Subject resources

You may have read our advice about developing your academic interests. Once you've chosen a course, do have a look at the 'reading, resources and events' section on the relevant subject page.

On this subject resources page, regular posts direct you to the latest websites, books or events etc. If you find a post useful, you might like to click on the tags at the bottom of it (Literature and Languages, Humanities, Maths and Sciences, or Social Sciences) to find other posts in the same broad area. Of course, you don't have to follow up on any of this, but you might look at the kinds of things we suggest and find yourself similar material in your own areas of interest - keep your eyes open!

Nautilus – Science, connected

Spiral staircase from above Credit: Marc Cornelis

The online and print journal Nautilus is not just for scientists. In fact, there are articles and blog posts on everything from ‘The Cello Music of the Spheres’ to ‘Why Red Means Red in Almost Every Language’.

“We are here to tell you about science and its endless connections to our lives. Each month we choose a single topic. And each Thursday we publish a new chapter on that topic online. Each issue combines the sciences, culture and philosophy into a single story told by the world’s leading thinkers and writers. We follow the story wherever it leads us. Read our essays, investigative reports, and blogs. Fiction, too. Take in our games, videos, and graphic stories. Stop in for a minute, or an hour. Nautilus lets science spill over its usual borders. We are science, connected.”

Here are just a few links to articles in different subjects:

You can find articles on many more subjects through the links on the right of this page.

Posted: 9 October 2015

MedLife - Medicine at Cambridge

On 12 December 2015, Cambridge University School of Clinical Medicine will be holding an event called ‘MedLife’ for lower sixth (Year 12) students interested in applying for Medicine at Cambridge.

The day will provide participants with a taster of life as a medical student, through lectures and practical sessions and will also give them the opportunity to ask students and course organisers any questions they have. The event will be concluded by an admissions talk.

The deadline for applications is Wednesday 11 November, 5pm. For any questions please email the Cambridge Clinical School.

Posted: 6 October 2015

CUSU Shadowing Scheme

The CUSU Shadowing Scheme brings UK students from schools without a tradition of top university entry to Cambridge for three days in January or February. Prospective students come to Cambridge on the Thursday afternoon and stay until Saturday lunchtime. In that time you will spend time with a current undergraduate, studying a subject that you are interested in, who you 'shadow'.

As a 'shadow’, you'll see everything students can get up to on a day-to-day basis: lectures, supervisions, getting involved with student societies, clubs and sports teams, socialising and so on. You will also be given a lot of information about the application process by both students and Admissions Tutors. The scheme is open to Year 12 (England and Wales)/ S5 (Scotland)/ Year 13 (NI) students - click here for the appliction pages. For the last two years (2014 and 2015), the Scheme has been also open to mature student applicants, i.e. those who will be 21 or over at the time they start their course.

The idea is to give people with little or no experience of university a taste of student life at Cambridge, in real time, with real people. The Shadowing Scheme is specifically for students with little or no history of university in their family, students who have great reservations about applying to Cambridge or students whose school rarely sends students to University. The whole trip is funded by Cambridge University Student Union, the University, and the Colleges – all accommodation and food is free, and travel costs to and from Cambridge may be reimbursed on a needs basis. The Scheme is really popular; we receive more applications than places. As such, we ask that standard-age applicants are on track to achieve As and A*s in your A-Levels (or equivalent). If you already know that you want to apply to Cambridge or Oxford, or you have friends or relatives who have studied at Cambridge or Oxford, please come on an Open Day or other Cambridge scheme for which you are eligible instead.

The 2016 Shadowing Scheme will take place on:

  • Thursday 21 - Saturday 23 January 2016
  • Thursday 28 January - Saturday 30 January 2016
  • Thursday 4 - Saturday 6 February 2016 (also open to mature student applicants)

If you have any questions about the Shadowing Scheme, please contact the CUSU Access Officer.

Posted: 5 October 2015

The Subject Matters

open book

For more information, see The Subject Matters

Each autumn, the University of Cambridge runs practical and informative sessions for Year 11 students. The events, called The Subject Matters, highlight the importance of suitable A Level (or equivalent) subject choices when making an application to a selective, research-led university, and help students access information to make informed A Level choices. In addition, students are provided with information about the University of Cambridge, higher education and career opportunities as well as an overview of the application process and next steps. All sessions are delivered by Admissions Tutors and students have the opportunity to ask questions.

When will the sessions be held?

The Subject Matters sessions will take place in Cambridge on the following dates:

  •     Saturday 17 October 2015
  •     Friday 30 October 2015
  •     Saturday 31 October 2015
  •     Saturday 7 November 2015

How do I make a booking?

To book your place please use the online booking form.


Posted: 5 October 2015

Social Science Bites

magnetic words on a board

In this series of illuminating podcasts, you can hear leading social scientists present their perspectives on how our social world is created, and how social science can help us understand people and how they behave. Each podcast includes a downloadable written transcript of the conversation.

Here are just a few suggestions by subject:

There are also Philosophy bites arranged by theme, on everything from Plato’s Cave to Free Will and Morality without God.

Posted: 2 October 2015

Subject Masterclasses - Year 12 Students

Inside a college library

Subject Masterclasses provide academically-able Year 12 students with the opportunity to explore subjects they are interested in studying at university and may not have previously experienced. Each event includes two lectures, an introduction to the admissions process, and the chance to hear about student life from current undergraduates.

Booking is now open for November 2015 Masterclasses in:

  • Engineering - 14 November 2015
  • Physics - 14 November 2015
  • History - 14 November 2015
  • Medicine - 21 November 2015
  • Asian and Middle Eastern Studies - 21 November 2015
  • Genetics and Biochemistry - 21 November 2015

Please be aware there are only a limited number of spaces available so students are advised to book their places quickly.

Masterclasses are continually added throughout the year and you can register you interest for future events here.

Posted: 30 September 2015

The Science of Life 2016

image of brain Credit: Allan Ajifo

The Science of Life is a competition inviting 16-19 year olds to design and complete their own physiology research project, with the help of an academic mentor, and present their findings to scientists at The Physiological Society. With the Olympics in 2016, they're particularly interested in projects on improving sports performance, although projects on any physiological topic are welcome.

• Gold prize will be a Train Like a Champion Day at an English Institute of Sport centre, during which the winners will find out what makes a champion athlete and meet the people who support athletes, including physiologists, doctors and psychologists.
• Silver and Bronze prizes include a free visit to the Royal Veterinary College and £200 Amazon gift vouchers for the students.
• The winning schools will also receive some great prizes.

