This section will address how to select which course(s) you should apply to.
MOTIVATIONS FOR DEGREE
Information taken from Cambridge HE+
A degree in Chemistry at the undergraduate level will help you gain a number of different skills. Not only will you be able to develop a comprehensive understanding of the chemical world around you, but you will also be able to learn other practical skills such as:
- the ability to work independently and in collaboration,
- analytical and computational skills,
- mathematical expertise,
- Practical chemistry techniques,
- Problem-solving skills,
- Some research proficiency (if you plan to pursue a postgraduate degree, you can improve this proficiency).
Having an interest in the subject is crucial because the degree is demanding - and without the right interest, it could be very challenging. You will most likely have to attend lectures, tutorials, workshops and lab practicals as a part of your degree - so if you think you will not be able to put in the hours and investment required, you should reconsider your decision to pursue your undergraduate study in this field.
What to expect
A course of Chemistry will typically be studied through a combination of theoretical learning and practical experiments. So you can expect to have an engaging and diverse academic experience if you opt for this course. In your third or fourth year of study (depending on your degree), you will most likely be able to write a dissertation as well.
UK-based sources say that graduates of Chemistry can opt for a number of different career paths. Some students continue their education and complete more specialized degrees, like an MRES, MPhil or PhD in Chemistry. Others choose to go into non-research based careers - like teaching, consultancy or working in the pharmaceutical industry or the energy industry. And the options are not just limited to these - as a graduate, you will most likely be eligible for a number of careers because of the transferable skills you have gained. Keep in mind, this information has been taken from UK-based sources and may not be completely applicable to Pakistan or other countries. For more specific information on Pakistan/other countries, you are advised to talk to your professors/professionals in the field/conduct research on job opportunities.
TYPES OF DEGREE
The following degrees are available for Chemistry in the UK:
- Bachelor of Science (BSc)
- Undergraduate Master’s degrees (these degrees usually take 1 year longer to complete and by the end of it, graduates gain both Undergraduate and Master's level certification)
- Master of Chemistry (MChem)
- Master of Science (MSci)
Degrees are also divided into Single Honours and Combined Honours (or Joint Honours).
How to select the best option for yourself (among degrees within this field)
BSc vs. MChem/MSci
The BSc is a 3-year undergraduate degree, whereas the MChem and MSci degrees are 4 years in length. The fourth year in the MChem and MSci degrees allows you to specialize by taking advanced modules and research projects of your choice. Doing a four-year degree (with a Master’s title) will open more career pathways for you, but will be more expensive.
Students who choose undergraduate Master’s degrees are more likely to go on to do a PhD. There may be some universities that will not accept a BSc graduate directly for a PhD program. So if you plan to apply for a PhD program, you should apply for an undergraduate Master’s degree. Some universities will allow you to transfer between MChem//MSci/BSc programs during your study (typically until the second year).
There is little to no difference in an MSci Chemistry and MChem degree - but this may vary by program. Do visit your prospective course website to learn of any distinction between the two types.
Single Honours vs. Combined (Joint) Honours degrees
Combined Honours degrees are titled ‘Chemistry with X’, where X denotes a second subject that is taught every year alongside Chemistry. If you opt for a Combined Honours degree, you will have academic strength in two subjects, i.e. Chemistry and Subject X, and this will be recognized in the name of your degree.
Before applying for courses under the Combined Honours degree, make sure you find out what proportion of Chemistry is being taught every year as it will be different for each year. Some employers might not consider this as an appropriate entry qualification if Chemistry is being diluted by the second subject.
Single Honours degrees will also include a variety of subjects that are taught, alongside Chemistry - but only in the first and second years of study. As a student of this degree, you will have to take the core Chemistry courses and will have freedom to select elective courses (like Maths, Physics, Biology etc.). While the Single Honours degree varies in format by university, non-Chemistry studies will typically stop at the end of your second year of study.
