Your questions

Some frequently asked questions are listed below. If you can't find the answer to your particular question here then please send an email to the Chemistry admissions team at sci-ug-admissions@bristol.ac.uk.

Your application

Can I come to visit the School of Chemistry before I apply?

Yes. The University of Bristol holds several Open Days each year when you will be able to look around not only the School of Chemistry, but also other parts of the University of Bristol, such as our Halls of Residence. There will be subject talks describing the structure of our degree programmes and a chance to meet members of academic staff and students. Places for these Open Days are limited, and it is necessary to book online in order to attend. You would, however, also be welcome to arrange an informal visit. Each week during the summer we hold tours of the department, giving you the chance to ask questions and find out more about the School of Chemistry and our degree programmes. You could also combine your visit with a tour of the University precinct. For an informal tour of the School of Chemistry or University precinct, please contact the School of Chemistry.

What do you look for in a personal statement?

We are looking for students who are not only academically very strong, but are also well motivated and who want to challenge themselves in order to expand their knowledge and understanding. Naturally, we will want to know about your interest and ability in Chemistry, but we are also interested in your enthusiasm for non-academic pursuits. Tell us about the aspects of Chemistry that interest you most. Which aspect of your Chemistry course do you enjoy most? Are you especially interested in the application of Chemistry in society, or are you most intrigued by fundamental theory? How much Chemistry or general science reading have you done beyond that required by your A level or IB course? Is there an experiment that you have really liked doing, or perhaps something that you have only seen as a demonstration but would like the chance to try for yourself? Have you attended a Chemistry summer school?  We’d also like to find out about your interests outside your studies. You may be a dedicated musician, a talented actor or excel at a particular sport. Alternatively, you may not have an aptitude for music, drama or sport, but just be enthusiastic and willing to give things a try. Tell us about them all.

Do you expect applicants to have performed work experience in the chemical industry?

We appreciate that many applicants will find it difficult to arrange work experience with a company in the scientific sector. Many organisations, especially those in the pharmaceutical sector, offer very valuable work-experience schemes, but there are only a limited number of places available and you will need to live near one of their sites. If you have managed to arrange a placement with such a company, then you should certainly mention it in your personal statement; we would be most interested to hear about what you did and what you learned. If you haven’t, and you have instead done some work experience in a different sector, then don’t worry. We don’t expect all our applicants to have secured a placement in the chemical sector. Any work experience will have helped you to develop valuable transferrable skills.

I am interested in all areas of science and am considering applying for degree subjects other than Chemistry. How do I write my personal statement?

We would want, and indeed encourage, you to be interested in all areas of science and it is therefore not surprising that some of our applicants also apply for subjects other than Chemistry. It is certainly difficult to break science up into discrete subject areas; Chemistry is often considered to be the central science because it has applications in so many other disciplines. This is one of the reasons why the first year of our Chemistry degree programmes allows you to study subjects other than Chemistry. We want you to develop a good grounding in all areas of science. Your personal statement should reflect your interests. The fact that you have also applied for degree programmes in related areas such as Natural Sciences, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Chemical Physics or Materials Science will not count against you. We do appreciate, however, that if you are also applying for Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Science, it can sometimes be difficult to write your personal statement. In these cases, we would advise focussing your application on these subjects and emailing us a separate personal statement to explain why you are also interested in Chemistry.

Do you accept applications from students with non-standard qualifications?

Yes. Although the majority of our applicants enter with A-level or International Baccalaureate qualifications, a significant number also enter through different routes.

Does it matter when I apply?

If you apply before the January UCAS deadline, then no. We hold post-offer visit days and make offers throughout the period from early December to late April and treat applications that we receive at the start of the admissions cycle in exactly the same way as those that we receive at the end. We are not usually able to consider any applications that we receive after the UCAS deadline. We receive a large number of applications and, out of fairness to those students who apply before the deadline, we make commitments of all of our offers to these applicants.

