Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about Biology Degree Programs.

Outside or previous studies

Q: I have studied previously at another university. Can that study be counted towards my degree at Macquarie?

Yes, in many cases. You can get RPL for study that did not culminate in an award and some previously completed qualifications. Macquarie University will automatically count your previous study as general credit points (at 100 & 200 level and sometimes at 300 level). If your prior study includes material that is essentially the same as a Macquarie unit, then you can apply to have this unit exempted. To do so, see Recognition for Prior Learning.

Q: Can my prior study be counted towards specific credits for units at all levels (100, 200 & 300), or are there restrictions?

In previous years Macquarie only granted credit at 100 and 200 level. This has now changed in that it is possible to apply for up to 6cp (2-units) of credit at 300 level. If in doubt please speak with an advisor.

Q: Can I get recognition for Prior Learning for units I studied for a TAFE diploma?

In some cases you can. See the information on Recognition for Prior Learning. It is important that if/when you do apply that you provide as much information as possible on the courses/units that you have done at TAFE.

Q: I am doing a degree at Macquarie and wished to travel for a semester. Can I study units at Open Universities Australia (OUA) during this time to count towards my MQ degree?

Yes, MQ students can study MQ Open Universities Australia units as long as they are not enrolled in Internal or external MQ units concurrently. If you wish to study both MQ units and MQ OUA units concurrently you need to seek permission from the Associate Dean. To seek this permission please email or phone 02 9850 7470 to explain your circumstances. Please refer to for a list of MQ OUA units. Once OUA units are completed you must apply for RPL towards your MQ degree.

Q: How can I ensure that the units I study while on exchange or study abroad count toward my degree?

General information about studying overseas and steps in applying and getting your program approved.

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Unit Selection

Q: I am not sure which units to choose for my program?

You need to speak with a biology academic advisor.

Q: How can I check if I’ve done enough units and the correct units to graduate?

You should consult the handbook archive to find the degree rules that govern the program you’re enrolled under. This will generally be the year that you began study at Macquarie or the year that you transferred degrees (if applicable). You should FIRST check the requirements for your degree, then check that you have satisfied the requirements for your major. To find out the rules that applied in previous years you need to consult the Handbook Archive. If you are still unsure then you should speak with a biology academic advisor.

Q: I have done a capstone unit but degree structure has changed since I enrolled into the Bachelor of Science. Do I need to do another capstone unit?

In general, you should not need to do another capstone unit, provided you have not transferred degrees or had a period away from the University. If you are enrolled in a program prior to 2014 then you have the choice as to whether you wish to take one of the former capstone units (e.g., Biol345, 347, 367, 368 & 369 for the Biology major) or the new capstone unit (Biol391). You do NOT need to do both to satisfy the capstone requirement If in doubt check with a biology academic advisor.

Q: How many electives can I take if I am am doing a Major with the Bachelor of Science?

While most majors are only 24cp, you will need to make sure you take sufficient units at 100 and 200 level as prerequisites for the 300 level units you wish to study. See the Bachelor of Science degree requirements.

Q: Which units outside those required by the Major I am studying will be the most beneficial to my studies?

For students in many biology programs (e.g. the Biology major in a Bachelor of Science) we strongly recommend that you do STAT170 (Introductory statistics). This is a pre-requisite for Ecology (Biol227), Experimental Design & Data Analysis (Biol235) and Genetics (Biol206). For some programs this unit can count as a planet unit (if it is not otherwise required). Also, for students interested in molecular biology, microbiology or biochemistry you will have to do chemistry at first year – this will generally mean CBMS101 in session 1 and CBMS103 in session 2. Finally, if you are worried about your English writing skills then a very useful unit is ACSC100 (Academic Communication in Science). This unit will also count as a people unit for your degree. More information can be found on our Biology Prerequisite page.

Q: Where can I easily find information on pre-requisites in biology units (other than trawling around the handbook)?

For a quick overview check out the online online tree and pre-requisite summary pages.

Q: Where can I find more detail about the actual content of biology units?

Check out the unit guides for biology units.

Q: I want to take a unit this semester but I don’t quite have the right number of credit points or have not completed a prerequsite unit, what can I do?

You can still possibly be allowed into the unit but you will need to apply for a waiver (through The waiver will be assessed by the unit convener against other units of relevance that you have done and your performance in those units, as well as any other relevant information that you can provide about your case. Please give as much detail as possible in your waiver request.

Q: How many non-science designated units can I take if I am am doing a Major with the Bachelor of Science?

At least 42 cp out of 69 cp must be in Science units. See the Bachelor of Science degree requirements.

Q: How can I find out when a unit is next offered?

Please see the handbook and the unit guides for the semester when the unit is offered. Dates, times and rooms of a unit offering during the semester can be found in the timetables.

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People, Planet & PACE units

Q: Do I have to do a PACE unit?

Check the requirements of your degree. If PACE is a requirement of your degree it will be listed in the General Requirements section near the top of the page.

Present PACE units in Biology include BIOL349 (Biodiversity and Conservation) and BIOL392 (Greensteps). But any PACE unit across the entire university will count for your PACE unit requirement. Please note that neither Medical Sciences nor Marine Sciences currently have a PACE requirement.

