Biological Sciences Preliminary Year and Professional Training Year (BSc)

Entry year


Choose to focus on a particular aspect of biology, such as organisms, ecology and environment, or opt to cover a wider range of topics.

Our Biological Sciences degree with Preliminary Year and Professional Training Year is a five-year course. The Preliminary Year covers key topics in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics and leads to a BSc in any of the subjects offered by the School of Biosciences. The purpose of the Preliminary Year is to provide students who don’t have a sufficient background in science with the basis of scientific knowledge to enable them to thrive in the year one curriculum and beyond.

Our Biological Sciences course provides the greatest possible choice and flexibility allowing you to choose modules across virtually the whole range of subjects on offer at that School.  You can tailor the degree to your own interests as they develop, choosing to focus on a particular aspect of biology, such as organisms, ecology or the environment, or opting to study a wider range of topics.

We offer a wide choice of subjects across the biological, biomedical, biochemical, and biomolecular sciences including: animal and plant biology; microbiology; genetics; systems biology; ecology; disease; behaviour; neuroscience; cell biology and evolution. We also run a range of impressive field courses both within the UK and overseas.

Your third year is spent on a professional work placement related to your degree. Experience shows that this greatly enhances your subsequent employment prospects.

Although you may join the School on the BSc Biological Sciences programme, your degree title remains flexible up until Year 3.  You can choose to stcik with your original degree registration, or switch to another of our bioscience courses.  You can also choose to graduate with a more specialist degree title, including BSc Biological Sciences (Genetics) and BSc Biological Sciences (Zoology).

Your final degree title will depend on module selection in years two and three, and your Personal Tutor will guide you through the options available to you.  You may also have the option of switching to the four year MBiol integrated Master's degree (subject to academic progress and space availability).

This course will enable you to increase your scientific understanding, as well as developing both your academic skills (critical appraisal, evaluation and analysis of data) and practical, presentation and written skills.  Ultimately, we aim to produce graduates who are employable, well-informed, versatile and enthusiastic ambassadors for science.

The knowledge and skills that you develop during your Biological Sciences degree will make you employable in a broad range of biological careers including research, healthcare, publishing and teaching.  The skills acquired on the course are also an excellent grounding for many other career paths outside of science.  Alternatively you may wish to further your studies by pursuing a Master's degree or PhD.

Distinctive features

Our degrees are closely linked to the research interests of our staff, allowing you to experience the excitement of learning in an active research environment. We attract substantial external research funding and this will enable you to make use of the latest equipment, techniques and facilities in your project work. The School also maintains a permanently staffed Field Station in Borneo, as well as leading the University’s Sustainable Places and Water Research Institutes, allowing access to a wide range of exciting training opportunities.

Our degree programme offers a high degree of flexibility giving you the freedom to shape your academic experience. You can choose to specialise in a particular area or to maintain a wide breadth of learning and explore the interdisciplinary research that underpins much of the School’s success. 

"I found my Professional Training Year at the Institute of Zoology to be incredibly valuable. I was fortunate enough to be part of an active research project that placed me alongside world leading scientists. I gained vital experience in a range of research methods and in publishing peer-reviewed scientific articles, and it was a very rewarding experience to be able to apply what I had learnt throughout my degree and PTY to make a contribution to the scientific literature in a burgeoning field. My PTY has  greatly encouraged me to complete a PhD and pursue a career in science."  Owen Wright – Zoology

Key facts

UCAS CodeC103
Next intakeSeptember 2018
Duration5 years
ModeFull time with sandwich year
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 415 places available.
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 2500 applications.
Admissions tutor(s)

Entry requirements

Typical A level offerAAB - ABB. If you are studying a science A level, a pass in the practical element (where applicable) will be required. Please note, General Studies will not be accepted. 
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerThe Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate will be accepted in lieu of one A-Level (at the grades listed above), excluding any specified subjects.
Typical International Baccalaureate offer34 points.
Alternative qualificationsAlternative qualifications may be accepted. For further information on entry requirements, see the School of Biosciences admissions criteria pages.
English Language requirementsIf you are an overseas applicant and your first language is not English, please visit our English Language requirements page for more information on our accepted qualifications.
Other requirementsYou will require GCSE Maths or Numeracy at grade C or grade 4 and GCSE English or Welsh Language at grade C or grade 4.

This BSc course is full-time over five academic years. It begins with the Preliminary Year which covers key topics in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics, and will underpin future studies.

Year one is made up of six 20-credit modules, with three 40-credit modules taught in year two. Year three is spent on a professional placement and, in the final year, the research project carries 30 credits and is accompanied by three 30-credit modules.