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Entry requirements

What are your typical entry-grade requirements?

These are listed in the undergraduate prospectus.

Do you make different levels of offer for your 3-year BSc and 4-year MSci programmes?

Yes, we usually make a slightly lower offer for our BSc programmes compared to our MSci programmes.  Details can be found in the undergraduate prospectus.

Do you require an A level or equivalent qualification in Maths?

Yes. We require all of our applicants to offer an A level in Maths. If you are taking International Baccalaureate, we would accept a Standard or Higher Level in Maths, but not Standard level Maths Studies. A good working knowledge of Maths is essential for any scientist. Studying Maths will help you to develop your problem-solving skills and make understanding many aspects of Chemistry much easier.

Do I need to have an A level or equivalent qualification in a language if I want to study or take up a work placement in Continental Europe?

Not necessarily, but we do prefer you to have an A level language qualification. Your language skills will have to be very good by the time you start your placement year working in Continental Europe and we have a range of language courses to suit students with different levels of language ability from beginners to post-A level.

Do you consider qualifications in all subjects?

We want students to have a strong background in science and require applicants to offer a Maths qualification alongside their Chemistry. However, we also appreciate the value of a broad education. We therefore usually make offers based on the grades that you achieve in your best three A levels. These may include any subjects, apart from General Studies or Critical Thinking.

Do you include General Studies or Critical Thinking qualifications in your conditional offer?

We do not usually make General Studies or Critical Thinking qualifications part of our conditional offer. These can be very valuable qualifications, but we know that not all schools and colleges are able to offer tuition to help you prepare for these exams. Rather than make these subjects part of the offer for some students and not for others, we think it fairer not to include them for anyone.

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Choosing your course

What is the difference between an MSci and MChem qualification?

Nothing! At Bristol, we call all of our 4-year integrated masters qualifications MSci. This avoids the need for separate MChem, MPhys etc. designations.

I am unsure about whether to apply for a 3-year BSc or 4-year MSci programme.

If you are interested in a career in science, then you should strongly consider following a 4-year MSci programme. This is the usual qualification for those who want to use their technical knowledge and skills in their future career, and most UK universities will normally require graduates to have a masters-level qualification for entry into their PhD programmes. If you enjoy chemistry but think that your career will lie elsewhere, then a BSc might be more appropriate.  If you are a BSc student then we may allow you to transfer to one of our MSci programmes at the end of the first year subject to your first-year performance.  If you have applied for BSc Chemistry and achieve grades that match or exceed the offer for our MSci programmes then we will allow you to transfer to any of our MSci programmes at the start of your studies.  

I can’t decide whether I want to spend a year studying abroad or working in industry. Can I transfer between different MSci Chemistry programmes?

Yes. We would not expect everyone to have a definite idea of exactly the degree programme they wish to follow when they apply. We start to make the arrangements for year-out placements during your second year, so as long as we know at this stage what you would like to do, transfer is relatively straightforward.  Guidance on the rules for transferring between programmes is available by clicking on the courses listed on the Undergraduate degree courses page.

Can I transfer between Chemistry and other degree programmes at Bristol?

Many of our students are interested in the applications of Chemistry in areas such as Chemical Physics or Physics. In some cases, providing you choose the right combination of first-year options, it is possible to transfer between programmes during your first year.

I’m interested in more than one Chemistry programme at Bristol. Do I need to put them all down on my UCAS form?

No. We consider applications for our different single-honours Chemistry programmes together. We do not have particular quotas for each of our programmes and an offer would be valid for any of them. There is therefore no need to put down more than one of our single-honours Chemistry programmes on your UCAS form. It would, however, help us to know if you also wish to be considered for one of our Chemical Physics programmes. These programmes are taught jointly with other departments and our admissions processes are different to those for our single-honours Chemistry programmes.

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Selecting students

How do you select students?

