Print Friendly, PDF & Email

BIOL30000 Level 3 Tutorials

Please note that some links in this Handbook are to Blackboard sites that will not be available until 20/9/21.

The School of Biological Sciences Tutorial Programme

All Level 3 SBS students are enrolled in the tutorial unit BIOL30000. Tutorials will provide you with knowledge and expertise related to your degree programme as well as transferable skills. The tutorial programme includes small group tutorials and plenary sessions.

Small group tutorials will take place with other students from your degree programme and your Academic Tutor. Your small group tutorials will be arranged by your Academic Tutor. Tutorials should appear on your ‘myManchester’ timetable but there may be some exceptions to this so please consult with your Tutor if you are in any doubt about scheduling of small group tutorials.

Plenary sessions will be delivered by specialist speakers to larger groups of students from multiple degree programmes. This format ensures consistent delivery of information to students. The times, dates and locations for plenary sessions will be on the tutorial Blackboard site (BIOL30000).

The tutorial programme builds year-on-year and focuses on 4 major strands of skills: communication (written and oral); professional skills; experimental reporting; and employability, as shown in Figure 1. Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) for the Level 3 tutorials are available here. The Level 3 activities build on the skills you acquired in earlier years of your degree programme.


Figure 1. Summary of the topics you can expect to cover in small group tutorials (top) and plenary sessions (bottom). Your Tutor and Programme-Director may, at their discretion, alter the content of your tutorials.


At least 5 tutorial assignments will usually be set each semester by your Academic Tutor. Feedback on these will be provided by your Academic Tutor and/or your peers.


Small group tutorials

Attendance at small group tutorials is compulsory and will be monitored by your Academic Tutor. In the case of student-led tutorials, where students meet in the absence of their tutor, attendance is also compulsory and will be recorded by a person chosen in advance and passed on to the Academic Tutor.

If you are absent from a tutorial or unable to complete a tutorial assignment due to illness, make sure that you follow the guidelines on ill health set out in the Level 3 Handbook. You must alert your Academic Tutor before the start time of your tutorial session AND submit a self-certification form to the Student Support Office no later than the day of the tutorial session that you will miss It is your responsibility to provide this information.

If you are unable to attend for any other good reason, you must supply documentary evidence to your Academic Tutor strongly supporting your reasons for absence. Unexcused absences may lead to exclusion from study in the Faculty. For further information on this and other related matters, please read relevant sections of the Final Level Handbook.

Plenary sessions.

Plenary sessions are recommended but not compulsory for level 3 students. It is your responsibility to regularly check the ‘Plenary Sessions’ Area on the BIOL30000 Blackboard site for information about timetabling and attendance, as these are subject to change during the year. Some plenary titles will have two identical sessions scheduled to accommodate all students, while others have different versions – e.g., for different types of final year projects. All plenary sessions will show on your timetable but where there are two identical sessions, you only need to attend one. However this MUST be the one timetabled for your degree programme or unit, as detailed on the BIOL30000 Blackboard site.  If f your allocated session clashes with a language or other unit, you may be permitted attend the other session but only by prior arrangement (at least one working day’s notice) with the student support office.


Failure of the Tutorial Unit

Level 3 students can fail the tutorial unit:

  1. By having more than one unexcused absence from small-group tutorials OR
  2. By getting a mark below 40% in tutorial assignments, averaged over the two semesters.

Small Group Tutorial Activities and Plenary Sessions

Level 3 small-group tutorials will be tailored to your degree programme. In most cases your Tutor will work through past papers to prepare the group for final year programme-specific exams. Programme-specific exam papers draw upon knowledge gained in the entirety of your degree programme, and participation in final year tutorials is the best method of preparation for these papers.

Some final year degree programme specific papers from previous years are available here. Enter either your degree programme title or the word ‘Essay’ in the search box. Past Problem papers are not normally released to this site, but your Tutor will provide examples.

Semesters 5 & 6: Enhancing Programme-specific Skills


Your small group tutorials and the tutorial plenary sessions work together in semesters 5 and 6 to enhance your programme-specific skills. Suggested schedules for semesters 5 and 6, including the 3 plenary sessions, are shown in Tables 1 and 2, respectively. Academic Tutors or Programme Directors may provide alternate schedules at their discretion.

