IFIB – Interfakultäres Institut für Biochemie

Frequently asked questions - Tübingen Master of Biochemistry

What we offer

  • a highly modular degree, adaptable to personal preferences
  • advanced pratical research training
  • broad range of research topics

What we expect

  • advanced biochemical knowledge, especially in the fields chemistry, cell biology, molecular biology and metabolism
  • above-average practical lab skills in the fields of biochemistry or molecular life sciences
    For comparison: The BSc Biochemie in Tübingen credits about 40% of the total ECTS to practical training; you will need similar skills to study successfully.
  • very good spoken and written English

You SHOULD NOT expect

  • basic biochemical education
  • excessive lab training at a beginner's level (in most training courses and lab rotations you are expected to work independently)

Requirements

What type of bachelor degree is suitable?

Ideally, you have completed a bachelor degree that combines chemistry and biology as you will need a good background in both for our master. Please provide us with a transcript of the courses you took, to help us evaluate your degree. We have also admitted excellent students from other subject areas.

What if I haven't completed my bachelor degree yet?

If you are in the last semester of your bachelor degree, you may apply with an English or German record of all courses taken including grades received up to that point and the preliminary average grade (e.g. a transcript with the preliminary average grade). For the application only the average grade submitted before the application deadline can be taken into account, i.e. we cannot adjust it afterwards as you complete more courses.

How competitive is the selection?

The selection varies with the level of the applications we receive within an application period. We are typically several times oversubscribed and have to make a difficult choice who to offer a place. The Tübingen Master of Biochemistry is a competitive program. You will have to be towards the top of your class.

What level of English do I need to be admitted to the Master?

Since the degree is completely in English, you will need very good written and spoken English. No formal certificate is required, if you are a native speaker, if your previous degree was taught in English or if your school-leaving exam gives evidence of a sufficient level of English. Evidence of English on your high school diploma (e.g. Abitur) will be sufficient for your application. Otherwise, submitting one of the typical English tests (IELTS, TOEFL) with your application is helpful to support your claim of very good English.

Do I need German language certificates?

No, since this course is taught completely in English. Please ignore the default university application form fields requesting this information. Nevertheless, it will be helpful for daily life and a career plus to acquire some German skills during your master degree.

Do I need to send certified copies of my documents?

For the application a simple copy is enough. Once you are in Tübingen, you will to show the originals or certified copies to the student office. Your documents have to be in English or German. If they are not, get them translated.

Do I need letters of recommendation or an explanation why I want to apply?

No, you do not need either to apply here. Leave those fields empty, if the application portal asks you for such documents.

Admission exam

Why do you require an admission exam?

Across the world, undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and related fields vary in content and difficulty. With the admission exam, we attempt to establish a basic level of common knowledge, so we can start off in the Masters degree with the right level for the majority of our students.

What is the exam about?

The exam is about the fundamentals of biochemistry as presented by a basic biochemistry textbooks like Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry or Alberts The Cell. This includes structural knowledge of the main biomolecules (DNA, RNA, proteins, lipids, sugars and common metabolites), the essentials of cell structure and function, the basics of tissues and organisms, common chemical reaction as well as standard biochemical techniques. This list is not exclusive and we may add questions that we consider essential biochemistry not specifically mentioned here. The exam contains, but is not limited to questions from the basic bachelor lectures (BC1-4).

How difficult is the exam?

The majority of the questions in the exam will be at the level of one of the introductory biochemistry courses taught as part of a dedicated biochemistry undergraduate degree like Tübingen's. In other words, they will, on the whole, be easier than your elective subjects taken towards the end of your bachelor degree.

What types of questions are you asking?

We try to emphasize logical questions over ones requiring memorization of details, since the former are more like what you will encounter in the life science research we aim to prepare you for in the master. That said you need, of course, a detailed concept of biochemistry to make deductions even for logical questions. You will encounter questions of true/false, multiple choice, chemical structures/reactions, calculations, data analysis, and biochemical reasoning.