Students intending to take part in the competition must first register their project by 16 November 2015.

Posted: 30 September 2015

Ways into Shakespeare: Pocket Merchant

Shakespeare books on a shelf

Credit: Helder da Rocha (cropped)

Pocket Merchant is a one hour production which offers an inspiring introduction to Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. If you're looking for a way into Shakespeare, do go along, and think of a question to ask the actors afterwards, as you'll have the chance to meet them.

  • NORWICH: Playhouse - Wed 30 Sept at 7.30pm and Thurs 1 Oct at 3pm.
  • BARNSLEY: The Civic Barnsley - Fri 2 October at 7.30pm
  • LUTON: Library Theatre - Tues 6 October at 1.30pm
  • CANTERBURY: The Gulbenkian - Wed 7 October at 1.30pm and 7.30pm
  • BRISTOL: Wickham Theatre- Wed 14 October at 7.30pm
  • HAVANT: The Spring -Thurs 15 October at 7.30pm
  • COVENTRY: The Belgrade - Mon 19 October at 2pm and 7pm
  • HARTLEPOOL: The Town Hall - Wed 21 October at 1pm and 7pm
  • DURHAM: The Gala Theatre - Thurs 22 October at 1pm and 7.30pm

For further information and booking please see the Pocket Merchant website.

Posted: 26 September 2015

Essay Writing - Where To Begin?

tapping a pencil on a black writing pad

Credit:Rennett Stowe

Getting those first words on the page when you’ve got an essay to write can seem daunting. There are a few useful tools and guides online that can help you get started and even develop your essay writing skills.

Essay Map is a very straightforward tool for mapping out your key ideas before you begin writing and helps you to create a structured plan from introduction to conclusion.

And if you find graphic plans useful when it comes to mapping out essays, there are lots of different designs online that you can use to organise your ideas.

For something more advanced, Harvard College Writing Centre provides various guides to essay writing. Their guides to writing in different academic disciplines are especially useful if you’re starting to study a subject in greater depth than you ever have before (History? Philosophy? English Literature?).

Posted: 25 September 2015

Word of the Day

dictionary word of the day

Credit: Alan Myers


There are a few online dictionaries that post a 'word of the day' to help broaden your vocabulary with less common words as well as suggesting some more familiar words whose meanings you might not be so sure on. You can even sign-up to have these emailed to you daily. and Merriam-Webster are just two of the websites that offer these free subscriptions.

And if you're studying a modern language you might want to sign-up for the French, Spanish, Italian or German word of the day. You can find even more languages here.


Posted: 18 September 2015

Durham Book Festival: Writing from Conflict

If you live in or near Durham, there are some interesting talks coming up for the Durham Book Festival.

Here's an example: Writing from Conflict with Michelle Green and David Constantine

How have these writers responded to their experiences of conflict?

  • Date and time:  Saturday 10 October, 3pm-4pm
  • Location: Palace Green Library (Wolfson Gallery), Durham
  • Information and booking

Michelle Green worked in a humanitarian aid centre in Darfur, at the height of the Sudanese civil war. She has written a collection of stories, Jebel Marra, which tells the story of the war from the perspective of 15 different characters.

David Constantine is an award-winning writer who will read Asylum, a story that he has written in response to the issue of human rights and the plight of refugees.

Posted: 17 September 2015

Space Biology


What has research in space done for life on Earth? Credit: Sweetie187

If you are interested in Biology and Medicine, take a moment to think about Space Biology. It may well be something that you've not thought about before, but do you think that Space can and should be studied from a biological persepctive? How and why? What sorts of things might you study if you were looking at Space in this way?

Big Picture is a free Wellcome Trust magazine for sixth form students interested in Biology and Medicine - do have a look at this issue on Space Biology:

For more issues and resources, or to subscribe to Big Picture, see

Posted: 17 September 2015

What does an Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic dissertation look like?

manuscript in anglo saxonLucinda, an Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic student at Christ’s College, Cambridge, shares her thoughts on her undergraduate dissertation which asks: To what extent did the Anglo-Saxon Church condemn contemporary medical practices, and for what reasons?

She writes that “Although very niche, the Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic degree (or Tripos as it’s known in Cambridge) allows very flexible study in the range of papers it offers. Students can choose to focus on purely literature and language or on history, or as is most popular, they can mix the two together. Students have two opportunities to write a dissertation: it is optional in Second Year (Part I of the Tripos), and compulsory in Third (Part II). The beauty of the dissertation is that it allows you to either expand on an area you've already studied or to tackle something new which isn't covered in lectures or supervisions. For my Part II dissertation I chose the route of challenging myself with something I knew nothing about: Anglo-Saxon medicine.”

You can read more about Lucinda’s dissertation here.

Image: Tim Ellis

Posted: 17 September 2015

Tyneside Cinema Foreign Language Film Study Days

German flag

Credit: fdecomite (cropped)

There are a number of GCSE and A level study days in French, German and Spanish coming up at Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle upon Tyne. These workshops are based around a film screening and discussion. The films include Volver, The Connection, Phoenix and The Chorus amongst others. For details and registration, please see the Tyneside Cinema website. For modern languages events in other areas, you may find the Routes into Languages website helpful.

Posted: 16 September 2015

Architecture portfolios

Here at Cambridge, we have a degree in Architecture that brings together both the cultural and technological aspects of the subject. You would work on practical design in the department's studios, and also attend lectures and supervisions on everything from the history and theory of Architecture to issues of construction, environmental design and structure. It's a great degree if you enjoy both essay and sciences subjects at school, and if you are good at drawing and have an interest in the history of art and architecture. Do watch the course film!

Architecture Exhibition

A student exhibition - Ines talks about these in her student perspective

If you want to study Architecture in the future, you will need to create a portfolio of your work. We ask students who are invited for interviews to bring a portfolio to discuss with the interviewers. Some of the King's students have very kindly let us share their portfolio work as an example:

Varisa's portfolio
Emily's portfolio
Aska's portfolio

As you can see, there's a range of material here - the choice of material included in your portfolio is up to you. Successful candidates have brought paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and constructions of all kinds, and we particularly like to see material that conveys a spatial and three dimensional interest. We would not, however, expect to see designs for buildings – that is what you come to Cambridge to learn! The Director of Studies has provided further advice on portfolios.

