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Subject Summary: Part III Earth Sciences

There are three principal components to Part III Earth Sciences:

1) The research project. This is the centrepiece of the course, where you address a particular research question over the course of Michaelmas and Lent Term, and submit a report demonstrating your ability to generate new observations, data and ideas. Importantly, the success (and grading) of these projects is not measured in absolute results, but the approaches you take in pursuing them. Your project supervisor will be there for general guidance, but it is up to you to drive the work forward, and in the direction you think it should go. Therefore, it will be important that you do lots of reading, attend seminars and actively seek answers to any questions you have.

2) Option courses. The Michaelmas and Lent Term option courses are a further step up from Part II lectures, with an increasing focus on current research issues and debates. As such, the topics and content will vary from year to year, as will the structure of any particular course. At least 12 (usually more) four- or eight week option courses are offered each year, from which you will officially take six. Easter Term exams will be individually tailored to a particular option, but they all will be looking for an advanced near-research level of understanding. The key is to do lots of reading, arrange supervisions and ask lots of questions.

3) Seminars and the Easter field trip. The Department hosts a broad range of seminars and seminar series, and you should make it your business to attend as many as possible. This is the best way of tracking the very latest research in your areas of interest, and seeing how it gets done (and presented). The Departmental Seminars (Tuesdays at noon) and Bullard Seminars (Wednesdays at 4pm) are particularly recommended. A short Pt III seminar series at the beginning of Easter Term will address issues and research broadly connected to the Easter field trip. The trip itself – to SE Spain – is in some sense a revision of the whole Pt III course – and one of its highlights. As ever, you should be proactive in asking lots of questions, taking notes and read around the topics.


Programme Specification: Part III Earth Sciences

This course is taught by the Department of Earth Sciences primarily for those students intending to continue their academic studies at the post-graduate level.


  1. to expose advanced students to the breadth of the Earth Sciences through a combination of seminars, course work and field trips;
  2. to provide "state of the art" knowledge of specific areas in the Earth Sciences through a combination of seminars, course work, and faculty-supervised independent research;
  3. to develop the conceptual and practical skills necessary for independent research;
  4. to develop communication and presentation skills to an advanced level.

Teaching and learning methods

The course is taught via:

  1. an original, in-depth research project, supervised by one or more members of staff;
  2. weekly seminars, presented by both visiting and in-house Earth scientists;
  3. coursework and associated practical classes and library reading, organised into at least ten 'options' (of which students are required to take six); include interdisciplinary options hosted by Earth Sciences, Physics and Chemistry;
  4. small-group supervisions;
  5. direct experience in communicating results in the form of student seminars and a poster presentation of research project results.


Course performance is assessed on the basis of:

  • an independent, original, research project, conducted primarily over the course of the first term, but written up and submitted in the second term (for aims 1-4);
  • one unseen written examination of 3 hours based on Department seminars and fieldwork (for aims 1-4);
  • six unseen written examinations of 2 hours, covering aspects of the option courses (for aims 1-4);
  • at least one unseen practical examination, covering practical aspects of the option courses (for aims 1-3);
  • submission of a record of practical and field work during the year (for aims 1-4);
  • an oral examination with an external examiner (for aims 1-4).

Courses of Preparation

Essential: NST Part II Earth Sciences

The detailed entry requirements can be found at The Fourth Year - Part III.

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Websites pages.