods

Assessment methods

Written skills (D1) are assessed through essays in coursework and exams (Years 1 to 3), in practical reports (Years 1 and 2), in the Issues module and the research project report (Year 3).
Oral presentation skills (D1) are assessed in the Year 2 summer course (field) and in some practicals, in Year 3 Issues Module and in the Year 3 Research Project module.

IT and Maths skills (D2 and D3) are assessed through worksheets and exams in Year 1.

Thereafter, practical work, coursework and exam questions throughout the degree course assess numerical skills.

Most coursework from year 2 onwards has to be prepared by computer and submitted on-line.

Problem solving (D4) is assessed in some of the Year 2 practicals, in the Year 3 Issues Module, in DAI questions in Years 2 and 3 exams and in the final year research project.

D5 is assessed through team presentations in some Year 2 practical work and in the Issues module.

D6 is assessed indirectly by examining directed learning material (Years 1 and 2), by awarding marks for evidence of additional reading and by imposing strict deadlines for coursework assignments.

D6 PDP is assessed in year 1 LSKS through the development of a cv and e-portfolio, and is developed in Year 2 Skills module.

The planning component of D6 is assessed in the Year 3 Research Project module.


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