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Frequently asked questions

This page lists questions that are typical of those asked by prospective applicants in the recent past, together with our answers. If you can’t find the answer to your question, or require further information, please contact us.


A LEVELS ALREADY OBTAINED: I already have my A levels – how will this affect my offer of a place?

Students who apply with A level grades (or other qualifications) that match or exceed our typical offer are likely to be made an unconditional offer. If your grades are below our typical offer it is unlikely that you will be offered a place. However, students who are re-taking their A levels to improve their grades will be considered, and may be made a conditional offer.

A LEVEL BIOLOGY: Do I need A level Biology to study Biochemistry at York?

No, A level Biology is helpful but not essential. We require A level Chemistry or its equivalent and the equivalent of two additional subjects other than General Studies at A level. Ideally these would be two other sciences or one other science plus mathematics, but a combination of one other science or mathematics and a subject from the humanities is usually acceptable. Our basic A level offer is AAB, including Chemistry and excluding General Studies.

A LEVEL CHEM/MATHS: Do I need A level Chemistry or Maths to study Biology at York?

A level applicants should have studied Biology and a second science at A2. We consider the following subjects to be sciences for the purpose of admissions: Chemistry, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics, Geography, Environmental Science, Psychology, Statistics and Computer Science. Human Biology is acceptable in place of Biology. 

AS MATHS - I took four subjects for AS including Maths but now I'm planning to drop Maths and carry on with the other three subjects. Will this put me at disadvantage when applying for the Biochemistry course?

Our typical offer for A level is AAB including Chemistry and another science or Maths. We don't make Maths an essential subject for Biochemistry but in practice, about 50% of our entrants have A level Maths. We offer support course for those students who do not have Maths to A2, primarily to help students with the physical chemistry component of their chemistry modules. We don't think you should be daunted by a lack of Maths when applying for our Biochemistry course. Usually a student without A2 Maths would have gleaned another complementary and equally valuable skill from another A-level subject, such as essay writing (from English, Geography, History, etc) or a language.

BTEC Do you accept the BTEC Extended Diploma in Animal Management or Countryside Management or Aboriculture & Forestry as suitable qualifications on their own?

No, we do not accept land-based BTEC Level 3 Extended Diplomas in subjects such as Animal Management or Countryside Management or Arboriculture & Forestry as they do not provide sufficient background knowledge of biology and chemistry to meet our requirements. We would be looking for full A levels in Biology and Chemistry.

COURSE DIFFERENCE: What is the difference between the Biology and Biochemistry degrees?

There are many common elements in the first year course, but Biochemistry students study foundation Chemistry, and Biology students study Ecology, Genetics and Plant and Animal Physiology and Adaptation.  The Biochemistry degree has a greater focus on the "chemistry of biology" and the Biology degree begins more broadly than this, covering the range of bioscience from ecosystem ecology to molecular and cell biology at the start, and allowing students to specialise in years 2 & 3. There is, therefore, a lot of overlap, but very few students are able to switch between Biology and Biochemistry once the course has begun (usually due to space constraints).

CHANGE OF COURSE: I’m not sure which area of biological sciences interests me most - can I transfer between degree programmes when I get there?

Yes. For Biology students, our degree programmes have a common first year so you can easily change between the various three-year Biology and specialist degree programmes. This flexibility gives you chance to change your mind as your knowledge, interests and skills develop.

For Biology, Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences students, you may also transfer to a four-year programme with a year in industry, or to the four-year programme with a year in Europe if you have the necessary language skills. You can also transfer from a four-year course to the three year BSc if you change your mind during your course.

Because of the ease with which you can transfer from one course to another once you get here there is no need to apply for more than one of the Biology/Biochemistry/Biomedical Sciences courses at York on your UCAS form. Please note, however, that it may not be possible to transfer from Biology to Biochemistry or Biomedical Sciences and vice-versa, especially once you get here.

MEDICINE: I’m applying for Medicine – will you still consider me?