How many times can I sit the exam?

We encourage you to take the exam once. If, however, you are willing to wait until the next semester to retake the exam, you can do so. The better grade will be used for your application. You can only take the exam 2 times.

Do I have to register for the exam?

Please send an email with the subject text entrance exam and your full name and contact adress in the body to  claudia.heberle@uni-tuebingen.de until the deadline published on the admission page.

What do I need for the exam?

You need to bring 1) an identifying document (e.g. Personalausweis, passport, ID card), and 2) ball pens or similar indelible pens. Please refrain from bringing mobile devices, books, or any kind of paper to the exam.

I can't make the date is there an alternative?

We announce the exam dates at least 3 months in advance. If you cannot make it, you have several options:

  1. apply without the exam and rely only on your bachelor grade
  2. take the exam early, for example, sit the exam for the fall term but apply for the later summer term
  3. defer your application for 1 semester; we admit both in fall and summer.

Can I take the exam in my country of residence?

In addition to legal issues, it is logistially impossible to organize exams all over the globe. So, unfortunately, the exam only takes place in Tübingen.

International applicants

Will I have enough time to get a visa?

In our experience, visa application times for some countries can be tight to make it for the beginning of term. If you suspect this may be the case, keep in mind that the January selection (>2 months) leaves less time than the May one (>4 months). The only thing that you can do, is prepare as well as possible. Know all the steps of the procedure beforehand, book your appointments early, and have all the necessary documents ready. Some steps can be taken in parallel.

It is difficult for me to attend the optional entrance exam in Tübingen. What can be done?

Taking the entrance exam will increase your chances of being awarded a place. Note that you can take the exam at any time before your application. If, for example, you are traveling to Europe half-way through your bachelor, you can already take the exam and use the results for a later application.

Which other preparations should I make before coming to Tübingen?

It is very important that you sort out accommodation at the earliest possible date. Application for official student housing opens on the 1st of April for the fall term and on the 1st of October for the spring term. Do not wait until you have received an offer (you can supply those documents later). It is very difficult to find a place in Tübingen, esp. in late summer before the fall term. We recommend student housing to get you started here. Several dorms are not administered through the official student union (Studentenwerk Tübingen Hohenheim) but through related organisation, esp. Studentenwerk e.V.. Consider a parallel application there once you have received an admission letter.

Another common stumbling block is a good budget calculation, so you don't run low. Estimate what your living costs will be and have a reserve for unforeseen expenses.

If your English is good but not top notch consider doing a refresher course before you start, either in Germany or in your home country. Otherwise, you may fall behind in the fast-paced seminars and lectures in Tübingen.

Originals, certified documents, official translations

For the application you do not need to supply us with originals or certified copies of your documents. A simple copy will do. Keep in mind though that later, after a successful application when you sign up at the student office, you will need to bring the originals or certified copies of your documents to matriculate. If the material is not in one of the languages we can read (English, German, Spanish, or French), you do have to get an official translation.

Do I need a German language certificate?

Since the entire degree is in English, we do not require a German language certificate as part of your application. Nevertheless, acquiring basic German will help you in your day-to-day life in Tübingen and be a career plus. The University's language center can help you with this.

Where can I find more tips about Tübingen?

We created an informal collection of useful links on OpenWetWare. There, you can find information on the city, transport, accommodation, language, and much more. Please improve the page with your own tips once you have settled in in Tübingen.

Application process

Until when do I need to apply?

The application deadlines are semester by semester. If you want to apply for a start in October, your applications has to be complete by 31 May. If you desire to enroll for the summer term beginning in April, the date is 15 Jan. See the admission page for all dates and deadlines. If you are an international applicant who requires a visa, we advise to apply 1 semester earlier to allow for the often lengthy visa application to be completed so you can start the semester on time.

How does the application work?

