How to choose your units
Find out what you need to know when choosing units for your programme of study.
Before you come to Bristol you will need to choose your preferred units (classes). The information will help you choose your units for your Study Abroad programme at Bristol. You need to read through the information before you submit your application.
When you view the unit catalogue you will need to:
We can not guarantee unit choices.
There are some things you need to check to make sure that your units work for you.
1. Choose the academic year
We update the unit catalogue spring, so make sure that you are searching for the correct academic year and that you only select units available during your study abroad period.
For example, if you are due to start in September 2022 or January 2023, you need the 2022/23 academic year.
2. Browse units
Once you have chosen the academic year, you can search the catalogue for courses that match your search terms, or browse the entire unit catalogue. You can also browse by faculty, if you know what academic area you want to study.
Not all units in every subject listed in the catalogue are open to Study Abroad students. You will need to check the subject study guide to see which units are open to you in each subject.
If you are applying to the Study Abroad (Subject pathway) programme, you must take most of your units from that subject.
Type of units
There are different types of units:
Open unit status
The open unit status section of the unit catalogue only applies to students studying their full degree in Bristol. You can choose both 'open' and 'not open' units for your programme.
Units which are listed at projects are not usually available for Study Abroad students. If you have a question about a specific project unit, contact the Global Opportunities team.
3. Check the unit description
Use the information in the unit catalogue to work out if a unit has the right content for you and if it is equivalent to a unit at your home university.
Each unit description provides:
- a general description of the unit, including required pre-requisite knowledge and co-requisites with other units
- learning objectives
- teaching and assessment methods
- course texts
- the credit point value (Bristol credits).
We cannot provide a syllabus or teaching plan for units, and teaching timetables are not available until you arrive in Bristol. We will work with you to help you find units that can fit together, and will help you find alternative units if there are any clashes.
Credit point value
You should take 60 Bristol credits per semester. If you have permission from your home university to take a slightly lighter workload, you can take a minimum of 50 credits per semester.
You cannot take more than 60 credits for a single semester.
Full academic year
You should take 120 Bristol credits for the year, with 60 credits in each semester. However, you may be able to take 50 credits in the autumn semester and 70 credits in the spring, depending on which subjects you have chosen.
If you have permission from your home university to take a slightly lighter workload, you can take a minimum of 50 credits per semester and 100 credits for the full academic year.
If you are applying to the Study Abroad (Subject pathway) programme, you must take at least 40 out of 60 credits in your host department each semester.
It is not possible to audit or observe units (classes) without taking the unit for credit and taking all the associated assessments.
Find out about credits and transcripts.
Check teaching blocks
Teaching blocks are like semesters:
- TB1 = autumn semester
- TB2 = spring semester
- TB4 = units which start in autumn but take a full year to complete.
You will need to choose units that run in teaching blocks that happen during your planned stay in Bristol.
In some subjects, such as Biology and Psychology, you might also see TB1b or TB2a. These are units taught over half a semester and are slightly more intensive.
The University of Bristol has two main assessment periods:
- January (where assessments are completed for Teaching Block 1 classes)
- May–June (where assessments are completed for Teaching Block 2 classes, or full year units).
Most timed assessments (for example, online or on-campus timed examinations) are normally held in the main assessment periods. Note that some timed assessments also happen in the semester and not the exam period. This may include, but is not limited to, in-class tests, individual or group presentations, and practical work. Coursework deadlines can also fall across the semester.
Students who are only in Bristol for the autumn semester and need to be back at their home university in January can sometimes take an alternative assessment so that they do not have to stay in or return to Bristol for the June exams. This is often an option for subjects in arts, humanities and social sciences, but is often not possible in sciences and engineering.
Contact the Global Opportunities team to discuss alternative arrangements if you cannot stay for the January exams.
All students leaving at the end of the spring semester must stay in Bristol for the June exams, and no exceptions will be made. Do not plan your return travel until you receive your exam timetable, which is usually mid-semester.
Check the level of study
Bachelor's degrees (also called undergraduate degrees) take three years to complete.
In the unit catalogue they will be referred to as:
- C/4 = first year
- I/5 = second year
- H/6 = third year
- M/7 = master's.
As a Study Abroad student you can choose units (classes) from all three years, and occasionally master's units.
First-year units are the most suitable for subjects that are new to you or that you have not studied in-depth at home.
Most Study Abroad students take second-year units (I/5).
Since our third year is the final year of undergraduate study, we recommend that you only take third-year units (H/6) if you are majoring in that subject area. We advise that you do not take all of your credits from the third year, as this would give you a very heavy workload.
Occasionally, some departments open up master's level units for Study Abroad students but this is not common. You would need an extensive background in the subject-area to take a master's unit.
Check for pre-requisites and co-requisites
Some units have pre-requisite conditions listed in the unit catalogue. You must meet these by doing similar classes at your home university before coming to Bristol.
Check the unit listings for the pre-requisite units and their learning outcomes and compare these to the class you've taken at your home university to make sure that you have the necessary knowledge.
Our Study Abroad Academic Directors will review your academic background shortly before the start of the semester to check your pre-requisite knowledge.
Some units have co-requisites. These are units that are designed to complement each other and will rely on knowledge gained in one unit to support learning in another. If you choose a unit with a co-requisite, you must take both classes.