Year one modules involve lectures and supporting tutorials providing background theoretical knowledge, as well as practical classes. All of our degree schemes share a common year one, which covers all aspects of the biosciences and has the big advantage of giving you flexibility of degree choice. Classes provide students with IT skills for biologists and an understanding of statistical analysis of data, and coursework is used to develop written and oral communication skills.

In year two, extensive laboratory practicals help to develop practical skills and the ability to critically evaluate experimental data. Set assignments and reading are used to promote self-directed learning and the analysis of primary research literature.

The third year is spent on a work placement related to your degree. During this placement you will undertake all aspects of research, including experimental design, data acquisition and analysis and, finally, data presentation.

The final year requires much more independent study, and all students must produce a substantial research-based (laboratory, literature, pedagogic or scientific engagement) report.

Throughout the course we strive to offer as wide a choice as possible to allow you to tailor the degree to your study goals.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2018/19 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2018.

Preliminary year

Our Preliminary Year forms the first year of a five-year degree programme leading to a BSc in any of the subjects offered by the School of Biosciences. The purpose of the Preliminary Year is to provide students who don’t have a background in science with the basis of scientific knowledge that will enable them to thrive in the year one curriculum and beyond. It is aimed at AS/A-level students who have good grades but in subjects that are not suitable for year one entry, overseas students who do not hold science qualifications equivalent to the UK ‘A’ level, and mature students re-entering the education system.

The Preliminary Year covers key topics in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics with 20 credits of optional modules that may be taken from other Schools, the Centre for Professional Education and/or the School of Modern Languages.

Preliminary Year modules involve lectures and supporting tutorials providing background theoretical knowledge, as well as practical classes.  The course will also provide students with basic IT skills and an understanding of statistical analysis of data.  Coursework is used to develop writing and oral communication skills.

This course is not available for students who have taken appropriate AS/A-levels but not achieved the grades required for first year entry.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Medical Imaging and the Human BodyCE396810 credits
Disease in the Developing WorldCE419010 credits
Diseases and Disorders of the BrainCE519410 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits

Year one

The first year is a common year, covering all aspects of the biosciences. This reflects the increasingly multi-disciplinary nature of bioscience research, and has the added advantage of offering you flexibility of degree choice.

The modern, modular syllabus is delivered through lectures, tutorials, presentations, and practical classes carried out in spacious, well-equipped laboratories. It provides a firm foundation in all the biological disciplines, including biological chemistry, cell biology, microbiology, genetics, evolution, anatomy and physiology, animal and plant biology, and ecology, as well as focusing on developing practical and academic scientific skills. Modules may begin by overlapping with A-level studies, but will soon progress to greater depth and scope.


Module titleModule codeCredits
Skills for ScienceBI100120 credits
Structure and Function of Living OrganismsBI100220 credits
Organisms and EnvironmentBI100320 credits
The Dynamic CellBI100420 credits
Biological ChemistryBI101420 credits
Genetics and EvolutionBI105120 credits

Year two

The second year allows for more specialisation, and builds on the knowledge and practical skills gained in the first year. There will be a focus on data analysis and scientific communication, as well as advanced laboratory and field techniques. Understanding of experimental design, literature review, statistical analysis and critical analysis skills will act as a foundation for further study in year three.

In year two, you have a choice of 11 available modules, up to a total of 120 Credits, leaving you free to pursue particular areas of interest. Available module topics include, animal diversity and adaptation, genetics, cell biology, biochemistry and ecology and conservation.

Students on the ecology and conservation module will have the opportunity to undertake one of our project-based field courses, which run in a variety of locations both in the UK and abroad.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Animal Diversity and AdaptationBI213140 credits
Genetics and its ApplicationsBI213240 credits
Ecology and Conservation - Part ABI213330 credits
Ecology and Conservation - Part BBI213410 credits
Cell BiologyBI223140 credits
BiochemistryBI223240 credits
Developmental and Stem Cell BiologyBI223340 credits
Molecular Biology of the GeneBI223440 credits
PhysiologyBI233140 credits
Concepts of DiseaseBI233240 credits
Practical AnatomyBI233340 credits
Brain and BehaviourBI243140 credits
Fundamental NeuroscienceBI243240 credits

Year three: Sandwich year

The Professional Training Year (PTY) provides you with an opportunity to spend 9-12 months in an academic, clinical or industrial/commercial research laboratory, or other approved establishment, in order to gain first-hand research experience.

You will undertake different aspects of research, including experimental design, data acquisition and analysis and, finally, data presentation with the production of a project report and presentation.