At the start of each semester your Academic Tutor will discuss with you details of the content of tutorials for the coming semester, and deadline dates for assignments. You should ensure that you record assignment deadlines in a diary or add them to your online calendar. Tutorial activities and assignments, including plenaries, are often described by week number (e.g., Semester 5 week 3). These refer to teaching weeks, with week 1 of teaching starting on Monday September 27th 2021 for Semester 5 and on Monday 7th February 2022 for Semester 6.

Semester 5 Tutorial Schedule

Teaching Week Small-group Tutorials Plenary Sessions BIOL30000 Submission deadlines
0   Career planning for Final Year students: what, when and how to do this thing called a ‘career’? Your Academic Tutor will set deadlines for tutorial assignments
1 8 Tutor-led tutorials (not week 10)
5 How to write a Literature Review
8 January Assessments Q&A
10 No tutorial – BIOL3300 (MSci) and BIOL30101 (FYP) Literature Review deadline week

Table 1. Semester 5 Suggested Tutorial Schedule. Teaching Week 1 begins September 27th, 2021. Your Tutor or Programme Director may provide an alternative schedule at their discretion. Tutorials will normally not be scheduled in a week with a major deadline such as the Literature Review in week 10. Your tutor will specify deadlines for tutorial assignments.

Semester 6 Tutorial Schedule

Teaching Week Small-group Tutorials Plenary Sessions BIOL30000 Submission DEADLINES
1 8 Tutor-led tutorials (not week 10) How to write  a Project Report (TBC) Your Academic Tutor will set deadlines for tutorial assignments
10 No tutorial – Project & MSci report deadline week (TBC)

Table 2. Semester 6 Suggested Tutorial Schedule. Teaching Week 1 begins February 7th, 2022. TBC = to be confirmed.  Your Tutor or Programme Director may provide an alternative schedule at their discretion. Please see the ‘Plenary Sessions’ area on the BIOL30000 Blackboard site for a full description of Level 3 plenary sessions, including ILOs and details of which session to attend.

Semesters 5 & 6 Tutorial Activities and Plenary sessions


Essay Assignments

All students registered for a programme-specific essay exam will usually complete at least four essays over the year, although this will vary by programme and tutorial group. These will be evaluated by your Tutor and/or your peers. In addition to preparing you for programme-specific essay exams, essay writing practice will be helpful for final year unit exams with essay questions, and will improve your critical thinking and written communication skills, which are highly valued by employers.

How to Write a Literature Review Plenary

The ‘How to write a Literature Review’ plenary session plenary will cover the skills needed to research and write your literature review.

Oral Presentations

Oral presentations may be assigned during the course of the final year at the discretion of your Academic Tutor in order to assess, and give feedback on, your presentation skills. This could be a presentation on your final year project or, for MSci students, on the topic of your Literature Review. The format of any presentations will be set by your Tutor. The My Learning Essentials website has some excellent resources to help with preparing and delivering oral presentations.

Professional Skills

Data Handling & Problem-Solving Assignments

At least four problems will be undertaken by all students who are registered for the Problem paper in order to further develop your problem-solving skills. Participation in final year tutorials is the best method of preparation for these papers. Data handling and problem solving are also key skills that are valued by employers.

Experimental Reporting Plenaries

To complement the advice given by your project supervisor, we will run plenary sessions detailing how to write-up a project report for Bioscience projects. These will be tailored to each type of project (e.g.; lab or e-Learning) and you should attend or complete the one that is specific to the type of project that you are doing. Details are on the BIOL30000 Blackboard site.


What are Employability Skills?

Employability skills are the skills needed in working environments. Employability skills can be very specific and technical, like understanding HPLC or how to run a PCR; or they can be general, such as demonstrating effective communication skills.

Why are employability skills important this year?

Employability skills are always important, and you will already have developed a range of skills from your experiences at The University of Manchester and beyond. This year is the time to consolidate and review how to express your employability skills. Soon you will be looking to transfer the skills you’ve developed during your undergraduate degree to your future work or study.