Posted: 16 September 2015

Modern Languages Taster Day - Girton College, Cambridge

works in neon lightsGirton College and the Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages will be running a Taster Day aimed at pupils who are currently studying Modern Languages at GCSE, aimed at introducing the study of these courses at university level. The programme, which will take place at Girton College, will include workshops by University academics designed to inspire and enthuse Year 10 and 11 students who will already be considering languages within their A Level choices and possibly studying this vibrant subject at university.

Please see this advert for more information and to complete the nomination form, which should be returned to: Schools Liaison Assistant, Girton College, Cambridge, CB3 0JG or by email to by Monday 21st September.

If you have any enquiries about the Taster Day, please do not hesitate to contact Erin at

Image: Chris JL

Posted: 16 September 2015

Faith and religion at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Festival of ideas banners

Download the programme

The Cambridge Festival of Ideas is a full programme of mostly free events encouraging you to explore the arts, humanities and social sciences, meet academics and students, and engage with the University.

If you are interested in faith and religion, you might enjoy some of the following events:

Posted: 15 September 2015

Online Lectures and Seminars

Keyboard with green button saying Learn Even if you’re too far away to attend an event, or don’t have the free time to sign up for events going on nearby, there are some fantastic resources online to let you catch up with things you might have missed!

So if you didn't catch the “The Art of Science and Curation” series which took place at the Faculty of Classics in Cambridge last year, recordings of its seminars are still available online. You can listen to perspectives on objects in museums from Archaeologists, Historians, Curators, Art Historians – even Librarians.

The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) often makes videos of its events, which include presentations on  Gender in the History of Political Thought and Heritage Places in Africa.

The Lauterpacht Centre for International Law in Cambridge also post videos of their previous seminars and lectures.

And to watch and listen to lectures in a whole range of disciplines, Academic Earth host a collection of free online college courses from some of the world’s top universities – you can follow lecture courses in everything from Cognitive Neuroscience to Critical Reasoning for Beginners.

Image: Got Credit

Posted: 15 September 2015

Humanities at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Festival of ideas programme

Download the programme

The Cambridge Festival of Ideas is a full programme of mostly free events encouraging you to explore the arts, humanities and social sciences, meet academics and students, and engage with the University.

Since humans have been able, we have used philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history and language to understand and record our world. If you are interested in the study of how people process and document the human experience, you might enjoy the following events:

Posted: 15 September 2015

Social Sciences at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Posted: 15 September 2015

Considering Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 8


In many of the courses taught at Cambridge, the Faculty lectures you attend are designed to open up and expand your critical perspective on the topics you are studying, as well as furthering your factual knowledge. You can then explore ideas and specific examples further in your reading and thinking, and through writing your weekly essays, then discussing them with your supervisors (see how you are taught).

As an example, three Cambridge lecturers in Music have written about one of the most famous twentieth-century chamber works from three very different angles.

Why not listen to Dmitri Shostakovich's Eighth Quartet (1960) and read:

  • A historical perspective
    by Prof Marina Frolova-Walker
  • An analytical perspective
    by Prof Nick Marston
  • A performance-related perspective
    by Prof John Rink

These can be found in the Music Faculty's Music@Cambridge Magazine Schools Edition (Michaelams 2015), pages 35-37.

Posted: 12 September 2015

Good books for computer scientists

Alan Turing

Alan Turing

If you are interested in studying Computer Science at university, it is good to build up a broad background understanding of issues in computer science. There's nothing specific that you have to read (a range of useful books are available so do browse your local library), but if you're looking for a suggestion, this is an excellent collection of accessible and relevant articles:

  • A Kee Dewdney, The (new) Turing Omnibus (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)

You can have a quick look inside the book on the Amazon website if that helps, and some useful exercises are included at the end of chapters. Do try them!

As soon as you start reading about the Cambridge Computer Science course, you will notice that mathematics is a required subject to be studying at school (and Further Maths is recommended if you have the opportunity to take it). Fluency in maths is essential for computer scientists, not only for formal proofs, but also because maths is the language used to describe almost every aspect of the subject. A second good book is therefore:

Posted: 11 September 2015

NRICH Mathematics


Credit: Kai Schreiber

Whether you are starting A Levels, Highers, the International Baccalaureate, Pre-U or another higher maths qualification, it might take a while to find your feet. NRICH Mathematics can help! Do look at the finding your feet resources and also explore the website to get a sense of what is there.

Posted: 10 September 2015

European Day of Languages (26 Sept)

Day of languages logo

Credit: Council of Europe

The European Day of Languages on 26 September is fast approaching, and offers a good opportunity to think about linguistic diversity and the advantages of learning to communicate in other languages and gain more direct access to and understanding of different cultures.

Amongst the website resources there are some fun and interesting facts and lists:

Language skills are in demand and can lead to a wide range of careers. They also allow you to persue  a range of interets in your university degree  - depending on your course choices, you may study linguistics, literature, film, history, politics, philosophy, sociology, art criticism, and religion, as you will be able to read and study texts of all kinds in the original form.

Inspired? Why not watch some of the films about languages courses at Cambridge: Modern and Medieval Languages; Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; Linguistics, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, Classics, Theology and Religious Studies.

Posted: 9 September 2015

11 Sept - Exhibition of archive documents in King's Library

Poetry book

Credit: Dave Kleinschmidt (cropped)

On Friday 11 September, King's College Library is holding an exhibition of original documents bequeathed to the College Archives by former student John Davy Hayward, who was T.S. Eliot's roommate and unofficial editor for 11 years.

The exhibition is open from 10:30 until 15:30 as part of Open Cambridge.

Posted: 8 September 2015

Free and Discounted Theatre Tickets

Theatre stalls looking up at the stage Many theatres across the country will offer a small discount off ticket prices for students. But did you know that there are also some free membership schemes for students and under 26s that offer an even greater discount, and in some cases free theatre tickets? Here are just a few theatres and schemes:

Or if opera is more your thing (or just something you're curious about!), Opera North have a membership scheme for under-30s that offers free or £10 tickets to select performances.

There are, of course, many more theatres with amazing student discounts so check out what's on offer at your local theatre.

Image: Matthew Paulson

Posted: 7 September 2015

Aged 21+? London event!

Back court

Older students can apply to a standard-age College or to a mature college - it's your choice! Details

There is information about applying at the age of 21 or more on both the Cambridge university website and the King's website.

