O-Week Faculty Welcome: Your Questions Answered!

Please see below for the answers to your Academic and Program Questions.



How do I choose a major?

Our Science degrees have up to 25 different majors to choose from, so it is understandable for new students to be unsure as to which one to take. Please click here for a guide on the different majors we have on offer and how to decide which one is best for you.  

When do I have to declare my major? How do I declare it?

Students are officially advised to declare their major at the end of their first year. But fear not – your major isn’t set in stone, and you can change it further down the track if you wish.
You can declare your major using the “Stream Declaration” tool in your Student Tab on myUNSW.

Do you need to declare if you're doing a complementary major?               

If you're doing a second major, you need to declare it. This can be done on myUNSW, via online stream declaration.

How much extra time does it usually take to do a double major when you're doing a double degree?

It depends on how large each major is, and how much crossover there is between the two majors. Check the handbook and look up both majors. Add the total UoC for both majors, and minus the UoC which counts towards both. If the result is 96 UoC or less, you’re good! We recommend you also map out your study plan for each year, to ensure you can take the core courses when they are offered

What is a minor?

Students have the option to use their electives to take a minor as a secondary academic discipline without having to cover the full scope of a second major. This will be recorded on your transcript but not your degree testamur. Please note that Stage 2 and 3 courses cannot be double-counted for a major and a minor.  


Course selection/Enrolment

How do you check if you're picking the right courses?

The UNSW Handbook is your contract with us – it tells you courses you need to do to graduate. Students must follow the Handbook of the year they commenced their degree. So you will need to follow the 2019 handbook. UNSW publishes a revised version of the Handbook every year so make sure you only use the 2019 Handbook to choose your courses.You are also welcome to ask the Science Student Centre if you need any clarification on the Handbook rules.

You should also  have received a personalised offer page which can give you advice on which courses to enrol in depending on your major. 

How late can I drop a course?

The last date to drop a course without financial and academic penalty is called the “Census Date”. It will be the Sunday of Week 4 for each term.

More information about late enrolment changes can be found here.

What is the difference between 'Swap' and 'Dropping and re-enrolling' on my UNSW?
There is a very important difference! “Drop” means that you will be removed from the course – in other words, you will not be enrolled anymore. “Swap” means that you want to stay enrolled in a course, but you want to swap to a different class time (for example, swapping a Monday tutorial to a Wednesday tutorial). If you only want to swap a class, always use the “Swap” button. If you use the drop button, you lose your place in the course, and we can’t guarantee that you can get back in!

What does "Pending" mean on my timetable?
“Pending” is an error message which means you have not been enrolled, and that you need to speak to a Student Advisor to resolve the issue. A pending status will always have an error message associated with it, advising you exactly what the problem is. For example, a timetable clash or a full class.
If you have a pending status for any course, it is your responsibility to contact the School in charge of the running the course, or the Science Student Centre. Staff do not receive any notification for pending enrolments, so the issue will not be resolved unless you ask for help.

I want to change class times. Who do I speak to if I need consent to enrol in a certain class? 
You need to contact the School in charge of the course. This information is listed on the Handbook entry for each course.
Please bear in mind that it may not be possible for you to change class times. The consent block is usually there for a very good reason!

I don't like my course choices anymore. Can I still swap courses?
The last day to swap or enrol into new courses is the Sunday at the end of Week 1. 

Certain electives I want to do either clash with my timetable or they cause me to have to wait around for 5 hours for a lecture. Is there a way around this?
Consider taking the course in another term or even next year. If it’s an elective, there’s no reason you have to take it right now, and next time the timetable might work out better for you. Alternatively, you can check the online timetable to see if there are any other class options that you could swap into.

Can I do a course from any faculty for my General Education units?
Any Faculty except Science!  Please note that some cross-disciplines degrees such as Data Science and Decisions and Medical Science also have restrictions on Gen Ed courses from other Faculties as well so please check the handbook for the program rules for your degree. Don’t forget the dual degree students do not need Gen Ed (you’re already doing courses from two Faculties!).

What happens if one of my lectures and tutorials for two courses clash?
Student can apply for a timetable clash approval, but it is not recommended for first year students. There are a few rules about timetable clash approval. The main ones to note are that clashes will only be considered if there is no alternative option, and they must not involve missing compulsory classes such as tutorials and labs.

If two classes clash for the first term will they continue to clash with each other in the future terms?
No, not usually. And if they are a common course combination, we endeavour to timetable them without a clash at all.

