By Prashant Chand-Bajpai
Materials Part II builds on IB very nicely. The assessments consist of four three-hour exams, a literature review, practical work, materials examinations and a formal practical report.
The literature review is a new concept to most Part II physical scientists and at first it seems like a daunting task. The concept is not explained very well at the initial briefing. However, important information about the format, what to include and not to include can be drawn out of the topic supervisors. This is very helpful as they will be marking the reviews from their topics. Keeping all of your references organised with subheadings in software such as EndNote is important.
The labs are of similar style to Part IB but longer in duration. Understanding the overall task in hand can greatly improve efficiency and save a lot of time in practicals. There is no need to write up the lab notes in neat – this is a waste of valuable time.
Materials examinations can go very smoothly if you choose the right ones! ‘Biomaterials’ is short and well structured. ‘Wood’ is vague and can take horrendously long with minimal reward in the marking. The other two are less extreme so choosing either of them should be okay.
The formal practical report is similar to those that you may have done in Physics in Part IB. Structuring the report well is the most important part. A commonly used structure is: title, introduction, abstract, experimental methods, results, discussion of results, conclusion, references. Adding some background theory with a good reference can add some weight to the report.
The exams are very much the same as the Part IB exams. It is fairly risky to drop topics as the past few couple of years have shown changes in the numbers of questions from each course. If you plan to select courses that you will revise and not to revise, it is very important that you know how many questions there will be in each paper from each course. Looking at past papers is the best way to understand how to revise the courses. The styles of questions from each course have been very similar over the last few years and so understanding the ideas involved is a good way to prepare for the exams. The answers to the past papers are not readily available, but sweet-talking nice supervisors is a very effective way to get hold of past paper solutions!