We obviously want to select the very best students. We want academically able students who are keen and well motivated and ready to rise to the challenge of studying at university. Our principal selection criteria are therefore academic, and we use predicted A-level or equivalent grades, as well as your reference and personal statement. We do also look for other qualities, however, and having non-academic interests and talents are also important.

Does it matter if I am from a state or an independent school?

No. We consider each application individually and on its own merits. We take lots of factors into account in deciding whether to make an offer and, when we do, what level of offer to make, but your type of school or college is not one of them. We are interested in you and your potential and not whether you went to a state or independent school.

Do you interview?

In general, we do not interview but we strongly encourage all of our offer holders to attend one of our post-offer visit days. An important part of the visit day involves having a chat with a member of academic staff.  This discussion provides you with an opportunity to ask us about anything that you might be unsure about.  It's also likely that the person you are chatting with will want to find out a little bit more about some of the things you have mentioned on your personal statement and/or talk about some of the chemistry that you have recently studied at school or college.  We hope that this informal chat will help to show you how committed we are to helping you understand the chemistry that you will be studying once you are here.  We do interview applicants who are applying with non-standard qualifications along with applicants who have a significant gap between the time when they took their qualifications and their proposed university entry date.

Do you consider GCSE and AS-level results in taking decisions on applications?

We know that GCSE and AS-level results are not necessarily perfect indicators of a student’s academic potential. Whilst good GCSE and AS-level results will do your application no harm, we are most interested in your level of academic achievement in your A levels.

How quickly will I hear from you?

We will aim to take an initial decision on your application within two weeks of receiving your UCAS form. At this stage, we will invite you to a post-offer visit day, asking you to book a place using our on-line booking system. Alternatively, we may register your application as unsuccessful with UCAS.

For a small number of applications we may delay making a final decision until later in the cycle. We do this in order to ensure that we treat all applications in the same way, no matter when we receive them. We can never be sure at the start of an admissions cycle quite how many applications we will receive, yet we have a limit on the number of offers that we can make and students that we can admit. We shall, however, let you know at this stage that we are retaining your application and keep you informed of when you will receive a decision.

We find that the quickest and most effective way of communicating with applicants is usually by email. You should therefore make sure that you keep your contact details up to date with UCAS and inform us if there are any changes. In particular, you should make sure that the email address that you gave on your UCAS form is still active.

I am considering taking a gap year. Will that affect the decision that you make on my application?

No. We treat applications for deferred and direct entry in exactly the same way. You may plan to spend your gap year travelling or working in order to save some money. Both will be valuable experiences and will be of benefit to you in your studies. It is true, however, that students who have taken gap years tend to be a bit more rusty when they arrive at university because they have taken a break from studying. These two factors tend to balance each other out and, as long as you have sensible plans for your gap year, we would consider your application in exactly the same way as for direct entry.

Do you reject applicants on the grounds that they have also applied to do Medicine at Bristol?

Absolutely not! We appreciate that students who apply to Medicine might also very much enjoy and engage with a Chemistry degree programme if their Medicine application is unsuccessful. We appreciate that it is entirely appropriate for your personal statement to focus entirely on your Medicine application. However, it is important to be clear about your motivation for studying Chemistry and we would very much appreciate an email sent to our admissions team to accompany your application explaining why you would also be well suited to a Chemistry degree programme.

How many applications do you receive for each place?

We consider applications for all of our Chemistry programmes together; we do not have a fixed quota for individual BSc or MSci programmes. We would usually expect to admit about 200 students to our Chemistry programmes, and we usually receive about 1000 applications.

What should I do if I no longer wish to be considered for a place?

If you decide that you no longer wish to be considered for a place to study Chemistry with us, then you should email to let us know straight away and withdraw your application to us with UCAS. If you have booked a place to visit us, then you should also log back in to the on-line booking system to cancel your place. Competition for places to study with us is strong, and if we know that you no longer wish to be considered, we can offer a place to another student.