Applied Chemistry courses
These courses will focus on one particular area of Chemistry, early on. While they will provide you a strong insight into that area of Chemistry, they may limit your career options. Some employers (in the UK) say that they prefer their prospective employees to have a first degree in Chemistry instead of a specialized qualification.
When selecting which university you want to apply to, you should take the following things into consideration:
- The courses that are available and their entry requirements
- If the course you are interested in is not pure Chemistry (i.e. it is not a Single Honours degree), how much Chemistry is there relative to other subjects in the degree?
- How much Mathematics/Physics support is there (if you need it)?
- How many hours are spent in the teaching lab?
- Do you get to choose the modules you want to study?
- What amount of practical work can you do in your final year? How much time is spent doing independent research?
- Will this course help you develop the transferable skills you want?
- The number of students at the university, on that particular course and the student-teacher ratio
- Location: is the university in a big city or is it located in a smaller town? Does that affect your decision to apply?
- Campus or city university: are the university building on a single town, or are they scattered across a city? Does that affect your decision to apply?
How to select the best option for yourself (among specializations and sub-fields within this field)
Note: This is a general overview; for more specific and detailed information on what your prospective course will entail, you should visit the course website and go through it.
Chemistry is typically divided into four main areas: Organic, Inorganic, Physical and Theoretical. A course in Organic Chemistry will focus on the study of organic material, compound, structures, properties and reactivity. A course in Inorganic Chemistry, on the other hand, will focus on inorganic compounds like metals, their reactivity, and other properties. Physical Chemistry courses will combine Physics and Chemistry and will include studies in quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, kinetics etc. You might also be able to study other areas of Chemistry in your undergraduate degree like Analytical Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Chemistry or Food Chemistry. Theoretical Chemistry focuses on studying the structural and dynamic properties of molecules and molecular material.
You should select your degree based on your specific interest. Ask yourself: which branch of Chemistry am I most fascinated by? What sort of learning do I want from my undergraduate degree? Make sure you go through all the course-based resources on the website (look at how the course is taught, how research-intensive, which modules it includes) to make your decision. You should also make sure that you look at prospective career pathways when deciding which field you want to pursue (you can get this information from your prospective university websites or through alumni/current students of the program or your current teachers). Make sure the field you apply for ultimately leads to the career pathway you want to pursue.
Some universities might also offer courses in related areas, like the following:
- Biochemistry: this is the study of the chemical processes of living organisms. If you are more inclined towards the biological side of Chemistry, a course in this branch of Chemistry would be ideal for you.
- Materials Science: this is the study of man-made material and how it can be used to advance the world. You should choose a course in this branch if you want to learn more about man-made material.
- Pharmacology: this is a study of how drugs interact with the human body, and what effect they have on it. If you are more inclined towards going into research after completing your degree, you should choose this branch of study.
If you are interested in Chemistry, you might also like:
- Biology and Physics
- Biomedical Sciences
- Pharmacy (leading you to become a certified pharmacist)
How to select the best option for yourself (among allied fields)
- Biology and Physics are other science subjects that you may want to consider. If you are especially interested in Organic Chemistry or Physical Chemistry, these degrees could be a good fit as well.
- If you are interested in learning about how the human body functions and how a disease can be understood or treated, a degree in Biomedical Sciences or Medicine might be an appropriate choice for you. Medicine will typically take more years to complete and will give you the license to practice. A degree in Biomedical Science will typically be more research-oriented.
- If you want to practice (as a Pharmacist), a degree in Pharmacy might be more suitable than a degree in Pharmacology.
- No. of Universities to Apply: You will be able to apply to five schools of your choice on UCAS. Note: you can only apply to Oxford or Cambridge.
To find out more about your university of choice, make sure you visit the website and go through all available resources. Universities also recommend that prospective applicants try to attend their ‘open days’ and find out more about the course they want to apply to - since this may be difficult for Pakistani students, it is recommended that you connect with students or alumni of the course you are interested in to find out more about it.
