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Consider the following sentence:

I have always tried to excel in/at courses relevant to veterinary sciences, such as physics, biology and chemistry.

Which one is correct? A quick google search yielded no definite answers (it said both could be used, however, it seems to me some sources implied that they cannot always be used interchangeably).

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I think I would use in when talking about a broad field and at when talking about a specific skill.

I have always tried to excel in courses relevant to veterinary sciences

I have always excelled at diagnosing cancer in small animals

I excel in laboratory environments

I excel at using the mass spectrometer

I'm not sure if its wrong to use at/in interchangeably but using them like this ^ is what comes naturally to me as a Brit.

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  • I think this might be correct. I for example have read 'excel in mathematics' and 'excel at outdoor sports'. Outdoor sports is more specific than mathematics. So I'd say it would also be 'excel IN sports'. Correct? – FlacchusMaximus Apr 1 '13 at 10:42
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    @FlacchusMaximus: It's more that you tend to excel in a field of endeavour, and to excel at a specific activity. But this is only a vague tendency, and in practice we nearly always use in, so my advice would be to just go with the majority and forget about at completely. No-one is ever likely to find fault with your choice of preposition, since any supposed distinction is just a tendency, not a rule of grammar. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Apr 1 '13 at 17:24

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