Master Plant Sciences

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Entrance exam

If you fulfill all requirements (step 1) and you have successfully submitted your online application with documents (step 2) and you do not qualify for direct acceptance, we will invite you to an exam (step 3).

The entrance exam for the master’s program starting in autumn 2024 will in principle take place online and is expected to be scheduled in the first half of April 2024. Applicants will receive detailed information about the entrance exam (modalities, exact date, potential fees for proctoring) with the invitation.

As far as the content of the exam is concerned: The 90 minutes examination will be given in English. It will consist of multiple-choice questions in the area of “plant molecular biology”, “plant cell biology”, “systematics”, and “biotic interactions of plants”. The exam questions will be at a bachelor’s level, so any relevant textbook at a bachelor’s level can help you in preparing for the exam.

Expected knowlege

Plant anatomy, physiology, cell and molecular biology

  • Nutrient and water uptake
  • Primary and secondary plant growth: types of vascular bundles; primary and secondary phloem and xylem, cambium
  • Wood anatomy of gymnosperms vs angiosperms
  • Development and morphology of leaves
  • Morphology of chloroplasts; plastid types and plastid ontogeny
  • Morphology of flowers: gynoecium, androecium, petals, sepals, tepals, bracts, types of symmetry
  • Fruit types; fruit and seed dispersal syndromes
  • Photosynthesis: photosystems, ATP and NADPH generation, Calvin cycle, C3, C4 and CAM photosynthesis
  • Functions of plant hormones; hormones involved in plant stress responses
  • Plant primary metabolism: carbohydrates, organic and amino acids
  • Types of plant secondary metabolites
  • Basic cell biological principles including compartmentalization, cell division, replication, mitosis, meiosis
  • Organization of the plant cell; organelles; differences to prokaryotic cells; endosymbiosis

Plant genetics and development

  • Structure and composition of the major biological macromolecules (DNA, RNA, proteins)
  • The central dogma of molecular biology and the implicated molecular processes (e.g. transcription, translation). Degeneration of the genetic code
  • DNA as the repository of genetic information; understanding the roles of DNA and RNA
  • Understanding the experiment of Meselson and Stahl; the complementarity of nucleic acids on opposite complementary DNA or RNA strands that are connected via hydrogen bonds; the canonical Watson-Crick base pairing; DNA replication
  • Protein biosynthesis; redundancy of the genetic code; transcription and its regulation; translation
  • The difference between mutation and substitution
  • Mechanisms of DNA repair
  • Principles of Mendelian inheritance; Mendel’s laws
  • Meiosis and recombination


  • Evolution of eukaryotes: endosymbiont theory; primary, secondary and tertiary endosymbiosis; algal groups originating from primary and secondary endosymbiosis
  • Evolution of plants to life on land: Morphological adaptations and characteristics of mosses, ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms. Features distinguishing these groups morphologically. Generation cycles of these groups, modes of fertilization. Primary vs secondary endosperm, development of seeds/fruits
  • Morphological characteristics of important plant families (e.g. Brassicaceae, Poaceae, Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Lamiaceae, Rosaceae): leaf orientation, flower features, flower formulas, pollination syndromes, fruit types
  • Morphological features and generation cycle of fungi (Ascomycota vs Basidiomycota): hyphal systems, clamp connections vs croziers, dikaryon, heterokaryon, types of fruiting bodies; types of mycorrhiza; lichen symbiosis; organelles in fungal cells; cell wall material
  • Types of species interactions: mutualism, antagonism, commensalism; species concepts; speciation

Recommended textbooks

Alberts, Molecular Biology of the Cell
Bresinsky et al., Strasburger’s Plant Sciences
Berg et al., Stryer Biochemistry
Le Guyader, The Tree of Life, a Phylogenetic Classification
Lodish et al., Molecular Cell Biology
Nabor, Introduction to Botany
Purves et al., Biology
Raven, Biology of Plants
Stützel, Botanische Bestimmungsübungen (in German)
Watson, Molecular Biology of the Gene


After you have taken the entrance exam, a combined score is assigned according to your exam grade (70%) and your grade point average from your bachelor’s degree (30%). You will be invited to an interview (step 4) if your combined score is higher than 1.9 or less than 2.4 (according to the German grading system with 1 being the best and 4 being the minimum pass grade).