Here are some links that could help you with selection:
Note that the ranking of a university should not be the only factor considered when choosing universities. Though the rank is an important thing to keep an eye out for, there are many other things that you should consider when choosing amongst universities/programs (some of which is explained above in the ‘Program Selection’ section).
- UNISTATS: you can go through this link to compare different universities and their courses in Chemistry (based on overall student satisfaction, work placement etc.).
- This is an excellent resource to help you select your course and degree -- make sure you go through it.
- Top-program by specialty: make sure to check the ranking of programs based on their specialty subfield in Chemistry.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on program selection (under the tab of ‘selection’).
A lot of our tips talk about how you can strengthen your application, but you can build a stronger application when you’ve done the things this program values in the years prior to the application. The application itself is the communication part (in which you communicate what you've done to the admission committee); but this section gives guidance on the substance part (what you can actually do before you apply). In this section we talk about what you can do in the years leading up to applying that can make you an ideal candidate. Supplement the following tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘Pre-Application’) to become a competitive applicant.
Students interested in applying for Chemistry in the UK will typically be required to have studied Chemistry, Mathematics and one other science subject in their A-levels (or final two years of high school). This is the general trend, but you should visit your prospective course website to find out the specific subject-related criteria you need to meet.
Since Chemistry is considered to be a demanding degree, grade requirements can be quite high. While the exact requirement will vary by university and specific course, you can expect requirements for top-tier universities to be somewhere between A*A*A and ABB. The most competitive schools will require 1-2 A*s and 1-2 As in specific subjects. The middle-ranked universities will have more lenient requirements (like 1 A and 2 Bs). Lower-ranked universities will have lower requirements. Note: this is a general guideline; to find out the exact requirements for the course(s) you are interested in, please visit the course website.
It is advised that you aim for the best grades possible - since your internal transcript and A-level results, both, are very important for the admissions committee. Although some universities may be willing to accommodate students whose A-level results are a grade or so lower than their conditional offer, you should aim to meet your condition.
The typical IB requirement is 34-38 points. If you are hoping to apply to the most highly-ranked places, you should aim to get a score between 38-42 points. The most competitive universities will require the highest score. Low ranked universities will accept scores below 33. Please check your prospective university website for their IB admissions criteria before applying.
If you have done something other than A-Level or IB, contact your prospective university to find out what their requirements for your system are. Note: some schools may not accept the HSSC qualification for regular entry. You may have to opt for a foundation year first. After you successfully complete your foundation year, you can move on to the regular degree program (as a result, you will take 1+3 years, i.e. 4 years to finish your Bachelor’s degree). For more information on foundation programs, please go through the UK Country Profile on our website.
Universities in the UK focus mostly on candidates’ academic experiences and abilities when evaluating applications. So instead of focusing too much on your extracurricular activities, they will most likely want to see evidence of your super-curricular activities. These are those activities that are directly relevant to your study, and have taken your regular curriculum further - they have taken your learning in Chemistry beyond what your teachers have taught you in the classroom. Try to take some time out to engage more with your area of academic interest. Read articles, journals or blogs that are on your area of interest, and explore the area further. Anything that is relevant to your study will help your application.
Resources for Reading:
- This resource from Cambridge university will allow you to learn more about a number of topics, while also giving you more questions to think about and suggestions for further reading. Note: this resource has been developed by one university, and although it can be useful irrespective of where you apply, you should definitely go through your prospective university’s reading lists as well - and extend your reading.
- This Royal Society of Chemistry resource will help you find literature and journals on areas of your interest. You can also go through the research tools and resources listed here.
On the other hand, if your extracurricular activities can help you develop transferable skills like dedication and commitment, independence and initiative, leadership or teamwork, you should participate in them as well. Attending science competitions or STEM Olympiads might also add more value to your overall application.
Professional work is not a requirement for applying, but it could help your overall application. If you are interested in going into Biomedical Sciences or Pharmacology, you could try to do an internship at a hospital or in a pharmaceutical company (GSK, Pfizer, ICI Pakistan, Abbott etc. are options you could consider in Pakistan).
