Preliminary Examination in Biological Sciences


The subjects of the Preliminary Examination in Biological Sciences, the examination, the syllabus, and the number of papers shall be as prescribed by regulation from time to time by the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Board.


  • 1. The Biological Sciences Steering Committee shall publish the First Year Biology Handbook not later than the beginning of Michaelmas Full Term before the examination in the following Trinity Term. Further details of the papers, data handling course, and practical requirements shall be set out in that Handbook.

  • 2. Candidates will be required to offer three papers, each lasting three hours, as follows:

    • Paper 1: Organisms

    • Paper 2: Cells and Genes

    • Paper 3: Ecology and Evolution

  • 3. All candidates will be required to undertake a course of practical work, including laboratory exercises and the first year field course. Practical Class co-ordinators and the convenor for the field course shall make available to the chairman of the examiners records showing the extent to which each candidate has pursued an adequate course of practical work. The Examiners may request coursework from any candidate; such candidates will be named in a list posted one week before the day of the first written paper. Each notebook submitted shall be accompanied by a certificate signed by the candidate indicating that the notebook is the candidate’s own work. Failure to complete the coursework to the satisfaction of the Examiners, in the absence of appropriate documentary evidence, will normally constitute failure of the Preliminary Examination. Coursework cannot normally be retaken. Exceptionally a candidate who has failed the coursework may be permitted jointly by the Examiners and the candidate’s college to retake the entire academic year.

  • 4. Candidates shall be deemed to have passed the examination if they have satisfied the Examiners in all three papers detailed in clause 2, and in the practical work requirements as outlined in clause 3, either at a single examination, or at two examinations, as set out in clause 5.

  • 5. A candidate who fails in any one of the papers listed in clause 2 must re-sit that paper at one, and only one, subsequent examination. A candidate who fails two or more papers listed in clause 2 must re-sit all three papers at one, and only one, subsequent examination.

  • 6. The Examiners will not provide calculators, but will permit the use of any handheld calculator subject to the conditions set out under the heading ‘Use of calculators in examinations’ in the Regulations for the Conduct of University Examinations.