We consider all applications without knowing what other choices you have made. However, in the case of Medicine (and other similar courses), applicants need to write personal statements that focus on their relevant experience and motivation for that course, and so it will be obvious to us that Biology is not your first choice degree subject. We realise that you can only make four applications for Medicine on your UCAS form, leaving one place that can be filled by another subject, which may be Biology, Biochemistry or Biomedical Sciences at York. We are happy to consider such applications without prejudice, as we know that some students may later decide that Medicine is not for them, or may be unsuccessful and need to consider alternative courses. Over the years, we have, in fact, accepted a good number of such students on to our courses in Biology, Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences who have gone on to enjoy the course, and to be happy and successful here.

RESITS: Do you accept resits?

We are happy to consider applicants who have results obtained by resitting modules during the AS and A level years.

Applicants who are resitting modules during a third year of study are also welcome to apply. These will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but normally our offer would be to achieve grades for any resits that bring your overall performance up to at least our typical offer.

RESULTS: What happens if my results are not as good as the offer you made me?

If you have only missed by a grade or so, we may still be able to confirm your place through UCAS on results day. However, in some cases it is possible that we may not be able to give you a final decision for quite a few days, as it is likely to depend on a number of factors such as the number of insurance places that will be taken up here, which itself depends on decisions from other Universities.

You should not worry about losing your insurance place elsewhere – if we are not able in the end to take you ourselves, your insurance University must take you if you have met the conditions of their offer.

We advise you to phone us on results day to discuss your situation (please do this yourselves – and don’t leave it to your parents). This can provide us with valuable extra information, and also allows us to keep you in the picture as much as possible during what we realise can be a very stressful and difficult period.

GAP YEAR: Can I take a gap year?

We are very happy to accept applications from students who want to take a gap year, and applicants applying for deferred entry are not disadvantaged in any way. Taking a gap year allows students to enhance their communication, problem solving, team building and leadership skills. Also, it provides an opportunity to travel or earn some money before beginning their degree, and many students benefit enormously from this experience, which is sometimes - but not always - in an area connected with their future studies.

YEAR AWAY: I’m not sure yet whether I want to spend a year away - in industry or Europe – can I decide later?

Yes. This can be a big decision to make when you apply, so we do not ask you to make a final decision until towards the end of your first year. At that stage, the year in industry and year in Europe coordinators talk to all first year students about what would be involved in spending a year away, and provide plenty of advice to help you decide.

TRANSFER: Do you accept transfer into 2nd or 3rd year?

We  only consider transfers into the 2nd year of our three year courses and then only in exceptional circumstances (usually compassionate or medical grounds). In order to be considered the following criteria need to be met:

- Your A level results should match our typical offer both in terms of grades and subjects.
- The modules that you have taken during the first year at your current university should be broadly similar to our first year syllabus.
- Your overall results at the end of your first year should be (or predicted to be) at least 60% (2:1).

We would also require a short personal statement explaining why you want to transfer to York.

If we were satisfied with this preliminary information we would invite you for interview. Our final decision would depend on your performance at interview and a positive academic reference from your current supervisor/tutor/course director which confirms your situation.

We cannot consider transfer into the 3rd year of any of our courses.

VISIT: Can I come to visit you?

You are welcome to come to visit us. We encourage you to attend one of the pre-application University Open Days which the University holds at least twice a year in July and September. Booking is essential, and you should contact the University Admissions and Student Recruitment Office for further information (email

If you are unable to come to an Open Day, we are able to organise an individual visit to the Department. During many of the school holidays the University runs Campus Tours, and where possible we like to combine these with Departmental visits. For more details of our availability please email:

Once you have received an offer, we will invite you to attend one of our departmental post-offer visit days, which take place on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons during the Spring ter.

PROSPECTUS: Where do I get University Prospectus?

You can request a paper copy of the University prospectus through the post by ordering online

BROCHURE: Where do I get a Biology or Biochemistry admissions brochure?

You can download a PDF version. Alternatively, if you prefer a paper copy, complete the form on our Request a Brochure page and we will send you one through the post.

SCHOOL: Does it matter what school I have attended?

