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There are three elements to the assessment - unseen written examination (there are 5 papers), a project report (disseration) and a prepared essay.

General information about NST assessment is on the NST website

The formal structure of the examination is described in a form and conduct notice

Some advice about the examinations is available in the course handbook in Moodle.  You can collect a printed copy of this in the first week.

Past examination papers are available in Moodle.


Examinations are sat in the Easter Term.

General advice on examination skills has been drawn up by the Faculty of Biology.

Criteria used for marking and classing are provided by the Management Committee for the Natural Sciences Tripos  for NST overall and more specifically for Part II.

Marking and classing criteria are also discussed on the Faculty of Biology website

The following informal information about the Part II examination next Easter Term is provided by the examiners to help you plan your timetable of work and revision.

  • Paper 1: Three hours' duration, requiring students to answer 3 essay questions out of 8 on module A.
  • Paper 2: Three hours' duration, requiring students to answer 3 essay questions out of 8 on module B.
  • Paper 3: Three hours' duration, requiring students to answer 3 essay questions out of 8 on module D.
  • Paper 4: Three hours' duration. It will be divided into 3 sections, each containing 4 essay questions. Section I will contain questions on the first half (“The Dynamic Cell”) of module C. Section II will contain questions on the “Bioenergy” element of module C. Section III will contain questions on the “Molecular Microbiology of Infectious Disease” element of module C. Students must answer two questions from Section I and two questions from either Section II or Section III, but not both.
  • Paper 5: Three and a quarter hours' duration. Students are not permitted to write anything during the first fifteen minutes. This will contain questions on data handling and analysis (including imaging), as in previous years.
  • Prepared Essay: On the theme “Science that affects Society”, 3000 words, as in previous years.
  • Research Project Dissertation: 5000 words, as in previous years.

Papers 1-5 will each carry 16% of the total marks, the prepared essay will carry 5% and the project 15%. Papers 1-4, altogether 13 essays, each counts for ~ 4.9% of the final total mark Paper 5 (Data handling paper). Paper 5 will be similar in form to the one set in 2010 (then called paper 4), with two sections. There will be a 15 minute reading period at the start of the paper.

The individual papers are marked according to the following 12 point scheme

12: High first 11: Mid first 10: Low first
9: High 2:1 8: Mid 2:1 7: Low 2:1
6: High 2:2 5: Mid 2:2 4: Low 2:2
3: High 3rd 2: Mid 3rd 1: Low 3rd

Aggregate marks (also out of 12) are then converted into the normal University percentages, e.g. first class marks of between 9.0 and 12.0 are converted to between 70 and 100%. Please note that we are not bound to award particular percentages of individual classes.

Copies of recent past papers are provided on the Part II Moodle site.  Examiners will run sessions on answering the data handling papers for the last 3 years.


Students are required to submit a dissertation of not more than 5000 words in length describing their work on the reserach project. One third of the marks allocated to the Project are awarded on your work during the project, and two thirds on the dissertation. The dissertation will be marked at least twice, including once by an assessor (not an examiner). The complete assessment of the dissertation and research performance will carry 15% of the final marks.

Prepared Essay

The prepared essay is written during your own time. It must be entirely your own work, and you are not allowed to seek help or advice through specialist supervisions. It is intended to give you the opportunity to show a critical appreciation of your chosen topic. A topic must be chosen from the list  made available by the Examiners.

The titles will be based on 'Science that affects Society'. The text of each essay must be restricted to a maximum of 3,000 words (excluding figure legends, footnotes, or the reference list). The essay will carry 5% of the final marks.

Examination queries

All queries about the format of the examination should be addressed by consulting the written information provided in the Introductory packs (also available on Moodle), via the Part II/Part III Examinations Secretary (Mrs Christine Thulborn, or via the Director of Teaching, Professor Chris Howe,

Questions about deadlines must also be addressed to Part II/Part III Examinations Secretary (Mrs Christine Thulborn,


The Faculty Board of Biology has issued  this notice to students. Candidates are asked to pay close attention to it in relation to Prepared Essays and Dissertations, which should be accompanied by a signed Declaration as indicated in section 2 of the document on Part II Dissertations.

Plagiarism is attempting to pass off the work of others as if it were your own, irrespective of intention to deceive, and in the context of project dissertations might include:

  • - verbatim "lifting" of whole subsections of the Introduction, or Materials and Methods, or the Bibliography, from any other source, including a previous Part II project dissertation;
  • (even worse) making an electronic "copy-paste" transfer of whole subsections from previous dissertations or Internet sources; - including diagrams provided by your supervisor, or copied from publications, without acknowledging their source.

Thus, although you may be using past project dissertations as a model, your dissertation must be written in your own words. And although it is perfectly legitimate to copy a published diagram, or an unpublished one provided by someone in your host laboratory, the source must be acknowledged explicitly e.g. “Figure adapted from Smith et al. (2002)”.

See also departmental guidelines

Penalties for late submission

If your submission of the dissertation is likely to be late, you need to be aware of the following. Any leave for extension can only be granted by the University Council, via its Applications Committee, in response to a written application made by a student's Tutor. This means that Senior Examiners have no input to requests for delayed submission or discretion in accepting late submission beyond the due date, and that no internal penalties for late submission can be applied. Work that is submitted later than the date specified by the Council or in the regulation concerned if no extension has been granted shall not be accepted. Penalties are as outlined on the NST website

The procedure for the Part II prepared essay is different, since it accounts for less than 10% of the total mark. In this case, the Applications Committee is not involved but late submission must be supported by a letter giving (and supporting sufficient reason) from the student's Tutor or Director of Studies. Without such a letter, zero marks shall be awarded. With sufficient reason, as determined by the Examiners, the work should be marked as normal without penalty.

Please make sure you allow a safety margin for technical problems such as computer malfunction, and make sure you contact your college Tutor/Director of Studies if you think that late submission may be inevitable.

Questions about deadlines should be addressed to Part II/Part III Examinations Secretary (Mrs Christine Thulborn,


For NST examinations candidates are permitted to use only the standard University calculator CASIO fx 115 (any version), CASIO fx 570 (any version) or CASIO fx 991 (any version). See the Faculty guidelines.

Oral (viva voce) examinations

If required, these will be held on a date notified in Moodle for each year.  Please note that if you are asked to attend an oral examination, it will be an integral part of your overall assessment, so it is essential that you attend. Dates of publication of class lists can be found at the student registry.


The written examination detail for the Biochemistry part of the course are as above. A summary of assessment information can be found on the course website