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Teaching Methods

Teaching Methods 

Undergraduate students are taught Earth Sciences within the Natural Sciences Tripos formally through a variety of teaching methods: lectures, practicals, supervisions, fieldwork and seminars.

Part IA Lecture © B.Pennington

Lectures and Practicals

In broad terms, the lectures outline the course, and the practicals help you understand it. Unlike some other options within the Natural Sciences Tripos (Physics and Chemistry in particular), practicals are not once-weekly, six-hour sessions, but instead each lecture (three per week in the first year) has a one-hour practical associated with it. During practical classes the lecturer and knowledgeable postgraduate students are on hand to help, and to answer questions you may have.


Supervision © B.Pennington

Supervisions are an integral part of the teaching process at Cambridge, and you will have weekly sessions in groups of two or three with your supervisor (either a member of academic staff or an experienced postgraduate). Work is set weekly - usually essays, numerical questions or practical work - and during the supervision you will receive tutoring and feedback on this. You should also use supervisions as an opportunity to develop your understanding of issues raised in the lectures and practicals, and to go over points you are unsure about.


Fourth year fieldwork in Spain © A.Thompson


The ability to interpret geology in the field is vital to geological research and is a central theme in the training of any undergraduate geologist. Field trips allow you to see, feel and understand spectacular examples of what you have ben taught, as well as learn vital skills of interpretation. Much more information on field trips, and lots of pictures can be found in our fieldwork pages.



In Part II and Part III, you will be expected to attend some of the Departmental Seminars to keep abreast on various issues at the forefront of scientific investigation. These offer an excellent opportunity to develop your knowledge by hearing great scientists from all over the world present their research.



"My first impression of the department was that everybody knew each other, and were all very friendly. The members of staff are very approachable, and were incredibly helpful in those first few weeks. Going to University is a big deal anyway, especially if you are doing a subject you've never studied before, so to have this level of support available was fantastic." Kate Hendry (recent graduate) reflects on her first impressions of the Department