Frequently asked questions - Tübingen Master of Biochemistry

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 grade average 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 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, we will ask you 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 letters of recommendation or a description of your motivation to apply here. Old versions of the university standard admission software have fields for the above. Please leave them blank.

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?

No. However, do please send an empty email with the subject line entrance exam no later than 1 week before the exam you want to sit, so we can estimate the number of participants. We will send you a reminder for the exam.

What do I need for the exam?

You need to bring three things: 1) identifying document (e.g. Personalausweis, passport, ID card), 2) ball pens or similar indelible pens, 3) non-programmable calculator (mobile phones are not allowed as calculators). 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?

For us it is logistially impossible to organize exams all over the globe. So, unfortunately, the exam only takes place in Tübingen. The GRE biology or chemistry is of a similar level and organized in most countries around the world. If you cannot attend the local exam, we encourage you to submit either GRE biology or chemistry results along with your application.

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. If it is impossible for you to come to Tübingen, consider taking the GRE biology or chemistry subject test which is likely to be offered in your country of residence and include the results in your application. You can choose either one, as the biochemistry subject test has been stopped.

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. You can apply online. 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 15 July. 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?

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. See this template.

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 comaptibility 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.

The confirmation of the online application is not sent in time

Most of the application process is online. However, at the end you have to print out a confirmation page, sign it, and send it in. If it does not arrive in time, your entire application will be invalid. Please allow for enough time for the letter to arrive, esp. if you apply from farther away, and send it with tracking.

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 your CV. 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) using this form. 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 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 (see the stats). 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 €1500 per term, just above 10% of a typical English university. Several exemptions may apply and allow you to study without paying 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 modules?

After a successful application you will be asked to submit your preferences regarding the modules in an online survey. This information is then used to allocate the limited module 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.

Modules are confirmed term by term, despite you stating your preferences for the entire 1st year at the beginning. This means you will know which modules you take in your 1st term shortly after the survey, while your 2nd term modules can only be confirmed in time before the 2nd term.

How do I choose labs?

The short answer is, 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 have a lab rotation confirmed, if the lab is in the IFIB, all you do is fill in the lab form after you have completed the lab and send it to the master coordinator and the Registrar. If the lab lies outside the IFIB and if the group leader does not participate in the teaching of the master, you need to fill in the form beforehand, send it to the master coordinator, and have it confirmed. You have to do this well before you start.

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 at the end 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

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 you Master of Biochemistry.

When will I be taken off the university register?

You won't be actively disenrolled when everything is complete. 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 alumni network Mobbel before you leave and stay in touch.