Biology at Oxford has so many great aspects but it is the real breadth of the course that stands out for me. One week you can be reading about proteins and the next catching bugs in a field, and you can go from lectures on genes to behavioural experiments on chicks. Whichever part of biology it is that interests you, the course covers it. As well as covering a huge range of topics, the tutorial format of learning at Oxford means you really get a chance to understand things in depth and talk about them with people who are world experts in their field.
The first year course covers three major biological strands and each of these divides into further topics taught by a range of amazing lecturers. There’s Cells and Genes, Organisms and Ecology and these are supplemented by practical lab sessions where you get to dissect a whole range of animals and carry out more chemistry-based experiments. There are quite a few contact hours per week but the workload is definitely manageable and lots of the course is really fun and engaging. Plus there’s the famous field trip to Wales!
From first year and into second year there is also a statistics strand of the course which I haven’t enjoyed as much. Having said that, some people don’t mind it at all and it is incredibly useful when doing independent research later on.
My favourite parts of the course have come a little later on in second and into third year where we get more choice over the modules we take. Here you get a chance to specialise more into the areas of biology you find interesting (as well as keeping up the compulsory areas). The end of second year also offers more amazing field trips and there is also the major project that everyone does as part of their course. This is definitely hard work and takes a lot of time but it can be on whatever you want it to be and is an amazing opportunity to create and carry out independent research.
What’s also great about the course is how it is examined; there are exams at the end of second year, the main project, an extended essay and an oral presentation as well as finals to make up the final grade so there’s not one massive period of lots of pressure right at the end of the three years. This also allows you to choose three areas of interest to carry out coursework on which is a great way of personalising the course a bit more.
Before I applied I wish I had been told more about what the University is looking for. I spent the whole time I was making my application panicking about the fact that I didn’t have Chemistry A-level but actually found out it hasn’t been a problem at all and 2 essay subjects at A-level has made all the essays a lot easier.