Geological Sciences

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Geological Sciences

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Review of "Geological Sciences"

published 03/09/2015 | JRCarter
Member since : 29/06/2015
Reviews : 80
Members who trust : 30
About me :
Two uni reports finished and submitted, only one left to go! And on another note, i'm very close to an orange dot, lets just hope Ciao lasts long enough for me to reach it!
Pro Extremely interesting, Extremely informative, Extremely enjoyable
Cons Very hard
General Standard of Tuition
Quality of Lectures
Structure of Course

"Why shouldn't you let a Geologist drive your car?"

because they get hammered and stoned ;Thought I'd open with a geology joke!


After completing my A-Levels in 2013/14, I was accepted into Plymouth University to study Physical Geography and Geology. Plymouth university was my first choice, having visited two other uni's (Bournemouth and Portsmouth), as not only did it have the newest, most expensive buildings, it was well known for its Geography/ Geology courses and facilities. As well as the whole university feeling much more 'me', and more friendly and modern than the other two, the course appeared to be much better. Prior to attending Plymouth uni I had no knowledge or experience in the field of geology, as it was never taught in any school I attended. Since completing my first year, geology is now my main focus, and the aspect of my course that I am most interested in/ passionate about; something that I would have missed if I had attended the courses I applied for at Bournemouth and Portsmouth. One other aspect of this course that attracted me, was the infamous Professor Iain Stewart, who works and lectures at the university. For those of you that don't know of him, in my opinion, he is the much younger, 'David Attenborough' of the geology world; except a lot lot less well known. I was lucky enough to have a few lectures and field trips, as well as an eventful night in the pub with Iain during my first year on my course.

In just a few days time I will be heading back to Plymouth to begin the second year of my studies, which kicks off with another field trip. I can honestly say the first year was fantastic, and felt like a matter of weeks. At no point during the year was I disappointed with any aspect of the university or the course. I feel like I have learnt more in this first year than I did in all my years of school/ sixth form. The work was tough, but enjoyable and not too over-bearing. The field trips were brilliant but very difficult, and incredibly informative. There really were no disadvantages to taking this course, other than peoples reactions when you tell them your'e studying geography and Geology. Many people have this view that these subjects are easy, useless, and not as important as other sciences/ humanities. If you think that, YOU ARE WRONG. My course alone features a module from a physics degree, a module from a maths degree, a module from a chemistry degree, two geology modules and a geography module; in the first year. The course encompasses such a range and degree of information, that I challenge anyone who claims it to be 'easy' to have a quick read-up on space lattices in crystallography. Given the current state of the atmosphere, the energy crisis, and the biotic crisis', one could argue Geography/ Geology is the most relevant field of study. Anyway....enough ranting, back to the matter at hand; the course!

The Course

The course is titled 'Physical Geography and Geology', or, PGG. As I said in the introduction, the first year included 6 different modules, covering a range of sciences and topics. The six module titles are:
- Earth Materials
- Planet Earth
- Stratigraphy and the Fossil Record
- Introducing Physical Geography: Geomorphology, Biogeography and Environmental Change
- Practicing Geography: The Physical Environment
- Introductory Fieldwork and Skills
These module titles are very broad, and are broken down into many different topics that are covered throughout the year.
Earth Materials

