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Subject Summary

The Department of Earth Sciences teaches two complementary courses which lead to Part II Earth Sciences. The courses are, however, independent and self-contained and each may be combined with other appropriate subjects in Part IB, such as Physics A, or biological subjects and also lead to Part II Earth Sciences. Part IA Earth Sciences is a pre-requisite for either IB EarthSciences course.

Earth Sciences A concentrates on the surface environments of the Earth - the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere - together with their geological products. It encompasses the fields of sedimentology, palaeontology, geophysics and oceanography. This course also covers tectonics on scales from lithospheric plates down to hand specimens, emphasising the processes that form and deform sedimentary basins. 

Practical work and map analysis are emphasised in both courses and there is a combined field course in the Easter Vacation, which is an essential part of both courses. 

Programme Specification

This course is taught by the Department of Earth Sciences.


This course aims to:

  1. investigate the processes - physical, biological, and chemical - that form and deform sedimentary rocks, as well as the geophysical aspects of plate tectonics;
  2. provide practical experience of the description of sedimentary rocks and fossils and their application to resolving climatic, depositional, and burial histories, as well as tectonic analysis;
  3. promote the development of field skills necessary for the independent mapping project to be undertaken by students carrying on to Part II;
  4. explore the regional geology of southwest England in lectures, practicals, and fieldwork.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students should have:

  1. developed skills relevant to field work to a level where independent mapping may be undertaken;
  2. recognised the links between the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere and how together they impact the sedimentary and climatic history of Earth;
  3. attained a reasonable working knowledge of the geology of the southwest of England;
  4. progressed from the more guided learning of NST Part IA Earth Sciences to the independent learning required of students carrying on to Part II Earth Sciences.

Teaching and learning methods

The course is taught through lectures, practical classes, supervisions, and field courses, including ten days in southwest England and nine days in Cumbria.


Assessment for this course is through:

  • two unseen written examinations, based on material from all teaching methods (for aims 1 and 4 and learning outcomes 1, 3 and 4);
  • two unseen practical examinations, based mainly on material from practical and field classes (for aims 2-4 and learning outcome 1).

Courses of Preparation

Essential: NST Part IA Earth Sciences.

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Website pages.