Materials Science

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The lecture note booklets for this course are very thorough and have consistent formatting throughout the whole year. Most of the notes have a lot of gaps which are filled in during the lecture and once completed contain all of the examinable material. From student experience the first lecture series is quite abstract and difficult to commit to memory at first but it should definitely come clearer as you move onto the other lecture series and the concepts are more applied.

The lecture series titles are listed below:

  • A: Atomic Structure of Materials
  • B: Materials for Devices
  • C: Diffraction
  • D: Microstructure
  • E: Mechanical Behaviour of Materials
  • F: Biomaterials
  • G: Materials Under Extreme Conditions


At the back of each lecture booklet are several example sheets. Supervisors will probably ask you to complete one of these sheets every week. Supervisions are majorly based on going through the answers to the questions. The lectures you cover that week should give you all the information you need to complete the questions. Later in the term, the full answers are released on Moodle which is useful for consolidating the correct answers.


Practicals happen once a week. For all the practicals, except the very first one, there are pre-practical quizzes with short answers and multiple-choice questions on Moodle to answer before the practical. The questions are not difficult but the idea behind it is that you read over the method and understand it before arriving at the practical. Altogether these online questions contribute 2.5% of your materials mark. In Easter term, there is a mini project involving deconstructing and analysing the components of a calculator. This one involves some research and is written up over the Easter break and contributes 10% of your overall mark.

Make sure you sign in when you arrive at a practical and it’s important you arrive on time- the demonstrators might turn you away from a practical if you miss the health and safety intro. In general, though, the practicals are pressure-free, with notes guiding you through the experimental steps you should follow and questions to be answered in your notebooks. You can get away with not completing all the tasks, as long as you make sure you can answer questions such as ‘what explains this trend in your plot’ to the demonstrators when signing out.

The focus of these practicals is not on completing the tasks, but on making sure you understand what’s happening and applying the knowledge you gained from the lectures to your observations. The demonstrators are very keen to answer any questions you may have, either directly related to the practical or on the syllabus in general, so you should take advantage of this. The answers should appear on Moodle later as well. The practicals tend to match the content of the lectures quite closely which is good because it lets you see some of the concepts in action!

** 2020/21: Practicals were carried out in-person in Michaelmas and Easter. As there was only 1 hour, working quickly enabled one to complete more tasks and ask more questions. Lent was online via recorded videos and quizzes on Moodle and small group sessions over Zoom. In both cases, submissions of answers were required at the end of the day. **


Re-reading lecture notes and revisiting example sheets, as the questions are similar to exam questions, completed for supervisions is a good way to start revising. Past paper questions are also invaluable and the more you do the better. Refer to the ‘Useful resources’ below as these are also very good for revision. Practice drawing sketches and diagrams as they will definitely come in handy during exams.


There is one exam at the end of the year which is 3 hours long. It has 7 questions of which you need to answer 5. This gives you just over 30 minutes on each question. Each question is worth the same number of marks and it’s normally clear which lecture course the question is based on, although some questions still require information from other lecture courses. Good ways of gaining marks include adding relevant extra information and having well-labelled diagrams.

Useful resources

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