Plagioclase
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 1 year ago
#1
Oxford Demystified - Earth Sciences
I graduated from Oxford's Earth Sciences course last year and I'm still there doing a PhD! This is my introduction to the course and how to apply for it, for Oxford Mum's Oxford Demystified series.

What actually is Earth Sciences?
Because Earth Sciences isn't really taught in schools, many of you may be wondering what it actually is. Earth Sciences is a highly interdisciplinary subject that applies natural sciences to understand how the Earth (all the way from the atmosphere and oceans to the Earth's interior) works. Using a combination of maths, physics, chemistry, biology and geology, you will learn how we can apply the scientific method to understand massive questions such as the following:
  • How did life on Earth begin?
  • What did the Earth look like millions or billions of years ago and what does this tell us about our future?
  • What causes natural hazards like earthquakes and volcanoes and can we predict them?
  • How and why does the Earth's climate change, and how does it interact with the rest of the Earth system?
  • How is everything connected?

Earth Scientists use a huge range of tools to investigate these questions, ranging from traditional geological methods such as geological mapping and microscopy, to the geochemistry of ancient marine organisms, to using Earthquakes as planetary CT scanners, to using supercomputers to simulate the Earth's climate.

Additionally, because the Earth is our laboratory, you will spend a considerable amount of time on field trips which could take you anywhere from investigating ancient volcanoes in Greenland to exploring coral reefs in Bermuda. You will spend around three months of your degree in the field, or more if you do fieldwork for your Master's research project. Contrary to most other universities, the field trips that make up the Earth Sciences course are all paid for by the department!

Here's where the course took me...
Spoiler:
Show
Image
Image
Image
Image

I've not studied Earth Sciences before - how do I know if it's for me?
It can be daunting to apply for a subject that you have not studied before. If most of the following apply to you, I think that's a good sign that you will enjoy the course:
  • You care about the Earth and you're curious about how everything fits together
  • You like science in general rather than being committed to a single sub-discipline, and you feel that you'd miss some of the other subjects if you just studied, say, Physics or Chemistry
  • You like studying a varied and broad range of things
  • You enjoy being outdoors

Earth Sciences is not just about rocks! If you love rocks and fossils then that's fine - plenty of options to devote your time to them! - but geology is only one part of Earth Sciences.

There are a number of books that serve as very good introductions to the subject. Jan Zalasiewicz has written a number of great popular science books in this subject and I'd particularly recommend The Goldilocks Planet but they are all very good. For anybody interested in climate change, The Two-Mile Time Machine by Richard Alley is a brilliant introduction to how the study of past climate change revolutionised our understanding of how chaotic the Earth's climate is. Another well-known book is Richard Fortey's Earth: An Intimate History, and there have also been some good (...slightly dated) Geology documentaries such as Iain Stewart's How Earth Made Us and BBC's Earth Story (featuring some of our professors!).

Finally, How to Build a Habitable Planet is probably the most comprehensive introduction to the modern Earth Sciences. It is not an easy read, it's roughly pitched at first year level, but it's excellent and if you find that interesting (even if you're not yet able to understand everything), you'll very likely enjoy the course.

If you're at a state school, consider applying to UNIQ (Oxford's free summer school which runs an Earth Sciences course).

How does the Earth Sciences course work at Oxford?
You can find the undergraduate handbook here, but this is what the Earth Sciences course broadly looks like at Oxford.
Spoiler:
Show
First Year
Spoiler:
Show
Your first year is basically an introduction to the subject. You will have introductory courses in geology (crystals and minerals, microscopy, geological mapping, palaeontology) as well as courses in chemistry, physics and biology to make sure that everybody has the necessary background in these subjects. There is also a mathematics course with an emphasis on multivariate calculus and numerical/computational methods, which is very important in modern Earth Sciences and is one of the big strengths of the course at Oxford. There is an integrative course called Planet Earth which introduces you to the concept of Earth as a system and gets you to start thinking as an Earth Scientist. There are no options in first year. There are also two introductory field trips, a presessional trip to Pembrokeshire and a 2 week trip to Arran, Scotland.

