Greetings to all our Biology Offer Holders! Our Tutors send their very best wishes to you in these testing times and have provided some reading and preparation suggestions for you.

Reading list

VSIs (Very Short Introductions): OUP Very Short Introductions

Oxford University Press has a series of VSIs, that is Very Short Introductions, which are suitable for laypeople, and also for background reading for budding biologists! Oxford Biology tutors and lecturers have written a number of VSIs. The authors of these all teach on the Oxford course, or in the case of Tom Kemp, is an Emeritus Fellow of St John’s and taught on the Biology course for some decades, until this year.

  • Peter Holland on The Animal Kingdom (ISBN-13 978-0199593217)
  • Timothy Walker on Plants (ISBN-13: 978-0199584062)
  • Tom Kemp has two:
    • Mammals (ISBN-13: 9780198766940)
    • Reptiles (ISBN-13: 9780198806417)
    • and coming soon  – Amphibians
  • Tristram D. Wyatt  on Animal Behaviour (ISBN-13 978-0198712152)


Evolution and adaptation: this famous best-seller is still right and still fundamental:

  • The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins (ISBN-13: 978-0198788607)

Consciousness and Intelligence

Some of you will be interested in consciousness and intelligence, in which case here is an important book written by a member of the Zoology Department that sets out a new approach to the scientific study of consciousness, and then one recent good popular science book:

  • Through our eyes only? The search for animal consciousness, Marian Stamp Dawkins (ISBN-13: 978-0198503200)
  • Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life is published by William Collins, Author: Peter Godfrey-Smith (ISBN-13: 978-0008226299)


Those raring to go on the course itself may find textbooks useful. You don’t need to start now, but if you’re interested, there’s no harm in having a peek at these two!

  • For molecular and cell biology: Molecular Biology of the Cell  by Alberts et al (ISBN-13: 978-0815344643)
  • For the organisms course: Vertebrate Life (2108, 9th edition) by Pough and Janis. (ISBN-13: 978-1605356075)

Study skills for incoming undergraduates

As an Oxford student, you have many great opportunities ahead, but studying here can also be very challenging. To help you prepare for this, we have put together some resources that will help you develop your study skills before you start at Oxford, no matter your subject.

Starting at Oxford

Starting a course at Oxford can be very daunting, but there are many resources out there to help you succeed! Here are some useful guides from across the University that you might want to check out:

  • Study skills and training: Here you can find advice on academic good practice including avoiding plagiarism, managing your time, reading, note taking, referencing and revision.
  • Student life: It’s not all about academics at Oxford; here you can find out about the range of other opportunities available to you as a student, as well as tips on how to navigate student life with your workload. If you prefer podcasts, much of this information is available in that form here!
  • Managing the cost: Undergraduate students Helena, Joe and Dan, have teamed up with the University’s Undergraduate Admissions team to discuss the financial support available to students and how they manage the cost of studying at Oxford.

Useful contacts

If you have any questions that aren’t answered on this page, you can get in touch with the following people:

ContactQuestions they can answer
Admissions Office: Sarah JonesAnything to do with offers, visas, UCAS issues, reading lists and preparatory materials
Accommodation Office Accommodation, what to bring, insurance, electoral roll issues  
BursaryAll things financial
College OfficePractical arrangements, bank letters, etc.
Disability enquiries: Elaine EastgateAny issues relating to disability or special requirements