On Saturday the 19th of September, Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge and Harris Manchester College, Oxford are running an event for students aged 21+ in central London. There will be talks about studying at Oxbridge and the application process, as well as the opportunity to meet academics and Cambridge students to discuss applications in a group, or one to one with Admissions Tutors. Please see the information.

Posted: 7 September 2015

Year 12 Classics events in September

Classics group

Do you think that you would enjoy studying the Ancient World? Do read about Why Classics Matters and perhaps watch some of the films on the course website.

Jack says: It was the breadth of the Classics course at Cambridge that appealed to me, as it offered an opportunity to concentrate on areas of particular interest while still covering a huge range of academic disciplines and topics. Amber writes: I was always interested in literature and languages growing up. [...] I considered applying for English or Modern Languages at university, but eventually settled on Classics, and I’m very glad I did – I’ve really enjoyed the course. Read more about Jack and Amber's experiences of studying Classics.

Why not book a place on one of the Classics events in September to find out more?

....and don't forget: you don't need to have studied Latin or Greek before to apply! We have a four year course option as well as the three year course, so you can start from scratch if you like. 

Posted: 2 September 2015

Year 12 Pathways to Law

Law books

Find out about Cambridge Law on the course website.

Do you think that you'd like to study Law at university? If you're just starting Year 12, you're from any of the areas below, and you're either eligible for free school meals or don't have any family members who have been to university, do read the information about the Pathways to Law programme in partnership with your local university. The application deadline is 28 September.

Partner universities and areas you can apply from:

  • University of Bristol: Addresses within an hour’s drive of Bristol.
  • University of Essex: Schools and colleges with low rates of progression to university in the county of Essex and into the neighbouring town of Ipswich.
  • University of Exeter: Schools and colleges in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset (postcodes EX, TQ, PL, TR, TA, DT) only
  • University of Leeds: Schools and colleges in Yorkshire.
  • London programme (UCL and LSE): Eligible students who live in, or attend a state school in, one of the 32 London boroughs.
  • University of Manchester: Greater Manchester and Cheshire.
  • Nottingham programme (Nottingham and Nottingham Trent): Schools with low rates of progression to university who are within 1 hour's travelling distance from the city of Nottingham.
  • University of Oxford: Eligible students who live in Oxfordshire, Swindon, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire only.
  • University of Southampton: Schools with low rates of progression to university in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and selected areas of Dorset and Surrey.
  • University of Warwick: Schools and colleges across the West Midlands.

NB. If people around you don't know much about applying to Cambridge University, do also have a look at our page for students applying with limited support and advice.

Posted: 28 August 2015

Manchester & London: opportunity to sign up for Year 12 Music+

Sheet music

Credit: dalcrose (cropped)

Are you about to start an A level / IB Higher Level / equivalent Music course at a state school or college in or near Manchester or London? Do you think that you might want to study Music at university level later on?

There will be a series of Year 12 twilight extension classes in Music taught by experienced teachers and Cambridge academics during the autumn spring terms, followed by a residential visit to Cambridge in mid-March 2016.

Interested? Do read the full information on the Music Faculty website and make sure that you register by Friday 25 September 2015. It's free!

Posted: 27 August 2015

Undergraduate dissertations

For quite a few of the essay courses at Cambridge, there are opportunities to work on a dissertation. This would normally be in the later years, and sometimes you can choose to write a dissertation to replace one of your exam papers (see the structure of your chosen course). As Fiona, one of our History students says, 'it’s a good way to spend time studying something that you’re particularly interested in, and to research material which has hardly been studied before'. Many students enjoy researching and writing their dissertation so much that they decide to go on to further research after their degree, and they apply for Masters and PhD courses.

Christ's College has produced a very interesting resource with accounts of what some current undergraduates are studying for their dissertations. Do visit their website to find out more:

Posted: 27 August 2015

King's students write about a typical day

Student with an inflatable boat

Do you want to know what it's like to be a student at King's? King's College Student Union (KCSU) is keen to help you out - they are collecting short accounts written by current students of what it is like to study here. Do look at A Day In The Life Of.... and click on the subject you're most interested in, or start with Scott's general description of life as a fresher.

Did you find this useful? Then do also look a our King's Student Perspectives section for more student writing.

Posted: 25 August 2015

Friday 4 Sept - Informal meeting for prospective students

Old Lodge

Are you thinking of making an application to Cambridge this October, and would it help to come and talk to us at King's? Friday 4 September would be a good time if you're able to come to Cambridge as we're holding a meeting for prospective students for an hour that day. It's nothing complicated - just a chance to meet Kristy (one of our Admissions Officers) and ask any questions that you have at this stage. If you want to also walk around the grounds of King's using our self-guided tour, you'll be very welcome to.

If you're interested in attending this informal meeting, do send us a quick email to book a place, including your name and the course you're interested in. We'll then send you further information.

Posted: 24 August 2015

A level or IB Subject Choices

Pete - Thinking about your options?

If you’ve just received your GCSE results – congratulations! If you haven't started thinking seriously about what subjects to take at A level or IB, now is a good time to look at your options.

Some courses at university require certain subjects at A level or IB (or an equivalent qualification) and so it’s worth thinking about what kinds of course you might apply to, and even just whether you’re more interested in the sciences, humanities or the arts – or a combination of these!

Maybe you’re not sure at this stage what broader area you might want to study, or even what kinds of courses are on offer? King’s has put together some advice on choosing your subjects.

We also offer advice for students taking the International Baccalaureate on choosing subjects.

Posted: 20 August 2015

What else might be waiting to be discovered?

Statue of Robin Hood with his bowToni Bray - Robin and his Bow

You might have read recently about a discovery by a PhD student at Leeds Trinity University which reveals a darker side to Robin Hood’s reputation in the eighteenth-century. Stephen Basdeo found the long forgotten work, Little John's Answer to Robin Hood and the Duke of Lancaster (1727), in the Special Collections of the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds after reading a footnote referring to the ballad, which had previously been assumed to be a plagiarism of a known work. The ballad is a satire of the first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole (1676-1745), in which the Duke of Lancaster attempts to expose Robin Hood’s corruption to King John. Stephen puts his discovery in context: “our favourite outlaw hero really emerges with a tarnished reputation in the text. He is not noble or gallant but simply a 'thief,' a 'vast cunning man,' who 'abuses his good king.'” This discovery shows that the famous outlaw was not always as popular with people in the past as he is today – and it has remained unchecked and unanalysed all these years!