Our Professional Training Year Coordinators will support you in finding a suitable position that is relevant to your career aspirations, and a tutor will keep in touch and visit you during your placement.

Many placements are in the UK, but we have also had several placements in other locations, particularly in Europe through the EU ‘ERASMUS’ scheme in which Cardiff is a partner, but also including Southeast Asia, South Africa, Germany, Italy and the USA.

Finding a placement is a competitive process and success cannot be guaranteed. However, we have always been successful in placing the vast majority of our Professional Training Year students.

A placement report, written by you, will count towards your final degree assessment.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Sandwich YearBI9999120 credits

Year four

Our final year curriculum enables you to specialise in more detail within one of the major research themes of the School. This approach immerses you in the research culture of the biosciences, by means of research-driven teaching and a final year project that allows you to investigate a topic in much greater depth.

Application of core knowledge to the solving of problems and critical evaluation of models, ideas and current debates is a primary focus of the final year. This stage of the course will involve an extensive degree of self-directed study in order to develop skills in independent work and lifelong learning, which will help to prepare you for the professional environment.

As well as a 30-credit research project, you will complete three 30-credit modules (from an almost free choice of 18, excluding advanced human anatomy). Modules cover a range of topics including evolution and adaptation, systems biology and modelling, plant science, biodiversity, synthetic biology, advanced cell biology, bioinformatics and functional genomics, and genes and genomes.

At the start of the final year, you have the option of applying to transfer to the MBiol course with integrated Master’s, depending on satisfactory academic progress and space availability.

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

We provide a student-centred educational experience based on academic excellence and informed by world-leading research, we seek to support every learner in an inclusive learning culture.

Core knowledge and understanding is acquired via lectures, practical classes or field work, research seminars, workshops and tutorials, whilst independent study, group work and project work help to promote advanced knowledge and understanding.

You will be expected to undertake independent study and increasing independence of learning is expected as the course progresses.

Selected elements of the course can be undertaken through the medium of Welsh and you can also request a Welsh-speaking Personal Tutor for pastoral and academic support if you wish.

Students with disabilities will be fully supported in co-ordination with the University’s Disability and Dyslexia Support Service.

How will I be supported?

All of our academic staff are experienced researchers in their respective fields and are passionate about sharing their knowledge and expertise with students.

The primary interaction with academic staff will be during lectures, laboratory practical sessions, workshops or small-group teaching sessions (tutorials). You will also be allocated a Personal Tutor who will provide pastoral support and academic advice throughout the course.

Lecturing staff are contactable in association with teaching sessions or by email, and operate either an ‘open door’ policy for students who have specific queries about course material, or a system of booking meeting times. Each degree also has a degree scheme co-ordinator who can advise on academic issues, whilst each year of study has a year co-ordinator who can advise on administrative issues related to the course. There is also a convenient Education Office with a friendly and experienced team who can answer most administrative queries.

Feedback on your study, work, and progress will take many forms, from formal written comments on submitted work to more informal conversations and advice during classes and practicals.  Throughout the course, we will provide detailed feedback on all assessed coursework. This is normally provided through a dedicated online system enabling you to conveniently access your feedback via a computer or tablet device. You will also have the opportunity to discuss your academic and personal development progress with your Personal Tutor, and to discuss examination essay papers in order to improve your performance. During practical work and the research project, you will receive regular feedback from the supervising academic.

How will I be assessed?

Preliminary, first and second year modules are normally assessed through a combination of coursework and examinations. Coursework assessments may take the form of written practical reports, structured reports, class tests, structured answer tests, group work, poster and oral presentations and computing/statistical problem-solving exercises.  Assessments may be summative and count towards the final module mark, or formative, helping you to learn and practice key skills and knowledge through feedback.  End of module examinations comprise a machine-marked structured answer section (assessing breadth of knowledge) and a written answer section (assessing depth of knowledge in specific topics).   

During the Professional Training Year you will produce a placement report, which will count towards your final degree assessment.

In the final year, taught modules are assessed by examination and extended analytical coursework. Your final year research project is assessed by a supervisor’s evaluation and a written report.

What skills will I practise and develop?

Throughout the course you will develop scientific competencies as well as key transferable skills that will be invaluable, whatever your future career choice. These include:

  • independent learning and self-directed study;
  • collating, organising and analysing information to create logical and persuasive arguments;
  • analytical thinking and problem solving;
  • communicating complex ideas in a clear, effective way (using all media);
  • working effectively in a team and as an individual;
  • IT competency, including presentation, graphics and statistics packages;
  • performing and interpreting statistical analyses of data;
  • effective time management and organisational skills.

