Applying to Read Earth Sciences

Third year field trip on Santorini

The Courses

3-year (UCAS Code F642)

4-Year (UCAS Code F644)

We offer two degrees: a three-year Bachelors degree (BA in Geology) and a four-year Masters degree (M Earth Sci.) For the first three years the two courses are identical. The Fourth Year allows students the option of deepening their training through a choice of higher-level specializations and by carrying out a research project, which runs throughout the year.

We find that most of our students are very strongly motivated towards the fourth year of the course so we advise that, if you are in doubt about whether to apply for the 3-year course or the 4-year course, you should apply for the 4-year course. It is a simple matter to change from the 4-year course to the 3-year course should you decide to do so, whereas changing from the shorter course to the longer course can sometimes be difficult.

Detailed information about the Undergraduate Courses can be found in the Undergraduate Course section

Application Procedure

Your application should be made on the standard UCAS form, on which you need to specify either the 3-Year course in Geology or the 4-Year M. Earth Sci. course (see above). The form also allows you to state your preferred college, but if you have no  preference you will be allocated a college during the admission process.  Colleges currently accepting undergraduate Earth Science students are  ExeterSt Anne's, St. Edmund Hall, St Hugh's, St. Peter's, University and Worcester.

For further information please see the University Undergraduate Admissions pages.


In this section we refer to qualifications in terms of the AS and A2 levels, but our remarks refer equally to equivalent levels of qualification in other examination systems. Your application will be equally welcome if you are aiming towards other qualifications, such as the International or European Baccalaureate or Scottish Highers.

We require all candidates to be studying (to A2 level or equivalent):

• Mathematics
• EITHER Chemistry OR Physics

This provides the best preparation for the course, and will form part of any offer of a place.

The most highly recommended additional A2 subjects for Earth Sciences are:

• Chemistry
• Physics
• Biology
• Further Mathematics
• Geology/Geography

Additional AS or A2 level qualifications in any of these subjects are very helpful.

Personal Qualities

Students are selected on the basis of ability and potential in the following areas:

Academic ability and potential

  • Reasoning ability; aptitude for analysing and solving problems using logical and critical approaches
  • Mathematical ability and potential
  • Independence and creativity of thought, lateral thinking and hypothesis generation
  • Capacity to absorb and use new ideas; ability to apply familiar ideas to unfamiliar situations
  • Spirit of enquiry: keenness to understand the reasons for observations; depth; tendency to look for meaning; enthusiasm and curiosity in science
  • Observation: accurate, critical, quantitative
  • Appreciation of the field-based, laboratory and theoretical nature of the Earth Sciences

Interview Procedure

There are usually two interviews, each conducted by two interviewers, and these are held in Oxford in early to mid December. Candidates are accommodated in their college of first choice or, if you did not choose a college, you will be accommodated in one of the colleges that admit Earth Scientists. An interview is not an examination. As part of the interview process, candidates may be asked to comment on specimens of a geological nature, or to carry out simple calculations, but always with due recognition of their previous knowledge of, and experience in, the subject being discussed. There is no written test.


Successful pre-examination candidates are made conditional offers, which are usually A*AA or AAAA at A2 level, or carefully calibrated equivalents in other systems of examination. Post-qualification candidates may receive unconditional offers.

Deferred Entry

In principle, we welcome applications for deferred entry to our courses because we recognize the benefits that a gap year may bring. However, you should be aware that (particularly in a small subject like ours) allocating places for deferred entry makes a significant impact on the number of places available to candidates for the following year. In practice, therefore, offers for deferred entry are likely to be restricted, and some candidates for deferred entry may consequently be offered a non-deferred place instead. Unsuccessful applicants for deferred entry are, of course, welcome to re-apply during their gap year.


Applicants should note that students on the Geology or Earth Sciences undergraduate courses must be available outside of term time to attend compulsory field trips.

Students will require some safety and field equipment.  Basic safety equipment is provided to students by the Department, free of charge, at the start of their course, and other field equipment is offered to students at cost price.

A video of a fieldtrip to Santorini can be found here.

A video of a mapping trip can be found here.

Enquiries and Open Days

If you have further questions about applying, you can get in touch with us or read the complete undergraduate prospectus. Please try to come to our Science Open Days (which are held in late June or early July each year). The Open Days are well worth visiting because they let you see what goes on in the Department and allow you talk to staff, students and other visitors.

The Department and University Science Open Days in 2014 will be held on 2nd and 3rd July and  on 19th September, 10am-4pm.  There is no need to book to visit the Department on these days but other college events may require booking.  The University provides further information on the web at:

If you have any queries, please contact:

Academic Administrative Assistant

Department of Earth Sciences
South Parks Road
Oxford OX1 3AN
0044 (0)1865 272040