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Department of Pharmacology


Welcome to the MedST/VetST IB MoDA Course Page

This page is a short summary of information regarding the MedST/VetST IB MoDA Courses. The key contacts are:

Course Organiser

Dr Paul Miller
Telephone: +44 (0)1223 3 61267

Undergraduate Administrator

Alternative contact: Mrs Christine Roberts
Telephone: +44 (0)1223 334059


Course Structure

The course consists of 3 lectures and 1 seminar or practical component in most weeks. The majority of Lectures are combined for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine students, and are delivered in the large Chemistry Main Lecture Theatre (entrance opposite the Scott Polar Research Institute), or in the Babbage Lecture Theatre (on the New Museums Site). Lectures only for the Veterinary Medicine students will be delivered mainly in the Biffen Lecture Theatre (Department of Genetics). Practical classes take place in the Department of Pharmacology Teaching Laboratories, Level 1.  From 2018/19 we have introduced three Clinical Cases Studies, one each for medics and vets per term, to further develop clinical aspects of the material covered in the main lecture series. Clinical Case Studies will not be examinable by single best answer questions, but information from these case studies will be useful for writing high quality essays in Paper 3.

Course Aims

The Mechanisms of Drug Action course aims to provide an understanding of the basic mechanisms of drug action at the levels of both drug-receptor interactions and the effects on body systems.

Attention is focused not only on the current use of drugs, but also on a framework for evaluating future therapies.

Teaching Objectives

Practical experiments are held on Thursdays or Fridays from 2 to 5 pm, they are designed to support and reinforce the lectures and provide an introduction to the experimental basis of the subject.

How much you get out of the practical course will depend chiefly on the amount of effort you are prepared to put into it. In the practicals you are expected to display a small degree of manual dexterity, but more importantly you are asked to think.

By the end of the MODA course, students should have:

  • attained a core knowledge in basic pharmacology, and so laid a secure foundation in the principles of drug action to support future courses in medicine and veterinary medicine which they will carry with them into their professional careers
  • developed their experimental and data analysis skills through a range of experiments carried out in the practical laboratories and attendance at demonstrations and supervisions.

Lecture Topics

  • Drug Interactions with Receptors and Ion Channels (5 lectures)
  • Pharmacology of Peripheral Neural Transmission (5 lectures)
  • Cardiovascular and Renal Pharmacology (6 lectures)
  • Pharmacokinetics, Drug Metabolism, and General Anaesthetics (5 lectures)
  • Pharmacology of Inflammation and Immunosuppression (6 lectures)
  • Antimicrobials (3 lectures)
  • Anticancer Therapies (3 lectures)
  • MEDICS: Human Aspects of Cardiovascular and Renal Pharmacology (4 lectures)
  • VETS: Anthelmintics (2 lectures)
  • VETS: Aspects of Special Veterinary Pharmacology (2 lectures)
  • VETS: Ectoparasite Drugs (1 lecture)
  • MEDICS: Neuropharmacology (5 lectures)
  • VETS: Veterinary Neuropharmacology (2 lectures)


The entire course is examinable and will be examined through closed book in person exams using the online Inspera platform. The format of the MODA examination is governed by an official Form and Conduct Notice issued by the Faculty of Biology Inspera link:

Section I (MoDA I) is a written paper that lasts 90 minutes. Each question is compulsory. There are 60 questions. This paper covers the whole course in a Single Best Answer (SBA) format. Each question in Section I carries the same mark (with no negative marking).

Section II (MoDA 2) is a two-hour written practical examination. It consists of two questions split into multiple parts and all sections are compulsory. It assesses ability in data handling, numerical manipulation, and logical reasoning. Questions may be drawn from any part of the course and will include questions on quantification of receptor-ligand interactions and pharmacokinetics. Each question carries the same mark. As mentioned in the handbook, prior to 2018/19 there was the possibility of quantitative receptor pharmacology, pharmacokinetics or trace analysis questions (students were examined on 2 out of these 3 options), but trace analysis questions will no longer be used.

Section III (MoDA 3) is a two-hour written paper. Candidates are provided with a choice of 8 essay questions and are required to answer three, with some of the questions specific to medics or vets. Each question in Section III carries the same mark.

Note that Clinical Case Studies (sometimes referred to as "linkers") are not directly examinable. However, they do contain knowledge that can be used, where relevant, to supplement answers in the MODA2 and/or MODA3 papers.

It is the responsibility of candidates to assure themselves that they are aware of any changes to the Form and Conduct Notice and the version current at any time can be accessed via the URL of the Faculty:

The 2nd MB qualification will be determined by performance in Sections I (75%) and II (25%) only. For Tripos, sections are weighted as follows: Section I (30%), Section 2 (20%) and Section III (50%).

Calculators need to be brought to all sections of the exam, including Section I. Rulers (30 cm) are strongly advised to be brought to the Section II exam.

It is a very good idea to gain experience at answering exam questions by working through past papers. Copies of the past papers should be available in College libraries, as should papers for Pharmacology in Part IB of the Medical Sciences Tripos in earlier years which will provide further material for practice relevant to Sections II and III. Past papers are also available on the MoDA Moodle site.

Marking and classing criteria for the Section III (written essay) are described in a document prepared by the Faculty Board, available at


Plagiarism is “using someone else’s ideas, words, data, or other material produced by them without acknowledgement”. Should the exams be online and open book you must not copy chunks of text from source material unless it is fully acknowledged. The university possesses powerful software to detect plagiarism. It is the student’s responsibility to be aware of the university policy on plagiarism and academic misconduct. See: responsibilities