This section provides an overview of general guidelines pertaining to the application process. It also delineates the key components of the application process.
While your application will be reviewed holistically, some components like your transcripts and statement may be evaluated with more scrutiny. You may or may not have an interview or assessment, but if you do you should be extremely well-prepared for those as well.
Is this component required?
How important is this component (in the overall review of the application for admission)?
Overall Application Deadline
Usually January or earlier
Standardized tests or entry exams
Written assessments (required by some universities)
Very important when required
Transcripts (past academic records)
Letters of recommendation
Resume or CV
Required on occasion
Very important when required
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on overview (under the tab of ‘overview’).
Pakistani applicants suffer most because of inadequate information -- or wrong information -- about essays and personal statements. This section will address those inadequacies specifically in relation to applying for this program. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘essay’) to craft a stellar personal statement.
Writing your personal statement can seem like an intimidating task, but you need not worry. As long as you can plan ahead and make sure you have enough time to write several drafts, you will be able to write a strong personal statement.
You will be required to submit one personal statement to the 5 universities you are applying to via UCAS. In your essay, you will need to display your enthusiasm for and knowledge of the subject in just 4000 characters -- meaning you will have to be economical and to-the-point in your writing. Your main aim is to explain to the admissions committee why you should study Chemistry at the undergraduate level, and what academic experiences have led you to this decision.
Which resources should I make use of?
- Read the following links before you start planning your personal statement:
- After reading the above link, check out these samples to get an idea on how successful Chemistry major applicants have written their personal statements.
- It is highly recommended that you write your own statement, and not using some pre-prepared format. Just give yourself enough time to do it.
TIPS ON GOOD AND BAD STATEMENTS
What is essential in the statement:
- A logical and coherent structure: you should start your personal statement with why you want to study Chemistry, and conclude with why you want to go to university/your future aims.
- The major portion of your statement should discuss your academic interest in Chemistry. You should talk about topics that are relevant to the courses you are applying to, why they interest you (if you are have done any reading on these topics, talk about that) and why you want to explore them further in university.
- Dr. Subrayal Reddy (Professor in Analytical and Biomaterials Chemistry at University of Central Lancashire) says “genuine enthusiasm for the subject is sought. Chemistry underpins everything in the material world. Therefore, it is important to see that candidates are making the connection between Chemistry and the real world”. (Source: Which? University)
What are some elements of exceptional statements:
- It is recommended that you show your wider engagement with Chemistry as well. Admissions committees will want to see that you have gone beyond the classroom, and engaged in some independent learning as well. You could talk about your super-curricular activities (visit the Pre-Application Section for more information) here. If you have done any reading outside of your high school classes or gone through the suggested reading links on your prospective course websites, you should talk about them here. Remember: the committee does not just want a list of what you have encountered in your reading, but proof that you have reflected on the academic ideas those readings contained. Some questions you could think about when planning this section are:
- Have you explored online material related to the branch of Chemistry you are interested in? If so, which aspects of academic discourse did you find most appealing and why?
- What have you found most interesting in your reading/classroom discussions, and what are your thoughts on those topics?
- Have you done any outside reading that helped you broaden your knowledge of this branch of Chemistry?
- Is there any lab (practical) work/experiments you have done during your school that interested you most? How did you explore those ideas further?
- According to Andrew Pike (Chemistry Undergraduate Admissions Tutor, Newcastle University), the most important ingredient in your application is “genuine passion” for Chemistry. He says, “how do you as an individual know that three or four year of Chemistry lectures and labs is not going to bore you? Or where do you think you might end up with your degree? Some foresight about this is always a good sign of a mature thinker and not someone who has been pushed into doing the subject”. (Source: Which? University) It is completely okay if you do not know what you want your ‘exact’ career path to be, but it is recommended that you write 1-2 lines about what you want to achieve through the degree. It could be anything: a career goal, personal or academic fulfillment, more knowledge etc.