Is it disadvantageous to do a lower level course for e.g. chemistry or maths classes? Will it affect your marks/WAM?
Absolutely not. “Lower” and “higher” level courses do not have any bearing on your WAM. All courses are weighted the same. We have different levels of courses because different students have different needs depending on their chosen major. For example, a student majoring in Mathematics requires a more in-depth maths course in first year to prepare them for later studies. A student majoring in Biology however, does not require such in-depth knowledge, so we have a different maths course to cater for students doing life sciences majors. This isn’t to say that a Biology major student can’t choose to do a higher maths course; it’s just not compulsory for them do a higher version. If you need help deciding what level maths, physics or chemistry course to do, have a look at:

If I missed out on a bridging course but it is assumed knowledge, what options are available and will this pose a disadvantage?
For first year biology courses, you are not expected to have done biology before. For first year Maths, Chemistry and Physics courses however, there are different courses based on what your prior knowledge is.
This kind of question is usually answered on a case by case basis, so if you are in this position, we recommend that you consult the relevant School

Where can we get information about online electives?
If you are interested in online only electives you will need to check out the UNSW Handbook and UNSW Timetable page to see if the elective you want to do have an fully online offering. You can also click here for the Online Science courses that are offered in 2019.


Program Transfers

What is the process for transferring to a different degree?
You can apply for Internal Program Transfer (IPT) - see
You can also re-apply through UAC if you are a domestic student or Apply Online if you are an international student.

How do I drop the Arts part of my double degree if I decide that I only want to do Science?
You will need to apply via Internal Program Transfer (IPT) - see
You can apply before you have completed 36 UoC if you are just dropping one component of a dual degree - it will almost always be approved, regardless of the eligibility criteria.

Can you switch from B.Sc to an advanced course?
Yes, if you meet the eligibility criteria outlined here .

Can I change my degree during the first term?
Not at this stage. The last offers have gone out, so you’ll need to re-apply through UAC mid-year or wait until you’re eligible to IPT.

What's the latest time I can enrol into a double degree if I'm only doing a single degree right now?
In theory you can apply right up until you’ve completed your first degree. However, the longer you leave it, the more likely it is that you will have difficulties planning your program.
There’s not a set answer to this question, so you’re best to discuss it with the relevant Faculty’s Student Centre.

How difficult is it for Medical Science students to get into Medicine?
This is known as “Lateral Entry”. It is very, very competitive. There are only 10 places available each year and many Medical Science students apply for it. More information about the scheme can be found here



What is a “WAM”?
A WAM is a “weighted average mark”.

How is the WAM calculated?     
Each course (both those you've passed and those you've failed) gets added up with a weighting of the UoC for that course, and an average is then calculated. See  

Will we get a higher WAM if we do easier chemistry/maths courses, and is it worth doing the harder course?     
Do the higher courses if you like a challenge, or if they are required for your degree/major.

Is a 100 WAM possible?
While a 100 WAM (weighted average mark) is technically possible, we have never seen one!

If I have transferred from another uni will my marks from credit transfer count towards my WAM
No. Transfer credit from external institutions does not count towards your UNSW WAM.

Are weekly quizzes on moodle counted in your WAM?
It depends on the course. Not all courses have Moodle quizzes.  Your course coordinator will advise whether or not Moodle quizzes are an assessable component of your final grade and the weighting it will contribute to you final grade. Any assignment or test that counts towards your final grade will impact your WAM.


Other Academic Stuff

How does credit transfer work?
You can apply to have courses/study that you’ve undertaken (and passed!) at another institution credited towards your UNSW degree, meaning you will have fewer courses to complete here. We often grant credit for General Education or electives, and sometimes, if the content is similar enough to a UNSW course, we will grant specific credit. To apply, complete an advanced standing credit application, downloadable here and if you need more advice before filling it out, come and talk to the Science Student Centre

What is an Honours classification?
When you graduate from an Honours degree, there are 4 possible classes:

  • Honours Class 1: mark of 85 or greater
  • Honours Class 2 Division 1: mark from 75 to 84
  • Honours Class 2 Division 2: mark from 65 to 74
  • Honours Class 3 or Pass: mark below 65

Generally these classifications will be well understood by institutions worldwide.

Would you recommend Khan Academy as a supplement of homework?
We believe that there are sufficient educational resources available on campus and amongst our online environment. You might like to visit the friendly library staff for further info, or talk to your course coordinator about supplementary reading / resources that are most relevant to your course.

Does scaling apply to harder courses?
Scaling is not common, and would only be applied to a course if the assessments or marking standards were inconsistent with normal grading practices.