What skills will I get this year?

This year the employability focus is about articulating your skills and experiences effectively. Graduate schemes and some PhDs are advertised early in the year, later on in the year you’ll see postgrad courses, graduate jobs and graduate internships. If you are on a MSci programme this information will be useful to you for next year.

We want to help you make the most of your time here, so we will be providing you with advice on how to find these opportunities, making applications and acing interviews. There will be an Employability Plenary Session aimed at Final Year students entitled ‘Career planning for Final Year Students: what, when and how to do this thing called a ‘career’?’ in Welcome Week. MSci students will have their own employability plenary that will be organised separately (i.e. not part of BIOL30000). Your Tutor may, at their discretion, discuss topics to assist in your applications for employment or further study in small-group tutorials. If you have questions relating to your future career, you should seek assistance from your Academic Advisor and from the University Careers Service.

For a specific run-down of all the employability skills you can gain this year check out Appendix 1: Employability; your module descriptions also detail the skills you will have the chance to develop.

Keep a record of your employability skills

It’s worth thinking about how you can keep a record of the skills and new experiences you develop during this year. One way is to create a ‘living CV’ which acts like a list or summary of all the things you’ve done and what you’ve learnt. The benefit of this approach is when you come to write your CV to send out then you have all the evidence in one place. Typical headings would be education, jobs, volunteering, positions of responsibility and interests. More information on CVs can be found in the Careers Service CV guide.

The Careers Service

The Careers Service can help you with all your career needs.

Common queries from final year students are:

  • I don’t know what I want to do.
  • How can I get further lab experience?
  • Where do I look for graduate jobs?
  • Should I do a Masters or a PhD?
  • I don’t like lab work, what else can I do?

The Biology, Medicine and Health Careers Consultants are: Sarah Ashworth, Amanda Conway and Suzanne Creeber – you’ll most probably see Suzanne or Sarah as they are the linked consultants for School of Biological Sciences.  We offer a personalised service with booked appointments with specialist advisers, an application advice service, a specialist information service, and 24-hour access to careers information and vacancies through the website. In addition, we run an extensive programme of events and online workshops throughout the year.

For full details of how the Careers Service can support you plus a wealth of help and information, visit the website. To find out about opportunities, events and other activities, visit CareerConnect.

Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellows

The Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellows are professional, published authors whose role is to help you strengthen your writing.

Sign up for a one-to-one tutorial to help you:

  • Plan your study time.
  • Focus your reading for essay, dissertation or thesis writing.
  • Express your ideas more clearly.
  • Answer grammar and punctuation questions.
  • Discover reading to improve your writing and editing skills.
  • Increase your writing skills with the aim of improving your grades.
  • Improve any academic writing – essays, reports, theses, dissertations, book chapters.

Further information about the writers’ expertise, and instructions for appointment booking are available on the BIOL30000 Blackboard site

Help with English Language Skills

Should you need help with English language skills, you can contact the University Language Centre.

Student Feedback

In order to help us maximise the benefits that you gain from tutorials, we need feedback from you, both on the tutorial activities and on your Academic Tutor’s performance. For this purpose, you will be asked to complete a unit survey at the end of each semester. It is important for us to have your opinion, as these surveys will be used to determine how tutorials are constructed and conducted in future years. Details of how to access/complete the survey will be given to you each semester.

Appendix 1: Employability

This table outlines some transferable skills that employers seek and ideas for developing these so that you can use them for job applications and in interviews in the future.

What are employers looking for? What does that mean? How can you develop this skill?
Ability to articulate what you have to offer

Reflect on the skills you have gained throughout your tutorials and other units.

Develop good communication skills so that you can talk about your skills and provide evidence that you have them to potential employers.

Reflection: keep updating your CV and keeping a record of new skills.

Communication Skills
Oral presentations (tutorials; some lecture units; lab meetings). Essays (tutorials; many lecture units). Debates (some tutorials; some lecture units).

