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Subject Summary: Part II Earth Sciences

Part II Earth Sciences provides a rounded geological education either for students intending to complete their undergraduate training in three years or for those planning to continue to Part III Earth Sciences. 

Students completing their studies after three years qualify for the B.A. Degree. Graduating after three years is most suited to students wanting to pursue a career or further training outside Earth Sciences, whilst providing a fully accredited honours geology degree for entry to professional careers or further geological training. 

Most students use Part II Earth Sciences as a precursor to Part III Earth Sciences (fourth year) which offers a full geological education up to the active research level. The B.A. Degree is earned after passing Part II, and the M.Sci. (Master of Natural Sciences) degree after Part III. The four year route is intended for students planning a career, further training or research within Earth Sciences, or for students wanting the intellectual challenge of an advanced course in this field. 

Part II Earth Sciences will have taught cores on the scientific and technical fundamentals of the subject with associated research orientated seminar courses covering a wider spectrum of the subject. Fieldwork is an essential part of the course. 

Project work (a field mapping or equivalent project) is carried out in the Long Vacation preceding the Part II year and during the first term. 

There is no minimum class requirement for entry to Part II Earth Sciences.

Programme Specification: Part II Earth Sciences

This course is taught by the Department of Earth Sciences


  1. to develop a working understanding of advanced 'core' concepts in a number of areas of Earth Sciences
  2. to further develop appropriate practical, quantitative and interpretative skills;
  3. to allow the students to develop skills of data analysis, map production and interpretation and report writing through the completion of their independent mapping projects;
  4. to develop advanced IT skills including use of computer graphics and GIS packages and other computer-based data analysis programs;
  5. to become familiar with locating, reading and critically evaluating the high-level scientific literature by following up reading lists, using bibliographic search tools, and completing essays for supervisions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students should:

  1. have developed an advanced understanding of several specialised areas of geological science;
  2. be appropriately prepared either to continue to a more research-oriented fourth-year course in Earth Sciences (MSci), or to graduate as a geologist with a broad scientific training and an advanced understanding of a number of areas of Earth Sciences.

Teaching and learning methods

The course is taught through lectures and practical classes, field trips and supervisions, and through a program of seminars. Students develop their independent learning skills through their mapping project, and develop their communication skills through both report-writing and presentation of short seminars.


Assessment for this course is by:

  • unseen written examination: students sit three written papers (for aims 1 and 3-5 and learning outcomes 1-2);
  • unseen practical examinations, or continuously assessed practical tests (for aims 1-4 and learning outcomes 1-2);
  • submission of a report of a piece of independent project work (usually based on a field mapping exercise) (for aims 3-5 and learning outcomes 1-2);
  • an oral examination with an external examiner (for aims 2-5 and learning outcomes 1-2).

Courses of Preparation

Essential: NST Part IB Earth Sciences A and/or NST Part IB Earth Sciences B.

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Website pages.