  • You submit your information online following the link on our admission page. The Alma portal will guide you through the registration process.
  • Do NOT send your material to the Biochemistry Institute. Once the application is completed, you should receive an email confirmation from the student office.
  • If you choose to do so, you will take the entrance exam in Tübingen (see admission exam section above).
  • After the exam has taken place, we will consider all valid applications and notify the shortlisted applicants within about a week. We will also create a waiting list which will be activated if places free up.

How exactly do you allocate application points?

As indicated on our admission page, up to 40 points our about 60% can come from your bachelor grade according to the following conversion: 1.0 = 40 points, 1.5 = 30, 2.0 = 20, and so on. Then up to 20 points or about 30% can come from the entrance exam (see section above). If you take the exam it will be an advantage. A few remaining bonus points can be achieved if you have studied abroad 6+ months, worked in student bodies, received a stipend/prize, or co-authored a paper.

You require a CV as part of the application. What should it look like?

Your CV should be a single page and summarize only relevant qualifications. For the purpose of the Master application, this is the BSc grade and class rank, previous lab & research experience including duration an methods, English language skills/scores, stays abroad, co-authorships in PubMed-listed journals, stipends, and prizes.

Can I already apply for semester after the next one?

Please only apply for the upcoming term. We admit students in spring and fall and although you can take the exam in advance, we only accept applications for the next semester.

Can I change from the master that I'm enrolled in to your master's degree? (Studienwechsel)

In principle yes, depending on your grades, the compatibility of your courses, and our availability of places. You have to apply before the usual deadlines using the paper forms for master to be found on this central admission page. In addition to submitting a formal application on paper to the central admissions office, contact the master coordinator. We will decide case by case.

Common problems to avoid

Transcripts without an average final grade

We cannot evaluate your application if your transcript does not state an average grade. It can be a preliminary transcript but it does have to contain an estimated final grade. Make sure yours does. If your average changes after the application deadline, we cannot take this into account.

International grades are not put in context

Make sure the grading system of your home institution is very clear. If it is not explained on the transcript, add this information to your application. What is the pass grade? What is the best grade achievable? If you are for example graded on a % scale but 80% is the best anyone can hope for please indicate that. Also, make sure to include a class rank, i.e. how many students graduated with you, say 100, and where you ranked in the group, say 10th. Provide written evidence for the rank from the Registrar or alternatively in a letter from one of your teachers.

No evidence of practical research experience

Our master is research and lab oriented. We start at an advanced skill level. Make sure your past practical training and research experience is well explained in the transcript and the form about practical training (see admission page). It should include how many months you worked in a lab, which techniques you used regularly, and whether you performed the techniques yourself.

Enrolling

Case 1: Finished bachelor degree

Sign up at the student office.

Case 2: Unfinished bachelor degree from Tübingen

Stay enrolled as a bachelor (Rückmeldung) and apply for the transfer to the Master (Umschreibung, please contact the student's office for more information). Hand in the final bachelor degree certificate at the student office no later than the end of December for the fall term and no later then end of June for the summer term.

Case 3: Unfinished, external bachelor degree

Enroll in the master course. You will be given a temporary matriculation pending your final bachelor degree to be submitted no later than the end of December for the fall term and no later then end of June for the summer term.

Fees & financing

What are the university fees?

There are no 20.000+ annual university fees, as common in the US and the UK. In Germany, universities are still funded mostly by public taxes. If you are an international student from outside the European Union, current tuition fees are €1.500 per term, just above 10% of a typical English university. Additionally, you have to pay an administrative fee of 160-170 €. Several exemptions may apply and allow you to study without paying tuition fees (you always have to pay the administrative fees). If this still feels tight, supplement your budget with small research jobs in parallel to your studies (see below) or independently apply to national and European merit scholarships.

What are the living costs in Tübingen?

Even though you don't have to pay huge university fees, you do have to factor in living costs. These are between €600-900 per month, depending on how frugal you are.

Does Tübingen offer scholarships?

