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Subject Summary: Part IB Earth Sciences B

The Department of Earth Sciences teaches two complementary courses which lead to Part II EarthSciences. 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 Geological Sciences. Part IA Earth Sciences is a pre-requisite for either course. 

Earth Sciences B deals with the subsurface processes of the lithosphere and asthenosphere. It focuses on igneous and metamorphic processes and products, but includes the study of mineralogy and geochemistry relevant to the deep Earth and solar system. This course also includes the tectonics of mountain belts in relation to their thermal and chemical evolution and volcanic activity in a variety of tectonic settings. 

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: Part IB Earth Sciences B

This course is taught by the Department of Earth Sciences.


  1. to gain an understanding of the geophysical and geochemical processes in the Earth's interior, the evolution of the solar system, plate tectonics, mineral behaviour, melting, crystallisation and the deformation of rocks from igneous and metamorphic terrains;
  2. to introduce and build on key techniques in the study of the Earth's interior, such as optical mineralogy, petrography, mineral and rock phase equilibria, thermodynamics, structural analysis, and application of these to deciphering regional geological evolution of selected regions;
  3. to provide practical experience, in the laboratory and in the field, of these techniques and of the variety of materials making up the Earth's crust and mantle;
  4. to gain a strong foundation in the subject and to enable students to continue with more specialised courses in Part II.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students should have:

  1. acquired a broad understanding of the igneous, metamorphic, deformational and mineral-forming processes affecting the Earth and its materials, and of the approaches used to understand them;
  2. learnt to identify and diagnose a range of minerals, rocks and their textures and structures, and to analyse regional geological data;
  3. developed the skill of writing concise, well structured and clearly illustrated descriptions, and analysing problems related to these topics;
  4. acquired appropriate transferable skills, particularly problem solving, oral and written communication and teamwork (particularly in an outdoor field setting).

Teaching and learning methods

The course is taught through lectures, practical classes, supervisions, and residential field courses.


Assessment for this course is through:

  • two unseen written examinations, based on material from all teaching methods (for aims 1, 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.