I found this to be one of the hardest modules, but probably the most interesting. Like every module it covers a range of topics, but is focused around different rock types, minerals, identification, classification, composition and processes. For example, we had to learn all the characteristics of 20 different minerals; their cleavage (yes...cleavage), their crystal form and habit, composition, hardness, etc etc. We also got the chance to look at a range of different rock and mineral samples in thin section under £4000 petrographic microscopes! These sessions were carried out in the lab, where most of the more interesting learning happened! This module also featured a great deal of lectures, highlighting some key information on rock classification, mineralogy, crystallography and telling use what we need to read about. In terms of the quality of the material/ information provided to us, I honestly cannot fault it. Our main lecturer for this module, Colin, was clearly incredibly knowledgeable in his field, very passionate about the subject and an excellent teacher. I will never forget the moment he appeared out of nowhere behind me, shoved a mineral in front of my face, and told me to lick it. It was halite (salt), and licking it is an easy way to identify it wasn't anything creepy! The lectures for this module covered some of the most in depth information about some very tricky subjects, and were therefore hard to follow at times. I remember one lecture in which Colin went through 117 slides in the 55 minute lecture, each slide full of text, annotation and pictures, depicting the 7 different types of symmetry in crystal forms. Needless to say, not a single student in that lecture hall managed to keep up! Other than the occasional lecture like this, Earth Materials module was excellently taught, most informative, and certainly interesting.
Planet Earth

This module had no lab sessions and so was delivered solely in lectures. Of all my lectures these were my favorite. Our lecturer was incredibly entertaining, very passionate, and one of the best teachers I've ever been taught by. Not only that, he was teaching us the physics-based module, which included a great deal of information on space, planetary processes and equations, as well as the inner workings of our home planet. I was not the only one who felt this way, my friends also found this module and these lectures more comprehensive and enjoyable than other modules. In Planet Earth, we learned about the different layers of Earth's interior, seismic equations, fluctuations etc as well as 'space stuff', such as the interaction of the solar wind with our planet, and gravity variations, and even lectures on dark matter and dark energy; topics which would not normally be associated with geography or geology! Needless to say it was incredibly interesting, and very very informative.
Stratigraphy and the Fossil Record

This module featured many lectures and many lab 'practical' sessions. The lectures were often a little boring, and focused around sedimentalogy (formation, prosseses etc relating to sedimentary rocks/ formations) and stratigraphy, as well as a great deal of in depth lectures on the many different species, genus, family, class, order and phylum of some of the most important extinct creatures from the fossil record, of course, all in latin! Some of this information was hard to retain, especially the 15-letter-long latin names of the 100's of different creatures we had to learn. the lab sessions involved handling, identifying and working with different samples of fossils and rocks. Being able to spend two hours in the lab with the lecturer handling real-life samples of the species discussed in the lectures made the information much easier to swallow, and a lot more interesting. Since then I have become very interested in the class Trilobita, of which I have four samples of my own! The teaching of this module was, at times, boring, but always incredibly important and completely necessary, It is very hard to make an entire lecture about the anuses of echinoderms interesting!
Introducing Physical Geography: Geomorphology, Biogeography and Environmental Change

This module was the main 'Geography' aspect of this course. It was taught only in lectures (1 and 2h). This module was taught by a range of lecturers as it covered a range of specialist topics. From memory, I cannot recall one bad lecturer or one bad lecture. the information was always useful and presented clearly, but a lot of reading was required in our spare time; although this is the case with every module and every course. I found this module very interesting as it covered aspects of geography, such as biogeography, that are not covered in lower education. It really opened my eyes to the environmental/ biotic crisis that is affecting our world today. It may surprise you to know that ~100+ species go extinct every singe day. to be honest, many of these lectures, especially those that were two hours I length, were often quite boring. However, that is not the fault of the uni or the course, it is simply the abundance of information thrown at us in a short period of time. This module also included a lot of information on geomorphology and environmental change, all of which was very interesting and vital to passing the final exams.
Practicing Geography: The Physical Environment

The module featured a great range of topics. From glaciers, to river, to coasts and many more. Like the previous module, it was incredibly interesting and presented to us very comprehensives. It did at times get boring, but that is to be expected when a hangover student has to get up at 9 and listen to a professor talk about rivers for 2 hours. This module was presented through lectures and occasional lab sessions. the lab sessions were excellent at allowing us to put into practice what we had learnt about in lectures, giving us great, irreplaceable experience.
Introductory Fieldwork and Skills

