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Last modified: 22 May 2019 17:07

Course Overview

Eleven themes, critical to our understanding of the living world are explored in engaging lectures. Some topics explore evolutionary innovations, others the resilience of life. Throughout the course, we introduce the science that underpins current understanding of biology.

Practical sessions and activities develop your study and laboratory skills, and provide a foundation for a successful transition into university study.

Regular assignments, online tests, practical reports and reading assignments, structure your activities and help you progress through the course material.

Weekly guest lectures about current research helps you to see how basic biological concepts are applied to real world problems.


Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 1
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study Yes
  • Dr John Baird
  • Dr Clare Trinder

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)
  • Either Programme Level 1 or Programme Level 2

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?

Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

Course Aims

  • To engage and enthuse level one students with the study of biology.
  • To support students in the transition into university study by developing their ownership and independence over learning.
  • To promote the development of essential study skills and basic experimental and laboratory skills, including good practice in the use of a lab notebook.

Main Learning Outcomes

  • Be able to describe and evaluate the evidence for the mechanisms of life processes, and the interactions of structure and function at the organismal level.
  • Explain how evolutionary theory is relevant to biological sciences.
  • Recognise that our current understanding of biology is contested and provisional, set within a history of scientific exploration and experimentation, and a dynamic continuation of scientific advances.
  • Demonstrate competence in investigating, recording and analysing material in practical sessions.

Course Content

  • Attending a series of themed lectures that cover core content, some of the science or scientists that contributed to our understanding, and examples of current research related to the theme.
  • Reading and summarizing a set of chapters and papers related to the themes.
  • Completing formative online multiple choice tests that relate to the content of the lectures and practical sessions.
  • Passing a final exam based on multiple choice questions.
  • Maintaining a lab notebook to an appropriate standard and satisfactory completion of the write-ups associated with the practical sessions.
  • In addition, there is a non-compulsory Weekly Challenge which allows students to collect up to 3 extra marks to be added to their exam grade. The Weekly Challenge involves a range of activities such as general biological knowledge quizzes, testing writing skills and tracking down information.

Associated Costs

Course practicals require the use of a lab coat which can be purchased locally for £15

Further Information & Notes

3 x 1 hour lectures each week and 1 x 3 hour practical every fortnight

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 30 August 2024 for 1st half-session courses and 20 December 2024 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

1st Attempt

1 two-hour MCQ exam (60%) and in-course assessment (40%).  Coursework is composed of a lab notebook grade (5%),  two written summaries (5% each) and 5 practical assignments (5% each).  Each practical has a pre-lab test which is worth 20% of each practical assignment.


The resit for this course is similar to what is described above as the first attempt.  The grades from the components that were passed in the first attempt are carried forward and students have the opportunity to complete either a resit exam (an MCQ exam in similar format to the main exam) or to resubmit missing or failed coursework.

Formative Assessment

Online tests will help students assess how well they are learning the course material. Student performance will be monitored.


Students will receive regular written feedback on each lab report before the start of the next practical class. Students who are identified as having difficulty in correctly completing the formative online tests will be invited to meet members of the course team to identify difficulties and discuss solutions.

Course Learning Outcomes


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