There may well be Special Collections near you, either in your town library, a nearby university library, or connected to a local museum or heritage site.

King’s College Library has its own Special Collections, as well as the Archive Centre which offers an online introduction to archival research.

Posted: 20 August 2015

What next? A Year in Industry, perhaps?

Portrait of Rosie the Riveter, WW2 US female munitions worker, in codeWe can code it! Rosie the Riveter, in code. Image credit: Charis Tsevis

The Year in Industry (YINI) team helps post-A Level / Higher / Advanced Higher and undergraduate students to find work placements in the UK in all areas of engineering, science, IT, e-commerce, business, marketing, finance, logistics and more.

Posted: 19 August 2015

Have you received AS Level results today?

If you're receiving your AS level results today - congratulations! If you haven't started thinking seriously about applying to university this year, now is a good time to look at your options.

If you're thinking of applying to Cambridge for the first time today, don't worry - there's still time! The application deadline for UK students applying through UCAS is the 15th of October, and the King's website offers lots of advice to students thinking of applying. Whether it's what courses Cambridge offers, choosing a subject and what subjects to pursue to full A-level, or how to apply to Cambridge with limited support and advice from your school, we're here to help.

As there are a couple of weeks of the summer holiday left, you might want to check out our page on developing your academic interests. We hope you'll take some well-earned rest, but now is a great opportunity to spend some time thinking around and outside of your subject. Browsing some of the other posts on this page might give you some ideas.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us.

NB: Students taking the International Baccalaureate, Pre-U, or other linear qualifications won’t have any public examination results in Year 12 or equivalent.  That’s absolutely fine; we can assess your application without them.  Please do submit a high school transcript so that we can take all your academic achievements to date into account, including any internal assessments.  See the King’s advice on compiling and submitting your transcript.

Posted: 13 August 2015


Old Schools Quadrangle, Bodleian Library, OxfordOld Schools Quad, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Image credit: Mikael Korhonen

The Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford currently holds 11,746,808 printed items, 25,314 miles of archives and manuscripts, and 1,250,000 maps. The newly launched Digital.Bodleian aims to open some of this extraordinary collection to users from around the world for learning, teaching, and research.

You can now browse...

... among many other collections.

The Cambridge University Library has its own Cambridge Digital Library. Most recently, a first selection of items from the Royal Commonwealth Society Library and the entire Lewis-Gibson collection of medieval Jewish manuscripts has been added to the online collection.

Posted: 11 August 2015

Inside the Ethics Committee

Rod of Asclepius, symbol of Medicine, emblazoned 'first do no harm'First do no harm? Daniel K. Sokol, a barrister and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Medical Ethics and Law at King's College London, unpicks this aphorism in the BMJ. Image credit: Eden, Janine, and Jim

To study Medicine at Cambridge, you not only need to be a keen scientist, with a sound scientific understanding, but also have the potential to become a good doctor. The Clinical School believes that one of the key qualities of a Medical student is 'a sound appreciation of ethical, legal and community issues.'  BBC Radio 4's Inside the Ethics Committee gives you an insight into some of these issues.  In each programme, the presenter Joan Bakewell is joined by a panel of experts to wrestle with the ethics arising from a real-life medical case. In recent weeks, they've asked:

  • should a surgeon agree to a young woman's request to amputate her leg? (Thursday 16 July)
  • how far should a medical team go to prevent a young woman from ending her life? (Thursday 23 July)
  • is it ever ethical to withhold food and water in a child who is not dying? (Thursday 30 July)
  • should a medical team accept a teenager's choice to refuse chemo? (Thursday 6 August)

How would you wrestle with these dilemmas?

Posted: 6 August 2015

What maths and physics is needed for Engineering?


We've tried to be as clear as possible about the material you need to be familiar with to make a strong application. Credit: Dean Hochman

To thrive on the Engineering or Chemical Engineering via Engineering course, it is essential to have a very strong foundation in Mathematics and Physics (both are required  school subjects).

We know that sometimes it can feel a bit difficult to know exactly what is needed and how to prepare as an applicant for a course that you start new at university. Depending on your school qualifications, you may also be concerned about differences in maths and physics syllabuses. We've provided some detailed advice at the link below - we hope that you will find it useful:

Posted: 21 July 2015

Do you live too far away to visit Cambridge?

The Vaults (King' s College Gym)

Different people need different facilities. This is one of the treadmills in the King's Vaults gym.

It is not unusual to make a successful application without ever having set foot in Cambridge. Don't worry if it is not practical for you to visit as there is no requirement to do so.

Since we welcome applicants who live a long way from Cambridge, we do our best to ensure that all the infomation that you need to make a strong application is on our website (see the relevant subject page and how to apply in particular), as well as virtual tours and the life and facilities sections so that you can get a sense of King's as a place:

We also have a dedicated page for if you don't feel very well supported for your application, and the student perspectives are particularly useful (if you read five or six of these, you'll have a very good sense of what studying at King's is like).

The University has made some films which you may also find useful:

Posted: 14 July 2015

Would you like to visit Cambridge during the summer?


Prospective students are always welcome to visit

Remember that you are welcome to visit any time, even if there's not an official open day on.

  • If you would like to look around a college, it is best to introduce yourself at the porters' lodge (the reception). Porters are normally happy for prospective students to walk around the public areas and will give you any maps / information available. There's also a map of Cambridge, which shows where the colleges are. You'll see that the middle of Cambridge is quite small, so you will be able to walk between most colleges easily.
  • If you would like to visit King's, do introduce yourself at the porters' lodge when you arrive. The college will be open to prospective students and we have a self-guided tour that you can use.
  • You may find the Following in the Footsteps audio tour useful for visiting other parts of the University. Cambridge University is made up of colleges, faculties (where you go for lectures), libraries (over 100 of them!) and offices dotted around the city, and following this tour will give you a good sense of how it all works.
  • There are also some great museums and teaching collections which you might like to explore, most of which are free to visit. Or you might like to check the 'what's on' list for the day you are visiting - there are often talks and exhibitions on, as well as the Shakespeare Festival.
Posted: 10 July 2015

Veterinary Medicine Open Day (Year 13)


Credit: Phil Roeder

Are you interested in studying Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge?

