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Chemistry with a Preliminary Year (BSc)

Entry year

Chemistry is a fundamental and exciting discipline, and one that plays a significant role in many areas of science and in everyday life.

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Close up of test tubes

Course overview

This BSc degree is designed to give you a broad education in chemistry and, in addition, to supply you with a wide range of research, mathematical and computational skills, with practical training an essential element. 

This four-year course is designed for students who are unable to meet the requirements for admission to year one of the BSc Chemistry course, providing the academic background needed for a science degree.  Upon completion of the preliminary year, you will automatically progress into year one of the BSc Chemistry degree programme.

The programme has been accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry, and is suitable not only for students who want to progress to a career in chemistry or related disciplines, but also those who wish to use the framework of knowledge and skills obtained in a wider context, such as in business or administration. 

Distinctive features

  • This course is accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • There are opportunities for students who are interested in a placement abroad or in industry to transfer to the BSc Chemistry with a Year in Industry, the BSc Chemistry with a Placement Year Abroad, the MChem with a Year in Industry, or the MChem with a Placement Year Abroad courses.
  • There are a variety of opportunities to undertake summer research projects in Cardiff under academic staff supervision.


UCAS codeF105
Next intakeSeptember 2020
Duration4 years
ModeFull time
Typical places availablePlease contact the School for information.
Typical applications receivedPlease contact the School for information.

Gain a foundation in the fundamentals of chemistry and academic skills before going on to the BSc Chemistry.

Entry requirements

DDD excluding Chemistry at Grade C. Please note that General Studies is not accepted for entry.

Extended Project Qualification: Applicants with grade A in the EPQ will typically receive an offer one grade lower than the standard A level offer. Please note that any subject specific requirements must still be met.

The Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate will be accepted in lieu of one A-Level (at the grades listed above), excluding any specified subjects.

PPP. All BTEC subjects are considered.

26 points excluding Chemistry Higher Level grade 4. 

Alternative qualifications may be accepted. For further information on entry requirements, see the School of Chemistry admissions criteria pages.


Grade C or grade 4 in GCSE English Language.

IELTS (academic)

At least 6.5 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in each subskill.


At least 90 overall with minimum scores of 17 for writing, 17 for listening, 18 for reading and 20 for speaking.

PTE Academic

At least 62 overall with a minimum of 51 in all communicative skills.

Trinity ISE II/III

II: at least two Distinctions and two Merits.
III: at least a Pass in all components.

Other accepted qualifications

Please visit our English Language requirements page for more information on our other accepted language qualifications.

GCSE Maths grade C/4. GCSE English Language grade C/4 or an accepted English Language equivalent

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2020/21)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Students from outside the EU (2020/21)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Additional costs

The School covers the cost of everything that is an essential part of the programme, this will be clearly detailed in all programme information and in any verbal instructions given by tutors. You may be required to cover additional costs that are either not essential or are basic costs that a student should be expected to cover themselves. This includes but is not limited to laptop computers, calculators, general stationery, text books (assumed to be available in the library), and basic copying/ printing.

Course specific equipment

You do not need any specific equipment. At enrolment we will provide you with a lab coat, a pair of safety glasses, a laboratory notebook and a molecular modelling kit. Chemical drawing software ChemDraw is available on all University computers, and you will be able to download it to your own computers for free.


We have a range of residences to suit your needs and budget. Find out more on our accommodation pages.

Course structure

We are currently working with our students to update and improve the content of this course. The information shown below reflects the current curriculum and is likely to change. The review of the course is expected to be completed by August 2020 and this page will be updated by end of October 2020 to reflect the changes.

The BSc with a Preliminary Year is a four-year course.  Most compulsory modules in years one and two are worth 20 credits, run over the whole academic year, and incorporate both lectures and practical work.  Optional modules are usually worth 10 credits and last a single semester. 
In year one you will take compulsory chemistry modules worth 90 credits, and optional modules worth 30 credits, which may be in chemistry or any other subject.  If you do not have A-level mathematics, you will be required to take a ‘Mathematical Methods’ module. After the preliminary year, all our chemistry degrees share a common first and second year.

Transfer to the BSc Chemistry or BSc Chemistry with a Placement Year Abroad course is possible at the end of year one or two. Transferring to a MChem course is also an option at this stage, if you have achieved an adequate average grade in the preceding year.

In year three practical work constitutes a separate module, taken in the autumn semester.  This is followed by a research project in the spring semester.  You will also take a compulsory theory module in each branch of the subject in the autumn semester and choose from a range of optional modules in the spring semester.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.

Preliminary year

The preliminary year course includes modules in biosciences, chemistry and maths. Your modules will depend on your academic background and discussions with staff at enrolment.