Since already a lot of funding is used to avoid huge fees, German universities, again unlike their US equivalents, do not generally offer their own stipends. There are, however, competitive and merit-based scholarships available. You apply for them on your own, not through the university. We are happy to support you in these efforts.

Can I supplement my budget with assistantships?

Yes, you can. As in the USA, teaching and research assistantships are a common way to increase your monthly allowance. Master students often help out in undergraduate laboratory practicals and seminars or support research in academic labs. Assistantships are organized after you have started in Tübingen with the relevant course tutor or principal investigator.

Modules, labs, and master thesis

How do I choose course (module)?

After a successful application you will be asked to submit your preferences regarding the courses in an online survey. This information is then used to allocate the limited course places as best as possible. It usually means that you are almost certain to get your 1st preferences and very likely to get at least one of your 2nd choices.

Courses are confirmed term by term.

How do I choose labs/lab rotations?

According to your scientific interest. Our advice is to do a variety of different labs to better get to know the varied life science landscape using the short lab rotations. This will put you in a much better position to make an informed decision when it comes to more consequential choices like the master thesis and possibly a PhD.

To register a lab rotation, fill in the "lab form" (found here, under download) before your lab rotation, send it to the master coordinator, and have it confirmed. Once you finished the lab rotation, your supervisor needs to sign the document and send it to the registrar's office and a copy to the master coordinator.

Always use the latest version of the lab form, please.

How do I take the ABC exam?

After having participated in the Advanced Biochemistry lecture series (nicknamed ABC by the students), you are ready to take the oral examination. You can register to take the exam towards the end of the lecture period of each term (see the examinations page for details).

What about the master thesis?

Let us know about the details of your planned master thesis using the form on the examinations page.

After the lab work, you prepare a written thesis according to academic standards. Ask your supervisors for advice. In general, it should have the following parts: an abstract including your research question and most prominent results, an introduction guiding a general reader towards your subject of investigation, methods explained in enough detail to be reproducible based on the text, results first objectively described then discussed in a separate paragraph or section, and finally references for all significant scientific statements. The fewer words you need to explain your findings the better.

Tips and what to avoid for your thesis

  • Register your thesis BEFORE you start. If you forget this, you may have to extend the duration of your master.
  • Hand in on time, i.e. exactly 6 months after you started including the write up. Late submission can be rejected.
  • You need to be enrolled as a student to be able to submit your thesis!
  • Prepare parts of your thesis before the final rush to improve the quality of your write up. Methods, figures, and results are ideally suitable for early preparation and will give you a unique advantage when the deadline looms.
  • Model your thesis on our thesis format suggestion (see internal pages). Keep it short and snappy. It saves both you and your reviewers time.
  • If you are doing thesis research in a company, remind your supervisors of our requirement to give full access to all thesis data to the internal co-supervisor. Assure them that theses are not publicly accessible and can be kept confidential for 1 year upon request, renewable. Your PI will sign this on the thesis form.

Wrapping up & onwards

What concludes the master?

When you hand in copies of your master thesis and the review(s), we will check whether everything is in order and complete. Afterwards, you will receive an updated copy of the transcript and certificates. This will conclude your Master of Biochemistry.

When will I be taken off the University's register?

Your student status will run out either on 31 Mar or 30 Sept, whichever is closest. So, assuming you hand in your master thesis in summer, you will officially cease to be a student at the end of September. If you hand in your master thesis in fall, you will be taken off the register (and lose student benefits) the following year at the end of March. Do let the student office know that you have completed your studies via a form for removal from the register since, otherwise, you will have problems if you ever want to enroll at a German university again. This does not shorten the length of your official student status. See also the official University page on exmatriculation (in German).

What about after the master?

During the master and increasingly towards the end, we will get together to talk about what comes afterwards, what your options are, and how they compare. In addition, the science faculty offers a series of events including presentations of representatives of different job types, soft skill training, and career fairs. The university career service offers group seminars and individual counseling upon request. Lastly, we hope that you will join our network Mobbel before you leave and stay in touch.