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MPhil in Biological Sciences by Advanced Study


General Guidance for MPhil in Biological Sciences by Advanced Study

These notes are intended to help you prepare your application for a place on the MPhil in Biological Sciences by Advanced Study, and to prepare for the interview. They also contain some notes that you might want to share with your nominated referees.

How to write a strong application:

  1. Be specific. Talk about your background and motivation for higher study in your chosen biological sciences field. Use specific examples of past learning/experiences that drove you to want to know more and why. Talk about the aspects of your chosen biological field that you find most fascinating and want to know more about, and about how this course will accelerate that learning.
  2. Be knowledgeable. Read the course description and tailor your application to the course. Highlight the taught component that you are most enthusiastic to learn. Identify potential supervisors who work in areas of interest to you (but make sure they are participating supervisors on the course).
  3. Be succinct.
  4. Be genuine. If there are non-academic experiences from your past that motivate you, then discuss them, but if you’re just fascinated about a topic in your chosen biological field that’s fine too. If you have faced significant challenges in your academic journey that have affected your academic performance, then let the panel know. Let the panel know what motivates you, where your future career might lead you, and how this MPhil will help you reach those career goals.

What makes a strong reference letter:

  1. Strong reference letters are specific and tailored to both the candidate and the course to which they are applying.
  2. They discuss what sets this particular candidate apart from their peers (e.g. intellectual ability, dedication to learning, communication skills, leadership qualities, curiosity and/or technical skills).
  3. They give an indication of how the candidate compares to other students the referee has encountered, both in their current institute and in other institutes where the referee has worked.

What are the panel looking for at the interview:

  1. Engagement. Strong candidates engage with the questions asked by the panel and provide thoughtful answers by drawing upon their creativity and knowledge of the topic.
  2. Motivation. Strong candidates can describe why they are applying to study on the course and how the MPhil fits into their future career plans.
  3. Preparation. Strong candidates have read the available course literature and know what to expect from the course. They have researched potential supervisors that they might want to work with on the course.
  4. Communication. Strong candidates answer questions clearly and can hold a conversation with the panel about the science that fascinates them.
  5. Enthusiasm. Strong candidates are excited by the prospect of learning more about their chosen biological sciences field. They can clearly describe their scientific interests. They can describe specific topics they find fascinating and can talk intelligently about these topics.
  6. Knowledge. Strong candidates understand research methods and theoretical frameworks in their chosen biological sciences field. They can speak in detail about specific topics, for example topics related to previous dissertation work or research experience.  They can synthesise their knowledge to answer hypothetical research-based questions, demonstrating their ability to think critically.


Key contact

MPhil Coordinator


Dates and deadlines

Application deadline: 24 April 2024

Funding application deadline: 4 January 2024