Second Year
Spoiler:
Show
Second year builds on the first, with more advanced courses in geology, geochemistry, geophysics and palaeobiology. Second year is probably the most geology-focussed year and you will cover diverse topics ranging from using satellites to map the geological structure of the Earth, to how you can use rock chemistry to reconstruct the Earth's history, to seismology, to using the fossil record to understand evolutionary processes. There are two field trips in second year to Dorset and Assynt. More excitingly, you will also spend second year planning your independent geological mapping project, where you will spend around 6 weeks of your summer producing a geological map, anywhere in the world (as long as the geology is good!). Recent destinations have included France, Spain, Switzerland, Greenland, the USA and New Zealand, but it is entirely up to you.

Third Year
Spoiler:
Show
Third year allows you to start specialising. You can choose six out of the following nine options:
  • Biological and Physical Oceanography
  • Climate
  • Volcanology
  • Palaeobiology
  • Seismology and Earth Structure
  • Earth Materials, Rock Deformation and Metamorphism
  • Geodynamics
  • Sedimentary Basins
  • Natural Resources
You will spend the first part of third year carrying out further research based on your independent mapping fieldwork (and writing it up/producing your map), as well as a literature review on a topic of your choice. You will also decide on your research project for fourth year, either from a list of choices produced by academics in the department or of your own design with a supervisor. There is a field trip to southern Spain.

Fourth year
Spoiler:
Show
Half of the fourth year is spent on your research project, with the other half spent on four options out of the following:
  • Oceanography
  • Volcanology
  • Major Environmental Change
  • Planetary Chemistry
  • Rock & Palaeomagnetism
  • Palaeobiology
  • Structure & Dynamics of the Earth's Mantle
  • Anatomy of a Mountain Belt

The year starts with a field trip. At present, you choose either between Bermuda (oceanography/climate) or Greece (tectonics/volcanology).


Why Earth Sciences at Oxford?
Spoiler:
Show
The Earth Sciences course at Oxford is very well-rounded, unusually quantitative, and has a greater emphasis on cutting-edge Earth Sciences research than most other courses. The intake is small so your group sizes will be smaller than at most other universities, and you have the benefits of Oxford's tutorial system and a very friendly and financially generous department. The department itself is very new and is in a beautiful building, with an excellent library and undergraduate laboratories. Of course, whilst I loved this course, there are plenty of other great universities in the UK and you need to choose the university and department that feels right for you, so do try to visit universities that you're interested in if you can. I would also add that one thing to bear in mind that because the Oxford course is more academia/research-focused than other courses, it may not be ideal if you are mainly interested in economic geology such as oil and gas or geotechnical engineering, although it is still completely possible to go into these areas.

Admissions
There is no entrance exam for Earth Sciences at the moment. Over the past three years, 92% of applicants were interviewed and 29% of applicants received offers. The official entry requirement for A Levels is A*AA or AAAA, and the required subjects are Maths and either Physics or Chemistry. Further Maths, Geology and Biology are all regarded as being useful. Anecdotally, most offers appear to be A*AA and they can specify which subjects those grades are for.

Prospective applicants seem to be particularly concerned about the interview as most applicants do not have a background in Earth Sciences. This is not a problem, and you will not be expected to know anything that you could not reasonably be expected to know based on the subjects you have studied and what you have written in your personal statement. The interviewers are less interested in what you know, and more how you think and learn. You will be asked questions that you will not know the answer to, but that are possible to tackle using what you do know. A lot of Earth Sciences comes down to using basic science in intelligent and novel ways to tackle difficult, data-sparse and unfamiliar questions, so this is a good way of testing aptitude for the course. The best way to approach these problems is to not panic, take your time to think logically, and say what you're thinking. You can find some sample interview questions on the Oxford website, here.

Q&A
Spoiler:
Show
Did any of your teachers inspire you? Or any other experts? Did you watch David Attenborough on TV?

I had some amazing teachers at school, but I actually came across Earth Sciences myself, by accident. I knew that I didn’t want to study a single science at university and that I wanted to study an applied subject, so I was mainly looking at Engineering or Materials Science. I also enjoyed Geography but wanted to study a quantitative subject and was keen on being trained as a physical scientist. One day, I was flicking through the Imperial College prospectus, happened to read the entry for Earth Sciences, and realised that they were describing my ideal subject. So I only actually realised that my subject existed halfway through Year 12.