Sidney Sussex College is offering places on a very useful open day for Year 13 students on 5 September. A provisional programme is available, and please go to the Sidney Sussex College website to book a place if you want to.

The Veterinary Medicine course is available at all Colleges except Christ's, Corpus Christi, Homerton, Hughes Hall, King's, Peterhouse and Trinity. Information about Colleges.

Posted: 9 July 2015

Essay Competition

Robinson College

Robinson College

Robinson college is setting some interesting questions for Year 12  students to discuss (with reference to any academic discipline or area of interest) for its annual Essay Prize:

  1. 'Science has made us Gods even before we are worthy of being men.'
  2. 'Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.'
  3. 'The real purpose of books is to trap the mind into doing its own thinking.'
  4. 'Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagingation.'
  5. 'It's in literature that true life can be found. It's under the mask of fiction that you can tell the truth.'

If you would like to write an essay for this competition, the deadline is 1 August 2015. Do read the full information on Robinson College's website.

Posted: 8 July 2015

Extract from Sartre's 'La nausée'

Book cover

Whatever books you enjoy, reading a little in the language you are studying most days will make all the difference

Here's an extract from Sartre's La nausée for those who are studying French at an advanced level - see how you get on with it. Can you describe the ideas that the narrator conveys? Can you pick out a few key sentences? Which words, phrases or grammatical constructions are new to you?

Quand on vit, il n'arrive rien. Les décors changent, les gens entrent et sortent, voilà tout. Il n'y a jamais de commencements. Les jours s'ajoutent aux jours sans rime ni raison, c'est une addition interminable et monotone. De temps en temps, on fait un total partiel : on dit : voilà trois ans que je voyage, trois ans que je suis à Bouville. Il n'y a pas de fin non plus : on ne quitte jamais une femme, un ami, une ville en une fois. Et puis tout se ressemble : Shanghaï, Moscou, Alger, au bout d'une quinzaine, c'est tout pareil. Par moments — rarement — on fait le point, on s'aperçoit qu'on s'est collé avec une femme, engagé dans une sale histoire. Le temps d'un éclair. Après ça le défilé recommence, on se remet à faire l'addition des heures et des jours. Lundi, mardi, mercredi. Avril, mai, juin. 1924, 1925, 1926.

Ça, c'est vivre. Mais quand on raconte la vie, tout change; seulement c'est un changement que personne ne remarque : la preuve c'est qu'on parle d'histoires vraies. Comme s'il pouvait y avoir des histoires vraies ; les événements se produisent dans un sens et nous les racontons en sens inverse. On a l'air de débuter par le commencement : « C'était par un beau soir de l'automne de 1922. J'étais clerc de notaire à Marommes. » Et en réalité c'est par la fin qu'on a commencé. Elle est là, invisible et présente, c'est elle qui donne à ces quelques mots la pompe et la valeur d'un commencement. « Je me promenais, j'étais sorti du village sans m'en apercevoir, je pensais à mes ennuis d'argent. » Cette phrase, prise simplement pour ce qu'elle est, veut dire que le type était absorbé, morose, à cent lieues d'une aventure,  précisément dans ce genre d'humeur où on laisse passer les événements sans les voir. Mais la fin est là, qui transforme tout. Pour nous, le type est déjà le héros de l'histoire. Sa morosité, ses ennuis d'argent sont bien plus précieux que les nôtres, ils sont tout dorés par la lumière des passions futures. Et le récit se poursuit à l'envers : les instants ont cessé de s'empiler au petit bonheur les uns sur les autres, ils sont happés par la fin de l'histoire qui les attire et chacun d'eux attire à son tour l'instant qui le précède : « Il faisait nuit, la rue était déserte. » La phrase est jeté négligemment, elle a l'air superflue; mais nous ne nous  y laissons pas prendre et  nous la mettons de côte : c'est un renseignement dont nous comprendrons la valeur par la suite. Et nous avons le sentiment que le héros a vécu tous les détails de cette nuit comme les annonciations, comme les promesses, ou même qu'il vivait seulement ceux qui étaient des promesses, aveugle et sourd pour tout ce qui n'annonçait pas l'aventure. Nous n'oublions que l'avenir n'était pas encore là; le type se promenait dans une nuit sans présages, qui lui offrait pêle-mêle ses richesses monotones et il ne choisissait pas.

J'ai voulu que les moments de ma vie se suivent et s'ordonnent comme ceux d'une vie qu'on rappelle. Autant vaudrait tenter d'attraper le temps par la queue.

Jean-Paul Sartre, La nausée (Gallimard,‎ 1938) pp. 62-64.

Posted: 7 July 2015

What do Cambridge scientists read?

Middlemarch book cover

Credit: Chris Drumm

Do you enjoy literature and science? Are these interests compatible? Do you think that fictional works can be useful and interesting to scientists? Or is fiction too different to science?

As you think about these questions, here's a series of films in which Cambridge scientists talk about fictional texts that have inspired or helped them in various ways.

Novel Thoughts:

Article on the Novel Thoughts series.

Posted: 23 June 2015


Basic Science: understanding numbers from the Open University is a four week course beginning on 6 July. The course explains how you can use numbers to describe the natural world and make sense of everything from atoms to oceans.

Here's an opportunity to explore and develop your academic interests this Summer, whatever your subject, wherever you live.

FutureLearn offers free online courses, developed by leading universities and cultural institutions. For example, beginning next week (29 June) you could explore Literature of the English Country House with the University of Sheffield, or deploy Real World Calculus with the University of Sheffield.

Posted: 23 June 2015

Architecture Student Work Exhibition in London (7-9 July)

Architecture Exhibition

A previous ArcSoc exhibition

The University of Cambridge Architecture Society (ArcSoc) annual Summer Show is a presentation of student work in London, with material on display from the initial explorations of first year to the final schemes of third and fifth years.

If you're interested in studying Architecture, do keep an eye on the Summer Show page for further detail of what is happening on 7 - 9 July. During the exhibition there will be an afternoon of free public lectures from contemporary practitioners and university academics, as well as a day for prospective students. The location is G1 F Block, Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL.

Photos from past shows are also available, and Ines discusses the Summer Show and other ArcSoc activities in her King's Student Perspective.

Posted: 19 June 2015

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival

Fellows Garden

King's College Gardens

The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival takes place in July and August, with eight plays performed outside in some of the beautiful College gardens. Do see the website for full details.