Creativity & innovation Being able to come up with new ideas, approaches and solutions. Thinking ‘outside the box’ and being able to suggest new/improved ways of doing things. You will have the opportunity to be creative in terms of your approach to assignments – e.g., ideas for poster topics in tutorials. Your final year project will present opportunities to be innovative in overcoming obstacles.
Critical thinking Being able to analyse an idea or a piece of work objectively and weigh up its strengths and weaknesses. Recognise your own biases and be open to new ideas if evidence supports them. Essays and oral presentations will include structured presentations of a logical argument. You will read and critically analyse primary literature in tutorials, and build on these skills during your dissertation and literature review.
Cultural awareness & sensitivity Experience of interacting with individuals from a range of different backgrounds and ability to adapt your approach to suit the needs of the people you are working with. We have a diverse staff and student body so you are likely to interact with individuals from a range of backgrounds during your tutorials and project, or as an ambassador or PASS leader. The Manchester Leadership Programme (MLP) and any volunteering you undertake provide opportunities to work within the local community, which is also diverse.
Leadership skills Proven ability to lead a team effectively. You may have the opportunity to act as a leader in a tutorial assignment or project, or as a senior ambassador. You can also seek leadership opportunities in the MLP or as a PASS Leader.
Numeracy Being able to work with numbers is a key skill and may range from basic mental arithmetic to being able to analyse and interpret data. Data Handling modules, practicals, field courses and projects will help you develop your numerical skills and ability to use statistics. Numerical skills are required in practicals and experimental reporting to work out concentrations and dilutions, and to calculate whether results are statistically significant.
Presentation skills Proven ability to communicate your ideas both visually and orally. You will undertake presentations in tutorials, field courses and as part of your final year project. Becoming an ambassador, PASS leader or student representative gives you further opportunity to develop your presentation skills.
Project management Project management requires effective planning, and management of resources to bring about the successful completion of specific project objectives. Your final year project will be the main opportunity to develop this skill, but you may also manage smaller projects in some lecture units, within the MLP, or as a PASS leader or PASS co-ordinator.
Problem solving Grasp what needs to be done and reach a satisfactory solution to a problem. Tutorials will include practice of problem solving in preparation for data handling in practical write-ups and the final year programme specific problem paper.
Self-awareness Know what your skills, strengths and weaknesses are. Think of examples of how and when you have demonstrated these. When you have completed a task (e.g., formal presentation, essay, exam) reflect on your performance. Write examples and state what you intend to do differently next time.
Self-management (ability to manage learning) Effectively manage your time and complete work within deadlines. Most units will require you to manage your time and submit assignments to deadlines. Your final year project will hone this skill, and will need to fit around other demands on your time such as coursework essays and reading for lecture units.
Self-esteem & confidence Belief in your capabilities to achieve a goal or an outcome effectively. If you have a strong sense of self efficacy you are more likely to challenge yourself with difficult tasks and be intrinsically motivated. You will have the opportunity to rise to the challenges provided by completing independent work to deadlines (e.g., project report) and to learn from constructive criticism and feedback (e.g., peer review in tutorials; discussion groups and feedback from tutor or project supervisor).
Teamwork Proven ability to work well within a team AND an understanding of the role you take within a team. Most projects and tutorial activities involve some teamwork, as do some final year lecture units. Aim to take on different roles so that you experience as many as possible. Reflect on your strengths and development needs.
Research skills This may refer to researching literature, searching databases, identifying appropriate resources and extracting key information or may refer to practical scientific research. Research is also an important skill when looking for and applying for jobs. You should do extra reading around your lectures including reading recent primary literature and review articles. More extensive research will be required for essays, your dissertation and literature review. Your main opportunity for research will be during your final year project.
Written Communication Effectively organising your ideas and communicating these in a coherent manner. Being able to use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. Throughout your degree you will develop your written communication skills through your assignments such as essays, dissertation and project write ups.

For further help see The ‘Develop your skills’ section contains ideas on how to develop these skills beyond your degree (plus guidance on how recruiters assess for them).

The My Learning Essentials training programme offers careers advice through face–to-face workshops and online resources.