I don’t think there’s a single earth or environmental scientist who doesn’t idolise David Attenborough! He’s an absolute inspiration.

Did you do any research into a particular area of Earth Sciences whilst applying?
I did an EPQ on Have we entered the Anthropocene (the idea that humans have left a geologically significant record on the planet) which was a really good decision because it’s a fascinating topic and gave me something to talk about in my interviews. I would definitely recommend doing an EPQ if you take it seriously – the research skills you obtain from it are genuinely valuable and it was a really useful preparation for the course.

What did you mention on your personal statement and why?
I began my personal statement with a quote – a controversial (!) choice, but I thought the quote did a very good job of explaining my motivation for applying for the course. It was this quote by Douglas Adams:

We don’t have to save the world—the world is big enough to look after itself. What we have to be concerned about, is whether or not the world we live in, will be capable of sustaining us in it.

The remainder of my personal statement was entirely academic. I discussed my main areas of interest, two books that I found particularly interesting (and why), my EPQ, and concluded with some Olympiad/exam results because I felt that was the strongest part of my application.

Did you have an admissions test?
Fortunately not!

How did you choose your college?
There are only 7 colleges that admit for Earth Sciences so we have a smaller choice than most. I went to a visit day (not an open day) at Worcester College but was a bit intimidated by it (to be clear, it’s a lovely college, just not what I was looking for). I happened to go past St. Anne’s and they invited me in for an impromptu tour and I was so impressed by how friendly they were, and how lovely and unpretentious the site is, that it was an easy decision!

How did you find the interview process?
Stressful, although not as bad I was expecting. The interviewers were all very friendly which definitely helped. I think I was in Oxford for three days and had two interviews, the second definitely being better than the first. It’s worth knowing that Earth Sciences is a slightly unusual subject at Oxford in that it’s very centralised (which is actually a very good thing) so all of your interviews are in the department rather than college.

Any interview tips?
Expect the unexpected! A lot of Earth Sciences comes down to using basic science in novel and intelligent ways to extract information out of data-sparse records so in this sense the interview is quite a good preparation! You will not be expected to know anything beyond what you’ve learned at school (or what you’ve put in your personal statement) but you will be expected to apply this to novel problems.

Was Oxford and the college itself how you imagined it to be?
I found the transition from A Levels to Oxford quite difficult – it sounds stupid now, but I was honestly not expecting the work to be as difficult as it was and it took a good part of that first year to adjust to the new level of difficulty and the new academic expectations. I also had underlying mental health issues and whilst the university (and the Earth Sciences department) has some great support for that, it doesn’t change the fact that Oxford is a fundamentally high stress environment and this is something you need to think seriously about if this affects you. Having said that, I genuinely believe that the course and university are stellar and although there were some (very) low points, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. After all, I decided to stay here for another four years to do a PhD.

No surprises with St. Anne's though, it's a great college!

What area of Earth Sciences are you studying for your PhD? What kind of careers are open to Earth Scientists?
I’m doing my PhD in oceanography, specifically in trying to understand how ocean currents affect coral reefs around the world. I made that decision after doing a bunch of ocean-related research projects throughout my undergraduate degree (ranging from freshwater storage in the Arctic Ocean to coral habitability in East Asia during the last ice age) and one of the great things about Oxford is that there are a lot of research opportunities/funds if that’s something you want to get into.

There are a lot of careers open to Earth Scientists. Research is one of them, and I think around half of our graduates go onto further study. The traditional destinations were oil & gas and mining and some of our graduates still go into these sectors, but I think increasingly more sustainable careers like environmental or geotechnical consultancies are becoming more popular. There are also a whole bunch of careers open to people with general quantitative degrees, and having an Oxford degree will help with that. The careers service at Oxford is also very good, and they have an amazing summer internship programme.

Anything else?
I hope this is helpful for anybody thinking about studying Earth Sciences (at Oxford or elsewhere because most of this is perfectly applicable to most other universities), but I'm happy to answer any other questions.
Last edited by Plagioclase; 1 year ago
2
reply
Oxford Mum
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#2
Report 1 year ago
#2
Thank you very much for your detailed chapter on Earth Science, Plagioclase!