Year one

In year one we aim to stimulate your interest in the subject, while giving you a solid knowledge base to build upon in the following years. Our core chemistry modules are based around five principal subject areas (analytical inorganic, organic, physical and solid state chemistry), and include coverage of key skills for chemists. These are complemented by a range of optional modules, allowing you to exercise choice over your studies and extend your breadth of experience. You can also take optional modules in disciplines such as biological sciences, physics or modern languages.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Forensic ChemistryCH211210 credits
Chemistry of the CosmosCH211510 credits
Mathematical Methods for ChemistryCH211610 credits
Environmental ChemistryCH211710 credits
Energy Resources and MaterialsCH211810 credits
Communicating ChemistryCH312010 credits

Year two

In year two you will take more advanced compulsory modules that enable you to practise and consolidate new skills through application to a wide range of problems.

If you achieve at least 55% overall in year two, you have the opportunity to transfer to a MChem course before the start of year three. If an industry placement is attractive to you, you need to register your interest by the start of year two, and transfer to the BSc Chemistry with a Year in Industry course by the start of year three.

Year three

In year three a substantial research project is undertaken in the spring semester. You will take a compulsory theory module in four branches of the subject and select from a range of options.

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.
Chemistry student in laboratory
Lectures are supplemented with practical work in our well-equipped laboratory facilities.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

We provide an exceptional environment for chemical education and our undergraduate degrees reflect our research strengths, with final-year projects fully integrated in research groups. Your course of study has been carefully designed to enable you to realise your maximum potential. We aim to deliver expert teaching, state of the art laboratory facilities, and comprehensive pastoral care.

Teaching is undertaken through a series of lectures, tutorials, workshops and practical classes. All of these are supported by material hosted on our intranet system, Learning Central.


The major element of staff teaching is through lectures, typically 10-12 per week of 50 minutes duration. Subject matter is supported in various ways depending on the topic. This can include slides, computer presentations, overhead transparencies, handouts and course summaries.

Laboratory work

The second part of teaching involves practical classes, again typically averaging about 10-12 hours each week. In year one the emphasis is on basic techniques and simple but accurate recording of observations. Skills are taught by practical demonstrations and supported by a range of e-learning resources freely available and readily accessible to all students.

Self-testing offers insight into different practical techniques, and the chance to correct mistakes before attending laboratory sessions. Electronic resources help you understand theory and practical application of spectroscopic techniques.

Laboratory work progresses towards substantial experiments that need careful planning, analysis and interpretation of results, as well as professional standard reporting. Practical work is integrated into each core module in the first two years, providing experience in all the main laboratory procedures and techniques. Training is designed progressively to extend your level of proficiency in practical chemistry, preparing you to undertake an independent research project at the end of your degree.

Small-group teaching

Small group tutorial classes are given in all years, allowing practice, discussion and analysis of the lecture material, as well as the development of communication skills. Sessions are delivered by three allocated staff members, one specialist in each of the areas of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry. The same three tutors usually remain assigned to each group throughout your degree. One will also be designated as your personal tutor, but all staff operate an open door policy, meaning you can always approach staff with issues, academic or otherwise.

Research project

All our Chemistry courses have a major element of independent, supervised research. In the final year of the BSc course you will join a research group working in your preferred area of chemistry, and be allocated a topic to investigate. Working under the guidance of an internationally recognised expert in the field, you will present results of your work orally and in writing. In the past, this has led to undergraduates co-authoring published papers.

How will I be supported?

Every student has three academic tutors, one of whom also acts as your personal tutor. You will see one of your tutors each week, either as part of a small tutorial group or on a one-to-one basis in a personal tutorial.  All staff operate an open-door policy, meaning you can always approach staff with issues, academic or otherwise. 

You will be given access to a comprehensive handbook appropriate to your year of study, containing details of the School’s procedures and policies.

We make extensive use of the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (Learning Central) to share information.  Marks for in-course assessment will usually be available via Learning Central within three weeks of the deadline.


You will receive regular oral and written feedback on your progress throughout the course. Feedback is usually given on coursework such as practical scripts, workshops and tutorials. You will also have the opportunity to discuss your results and feedback with your tutor in more depth at weekly tutorials and regular personal tutorials.

How will I be assessed?

Formative and summative assessments are carried out during each year of study. This gives a measure of performance to inform you, us as staff and potential employers about your progress and achievement. It can also help the learning process by highlighting areas of success and areas needing more attention. Assessment for the BSc degree involves methods which are selected to suit the particular outcomes of each module and the course as a whole. These methods include the following.

  • Formal examinations with fixed time-limits
  • Class tests
  • Reports on laboratory work
  • Planning, conduct and reporting of project work
  • Essays
  • Problem-solving exercises (as workshop assignments)
  • Oral presentations
  • Preparation and display of posters

What skills will I practise and develop?


