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Module Options

Any module that does not appear in your option lists on the online module registration system for the year you are currently in is an unusual option. Guidance on whether such an option would be allowed can be found on the Unusual Options page.

Choosing Options There are two points to bear in mind. First, you should choose modules you are really interested in; finding optional modules you are well motivated to work on is an excellent path to success at university. Second, you have to figure out how to divide your time and, later in the year, count CATS and think about exam strategy. Do not take extra optional modules if you are unable to devote the necessary time to them. Following a university lecture course is really not like following a soap opera on TV. It requires from the student a substantial input of effort and thought for each lecture, in addition to revision work in the vacation and before the exams.

Before reaching a final decision on which modules to take, you should consult your personal tutor.

Look ahead! A module you want to take next year may have a prerequisite module, which you therefore should take this year. There is often no rigid requirement that you have taken the earlier module for exam (although if you don't know the material or the points of view of the earlier module, you may have some reading up or some figuring out to do later) but note that some departments will require you to have taken the prerequisites for examination such as WBS and Economics.

For instance, MA3D1 Fluid Dynamics requires MA250 Introduction to PDEs. A second year Computer Science option may need knowledge of MA117 Programming for Scientists or CS118 Programming for Computer Scientists.

To find what you need to know in advance for a given module, look it up in the module section for its year: prerequisites are stated there. (Some also indicate which more advanced topics the module leads on to.)

For students on a joint degree, or hoping to change to one, the stated prerequisites are usually compulsory.

Pure or Applied? Rather than deciding straight away that you don't like pure maths or applied maths, give both a try. You'll probably find that neither is quite what you expect it to be. For maximum flexibility, first year mathematics students should take as many of the List A modules as possible.

Two strings to your bow By choosing options systematically from a second subject, you can develop a sideline, say, in Statistics, Business Studies, Economics, Computing, or Engineering. By doing this, you can come very close to following a joint degree, and, indeed, keep that option open. The following First Year modules are those recommended by the departments concerned.

Statistics: we have a dedicated page to outline progression through Statistics modules to keep your options as wide as possible,

Computer Science: MA117 Programming for Scientists.

Economics: EC106 Introduction to Quantitative Economics.

Industrial and Business Studies: IB104 Mathematical Programming I.

Philosophy: PH142 Central Themes in Philosophy

Physics: PX148 Classical Mechanics and Special Relativity, PX120 Electricity and Magnetism, PX121 Thermal Physics I, PX101 Quantum Phenomena.

Second Years: improving on a disappointing first year. Care in choosing modules may help to turn a third class first year performance into a second class degree result. (Of course, allocating more time to your studies and thinking how to make that time more productive will help even more!) Consider restricting your Maths to the Core modules (66 CATS) and taking more outside options. Modules from Social Studies and Humanities usually produce marks that cluster more in the second class, so you are more likely to get a respectable (but not outstanding) mark from such options. Business Studies, Education, Law and Politics offer usual options in the second year without prerequisites.

The Language Centre runs academic modules (as distinct from a leisure class in the evening at a fee) in, for example, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, for which you must register during Week 1. See also their web pages.

Information on language modules can be found at

Note that you may only take one language module (coded LL, FR, GE or IT, etc, as an Unusual Option) for credit in each year. Language modules are available as whole year modules, or smaller term long modules; both options are available to maths students. These modules may carry 24 (12) or 30 (15) CATS and that is the credit you get. We used to restrict maths students to 24 (12) if there was a choice, but we no longer do this.

All languages are considered to be "Unusual Options" . However, we do not require you to obtain a completed Unusual Option form for these modules. It will be checked automatically that you are not registered for more than one, and if the Language Centre (or department running the module) have not agreed for you to take it you will receive a mark of zero at the end of the year.

NOTE: Final year students, and final and penultimate integrated masters students (MMath) are not permitted to take beginner level language modules (this does not include accelerated beginner level).

To change course, or to take options? A small number of students take advantage of the Mathematics Department's flexible options policy by remaining on the mathematics degree course, while taking up to 50% of their course credit from another department. If you wish to do this as an alternative to transferring to another department or changing to a joint degree, it's fine by us. The only essential point is that in order to remain on the maths degree, you must satisfy our requirements (notably in the 3rd year of the BSc. taking at least 57 CATS credits from List A, including at least 45 CATS of modules with codes beginning MA3 or ST318). If you transfer to another department or a joint degree, you will of course have a different set of requirements, possibly more substantial and less flexible.

Where am I going? Which modules lead to which?

At every stage it is important to look ahead. Otherwise you might one term run out of modules you want to take, or find that you have not taken modules one year that are prerequisites for modules you want to take in a later year.

Most modules and descriptions list some prerequisite courses. These are advice rather than compulsion unless explicitly stated, but the advice should be taken seriously. If you know which modules you want to take in future, you should also ask advice from your tutor about the optional modules to select now.

Within the Mathematics Department you can usually still take a module even if you have not done all the previous modules you are supposed to need. In that case you might find it very difficult, but if you are resourceful and determined there is usually a way round (ask the lecturer for advice). If you are taking modules in other Departments and particularly if you are on a joint degree, it may sometimes be compulsory to have taken prerequisite modules; you should read other Department's course descriptions very carefully.

It is possible to take second year optional maths modules in the third year. You may wish to consider delaying optional modules in this way if you are finding the mathematics very challenging, or if you are just too busy with other choices.

NOTE: fourth year MMath students will only be able to take second year modules as unusual options, and will need to provide a compelling reason for doing so. Module choices should take this into account.

Options and careers It's a good idea to consider your future career when you choose options or think about transferring to a joint degree.