Undergraduate Admissions

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford

RSC Accredited DegreeOxford Chemists pursue a four-year course, with the last year taken up by a full-time research project – a popular arrangement unique to Oxford for 100 years. For the first three years, the emphasis is on mainstream Chemistry, but with a breadth that leads to an appreciation of current developments over a very wide field, often crossing the boundaries with other subjects.

The first year

In the first year students take four subjects, covering the traditional areas of Inorganic, Organic and Physical chemistry together with Mathematics for Chemistry. The first three of these are very broadly based, and include topics such as Biological Chemistry and Physics, which are presented in a chemical context.

Students must pass the Preliminary Examination in all four subjects in June of the first year. The level of the examinations is set so that with reasonable commitment the vast majority of students do pass. For the few that fail there is an opportunity to resit in September.

The second year

In the second year students build up their core understanding of the subject. There are also optional, but well supported, supplementary subjects. These broaden the perspectives of students, or allow them to pursue their supplementary subjects further in the 4th year.

Students take Part IA examinations at the end of the second year, comprising three 2½ hour General papers. These cover material from the first and second years and count 15% to the final overall assessment.

Some Supplementary Subjects (optional)

Quantum Chemistry
Aromatic and Heterocyclic Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Chemical crystallography
Modern Languages
History and Philosophy of Science
Chemical Pharmacology

A full list of supplementary subjects available in any particular year will be communicated to undergraduates in the final term of the previous year.

The third year

In the third year core topics continue to be covered together with three Options selected from a very wide choice (about 15).

Students take Part IB examinations at the end of the third year. These comprise six general papers and one options paper. In total these examinations count 50% towards the final classification.

Practical course

The aim of the practical course is to train students to solve problems practically, accurately, safely and efficiently, so that by the end of the course they are ready to work as a professional chemist in a research laboratory. The second and third year practical assessments count 10% towards the final degree.

Experimental Chemistry will be taught from 2018 in a new purpose built teaching laboratory.  The practical course teaches the essential experimental skills, from the synthesis and characterisation of compounds to the operation of spectrometers and other instruments for physicochemical and analytical measurements. It also makes tangible much that is covered in lectures and tutorials.

There are also practicals concerning computer applications and chemistry software packages (such as structure drawing and molecular modelling) in the IT centre.

"All the practical classes observed by the assessors were judged to be of excellent quality. Teaching laboratories are well equipped with routine and advanced instrumentation, and clearly benefit from the high quality research environment. .....Safety in laboratories is afforded high priority". [HEFCE]


Chemistry lectures in the first year

provide introductory coverage of the following topics:

• Atomic Structure and Periodic Trends
• Ionic Model and Structure of Solids 
• Molecular Shapes, Symmetry and Molecular Orbit Theory  
• Acids, Bases and Solution Equilibria 
• Non-metal Chemistry  
• Transition Metal Chemistry 
• Introduction to Organic Chemistry 
• Organic Spectroscopy 
• Orbitals and Mechanisms
• Substitution and Elimination at Saturated Carbons  
• Chemistry of C-C π-bonds 
• Core Carbonyl Chemistry  
• Biological Chemistry  
• Chemical Thermodynamics 
• Classical Mechanics 
• Properties of Gases
• The Role of Charge   
• Quantum Theory of Atoms and Molecules   
• Reaction Kinetics  
• Electrochemistry  
• States of Matter 




Second year lectures in Chemistry

Some of the lectures build on topics introduced in the first year. There are also many courses on new topics.

• Diffraction 
• Bonding in Molecules 
• Transition Metal Chemistry 
• Coordination Chemistry
• Chemistry of Lanthanides and Actinides 
• Organometallic Chemistry 
• Electronic properties of solids  
• Periodic trends in main-group Chemistry
• NMR in Inorganic Chemistry 
• Organic Synthesis  
• Aromatic and Heterocyclic Chemistry 
• Organic Spectroscopy 
• Conformational Analysis and Ring Chemistry 
• Physical Organic Chemistry 
• Heteratoms in Organic Synthesis 
• Rearrangements and Reactive Intermediates  
• Organic Chemistry of Biomolecules  
• Quantum Mechanics: Principles and Applications 
• Liquids and Solutions  
• Statistical Mechanics 
• Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopy  
• Valence  
• Rate Processes 
• Symmetry  
• Introduction to NMR  
• Maths for chemists


Third year Chemistry lectures

Many core topics covered in the previous two years continue to receive attention:

• Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms 
• Modern Main Group Chemistry 
• Solid State Chemistry 
• Spectroscopy and Magnetism in Inorganic Chemistry 
• Organometallic Chemistry 
• Bioinorganic Chemistry  
• Advanced Organic Spectroscopy  
• Organic Synthesis  
• Curly Arrows of Biology: (Primary Metabolism) 
• Transition Metal Catalysis  
• Pericyclic Reactions  
• Radical Reactions  
• Physical Principles of Solids
• Photophysics and Photochemistry   
• Soft Condensed Matter   
• Magnetic Resonance 

In addition the candidate selects three option courses, from a wide selection, currently

• Molecular Spectroscopy
• Structural Methods
• Organometallic Catalysts: From Fundamentals to Application
• Solid State Compounds in Technology
• Supramolecular, Nano and Medicinal Inorganic Chemistry 
• Natural Product Chemistry
• Advanced Synthesis and Total Synthesis
• Contemporary Methods in Catalysis for Organic Synthesis 
• Advanced Chemical Biology 
• Functional Organic Polymers and Materials Chemistry 
• Fundamentals of Astrochemistry 
• Molecular Reaction Dynamics
• Theoretical Chemistry 
• An Introduction to Liquid State 
• Magnetic Resonance 

These are reviewed annually and may change, although the number of options offered will not be less than 15.