I used to think this was actually geography, so thank you very much for pointing out the difference to us!

If you are a prospective student, and have read this chapter, you may well feel this is for you.

Could I please ask for some further information from you, if possible?

Did any of your teachers inspire you? Or any other expert (TV presenter etc). Did you watch Sir David Attenborough on TV

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Attenborough

(He seems to have been very keen on geology since he was small, and he studied it at Cambridge).

Did you do any research into a particular area of earth science you enjoy?

What did you mention in your personal statement and why?

Did you have an admissions test? If so, how did you practice for it, and do well in it?

How did you choose your college? Did you go to an open day and if so, did it help you to decide?

How did you find the interview process?

Any interview tips?

Did you socialise during interview week? If so, what did you do?

How did you feel after the interviews?

Was Oxford and the college itself how you would imagine it to be?

Which is the area of earth science you are studying for your PhD? What kind of careers are open to earth scientists?

Thanks

Plagioclase
1
reply
Oxford Mum
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#3
Report 1 year ago
#3
Thank you for this, Plagioclase. I love the level of detail you have included about your love for the subject, what the course entails and how you can apply what you have learned to a future career. As you say, it wasn't until you read about the course elsewhere that you even considered Earth Sciences, and I am sure you will inspire others to have a lightbulb moment when reading this.

As with every other chapter I read, your enthusiasm is infectious!

Also other points to highlight, Oxford need not be the stuffy environment prospective applicants think it is. St Annes college provides a relaxed atmosphere and you had a great time there (I must visit your college sometime!) Also it is also important to highlight the stress factor at Oxford, and equally the help you received when you found the going tough. Even with everything you have gone through you would still do it all again and are now pursuing a PhD. I am sure readers will join me in wishing you the best of luck with your studies and an excellent future career.
1
reply
Oxford Mum
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#4
Report 1 year ago
#4
sqrt of 5
1
reply
Oxford Mum
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#5
Report 1 year ago
#5
Other resources for would-be earth scientists:

Sample interview questions

https://sites.google.com/site/oxbrid...earth-sciences

https://www.oxfordinterviewquestions...arth-sciences/

http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2018-10-18-...ions-explained

https://www.theguardian.com/educatio...ctive-students

https://carambalache.wordpress.com/2...arth-sciences/

YouTube video about the subject

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYPgZoyUGfE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edMxMVnSApI
2
reply
greenapples2
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#6
Report 1 year ago
#6
wow this is amazing! :eek: what a levels did you do?
1
reply
Oxford Mum
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#7
Report 1 year ago
#7
Isn’t this an amazing degree, paprika?
0
reply
Mona123456
Badges: 19
Rep:
?
#8
Report 1 year ago
#8
This is incredibly interesting - I never knew what Earth Sciences was actually about, but it sounds like such a fascinating degree! Thanks for writing this
1
reply
greenapples2
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#9
Report 1 year ago
#9
(Original post by Oxford Mum)
Isn’t this an amazing degree, paprika?
it really is, I love how it combines all the sciences!
0
reply
Plagioclase
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#10
Report Thread starter 1 year ago
#10
(Original post by mpaprika)
wow this is amazing! :eek: what a levels did you do?
I did Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry + EPQ and AS German. The formal requirements for this course are Maths and either Physics or Chemistry. I think that Maths + Physics + Chemistry gives you a solid foundation for any earth or environmental science course!
Last edited by Plagioclase; 1 year ago
0
reply
sqrt of 5
Badges: 19
Rep:
?
#11
Report 1 year ago
#11
(Original post by Plagioclase)
I did Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry + EPQ and AS German. The formal requirements for this course are Maths and either Physics or Chemistry. I think that Maths + Physics + Chemistry gives you a solid foundation for any earth or environmental science course!
oh wow and im struggling with 4 how did you cope with the workload?
I'm doing maths, chemistry, physics and italian but I sometimes struggle with physics😔 any tips?
0
reply
Plagioclase
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#12
Report Thread starter 1 year ago
#12
(Original post by sqrt of 5)
oh wow and im struggling with 4 how did you cope with the workload?
I'm doing maths, chemistry, physics and italian but I sometimes struggle with physics😔 any tips?
This was 5 years ago now, before all the A Levels became linear, so it's not really a fair comparison! Take what I say with a pinch of salt in any case because A Levels are not fresh in my memory any more. But two important weapons in your arsenal are (1) the specification and (2) past papers with mark schemes. Everything you're expected to know is in the specification so you should be using that as a checklist when you're revising, and past papers with mark schemes allow you to work through almost any kind of question that they can throw at you (and with the mark scheme, how to answer them perfectly). This was at the core of my revision strategy when I was doing my A Levels, I think I went through all the past papers, made a note of every mark I lost, used this to make a condensed set of notes, revised those, then repeated the entire process. This assumes that you actually understand the content well in the first place though. If understanding is the problem, there are many great channels on YouTube that go through A Level problems (definitely for maths and presumably for everything else) so I'd definitely recommend making use of those!
1
reply
TheKrakenAwakes
Badges: 3
Rep:
?
#13
Report 1 year ago
#13
Just in case anyone's interested, there's a Geology and Earth Sciences 2020 Applicants' discussion: https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/sho...6203356&page=1
2
reply
Oxford Mum
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#14
Report 1 year ago
#14
Thank
0
reply
Herring.pie
Badges: 4
Rep:
?
#15
Report 1 year ago
#15
Hi Plagioclase, thanks for this very informative thread/chapter.
I'm in y12 and am thinking about applying for earth sciences at Oxford this year. I have a few more questions if you don't mind:

I'm taking maths, physics, geography and German for A level. Would the lack of chem put my application at a disadvantage? So far what I have read appears a bit contradictory; Isobel Walker at the department (who I contacted) says I'd be 'absolutely fine' without it, but the prospectus 'highly recommends' it as a third A level.

Alternatively I'm considering applying for geography (at Ox/bridge+4) - quite a different subject I know, but aspects of both appeal to me. I'd say that at the moment I'm overall slightly more interested in topics in geography courses (sustainable development, climate change and policy, physical surface environments...) - I think if I did earth sciences I'd want to specialise in something more environmental (oceans, climate, volcanoes...). I'm not sure about all the compulsory petrology etc! But I do like the quantitative look of earth sciences at Oxford (choosing geog would take a toll on my numeracy!) - and all the field trips sound great! Do you have any advice or suggested considerations (from a completely unbiased source...)?

Also, can you choose between all the third year papers on this course, or are some compulsory - which?

Thanks again
1
reply
Oxford Mum
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#16
Report 1 year ago
#16
(Original post by Herring.pie)
Hi Plagioclase, thanks for this very informative thread/chapter.
I'm in y12 and am thinking about applying for earth sciences at Oxford this year. I have a few more questions if you don't mind:

I'm taking maths, physics, geography and German for A level. Would the lack of chem put my application at a disadvantage? So far what I have read appears a bit contradictory; Isobel Walker at the department (who I contacted) says I'd be 'absolutely fine' without it, but the prospectus 'highly recommends' it as a third A level.

Alternatively I'm considering applying for geography (at Ox/bridge+4) - quite a different subject I know, but aspects of both appeal to me. I'd say that at the moment I'm overall slightly more interested in topics in geography courses (sustainable development, climate change and policy, physical surface environments...) - I think if I did earth sciences I'd want to specialise in something more environmental (oceans, climate, volcanoes...). I'm not sure about all the compulsory petrology etc! But I do like the quantitative look of earth sciences at Oxford (choosing geog would take a toll on my numeracy!) - and all the field trips sound great! Do you have any advice or suggested considerations (from a completely unbiased source...)?

Also, can you choose between all the third year papers on this course, or are some compulsory - which?

Thanks again
Hi there!

I am sure Plagioclase will be able to give you the definitive answer, but although the prospectus says chemistry is "highly recommended", it doesn't say "essential". You sound quite passionate about both courses, but if earth sciences floats your boat the most, why not give it a shot?