This module was made up of the two field trips we carried out during our first year. They were the single most enjoyable and informative aspects of the entire course. No amount of listening and reading in a lecture theatre can match the benefits of going out in the real world, taking real measurements, seeing and identifying real things, learning as you do the things we are only told about in lectures. Not to mention the hours in the pub at the end of every day! As fun and enjoyable as the fieldtrips were, the work was not easy. We would be up by 7am, in the field by 8/8,30am, and working through the day until 6pm, outside all day, no matter what the weather was like. We worked in hail storms, rain, intense wind along the coast, and the occasional sun! We were constantly doing something, working something out, discovering something we didn't previously know/ understand. On both field trips we explored the Jurassic coast in great detail, following, mapping and identifying the different rock strata of the different geological periods. We also walked all over Dartmoor and many other areas in the south of England. I cant think of any other university course that involves spending weeks outside exploring the country we live in, and learning as we go. On both trips we were lucky enough to be accompanied by specialists, who were specifically well versed in the geology of the areas we were working in. One of the specialists had the habit of pointing out all the little signs that were dotted all over the landscape. You know the ones, covered in pictures and text about the wildlife/ geology of the area. Well he was the guy that wrote the text for all of these signs for the entire SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). He was therefore incredibly knowledgeable about the area we were studying, and an irreplaceable attribute of the field trip.

Both fieldtrips we attended during the first year were residential, and we stayed in a youth hostel in Okehampton and a hotel in weymouth, as well as a few other locations. All the food was catered for us, except lunches which we had to buy from the shop each day. All the accommodation was paid for by the university and was very nice; except the youth hostel in Okehampton - even the lecturers refused to eat the food here after asking the chef what was in the 'curry', only to hear the response 'I dunno'. When we weren't out in the field working, or in bed sleeping, we were out in the local town, exploring the local pubs. Not only was this great fun, it have us an opportunity to get to know our lecturers and course mates a lot better. As I have mentioned in other reviews, I even got the chance to do shots with Professor Iain Stewart, who I mentioned previously in this review. All in all, the field trips that we experienced during the first year of this course were undeniably the most enjoyable and educational aspect of the whole thing, and one of the reasons I love my course.

To sum up
All of these modules were taught alongside one another, rather than one after the other. I felt this to be the best way they could have been taught to us, as it meant you never had hours and hours of lectures/ practical's on the same topic. It also meant, if you favored one module over another, there would be an equal balance of enjoyable lectures as there was slightly boring lectures. I really cannot complain about the information presented to us, the way it was presented, or the people presenting it. Everything was perfect for me, and exactly why I chose this course; could not be happier with my decision.

The Facilities

As Physical Geography and Geology is a very 'sciency' degree, it requires a great deal of facilities, and those provided by Plymouth University were excellent. We had access to labs full of microscopes, rocks, minerals and fossils. we could access these facilities at any time on any day, which was great for studying. Our course also involved using some pretty expensive equipment, to measure potassium levels in water samples and many other things. Not once have I heard any student complain about the facilities. Everything worked great, most of the Uni was brand new, and there was such an abundance of everything that no one missed out.


One of the best things about choosing this course, is the number of people doing it. The Geology courses had 100's of people attending, and so did the Geography courses. Fortunately, PGG had just 26 people, split into three groups, each group having a tutor; who also lectured. This was brilliant as it gave us someone to help us whenever we needed it, introduce us to everything, and give us advice when we needed it. There were 9 people in my tutor class, and we met once a week. If we had a paper to write that week, then our tutor would spend the our telling us everything he could to give us the best possible chance of doing well. This is something the larger courses really miss out on, as getting one-to-one advice is difficult when a single lecturer/ teacher is responsible fro 200 students.