No, not at all. All applications receive equal treatment, irrespective of educational background. We welcome students from all sorts of backgrounds and with a wide range of experience, and consider every application on its own merits.

MATURE: I am a mature student – will you consider my application?

Yes, we welcome applications from mature students whose skills and experience are valued by staff and other students. Your application will be considered individually and on its own merit. You may wish to contact the Admissions Tutors about your situation, and in any case if you are in any doubt about the suitability of your qualifications, we suggest that you contact us before making a formal application through UCAS. We are happy to consider applications from mature students offering Access to Higher Education courses. However, it is our policy to only consider applications where there is evidence of Biology and/or Chemistry being studied to a sufficient high level (equivalent to A level). Normally we would be looking at an Access to HE Diploma in Science with 30 credits achieved from units awarded Distinction and 9 awarded Merit or higher. We usually interview before making a final decision.  


DISABILITIES: Do you provide advice and support for students with disabilities?

Yes, certainly. We believe that students with disabilities should have access to the full range of opportunities, whether academic, cultural or social, and the University will do its best to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities.

Please be assured that disability will not a factor in making academic decision on your application, and you are encouraged to discuss any practical problems either before or after you apply to us. You may wish to contact the Admissions Tutor to arrange a special visit to the department.

If you need any general advice we suggest you contact Disability Services at York, on 01904 434785 or email

INTERNATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS: Do you accept applications from international students with other qualifications?

Yes, applications from international students are very welcome, whether from the EU or from overseas, and we consider all applications on their own merits. Generally, we are looking for evidence of advanced study and appropriate qualifications in our essential subjects, but we suggest that you contact the Admissions Tutors for specific advice on your particular situation. We will do our best to make you a fair offer, and we welcome discussions with your teacher or college tutor where we are less familiar with the particular qualifications you may be offering.

ENGLISH REQUIREMENTS: English is not my first language. What English qualifications do you accept?

If you're a non-native English speaking applicant you must provide evidence of your English language ability. We normally ask for a score of 6.5 in the IELTS test, with at least 6.0 in each component. Alternative qualifications are accepted, please visit our Undergraduate English language requirements pages for more information.

ENGLISH SUPPORT: Is there any English language support for international students?

Yes.  The International Pathway College (IPC) offers a range of pre-sessional courses that you can apply for. These language courses take place in the summer before the start of taught programmes for students who need to improve their English slightly before admission.

There are also excellent academic English courses taking place during the academic year through the Writing and Language Skills Centre.

APOLYTIRION: Is the Apolytirion (from Cyprus or Greece) an acceptable qualification?

We expect students from Cyprus or Greece to have taken A levels in our essential subjects (grades A/B) in addition to an overall score of 19/18 points in their Apolytirion. They would also need an acceptable English language qualification (usually IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in each section).

SCHOLARSHIPS: What bursaries and scholarships does the University offer?

The University offers a range of scholarships and bursaries to UK and EU undergraduate students, for more details please visit the undergraduate scholarships and bursaries page.

EARLY APPLICATIONS: I have heard that some universities treat applications received earlier differently to ones received later on. Is this true for the Department of Biology at York?

We treat all applications received before the 15th January deadline equally. Our offer criteria are decided in advance of the application cycle, and we monitor offers throughout to ensure that all applicants are treated fairly and equally. There is therefore no disadvantage to students who apply to us closer to the 15th of January deadline.

LOCATION: Where is the Biology Department?

The Biology Department is located on Wentworth Way on the Heslington West campus. Please see the University’s Maps and Directions page for further details.

POSTCODE: What postcode should I use for my satellite navigation system?

Please use the postcode YO10 5DD to find the University Heslington West campus.

RANKING: How do I know whether York is a good university?

Universities within the UK vary in what they have to offer. From its inception, the University has concentrated on strong viable departments and teaching and research of the highest quality. Many organisations and newspapers compare universities, looking at factors such as how good the teaching is, the research and how much funding it attracts, the facilities and the overall student experience. The University of York consistently ranks highly in these independent assessments of quality.

Biological Sciences at York has been consistently highly rated in all major league tables of UK Universities.