As you say, the field trips will be really interesting. When I was at my elder son's graduation, I was seated next to an earth scientist. She said that she didn't know about the first graduation date she was given, because the place she was studying rocks etc was so remote, she couldn't get on the internet!
0
reply
Muttley79
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#17
Report 1 year ago
#17
(Original post by Oxford Mum)

Also other points to highlight, Oxford need not be the stuffy environment prospective applicants think it is. St Annes college provides a relaxed atmosphere and you had a great time there (I must visit your college sometime!) Also it is also important to highlight the stress factor at Oxford, and equally the help you received when you found the going tough. Even with everything you have gone through you would still do it all again and are now pursuing a PhD. I am sure readers will join me in wishing you the best of luck with your studies and an excellent future career.
St Anne's must have one of the ugliest buildings in Oxford and the accommodation is not great. Getting up those spiral concrete stairs is a nightmare! Some of the rooms on the road side are extremely noisy and you aren't allowed to use the balconies.
0
reply
Plagioclase
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#18
Report Thread starter 1 year ago
#18
(Original post by Herring.pie)
Hi Plagioclase, thanks for this very informative thread/chapter.
I'm in y12 and am thinking about applying for earth sciences at Oxford this year. I have a few more questions if you don't mind:

I'm taking maths, physics, geography and German for A level. Would the lack of chem put my application at a disadvantage? So far what I have read appears a bit contradictory; Isobel Walker at the department (who I contacted) says I'd be 'absolutely fine' without it, but the prospectus 'highly recommends' it as a third A level.

Alternatively I'm considering applying for geography (at Ox/bridge+4) - quite a different subject I know, but aspects of both appeal to me. I'd say that at the moment I'm overall slightly more interested in topics in geography courses (sustainable development, climate change and policy, physical surface environments...) - I think if I did earth sciences I'd want to specialise in something more environmental (oceans, climate, volcanoes...). I'm not sure about all the compulsory petrology etc! But I do like the quantitative look of earth sciences at Oxford (choosing geog would take a toll on my numeracy!) - and all the field trips sound great! Do you have any advice or suggested considerations (from a completely unbiased source...)?

Also, can you choose between all the third year papers on this course, or are some compulsory - which?

Thanks again
Regarding a lack of chemistry, no, it wouldn't put you at a significant disadvantage. Yes, A Level chemistry is useful for the course but there are plenty of people on the course who only have physics or chemistry - I don't really know the percentage but I'd guess at least a third. The first-year chemistry course covers what you need to know from A Level chemistry (albeit at a rapid pace).

I honestly don't know much about the Geography course, you'd probably be better off trying to find someone on that course if you want to get insider information on it! They are very different subjects though, I think the key thing you need to ask yourself is whether you want to be trained as a natural scientist (in which case go with Earth Sciences) or a geographer (in which case go with Geography). To be honest though even if petrology doesn't sound very appealing (it's not my main interest either) it's not that bad (apart from metamorphic petrology, apologies if any real geologists are reading this) and actually there's a lot of environmental stuff in sedimentary petrology because that's all about working out what environments used to look like. I was pleasantly surprised by carbonate petrology, I really enjoyed that. And if you're interested in volcanoes then igneous petrology is quite important - you can learn a lot about the impacts and inner workings of a volcanic eruption by looking at the rocks it produced.

In any case, there's less 'traditional' geology in this course than in most Earth Sciences/Geology courses and you can get drop most of it after second year if you want. After second year, there are no compulsory papers - you choose 6/9 in third year and 4/8 in fourth year. So for example, I don't think I had to look at an actual rock once my mapping project was complete (apart from field trips).
Last edited by Plagioclase; 1 year ago
1
reply
Headingtonian
Badges: 11
Rep:
?
#19
Report 1 year ago
#19
(Original post by Herring.pie)
Hi Plagioclase, thanks for this very informative thread/chapter.
I'm in y12 and am thinking about applying for earth sciences at Oxford this year. I have a few more questions if you don't mind:

I'm taking maths, physics, geography and German for A level. Would the lack of chem put my application at a disadvantage? So far what I have read appears a bit contradictory; Isobel Walker at the department (who I contacted) says I'd be 'absolutely fine' without it, but the prospectus 'highly recommends' it as a third A level.