What if I'm rejected?

Don't be too disappointed. We have a lot of very good applicants and picking those with the best potential is really difficult. There are still lots of other excellent Chemistry departments in the UK to choose from. Also, bear in mind that if, when your results come out, you perform much better in your exams than you were expecting then it could still be possible for you to be accepted at Bristol through UCAS Adjustment - see Exam Results for details.

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Exam results

What is 'Adjustment'?

Adjustment is an opportunity for students who have done better than expected in their exams to change their mind about their chosen course. To be eligible for adjustment your results must have met and exceeded the conditions of your conditional firm (CF) choice. More details can be found on the UCAS website. If you decide to register for adjustment then you should immediately get on the phone to the School of Chemistry Undergraduate Admissions Office (0117 92 88153). Don't be tempted to rely on email - it's slower and someone else will beat you to it. Make it clear that you are applying through 'adjustment' (not clearing). The quicker you act the more likely you will be to secure a place. Please bear in mind that quite often our Chemistry courses will be full and that no adjustment places will be available.

What happens if I don't achieve the grades in my conditional offer?

The School of Chemistry does not normally enter UCAS Clearing. Occasionally though, admissions tutors may be willing to accept a student who has narrowly missed out on their offer. If you have only missed your offer by a single grade in a single subject then you should immediately get on the phone to the Admissions Office (0117 92 88153). Don't be tempted to rely on email - it's slower and someone else will beat you to it. The admissions team should be able to give you an answer pretty much straight away. Please bear in mind that an admissions tutor will always prioritise applicants applying through adjustment (see above) in preference to near-miss applicants and that quite often our Chemistry courses will be full and no additional places will be available.

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Our degree programmes

Can I study any other subjects alongside my Chemistry?

Yes. We would like to give you the opportunity to develop a broad understanding of science and study subjects other than Chemistry. Half of your first-year teaching will be made up of Chemistry units.  Alongside these you will spend a third of your first year studying Mathematical Skills for Chemists and Communication & Information Skills in Chemistry.  The remainder of your first-year will be an optional unit such as Additional Maths, Astronomy, Biochemistry, Pharmacology or Physics. This will help you to see how Chemistry interfaces with other scientific disciplines and allows them to continue their interest in these other subjects. Details of the options available for each course can be found by clicking on the courses listed on the Undergraduate degree courses page.

Language units are also a popular option for students who would either like to develop their existing language skills further or even learn something new. For students planning to spend a year abroad in their third year, these would be mandatory. We offer a range of units in a number of languages covering both technical and colloquial aspects at a variety of levels, from beginner to expert.

When will I choose my first-year options?

We shall ask you to choose your first-year options at the end of August once all of our students have had their places confirmed. You will be able to do this on line, although we are, of course, happy to provide advice if you need it.

Where can I find out more about the detailed structure and content of each degree programme?

Details of the structure of each course can be found by clicking on the courses listed on the Undergraduate degree courses page.

How much time will I spend in the lab?

The amount of time that you spend in the lab will depend on your year of study. In your first year, when you are studying other subjects alongside your chemistry, you will spend 3 hours each week in the lab. This increases to 6 hours each week in your second year. In your third year if you remain in Bristol, you will be performing much more advanced practical work and spend up to 12 hours in the lab each week. Project work makes up a significant proportion of the final year for our MSci students, making up as much as 26 hours per week on average for the Chemistry MSci programmes.

How does the Dynamic Laboratory Manual help in teaching practical chemistry?

The Dynamic Laboratory Manual (DLM) is an innovative on-line interactive resource that we have developed as part of the Bristol ChemLabS Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning project. The development of the DLM means that all of the time that you are in the lab will be spent in performing practical work. The DLM includes information about both background theory and experimental techniques. Interactive tests allow you to test your understanding, with feedback to help you if something isn’t clear. Virtual instruments and other simulations also allow you to rehearse techniques before you come into the lab. Video clips will help to give you more confidence about your practical work, showing clearly how to set up apparatus or use sophisticated instrumentation. You will therefore arrive in the lab properly prepared, giving you more time to perform your experiments. The DLM also means that we can now assess students face-to-face in the lab, giving you the opportunity to ask for help in understanding difficult concepts or in mastering complicated experimental techniques. This is a much more effective way of providing you with feedback than traditional long write ups.

