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Teaching and assessment


Our degree programmes are based on the course unit system creating a flexible yet coherent and structured approach to study. Each year, you take courses with a total of four units. Each course is worth either one or a half unit.

Teaching occurs over two terms, each with a ‘Reading Week’ in the middle. The summer term is reserved for examinations and field work teaching.

Year 1

In your first year, you’ll take four one-unit courses, spread over two terms. In total you’ll have about eight hours of lectures and 10 hours of practicals per week. In addition, you’re expected to undertake individual study associated with each of these course units.

Continuous assessment (based on essays and reports you write during the course) makes up around one quarter to one third of your course mark; the remainder is based on written examinations taken during the summer term. Although all four one-unit first year courses must be passed for entry into the second year, first year marks do not count towards your final degree classification.

Year 2

In your second year, courses become more specialised and class sizes smaller. Most are half-unit courses. While there is greater variety in the ways that they run, the collective time you spend in lectures and practicals is about the same as in your first year. Course marks are again typically made up of 25 per cent continuous assessment and 75 per cent from a summer term examination, and together they count for one third of your final degree mark.

Practical classes are a part of all first and almost all second year courses. In each class you undertake well-defined experiments that are integral to your courses. You’ll normally work in a pair. The practical classes are either laboratory-based or (in some organismal biology courses) comprise fieldwork with laboratory follow-ups. 

Our department houses state of the art equipment and local facilities for fieldwork are excellent, including habitats such as chalk grasslands, heaths and rivers. Second and third year students have the option to study Marine Biology courses at the University Marine Biology Station on the Clyde.

Year 3

In the third year, lecture courses are highly specialised and don’t have a practical-class component. Instead, practical training is provided in an individual research project that you undertake, in an area that interests you, under the supervision of an appropriate staff member. 

Over the course of the year, you’ll spend about 150 hours on lab or field work for your project: it is assessed on the basis of the written report and an oral presentation that you provide when the project is finished.  Marks from most lecture courses are 20 per cent by continuous assessment and 80 per cent by final examination.

Altogether, third year marks account for two-thirds of your final degree mark.

In addition to the formal teaching framework explained above, there is also a system of small group tuition throughout the three years you'll study here.

Personal support and small group teaching

A particular feature of our support for undergraduate students is the personal adviser system. This means you’ll be assigned a member of academic staff to act as your personal adviser and tutor when you start at Royal Holloway. Your adviser will see you on an individual basis to discuss academic issues, such as exam results and your choice of course options, as well as any other issues you wish to discuss. There is no formal limit to how much you may consult him or her. In addition, your adviser will provide small group teaching (around seven to eight students).

Small group tutorials

These tutorials reinforce the lecture and practical material, provide training in a range of transferable skills and guide you towards good practice in exams. All academics are available to answer subject-related questions – your individual contacts with them need not be restricted to your adviser – meaning you’ll always find support within the Department. Finally, your adviser can be a good source of reference letters after you graduate!

The College-wide support services are also open to you, helping you get the most out of your time here. The Health Centre, the Student Counselling Service, the Students Services Centre, Residential Support Assistants (part of the campus-wide Residential Support Team) and the Students’ Union offer practical, sympathetic support for your physical and social welfare. Find out more about the College's support services here.


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