Alternatively I'm considering applying for geography (at Ox/bridge+4) - quite a different subject I know, but aspects of both appeal to me. I'd say that at the moment I'm overall slightly more interested in topics in geography courses (sustainable development, climate change and policy, physical surface environments...) - I think if I did earth sciences I'd want to specialise in something more environmental (oceans, climate, volcanoes...). I'm not sure about all the compulsory petrology etc! But I do like the quantitative look of earth sciences at Oxford (choosing geog would take a toll on my numeracy!) - and all the field trips sound great! Do you have any advice or suggested considerations (from a completely unbiased source...)?

Also, can you choose between all the third year papers on this course, or are some compulsory - which?

Thanks again
Hey,

So I'm just finishing my 4th year of Earth Sciences at Oxford. I'd agree with Issy that you'd be absolutely fine without chemistry - there is an introductory first-year course to both physics and chemistry and whilst many people on the course have taken Maths, Physics, Chemistry by no means everyone does and the introductory courses are taught without assuming A-level knowledge to get everyone to the same place.

The third-year papers are optional except for Fieldwork + Interdisciplinary which is a general paper with no attached teaching. You choose 6 of the 9 option papers available (Oceanography, Climate, Volcanoes, Seismology and Vector Calculus, Paleontology, Geodynamics, Metamorphic petrology, Natural Resources, Sedimentary Basins). In 4th year you can become even more specialised and take 4/8 papers (Environmental, Rock & Palaeo-magnetism, Planetary Chemistry, Structure & Dynamics of the Earth’s Mantle, Records of Major Environmental Change in Earth History, Topics in Volcanology, Anatomy of a Mountain Belt, Palaeobiology, Topics in Oceanography).

I'm really a geophysicist and don't really like petrology that much but I've still absolutely loved the course as a whole! I think it can be difficult to tell how much you'll like something before you come up - and if there are some parts of the course that you really like then for me at least these have definitely outweighed my less liked parts. It is very possible to specialise into more environmental topics and people each year go off to do jobs in the environmental sector. Geography at Oxford is a much more humanities like subject and so as you say is far less quantitative. The Earth Sciences course can involve a lot of maths, some of which is inescapable. I'd recommend having a think about what you might like to do after your degree and how geography vs Earth Sci could fit into that. Earth Sci is a very transferable degree which might give you more of a broad background particularly in the physics/maths behind environmental issues which you can then apply to policy for example, rather than simply learning about the parts needed for policy alone. But there is much more of a focus on past climate for example rather than present day climate which might see more focus in a Geography course.

When I was choosing where to apply for my undergrad I looked at the module structures at all the universities in a lot of detail, to see if I could create a pathway I would enjoy, and how much other stuff I'd have to do. You could have a go at this for earth sciences and geography and compare how you feel about the options you'd have to take (not sure if I've explained that well...). It's also worth checking to make sure you could do all the things you'd want to do in the geography course within the course structure. Sorry, I don't feel that's been a massive help but hopefully it gave you a couple of things to consider!
1
reply
Herring.pie
Badges: 4
Rep:
?
#20
Report 1 year ago
#20
Thank you all for your replies (that was my first post on TSR so it's good to see it actually works!). I'll try drawing up some pathways Headingtonian (I think I get what you meant). I agree it's difficult to tell how much I'd like topics just by the module names and a small amount of introductory reading. Thanks for the petrology info Plagioclase; it does sound interesting (mostly...).

I'm still wondering whether I'd prefer to be classed as a scientist or a geographer. I think I prefer the scientific approach (and postgrad prospects), just I'm just possibly interested in more of the geography content (I won't say 'passionate' as it's overused - but maybe so is 'interested') and its emphasis on present/future environments and societies.

I'll probably draft PSs for Earth sci and geog and see how that influences my thinking.
0
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Who is winning Euro 2020

France (100)
27.1%
England (123)
33.33%
Belgium (29)
7.86%
Germany (40)
10.84%
Spain (8)
2.17%
Italy (33)
8.94%
Netherlands (13)
3.52%
Other (Tell us who) (23)
6.23%

Watched Threads

View All