Where do we find the course outlines? E.g., learning outcomes, assessment schedules, suggested textbooks.
On Moodle!
Note: Some Moodle sites may not be live until week 1. So don’t panic if one or more of your courses is missing on your Moodle home page.

Do I have to go to all of my classes? What happens if I miss any?
Generally speaking, tutorials and labs are compulsory and attendance will be recorded. Attendance at lectures is not normally compulsory, but there are exceptions - your course coordinator will always let you know what your attendance requirements are. We highly recommend that you attend lectures even if they are not compulsory - lectures are interactive events and you will have a more enjoyable learning experience and learn a lot more than reading lecture notes at home. Lecture recordings are also available on our learning platform Moodle, but are designed to be revision tools rather than a replacement for live lectures.

How do online courses work?
Online courses are taught via Moodle. Here’s UNSW’s guide to Online Study: Please note that some of your examinations may still be on campus. 

How will I know when my exams/assignments are? When do exam timetables come out?
Every course has a Course Outline, which is published in Moodle. This outlines what your assessments are for the course.
Due dates for assessments due during term study weeks will be published in your course outlines. Exam dates are determined by a special unit at UNSW and are only published midway through the term. More information is available at:

What happens if I don't submit an assignment or miss an exam?
Assignments: penalties for late assignments vary between courses, but course coordinators will always state on Moodle, and in their course manual, what their penalty is. Generally, you lose 10% per day (including weekends).
Exams: You receive zero marks for the exam.
Sickness, misadventure or other circumstances beyond your control have prevented you from submitting your assignment or attending an exam. If this is the case, you can apply for “Special Consideration”. There are very particular rules when it comes to applying, so make sure you read

How do I join Moodle?
Students do not join Moodle as such; access to Moodle courses are based on enrolment. You need your UNSW z-pass to login to Moodle:, and your home page will list the courses you have access to.

What are terms?
Well, terms are like semesters except there are three per year instead of two. Please visit for more information.

When does the TSP (Talented Students Program) start?
It usually starts Week 1. Contact for specific questions, and check out


About UNSW Science

Can Science students do international exchange?            
All Science students can apply to do an international exchange as part of their degree program. Please click here for information on our exchange partners around the world and how to apply.

What's the difference between mathematics and science?
The short answer: Mathematics is a branch of science.

Does the science faculty work in conjunction with other faculties? How so?
This is a very broad question, but in short, yes we do. With respect to both research and teaching. Most common collaborations are between Science, Medicine and Engineering faculties.

What career paths are available to Science students?

There are a whole range of different industries that our Science graduates can work in after completing their degree at UNSW Sydney, click here to find out more.

Can I do an internship or work placement as part of my degree?

Our SCIF2199 Science Work Placement course grants students 6 UoC for a work placement that is relevant to their major and is approved by the School. Please go to our website for more information: 

Students can also apply to take DIPP1510 UNSW Work Placement as a general education course. 

What's the difference between ADV. Science and Science?
The Advanced Science (Honours) program is specially designed for innovative thinkers with exceptional scientific knowledge and skills. It targets talented students and offers access to science communication courses, exclusive advanced level courses and includes an Honours research year. Those interested in pursuing higher research degree (PhD or Masters) are highly recommended to pursue an Advanced Science (Honours) degree. 
The Bachelor of Science program is ideal for students who seek a 'generalist' science degree in which there is a large element of choice and opportunity to study across many scientific areas. Outstanding students can also apply for an additional honours research year at the end of the 3-year Science program.

Do we need to buy lab coats?
Yes! They can be purchased from the UNSW Grad Shop.They cost just under $30.
Lab coats are compulsory in laboratories and you will not be allowed into a lab class if you do not have a lab coat. The BSB Student Office in upper campus (Room G27, Biological Sciences Building), also sell disposable, single use lab coats for $3.

Is there a Science Camp?
Yes. See

How lit is sci camp?


Student Life Questions

Is it too late to join the Peer Mentoring program?
Nope! Contact Iona Reid via
More information on the program can be found here:

What are the major O-Week parties/ Are there any good Science parties?
We recommend you join a club or society and ask them! Here’s a list of all the student societies in the Faculty of Science:

How do I know what textbooks/resources to buy?            
The UNSW Bookstore has a textbook and course manual search tool on their website:
Your course coordinator and your course Moodle site will also outline the course materials you need.