I felt this course gave me 'the best of both words', as it featured a lot of Geology and a fair amount of Geography. In terms of job prospects at the end of the entire three years; the majority of PGG students go on to become 'engineering geologists', which is a well paid and very specialist position. On PHD student that joined us on our first field trip had just returned to Plymouth after spending 4 years on an offshore oil rig, working an incredibly well paid job that he got as soon as he completed his degree. From what I've been tod, completing this course opens many many doors in terms of job prospects, and is a degree that few people have; thus making it easier to get a job as there is less competition. How true this actually is, only time will tell, but for now I'm feeling pretty good about my long as I pass the course!

The Workload

When I first started university almost exactly one year ago, I had no idea what to expect in terms the amount of work and its difficulty. As A-Levels gave me quite a shock after breezing through GCSE's, I was a little worried Uni would be a lot harder, and that I would struggle. Fortunately, I have completed year one and passed every module, unfortunately getting only a 2:2 in every module. Throughout the first year I had, on average, 2-5 hours of lectures/ practicals per day, some days i may have had only one lecture, and other days my schedule could be full from 9-6. The amount of this that you actually attend is entirely up to you, but I would advise you to go to as many as possible. The main workload comes from the amount of reading/ studying you choose to do in your free time. Considering the amount of information thrown at you during a lecture, unless you have an idellic memory, it is impossible to retain even half of it. Thus, additional reading and studying is 100% necessary. On average, we had to compete 1 test every 2 weeks, testing us on the information we had covered in that topic. This may sound a little scary, but the tests were taken online, and it is left up to the student to decide when you take the test. The lecturer activated the test, and from that moment you have one week to compete it, and an hour limit once you begin the test. Therefore, you are free to search google or your notes as you do the test. this may seem ridiculous, but the amount of questions, and the type of questions included, make it difficult to find the answer in time. for example, the questions would be on such specialist topics, and specific to a very particular region/ event/ thing, that finding the answer online would take 20 minutes. Fortunately, I did not struggle with these multiple choice tests, and averaged ~75-80% on every test. These tests were relatively constant throughout the year, and make up a small percent of your overall score in that module at the end of the year. Other than these tests we also had to do lab research (on water quality) and then make a group poster on A1 paper - this was coursework. Other coursework included an essay on the geology of your home town, an essay title that you chose from a list of 20 (I chose The Geological evidence for water on Mars) and scientific report in which we had to explain/ estimate/ describe the flora/ fauna that was present in a chosen area 100+ million years ago, based on the pollen spores we counted, identified and analysed in the lab. These harder, larger coursework aspects were given to us after competing a certain topic, and we were allowed 2-3 weeks to complete them. They were, at times, the hardest and most challenging aspects of the course, but I found them very enjoyable. It gave me an opportunity to research and learn about topics/ things that I find very interesting, and forced me to spend a lot of time thinking about these things, increasing my knowledge considerably.

The final exams of this course were undoubtedly the most difficult part. I will admit I began studying for them slightly later than I perhaps should have, but live and learn. When we came close to the exam period, our lecturers provided us with example exam papers, and this was the 'jaw drop' moment when every student thought they were screwed. However, this shock put us all into study mode, and we soon started to grasp the information a lot better. Past exam papers also differed very little from one another, making it easy to practice and know what to revise. Sure enough, I spent the time studying, and passed all the exams. The best advice I could give someone is simply to read. Read everything. Read every textbook, every journal and every report. If you study, you will pass, if you don't, you will struggle.

I started with a Geology joke, so I will end with one too; Why shouldn't you lend a geologist money?

They consider a million years ago to be Recent

The pictures attached were all taken during my year at university/ on field trips/ in the lab (descriptions attached to the pictures)
***Can't attach any pictures right now, Ciao won't let me!***

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Comments on this review

  • LiveMusicLoverLyn published 12/03/2016
    Thanks Josh, hope the studies are still going well :)
  • danielclark691 published 01/12/2015
    great read
  • ANNExTHExFLAN published 13/09/2015
    An exceptional and very interesting read.
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Product Information : Geological Sciences

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