The DLM has proved to be a great success and we have now developed versions for other departments here in Bristol, such as Biochemistry and Physiology and Pharmacology. There is even a version for schools and colleges that is available as networked or personal teacher and student editions. You can find out more about the Dynamic Laboratory Manual by trying our demonstration version or by visiting the LabSkills website.

Do you offer small-group tutorials, workshops and problems classes?

Yes. Small-group teaching sessions form an important part of your tuition. You will encounter some challenging concepts as part of your degree programme, and the opportunity to work through these with members of academic staff can be invaluable. Initially, in your first year you will have a tutorial each week. These tutorials provide you with the opportunity to explore the material that you have encountered in lectures in greater depth. Each tutorial group will typically consist of 4 or 5 students, meaning that you will receive individual attention and support. As you progress through your degree programme and become more confident and independent about your studies, instead of tutorials you will have workshops and problems classes. The sessions will typically involve more students than your first-year tutorials but be supported by several members of staff. Workshops and problems classes provide more flexibility than tutorials, allowing you to focus your attention and use our support where it is most needed.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a combination of examination and continuous assessment. Lecture-based courses are usually assessed through examinations. The majority of these are held in the summer, at the end of the academic year, although progress exams for first-year students and exams for one or two other units are held in January or at Easter. Laboratory and project work are, however, assessed continuously.

We will set you coursework but this is designed to help you understand the material that you are covering in your lectures rather than simply to measure your level of achievement. This approach will allow you the time and flexibility to understand the material without being constrained by having to meet lots of short-term deadlines.

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Industrial placements

Will you help me to arrange an industrial placement?

Yes. At the end of your first year, if you are registered on our F105 MSci Chemistry with Industrial Experience programme, we will provide you with help to write a CV and give you a practice interview. We will then circulate your CV amongst some of the companies who have contacted us to enquire about placement students. As a research-intensive university, we have a large number of industrial contacts, meaning that we can arrange placements for students in a wide variety of different companies. These companies will then typically select a number of students to interview, either in Bristol or at one of the company’s sites. The interviews are competitive because the companies want to employ the very best students. Nevertheless, we have an excellent track record in securing placements for students in industry.

What placements are available?

Our strong reputation for research means that we have lots of industrial contacts and can therefore offer placements in a wide range of different companies and organisations across the chemical sector. In recent years, we have succeeded in placing students in companies as diverse as AkzoNobel, AWE, Cadbury, GlaxoSmithKline, Infineum and Unilever performing projects on topics such as speciality chemicals, pharmaceuticals, foods and consumer products. Further details of the sort of placements that are available are given on our website, where individual students have written about their experiences whilst working in industry.

Can I spend a year working abroad?

Yes. Making arrangements for you to spend a year working abroad as part of our F105 MSci Chemistry with Industrial Experience programme is more difficult than placing you in a company in the UK. Nevertheless, each year, we do place some students abroad, either in Continental Europe or North America.

Will I study any courses by distance learning during my industrial placement?

Yes. You will study six short courses by distance learning whilst you are working in industry. It is important that you maintain some academic work during your year in order that you maintain a balanced curriculum and are properly prepared for your final year back in Bristol. These courses are assessed by continuous assessment, giving you time to work at your own pace through the distance-learning material without the need to compromise your work for your company.

Will I receive any support during my year in industry?

Yes. You will be assigned both an academic and an industrial supervisor to oversee your industrial placement. Your academic supervisor will visit you during your year out on industrial placement. You will also be in regular email contact with your personal tutor, allowing you to seek help with your distance-learning work.