As a result of engaging fully with this course, you should be able to:

  • critically analyse, synthesise and summarise information from a variety of sources;
  • discuss the relationships between structure/formation and function/regulation of molecules, organelles, cells, tissues, organisms and populations;
  • effectively communicate scientific, and other, information to a variety of audiences, including the general public, using a range of formats and approaches;
  • discuss current issues of research, investigation and/or debate;
  • synthesise an argument or point of view, based on solid data and evidence;
  • determine the validity and rigour of statistical outcomes;
  • build on knowledge and understanding of the role and impact of intellectual property (IP) within a research environment;
  • work effectively within a group-based environment, both as a leader and a member of a team;
  • demonstrate the skills necessary for independent lifelong learning (for example working independently, time management, organisational, enterprise and knowledge transfer skills);
  • identify, and work towards, targets for personal, academic, professional and career development;
  • demonstrate leadership and planning skills for setting, and meeting, achievable goals within the workplace.

In 2015/16, 92% of the School’s graduates who were available for work reported they were in employment and/or further study within six months of graduating. A significant proportion of our BSc Biological Sciences graduates go on to study PhD or Master’s degrees. Many others have successful careers in science-related fields such as research and development, conservation, environmental management, scientific research, medical or scientific publishing, agro-industry and wildlife management, amongst many others.

Our graduates also have many transferable skills that are attractive to a wide range of employers in more general areas of industry, commerce, public service, administration and management. Finally, a degree in the Biological Sciences can act as a stepping stone to further training in professional areas including teaching, medicine, dentistry, nursing, veterinary science or accounting.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2018/19)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

The University reserves the right to increase tuition fees in the second and subsequent years of a course as permitted by law or Welsh Government policy. Where applicable we will notify you of any change in tuition fee by the end of June in the academic year before the one in which the fee will increase.

Visit our tuition fee pages for the latest information.

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Students from outside the EU (2018/19)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

Tuition fees for international students are fixed for the majority of three year undergraduate courses. This means the price you pay in year one will be the same in years two and three. Some courses are exempt, including four and five year programmes and Medical and Dental courses. Visit our tuition fee pages for the latest information.

Costs for sandwich years

During a sandwich year (e.g. year in industry, placement year or year abroad) a lower fee will apply. Full details can be found on our fees pages.

Additional costs

Field courses which take place abroad incur an additional cost – primarily to cover student travel and accommodation. We strive to keep these to a minimum, for example we maintain our own Field Station and staff in Borneo, whose costs are not recovered from charges to students. We also offer some excellent Wales-based field courses which do not incur additional costs.

No additional charges are made for other aspects of tuition, although some services (such as student printing on demand) may incur a charge.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

No specific equipment is required. The University will provide IT facilities (in a communal space), laboratories equipped with specialist equipment, and all specialist software required for the course.

Students are advised to have a personal laptop computer or equivalent.

This course includes a Professional Training Year (PTY) which gives you the opportunity to spend a period of 9-12 months in an academic, clinical or industrial research laboratory, or other approved establishment, in order to gain first-hand research experience.

Many placements are in the UK, but we have also had several placements in other locations, particularly in Europe through the EU ‘ERASMUS’ scheme in which Cardiff is a partner, but also including Southeast Asia, South Africa, Germany, Italy and the USA.

Finding a placement is a competitive process and success cannot be guaranteed. The process will primarily be driven by you since most placements depend on application and selection by the partner company or organisation. However, we provide advice and support, as well as organising the ERASMUS scheme, and to date we have been successful in placing the vast majority of our PTY students.

Should a placement not be available, or should you change your mind, you can switch from the five year degree with PTY to a four year BSc degree. Alternatively, after the second year and subject to academic progress and space availability, you may apply to change to the integrated Master’s MBiol degree.

Direct experience of plants and animals in their natural habitats is an important part of modern biology.

At Cardiff we run an impressive range of field courses to give you essential hands-on experience of modern techniques and practical skills in field biology, such as brid-ringing, microbial analysis, small mammal trapping, pit fall trapping and surveying for bats.

In the second year, students on the Ecology and Conservation module can choose from several specialised, project-based courses that run in a variety of locations throughout the world.

Our field courses typically include Tropical Ecology (Borneo, Malaysia), Marine Ecology (Caribbean and Malaysia), Island Ecology (Wales), River Ecology (Wales) and Woodland Ecology (Wales).

Field courses can on occasion be affected by travel constraints, staff availability or numbers.

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