Knowledge and Understanding

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate systematic knowledge and a critical comprehensive understanding of essential facts, concepts, principles and theories relating to the subject area of chemistry. Specifically,

  • Chemical terminology, nomenclature, conventions and units.
  • The structural and stereochemical features of chemical elements and their compounds, including conformational analysis.
  • The characteristic properties and behaviour of elements and their compounds including group relationships and trends within the Periodic Table.
  • The principles and procedures used in chemical analysis and the characterisation of chemical compounds, including the application of spectroscopies to the determination of structure and properties of chemical entities.
  • The properties of the different states of matter and the theories used to describe them, and the relation between bulk properties and the properties of individual atoms, molecules and functional groups, including macromolecules.
  • The role of energy changes in chemical systems, including knowledge of the laws of thermodynamics and the ability to use quantitative methods to account for energy changes in chemical systems.
  • The factors that affect the rate of chemical change, the way in which they influence the rate and the use of mechanistic understanding to explain the course of chemical reactions.
  • The basic principles of quantum mechanics and their application to the description of the structure and properties of atoms and molecules, and an understanding of the theories of bonding and their applications.
  • The major types of chemical reaction and the main characteristics associated with them.
  • The properties and reactions of inorganic, organic, organometallic and coordination compounds.
  • Major pathways in synthetic chemistry, including functional group interconversions and bond formation, and the idea of retro-synthetic analysis.
  • The structures and chemical reactivity of the principal classes of biomolecule.
  • Awareness of major issues at the frontiers of chemical research.
  • Mathematical knowledge in basic algebra and calculus and numerical manipulation appropriate for the analysis and evaluation of chemical problems.

Intellectual Skills

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:

  • apply knowledge and understanding of the subject areas identified above to the solution of qualitative and quantitative problems of a familiar and unfamiliar nature.
  • recognise and analyse novel problems and strategies, criticise techniques applicable to their own advanced scholarship, and plan strategies for their solution.

Professional Practical Skills

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:

  • handle chemical materials safely, taking account of physical and chemical properties, assessing risk for experimental procedures and chemical substances and reporting specific hazards associated with their use.
  • carry out standard laboratory procedures for preparation, purification, and analysis of a range of substances, and use appropriate instrumental techniques for their study.
  • operate standard and advanced chemical instruments, such as those used for structural investigation and separation.
  • monitor chemical properties or changes, by observation and measurement, and record, in a systematic and reliable fashion, documentation relating to these events in a manner appropriate for a professional chemist working in an academic or industrial situation.
  • research, review, plan, design and execute practical investigations, select appropriate procedures from literature and knowledge, and proceed from the problem-recognition stage through to the evaluation and critical appraisal of results with subsequent suggestion of approaches to address shortfalls in current findings.
  • interpret data derived from laboratory observations and measurements in terms of their current significance and the theory underlying them, to assess their significance and place in context.
  • plan, recognise and implement good measurement science and practice across a wide range of chemistry.
  • present scientific material and arguments clearly and correctly, in writing and orally, to a range of audiences including peer-reviewed chemistry journals, research seminars and colloquia.
  • demonstrate computational, data-processing skills and electronic searching skills, relating to chemical information, data and the primary literature.
  • work effectively as part of a team in the UK and overseas.

Transferrable/Key Skills

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:

  • communicate orally and in writing.
  • evaluate, interpret, manipulate and synthesise chemical information and data.
  • apply information technology such as word processing, spreadsheets, data-logging and storage, web communication and chemical drawing packages.
  • interact with other people and engage in team-working
  • plan and implement projects working towards a goal relevant to current chemical understanding and/or industrial targets.
  • independently identify and undertake study needed for continuing professional development.

In years one and two you will take compulsory ‘key skills’ modules, during which you will learn and practise the above skills.  You also receive training in CV writing, completing application forms, and interview techniques, delivered in collaboration with the Careers Service.

If you achieve at least 55% overall in year two, you will have the chance to transfer to an MChem course before the start of year three.

If an industry placement is attractive to you, you will need to register your interest by the start of year two, and transfer to the BSc Chemistry with a Year in Industry course by the start of year three.  Application advice and guidance is given throughout that year.  Placements are competitive, but generally available nationwide across all branches of the chemical, pharmaceutical and manufacturing industry.

There are also often opportunities to undertake summer research projects in Cardiff, under academic staff supervision.

Group of students working in laboratory
We encourage group working during our laboratory practicals.

Careers and placements

Career prospects

Graduate chemists have an array of career options. Many join the chemical industry, while others enter academia or government establishments. A number of graduates use the logical and practical training they have gained to enter marketing, sales, management or finance.

Scientific journalism, publishing and teaching are all realistic potential destinations. Equally, the specific skills gained in laboratories can provide a stepping stone to roles in the manufacturing industry.         

In 2016/17 95% of the School’s graduates were in employment or further study within six months of graduation, Employers of BSc graduates included Hichrom Ltd, Johnson Matthey, Patent Seekers and Price Bailey LLP.

Career destinations included product development chemist, technical graduate, patent analyst, trainee accountant and quality control scientist.


  • Healthcare Assistant
  • Trainee Chemistry Teacher
  • Health and Safety Assistant
  • Trainee Accountant


Students who are interested in a placement abroad or in industry may request a transfer to the BSc Chemistry with a Year in Industry, BSc Chemistry with a Placement Year Abroad, MChem Chemistry with a Year in Industry, or MChem Chemistry with a Placement Year Abroad course.


Next Undergraduate Open Day

Spring 2020




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