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Studying abroad

Where can I study?

The universities that we place students at can be found on the course details pages for the MSci Chemistry with Study in Continental Europe and MSci Chemistry with Study Abroad.

We regularly review these links in order to ensure that the content and standard of what you study in your placement year remains appropriate.

Will I receive any language tuition to help me with my year in Continental Europe?

Yes. As a student spending a year at a university in Continental Europe, you will be taught and assessed in the language of your host country. Your language skills will therefore need to be very good! Students on our F104 MSci Chemistry in Continental Europe degree programme therefore take language units in both their first and second years. You can also continue your language study by taking units in your fourth year. The units cover all aspects of language, including technical vocabulary and are available at a range of different levels.

Will I study any courses by distance learning during year away from Bristol?

Yes. It is obviously important that you cover some essential topics during your third year and we want to be certain that you will receive the academic support that you require whilst you are away from Bristol. To help with this, you will study six short courses by distance learning whilst you are away from Bristol. These courses are assessed by continuous assessment, giving you time to work at your own pace through the material without the need to compromise your other studies.

Is studying abroad a more expensive option than spending all of my degree programme in the Bristol?

Not necessarily. The funding arrangements for our MSci Chemistry in Continental Europe and MSci Chemistry with Study Abroad programmes are different, because the European Union facilitate the exchange of students between European universities as part of their ERAMSUS scheme. Under the ERASMUS programme, your fees for your year out at a university in Continental Europe would be paid by the European Union. You would also receive a grant. If you spend your year at a university outside Continental Europe that is not covered by the ERASMUS scheme, you would pay reduced-rate fees to the University of Bristol. Living costs for students in North America are typically lower than for those in the UK, so a year abroad need not cost you any more. However, many of our students choose to spend some time travelling and exploring their host country during their university vacations and that is obviously likely to be more expensive.

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Living in Bristol

Do you guarantee University accommodation to first-year students?

Details of the accommodation guarantee made to new students are available on the university website.

Can I live in University accommodation after my first year?

Yes! Whilst most of our students prefer to live together with friends in private houses or flats, some University accommodation is made available to students in their second, third and fourth years.

Where can I find out more about University of Bristol accommodation?

The most up-to-date source of information about the University’s accommodation is the Accommodation Office website, which gives details of the types and locations of the halls of residence, houses and flats, as well as an idea of the cost. We would also encourage you to talk to our current undergraduate students about accommodation when you come to visit us. They are in the best place to advise you about what living in Bristol as a student is really like.

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Advice for international students

Do you offer scholarships?

Yes.  You can search for scholarships that are available to you on the international students website.

I’m not taking A levels. What information about my qualifications should I put on my UCAS form?

We regularly make offers to students who are not taking A levels. In these cases, it is helpful if you can provide a detailed breakdown in your UCAS form of all of the individual units or modules that you are taking as part of your final qualifications. You should also include details of all of the recent qualifications that you have already taken. We would usually make an offer that is based on your overall performance, as well as in individual units such as Chemistry, Maths or English, so it helps to know as much about you as possible.

Will I receive support to help me to settle in when I first arrive in Bristol?

Yes! As one of the UK’s top chemistry departments with an international reputation for research, we attract students from all parts of the world. We have established a network of postgraduate students who happy to help both before and after you arrive. If you let us know that you are interested in our support scheme, we can try to put you in contact with a fellow student from your home country.

Will I need an English Language qualification?

Yes, we require all our students to have an appropriate English Language qualification. For most students, who have been educated in the UK, this will be a GCSE. For a lot of overseas applicants this will be IELTS, and you will be expected to achieve 6.5 overall and 6.0 in each of the four different aspects of the test. We do, however, accept many other types of qualifications. Further details of the qualifications that we accept are given in our English language entry requirements policy. If you need any advice, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us directly.

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