Do I need to buy textbooks for all of my courses? How much do they cost?
Generally, textbooks are not compulsory, but your course coordinator will explain textbook requirements at the start of your course.  Textbooks are usually recommended, and if you choose to use it, you have the option of purchasing a new one, a second-hand one, or borrowing it from the UNSW Library. The Library has a "high use" collection which holds official textbooks for all courses. The textbooks can be borrowed for 2 hours, ensuring that as many students as possible get access to them.
As for the cost, this can vary greatly. Brand new textbooks can cost between $100 to $200. If you are looking for second hand textbooks, visit

What is a course pack and why do we have to buy them?                
Course packs are printed course notes which are sold at the UNSW Bookstore, and are usually compulsory. Think of them as workbooks that you will work through in your tutorials and/or labs. They are sold through the UNSW bookshop. The cost is based on size – they can cost as little as $10, but an average cost is about $20.
For some courses, the material is available through UNSW Moodle instead and you will have to download and print it yourself.
Any material in a course pack that is critical will also be provided through UNSW Moodle.

What does "Arc" stand for?
Arc @UNSW  is a not-for-profit organisation for students studying at UNSW. The name is symbolic of an umbrella covering all of the students, clubs and societies in the organisation’s care, and has nothing to do with floods or paired animals. 

How do I join Arc?
For more information, please click here.

What is a "student society" and how can I join one?
A Student Society is a group run by students, generally grouped by a common interest. At UNSW, official student societies need to be registered and affiliated with Arc @UNSW. To join one, contact the society directly by going to one of their stalls during O-Week, or contact them via Arc @UNSW
A list of Science societies and their contact details can be found here:

What events are held on campus each year?
Check out:

Where do I find parking?

How do I access online lectures?               
Moodle or Echo360!  There’s a link in myUNSW.

Can I get a discount on uni cost ?                
Arc publish a Stingy Student Guide – see

Can I travel and study overseas and get credit for my UNSW program?
You sure can, and we highly recommend it! It is called Student Exchange. Check out for more information.

When is the earliest you can go on exchange?    
Second term of second year.

How far ahead of time do you need to apply for an exchange?
Around a year in advance.  If you’re a first year now, the earliest you can apply is end of first year (the deadline is around October), to go on exchange in second term of your second year.

Will I have time for a part-time job?
The answer can differ depending on who you talk to! A full time student completing four courses in a term is expected to dedicate 37.5 hours of study per week (this includes classes). This is equivalent to a full time job!  If you believe you can manage your time effectively, then there is no reason why you can’t do a part-time job. It only becomes a problem if it impacts your ability to dedicate the appropriate amount of time to your studies and pass your courses.
UNSW’s official stance on Student Workload:

How do I make friends?
Join a social club! Science has lots of student societies based on programs and Schools.
Check out for more information.

Where is the bar?
The Roundhouse”, our fabulous student bar, is located on lower campus near Gate 3.
We also have “The Whitehouse” which is our bar/café/restaurant, located on Fig Tree Lane, next to Columbo Theatres.

If I have 2 different lectures one after the other, will I be able to make it to class in time?
Lectures formally finish 5 minutes before the hour and start 5 minutes after the hour. So you will have 10 minutes to get to your next class.

Do I have to wear safety glasses over my normal glasses?
Some labs will require safety equipment to be worn or used – your lab demonstrators will let you know. You can purchase safety glasses that fit over normal glasses at the Grad Shop.

Where do STEM students study on campus (e.g library)?
There is no special designated area for STEM students to study, but if you want to connect with fellow students and form study groups, your best bet is to join the relevant student society. Science societies are listed here:

How can I get involved in sport at UNSW?
Check out

Are there lockers for hire?
YMCA Fitness and Aquatic Centre has some short-term lockers for use.


Some sillier questions

Can you explain the three interpretations of quantum physics regarding the measurement problem?
Nope. Maybe ask Professor Simmonds!

Where can I buy a norovirus?     
Norovirus affected hundreds of thousands of Australians last winter. Scores of outbreaks of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea occurred in Sydney, the Hunter region and the ACT, mainly in closed settings including aged care facilities, hospitals, childcare centres and cruise ships. Not a product we endorse! Save your money.

Where can I learn more about barnacles?             
Our esteemed Dean was referring to a biography of Darwin written by Desmond & Moore in the 90s.  It’s a fabulous book but about 650 pages!
There is a book by Rebecca Stott called “Darwin and the Barnacle” which might be more manageable!

What’s the easiest method to cheat your way through uni?            
Cheating is taken pretty seriously here.  See for tips on how to NOT cheat, and penalties for those who do.

Can I major in Memes? 
Sorry, no major in Memes (yet…)

Can you use echo360 in places other than caves?
Yes, thankfully, but the sound is extra impressive in caves.

Will I have time for online gaming and university?
Sure, why not?
Disclaimer: Just make sure you squeeze in the recommended study time.  ;)