13 July - 1 August 2015:

Character from A Midsummer Night's Dream

Credit: Cambridge Shakespeare Festival

3 - 22 August 2015:

Posted: 17 June 2015

Reading lists!

Books on a bookshelf

Doing some reading is a good way to develop your academic interests, but don't get overwhelmed! Credit: Les Chatfield

We're sometimes asked for advice about what prospective students should read.

If you are looking for reading suggestions (particularly as you approach the summer, when you may have a bit more time), you may find the reading lists for all subjects in the offer-holders' section useful. Depending on your subject, you will find useful book sugestions or problem-solving websites and other advice. These 'lists' can be particularly useful if you don't know where to start, or if you'll be studying a subject at Cambridge that you don't already study at school, such as Human, Social and Political Sciences, Law, Philosophy, Engineering, Linguistics, Medicine or Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic.


  1. Be yourself and follow your interests
    None of the Cambridge courses have books that you have to read before you apply, so if you've already found some material that you're finding interesting and engaging, and is developing your academic interests, don't stop!
  2. Make a few brief notes
    Making a list of the points that interest you, or any thoughts on the arguments you encounter, is a good thing to do as you read if you can (even if you keep them very brief). This will help you to remember the most important points, and also to notice where your interests lie.
  3. Explain to somebody else
    Are you taking it in? A good way to ensure that you've understood something is to try to explain it to somebody else. Do you have any friends or relatives who might be interested in what you're reading? If you can explain the main points in an idea to somebody who does not know about the subject, that is normally a good sign that you've got it clear in your own head!

Try to avoid:

  1. Being daunted
    The lists we provide are meant to be helpful for those looking for suggestions. We're not trying to overwhelm you. Just like the kinds of suggestions you get from supervisors and lecturers when you're studying at Cambridge, some of the subject lists are quite long so that you can pick and choose according to your interests. Don't be put off by this!
  2. The tick-box approach
    The important point about your reading is not which books you've read but what you get out of them. So our advice is: don't rush to read as many books as possible in order to tick them off a reading list. It is much more important that you take time to enjoy the material and think about it. Remember that the best things to mention on the personal statement or your UCAS application form are the things that genuinely interest you.
Posted: 15 June 2015

Isaac Physics Partnership - resources and events

The Isaac Physics Partnership provides resources to offer support and activities in physics problem-solving to students (and teachers) working from GCSE (Year 11), through sixth form (Years 12 & 13), and to university.

The partnership also runs free UK events (funded by the Department for Education) for AS and A2 Physics and Maths education. Here is a list of forthcoming events - do click on the links below for details and booking.

Posted: 12 June 2015

Introduction to Archives

Rupert Brooke in uniformRupert Brooke in uniform, at Blandford, Dorset. 1914. Archive Centre, King’s College, Cambridge. RCB/Ph/262

Why not access and use primary sources to explore and develop your academic interests this Summer?

King's College Archive Centre has developed an Introduction to Archives, using the papers of King's student and First World War poet Rupert Brooke as a case study.

The website is divided into two parts:

  1. Introduction to archives: What archives are, the key principles of archival research and how to access primary sources (sections 1-6).
  2. Rupert Brooke case study: How these ideas apply to the papers of Rupert Brooke, through interpretation activities focussing on different aspects of his life and a few of his most famous poems (sections 7-10).

Once you've worked through the online resources, you'll be ready to visit an archive near you to do some research of your own.

Posted: 12 June 2015

Year 12 STEP Correspondence Course

A student solves a mathematics equation at the blackboardA student solves a mathematics equation at the Mfantsipim Boys School in Ghana. Image credit: World Bank Photo Collection

The University's STEP Correspondence Course is recruiting a new intake to start in September 2015.

You are eligible to apply if you are:

  • currently in year 12
  • attending a state-maintained school, college or academy in the UK
  • studying (this year or next year) Further Mathematics A-level, or something equivalent
  • intending to study Mathematics at a university that requires or recommends STEP

The deadline for applications is Friday 3 July 2015.

If selected, you will be expected to complete fortnightly assignments and will receive personalised feedback on each assignment.

Click here for more info and to sign up.

Posted: 11 June 2015

Economics: Maths is important!


Mathematical techniques are an essential tool for Economics. Credit: Horia Varlan

To thrive on the Cambridge Economics course, you need to enjoy (and be good at!) Mathematics at school and have an interest in applying mathematical and statistical tools to economic problems. The first year at Cambridge includes a compulsory course in Quantative Mathods that covers Maths and Statistics (you can read the paper description if you'd like to).

When you look at the course requirements for the Cambridge Economics course, you will notice that Mathematics is a required subject (you can't apply without it). Depending on what qualifications you are applying with, this may be A level Mathematics (there are multiple exam boards), IB Higher Level Mathematics, an Advanced Higher in Mathematics from the Scottish system, Pre-U Mathematics, Advanced Placement Calculus BC if you're taking US qualifications, or Mathematics up to your final year in one of the many other qualifications that we can admit you with.

In A level terms, you are presumed to have mastered the material in modules C1 - C4 by the end of your school maths course, and you will find it easier to tackle the Quantitative Methods course if you have taken module S1. If you don't know what we're talking about, the topics are set out at the top of page 2 in the paper description, or you could always have a look at an A level syllabus specification to compare the content with the maths you've been doing.

If you have the opportunity to take Further Mathematics, that would be very helpful once you start the course, especially the Pure and Statistical options (rather than Mechanics or Decisions Maths). 

Sample questions resource

We know that it can be tricky (especially if you're not studying for A levels) to work out if your mathematical skills will give you a good preparation for Economics at Cambridge. The Director of Studies at King's has prepared some sample mathematical and analytical questions for you to look at. If you work through these questions, we hope that this will give you a good sense of the kind of mathematical and analytical skills that we will be looking for when we consider you for a place.

For more information, do read the Economics course information and the reading, resources and events section on the page about studying Economics here at King's College!

Posted: 10 June 2015

Multi-Story Music

Sculpture in Peckham multi-storey car parkEva Berendes, 'Untitled (Osaka)', part of a Bold Tendencies exhibition at the Peckham multi-storey car park. Image credit: Loz Pycock

Multi-Story is a project that brings classical music to unexpected places, run by (former King's student!) composer Kate Whitley and conductor Christopher Stark.