Q: If I am doing a double degree / Major, do I need to take 2 people and 2 planet units?

No, you need only do one People and one Planet unit. But they cannot otherwise be a required unit for either of your programs.

For more information on People and Planet criteria.

Q: How have the people and planet rules changed for the 2015 programs?

In the words of the handbook: Students must complete one designated People unit and one designated Planet unit. Those units must be taken in two different Faculties. Any unit which is listed as a REQUIRED unit for the student’s qualifying major(s) can not also be used to satisfy the People or Planet unit requirement. This means it is now possible for you to take a P/P unit in the Department of your major (e.g. BIOL108), although it is still good recommended that you broaden your horizons by choosing non-biology units.

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Majors and Minors

Q: I am a newly enrolling student into the Bachelor of Science, which means that I have to nominate a major when I first enrol. Does this mean that I have to stay in that major throughout my degree, or can I change it later on?

You can change majors easily. Read the detailed information on how to change your major. Briefly, if you wish to change from one major in the Faculty of Science & Engineering to another in the same Faculty, you can just submit a request to, and it can be dealt with at any time. But if you want to transfer to a major in another Faculty (and there are some in the Bachelor of Science, like Geography) then it can only be done in the course transfer period.

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Studying off-campus

Q: I am an external student. Is it possible to take a unit entirely off campus (no need to attend the on-campus laboratory sessions).

There are a few entirely online units in Science. However, most units require attendance at on-campus sessions.

Q: Is it possible to complete a Bachelor of Science entirely by distance (no attendance of external on-campus sessions)?

No. Please consider studying through Open Universities Australia.

Q: Is possible to complete all the units required for the Bachelor of Science. entirely in the external mode (attending any compulsory on campus sessions)?

Majors in Biology, Palaeobiology, Geography and Geology can all be completed as part of a Bachelor of Science by Distance Education.

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Transferring courses

Q: When can I transfer to a different degree program?

You will find further information on our course transfer page. You should consult an academic advisor before putting in a course transfer request. There is a brief transfer window at the end of each teaching session (i.e. usually in July and December).

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Deferring and returning

Q: What is the longest time I can take to complete a Bachelor of Science?

10 years from the date you enrol.

Q: I started a degree at Macquarie in 2002 but didn’t finish, and now I wish to come back to complete. Will the units that I have done already still count?

Generally yes. Your degree will be subject to the rules of the year you come back (e.g. 2015 NOT 2002) but you will be credited for units done previously.

Q: I started my degree before 2010. What degree rules am I now subject to?

It would probably be best for you to speak to an advisor. However, you can find a full list of FAQs and additional information relating to the old & new curricula.

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Study Tips

Q: What is the amount of workload I can expect in an average unit?

The University advises that a unit is equal to about 10 hours of work per week. This includes contact time (lectures, tutorials and practicals etc) plus non-contact work, which includes reading unit materials, preparing assignments, doing online quizzes, etc. This is also an average across the teaching session, including the weeks of the mid-session break – some weeks will need less work and some weeks more, particularly towards the middle and end of the session when you will have assignments due and exams.

Q: Does Macquarie offer bridging courses? I am a new student (or want to transfer into a Biology program) and need a ” good level of knowledge of both chemistry and mathematics” to begin, but I did not do HSC maths or chemistry.

Yes. Macquarie offers bridging courses in Maths, Chemistry and Physics, as well as laboratory skills, run in February. Find out more about our bridging courses.

Q: Do you have any advice about how to make a realistic study plan?

Tip 1. A very good rule of thumb is to remember that a unit is worth 10-hours work a week in terms of your planning. If you have a part-time job to balance then every 10-hours work you do a week is like completing a unit of study.

Tip 2. Plan your week with study times included. For example if you have two lectures with a break between then make that your dedicated work at the library time on a particular fixed unit (i.e. read the chapter/write the report/ do the research/ answer the quiz/ study for the exam). It is best NOT to tell your friends what you are doing or where you are working so you can have a full 45 minute block of time to focus. If you factor in additional study time between breaks or and hour before or after a lecture or practical you will stay on top of your study.

Tip 3. Factor in all deadlines for reports/exams in the first week and set aside real study periods to work ensuring material is completed on time.

Tip 4. If you have a formal tutorial group, organise to meet one or two people from that group independently once a week to work through problems as a group or sub-group. Often sharing knowledge and explaining to each other enforces your learning. If as a group you don’t understand a concept you can be better placed to ask useful questions of your tutor at the next session.

Q: What do I do if I think I am not coping?

There is support available through Student Support.

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Questions still not answered?

Consider contacting an academic advisor. What programs can a Academic Advisor in Biology advise me about?

  • Bachelor of Science (Biology)
  • Bachelor of Science (Human Biology)
  • Bachelor of Science (Palaeobiology)
  • Bachelor of Advanced Science (Biology)
  • Bachelor of Advanced Science (Palaeobiology)
  • Bachelor of Marine Science
  • Bachelor of Medical Sciences
  • Bachelor of Biodiversity and Conservation

Contact an academic advisor.

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