Undergraduate Course

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford

Third years.

Your attention is drawn to the Examination Conventions in the on-line Undergraduate Course Handbook and on the Departmental web page.  Since these are rather long, this is a brief resume of the most important points, and answers the most frequent questions.

Part IB exams

The Part IB examinations in June consist of 6 general papers and 1 options paper.  You are expected to attempt 4 questions on each general paper and 3 questions on the options paper.  All the papers will be 3 hours, although the general papers will be set so that they can be done in 2.5 hours to give you time to reflect and check your answers.

Part IB counts 50% towards your degree: the options paper counts 8% and each of the six general papers is 7%.

You must achieve Honours at Part IB in order to continue into the fourth year.  This decision will be made on the basis of a weighted aggregate mark including Part IB, Part IA and a Practical mark, and the cut-off will typically be 40%.


Examiners use their academic judgement in marking.  They are not looking for a specific answer in a specific form, and may award marks for incorrect answers if they are reasonable.

Examiners will follow through answers: credit may be given for correct arguments based on an incorrect earlier answer.  The way this is dealt with is a matter of judgement and will depend on the gravity of the original error, e.g. how impossible the incorrect answer is.  Examiners do not award negative marks for poor answers.

Exam technique

Read the question carefully and answer the question set, not the one you would have liked.

You are strongly advised not to attempt more questions than required, your time is much better spent in checking and correcting your answers.  You can only get credit for the required number of questions.

Questions are generally set in such a way that if you get stuck on one part you can continue with the question.  You should be aiming to amass as many marks as possible, and it is foolish to give up on a question because you have got stuck on an early part, when you could complete the rest.

If a part is taking too much time, you should consider moving on and continue with other parts: if you have time at the end you can return to complete it.  Remember that you may answer questions in any order.

In Physical Chemistry the most common errors are unit errors.  Get into the habit of including units in all your calculations to avoid this.  Your answer is not correct without them.


To qualify for honours you must complete a minimum practical requirement (252 hours, or 216 hours if you have passed a Supplementary Subject) and the 3rd year IT practical.  A minimum of 180 hours is required in each of the three labs, and the remainder is a free choice.  These practicals may be completed in either the second or third years.

The practical mark will be assessed as a weighted average over all the practicals that contribute to the total.  Practical marks will be moderated to even out differences between labs, experiments and demonstrators.

Practicals submitted for marking beyond the 2 week deadline without good reason will be capped at 40%, and beyond 4 weeks will be awarded zero marks, although you will still be credited with the hours once the experiment is written up and signed off as satisfactory.  The deadlines are assessed over full term only, so vacations do not count.

Practical marks generally have a higher average than examinations and for most students boost your final score.  It is foolish to allow penalties to spoil this through lack of organisation.

General Physical Papers

The breakdown of topics between the two General Physical papers will be the same as in 2015, although the topics covered in the Miscellaneous question may be different.  No information about the breakdown of topics in the other General papers will be released.