Browse our student FAQs for more information on course selection, enrolment, exams, assignments and student life at UNSW Science. Whether you’re wanting to know more about majors, student exchange or clubs and societies, our FAQs will answer your questions and give you an insight into life at UNSW.
Majors & Minors
Our Science degrees have up to 25 different majors to choose from, so it’s understandable for new students to have questions about which one to take. Browse our Undergraduate majors for a guide on the different options we have on offer and how to decide on the best one for you.
Students are officially advised to declare their major(s) at the end of their first year. But don’t worry, 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 Profile tab on myUNSW.
It depends on how large each major is, and how much crossover there is between the two majors. Check the UNSW Handbook and look up both majors to confirm. Add the total Units of Credit (UoC) for both majors (and minus the UoC which overlap or count towards both majors) and if the result is 96 UoC or less, that equates to a standard degree duration. More than 96 UoC means it will take extra time to complete your degree. 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’s 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.
Course Selection & Enrolment
The UNSW Handbook outlines the courses you need complete in order to graduate. Students must follow the Handbook of the year they commenced their degree. UNSW publishes a revised version of the Handbook every year so make sure you only use the 2020 Handbook to choose your courses. Consult our Student Resources if you need further clarification on the Handbook rules.
Additionally, you should have received a personalised offer page which gives advice on which courses to enrol in depending on your major.
There is a very important difference. “Drop” means that you'll be removed from the course, you won’t 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’ll lose your place in the course, and we can’t guarantee that you can get back in.
“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.
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.
Yes - any Faculty except Science. Please note that some cross-disciplines degrees such as Data Science and Decisions and Medical Science also have restrictions on General Education courses from other Faculties so please check the handbook for the program rules for your degree. Don’t forget that dual degree students don't need General Education as you’re already doing courses from two Faculties.
Students can apply for a timetable clash approval, but it's 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.
Is it disadvantageous to do a lower level course for example chemistry or math classes? Will it affect my marks/WAM?
“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 students have different needs depending on their chosen major. For example, a student majoring in Mathematics requires a more in-depth math 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 math 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 math course. If you need help deciding what level math, physics or chemistry course to do, visit Standard vs Higher courses.
If I missed out on a bridging course but it’s assumed knowledge, what options are available, and will this pose a disadvantage?
For first year biology courses, you're not expected to have studied biology beforehand. For first year Math, Chemistry and Physics courses however, there are different courses based on what your prior knowledge is, so if you’re in this position, we recommend that you contact the Science Student Centre.
You’ll need to apply via Internal Program Transfer (IPT).
If you’re just dropping one component of a double degree, you can apply before you have completed 36 UoC. It will almost always be approved, regardless of the eligibility criteria.
This is known as “Lateral Entry.” It’s extremely competitive. There are only 10 places available each year and many Medical Science students apply.
For more information, visit Medicine Undergraduate Entry
What is a “WAM”?
A WAM is a “weighted average mark.”
Will I get a higher WAM if I do easier chemistry/math 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.
If I have transferred from another university will my marks from credit transfer count towards my WAM?
No. Transfer credit from external institutions does not count towards your UNSW 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 your final grade. Any assignment or test that counts towards your final grade will impact your WAM.
Other Academic Enquiries
You can apply to have courses/study that you’ve undertaken (and passed) at another institution credited towards your UNSW degree, meaning you'll have fewer courses to complete here.
Visit Credit Transfer and download and complete an advanced standing credit application.
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.
For students in all Schools except for Physics and Psychology, there are 3 intakes per year (term 1, 2 & 3) for both 4500 Bachelor of Science (Honours) and embedded honours (ie. Advanced Science, Advanced Mathematics). Honours in the School of Psychology will only commence once per year in term 1 and the School of Physics will only commence twice per year in term 1 and term 3.
4518 Bachelor Psychological Science (Hons) and the final year of 3632 Bachelor Psychology (Hons) will only commence in term 1.
Not all Science Schools allow students the option of doing honours part-time so you should check with the School you are intending to do honours with.
You will be able to enrol into your honours courses after you have received an offer for your honours year. When you receive your offer, you will be advised on what courses to enrol into for each term.
Where can I find course outlines? E.g. learning outcomes, assessment schedules, suggested textbooks?
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're not compulsory. Lectures are interactive events and you'll have a more enjoyable learning experience and learn a lot more than reading lecture notes at home. Lecture recordings are also available on Moodle, but are designed to be revision tools rather than a replacement for live lectures.
Every course has a Course Outline, which is published in Moodle. This will outline what your assessments are for the course.
Due dates for assessments 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.
For more information, visit UNSW Exams.
Penalties for late assignments vary between courses, but course coordinators will always state what the penalty is on Moodle and in their course manual. Generally, you lose 10% per day (including weekends).
You receive zero marks for the exam if you miss it.
However, if sickness, misadventure or other circumstances beyond your control have prevented you from submitting your assignment or attending an exam, you will be eligible to apply for Special Consideration. There are very particular rules when it comes to applying, so please ensure you read through these carefully.
About UNSW 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, 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.
Student Life Questions
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.
The cost can vary. Brand new textbooks can cost between $100 to $200. If you are looking for secondhand textbooks, visit UNSW Bookstore Secondhand Textbooks.
Course packs are printed course notes which are sold at the UNSW Bookstore, and are usually compulsory. Think of them as workbooks that you’ll work through in your tutorials and/or labs.
They are sold through the UNSW bookshop. The cost is based on size so 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'll have to download these and print it yourself. Any material in a course pack that is critical will also be provided through UNSW Moodle.
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. It’s a great way to meet new people and make friends.
To join one, contact the society directly by going to one of their stalls during O-Week, or contact them via Arc @UNSW.
Moodle or Echo360! There’s a link in myUNSW.
Second term of second year.
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 the second term of your second year.
The answer can differ from student to student. 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 have 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.
Some labs will require safety equipment to be worn or used but your lab demonstrators will let you know. You can purchase safety glasses that fit over normal glasses at the Grad Shop.