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In addition to 4 examinations, there is also an examinable coursework component (comprising about 1/8 of the marks) for which students have the choice of either an extended essay or the CATAM computational projects.

Students will be asked by their college to register for an option on CamSIS at the beginning of the academic year. However, this decision is not confrimed on the system until the end of Lent Term so if you change your mind, you will have up until the last day of the Full Lent Term to contact your college and the IoA Undergraduate Office notifying them of your decision.

Option 1: The Extended Essay

The aim of the essay is to bring students to a closer awareness of the current frontiers of astronomical research, by reading and assimilating research literature addressing problems that have not been completely solved in some limited area of endeavour. Support and guidance on the essay itself will be provided through two separate supervisions with a senior member of the Academic team, who will oversee the option; whilst answers to more technical queries and clairifcation can be sought from the essay setters themselves.

By choosing the extended essay, you will learn how to structure an essay and develop an understanding of the stylistic and structural elements of sound scientific writing; skills that will povide you with a solid footing for the Compulsory Research Project in Part III Astrophysics.

Work will be marked using the following examination merit criteria:

  1. Understanding (35%) : subject + relevant literature
  2. Critical analysis and insights (40%) : analysis of literature + synthesis of material + insights to question
  3. Presentation (25%) : Organisation and structure + quality of written and visual communication


The list of approved titles will be circulated amongst the cohort in the Michaelmas Term. This will be followed by an intoductory presentation during which the Part II essay advisers will describe their essays and advice will be given regarding the markscheme and what to consider when choosing an essay title.

An electronic PDF copy of the final project essay must be uploaded to the Part II Astrophysics Moodle site no later than 12:00 noon on the tenth day of the Full Easter Term.

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Option 2: The Computational (CATAM) Projects

Students may, as an alternative to the essay, complete computational projects selected from those offered in Part II of the Mathematical Tripos. The projects are aimed at enabling students with a research career in mind to develop the necessary ability to solve various problems by numerical means. CATAM projects are intended to be exercises in independent investigation somewhat like those a mathematician might be asked to undertake in the ‘real world’. They are well regarded by external examiners, employers and researchers.

The maximum credit for the projects is 16 units, which is equivalent to that for a course of 24 lectures. This will generally involve two, or at most three, projects. Fewer units may be offered for proportionally less credit. If more than 16 units are submitted (e.g., if your choice of projects does not fit in the 16-unit total), your credit will be scaled to bring the number of units back to 16.

A full description of the projects on offer, and the number of units ascribed to them, can be found in the Part II Computational Project Manual.

All aspects are as described in the Part II Computational Projects Manual excluding the following two major differences for Part II Astrophysics students:

  1. Maximum credit can be obtained by submitting projects amounting to 16 units, and this credit is equivalent to a 24-lecture course (rather than as stated in CATAM sections 1.1 & 2.1.1)
  2. While the marking scheme is the same, the scaling of the marks will be carried out to reflect the fact that 16 units corresponds to a 24-lecture course. (The comments regarding the marking for Mathematics students in the third paragraph of CATAM section 2.1 are not relevant.)


You will be required to submit electronical copies of both your Final Reports and your Program Source files to the CATAM Moodle site early in the Easter Term. Further submission details will be announced via email closer to the time.

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