What are bad statements/things to avoid:
- “Avoid generalization. You need to make this personal. It is about you, so you do not need to tell me how a detailed theory works or make a political or environmental point, unless you actually did something about”, says Andrew Pike (Chemistry Undergraduate Admissions Tutor, Newcastle University - taken from Which? University). Be genuine: talk about how the study of Chemistry (one particular topic, lab experiment, or even an article) has impacted your knowledge, understanding or enthusiasm.
- Bad grammar: spelling mistakes and incorrect sentence structure will not be looked at favourably by admissions committees. Therefore, it is recommended that you review your personal statement a number of times. You can even request someone else (friends, teachers, family members) to proof-read your statement.
- Talking too much about about your extracurricular activities: while it is okay to talk about them if they are directly relevant to Chemistry (like participation in a science olympiad, or being part of your school’s science society etc.) and have contributed to your overall academic interest, you should not talk about unrelated activities in too much detail - unless your experiences are exemplary and have helped you gain vital transferable skills that would be useful in studying Chemistry at university.
How can applicants manage the process of writing?
(Advice from Sue Thompson, Royal Society of Chemistry)
- Before you start writing, make sure you come up with a plan for the essay. Make sure you answer the following questions in your plan:
- Why are you choosing this particular course?
- What academic or personal achievements and relevant experience do you have that a) have compelled you to apply, and b) make you a suitable fit for this branch of Chemistry?
- Do you have any hobbies or interests relevant to this degree, that can show your skills and abilities?
- The UCAS form usually times-out after a few minutes, so to avoid losing work you should: begin writing your statement in Word/Notepad and saving it regularly. Once you have written your final draft, you can copy-paste it into the online form. Note: no formatting is allowed on the UCAS form, so any bold, italicized or underlined words will disappear when you transfer your essay to the UCAS form.
This section will cover the basics about recommendation letters, which are one of the most important parts of the application process. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘recommendations’) to ensure you have strong letters of recommendation.
You will be required to submit 1 letter of recommendation when applying for a degree in this field. Your reference should ideally know you academically and should be able to speak to your work ethic, how you interact with other students, and your ability to fare well in university (in a Chemistry course). Keeping this in mind, you should try to request your high school (A-level, FSc, IB) Chemistry teacher to write you a recommendation letter. If you are applying to a Joint Honours course, you could also request a teacher who has taught you the second subject to write you a reference.
- Before requesting your recommenders for LoR, go over the following links carefully:
This section will cover everything else related to the application process; including transcripts, interviews, resumes, and standardized tests.
Some universities may have interviews. Please visit your prospective university website to find out what the interview procedure is for university (if applicable). You can try to find the following information: a) are interviews conducted? b) if so, are they conducted for all candidates or shortlisted candidates, c) what is the interview process like -- what sort of questions are asked? And d) how can candidates prepare for the interview?
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on preparing for interviews (under the tab of ‘interview’).
You may be required to submit a resume. If you are required to submit one, make sure it is concise, accurate and up-to-date. And make sure you visit your prospective university website to find out more specific guidelines for the resume format.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on building a resume (under the tab of ‘Resume/CV’).
As an international applicant, you will be required to take English language proficiency tests. Most universities will allow you to choose between the TOEFL and IELTS -- websites will also state the minimum score you require (in individual reading, writing, speaking and listening components; and overall) to be considered for admission.
It is advised that you take the test well before your application deadline, to ensure that your score is sent to your prospective university at the required time.
Some courses at certain universities (Cambridge and Oxford usually) may require applicants to take admission tests. If you are asked to take a test, make sure you are well-prepared as it will be fundamental to your selection. For more specific information, visit the university-specific websites (you should also check how international students take these tests: are they called to the university or are the tests administered in their home country?).
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on preparing for standardized tests (under the tab of ‘tests’).