The Multi-Story Summer Programme 2015 takes place in a disused multi-stor(e)y car park in Peckham. On 1 and 2 July, the Multi-Story Orchestra will be joined by more than 200 local children to perform I am I say, a new commission by Kate and British Egyptian poet Sabrina Mahfouz.

See the full Multi-Story line-up this Summer, part of a wider programme of visual art, architecture, music, theatre, film, and literature produced by Bold Tendencies at the same venue.

Posted: 9 June 2015

Mathematics for Biologists and Chemists

Test tubes in the laboratoryImage credit: Horia Varlan

Undergraduate Biologists and Chemists will find they need some mathematics in order to access and make the most of their science. Natural Scientists at Cambridge can choose between three first year Mathematics courses: Mathematics (usually taken by those specialising in Physical Sciences), Mathematical Biology (usually taken by those specialising in Biological Sciences), and Elementary Mathematics for Biologists (designed for Biological Scientists who did not take A Level Mathematics or equivalent).

Our Natural Scientists explain that 'knowledge of mathematics is essential for all scientists; it is the language with which we formulate theories and natural laws and express our ideas.' But what can you do to gain fluency in mathematics?  They advise you to 'practise thinking mathematically in non-routine contexts.'

Posted: 8 June 2015

London Anthropology Day (2 July)

Aztec calendar

An Aztec Calendar. Credit: Michael McCarty

Booking is open for the London Anthropology Day on Thursday 2 July. If you're in Year 12 or Year 13 and would like to participate in biological and social anthropology workshops with lecturers from universities across the UK, as well as explore the British Museum's ethnographic galleries and meet undergraduate students, do read the information and programme, and consider booking a place (the event is free of charge).

Posted: 5 June 2015

Luminarium - a website for students with a curiosity for English Literature

An old book


If you're interested in studying English at Cambridge, we recommend that you try to read material from a number of different periods if you can, as the course will introduce you to the full range of literature from the Middle Ages to the present day.

If you want to explore what you could read from some of the earlier periods and are wondering what you might enjoy, why not spend some time browsing the Luminarium website? It's an anthology of English Literature with particularly well-developed sections for Medieval Middle English Literature (1350-1485), Renaissance Literature (1485-1603)Early 17th Century Literature (1603-1660), and Restoration & 18th Century Literature (1660-1785).

Here's a poem by Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) to get you started:


False life! a foil and no more, when
                Wilt thou be gone?
Thou foul deception of all men,
That would not have the true come on!

Thou art a moon-like toil ; a blind
                  Self-posing state ;
A dark contest of waves and wind ;
A mere tempestuous debate.

Life is a fix'd, discerning light,   
                   A knowing joy ;
No chance, or fit : but ever bright,
And calm, and full, yet doth not cloy.

'Tis such a blissful thing, that still
                   Doth vivify,
And shine and smile, and hath the skill
To please without eternity.

Thou art a toilsome mole, or less,
                   A moving mist.
But life is, what none can express,
A quickness, which my God hath kiss'd.

For poem and source, see Luminarium. The poet page has further resources including book recommendations.

Posted: 4 June 2015

Language-learning: Essay Competition

Scrabble letters

Credit: Taro Taylor

Are you interested in how language works? If so, you might like to consider working on an entry for Trinity College's Essay Competition, which invites students in Year 12* to think about the following topic:

‘A child exposed to two languages from birth and an adult moving into a country where another language is dominant will both be faced with the challenge and opportunity of becoming bilingual. Discuss the similarities and differences in the processes and outcomes of language learning for these two types of learner.’

You don't have to be studying any particular subjects to enter, but it's a good chance to see if you enjoy working on topics in the broad area of Linguistics. Full details of the competition and how to enter are available on the Trinity College website, and the deadline for entries is 1 August 2015.

*Year 12 is the academic year before students sit A level exams, the International Baccalaureate or equivalent qualifications.

Posted: 2 June 2015

History of Art with the Tate

Gallery at Tate St. IvesA gallery at Tate St Ives. Image credit: Herry Lawford

Tate galleries host the national collection of British art from 1500 to the present day, along with international modern and contemporary art.

If you'd like an introduction to the History of Art, or an opportunity to explore and develop your existing interests in the field, try their free online courses.

If you have the opportunity, visit the Tate:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art offer similar free online resources.

Posted: 29 May 2015

City Health Check: How design can save lives and money

Manchester at night

Manchester at night.
Credit: Richard Heyes

How can the design of a city impact on public health?

1. Write a few ideas of your own down first of all!

2. Compare your ideas with what the researchers found when they investigated this question in nine cities in England. What link did they find between city design and health in  Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield?

The ornamental Lake at Alexandra Park, Manchester

Manchester's Alexandra Park had a regeneration project. Credit: Alex Pepperhill (cropped)

The information is in the City Health Check RIBA article (the report itself is available to download at the end).

3. What about other cities? If you live near a different city or know one well, what would you say about it's design and the health of the people who live there? What changes would you make, if any?

Posted: 26 May 2015

Problem-solving: Moon orbit around the earth

Do you want to be really good at problem-solving? The key is to get plenty of practice.

Here is one of the problems from, a practice website designed for students who plan to apply for Engineering at top universities:

Assuming that:

  • the average distance between the earth and the moon is 3.8 x 108 m,
  • on average, it takes the moon 29 days to go round the earth,
  • the approximate value of the universal gravitational constant
    G= 6.7 x 10-11m3kg-1s-2.

estimate the mass of the earth.

Is the answer:

  • approximately 5 x 1023kg?
  • approximately 6 x 1024kg?
  • approximately 7 x 1025kg?
  • approximately 42kg?
  • None of the above?

For hints, topic information and answers, see the problem page itself, or for more problems (there are more than 200 available), see the problem index.

Further information:

Posted: 26 May 2015

Spotlight on HSPS: Archaeology

Archaeological excavation at Hierapolis, TurkeyArchaeological excavation at Hierapolis, Turkey. Image Credit: Chris Parfitt

Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS) at Cambridge offers a unique range of related disciplines, which can be studied in many combinations, or with a concentration on a single discipline: you can work on Politics and International Relations, Social Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, Archaeology and / or Sociology. Many (or all) of these subjects will be new to you, so how do you know what's involved?

As the course website explains, Archaeology is the study of the human past. Archaeologists investigate the origins of our species, document the diversity of ancient cultures, and explore the emergence of the first cities and empires. Archaeologists study material remains (from stone tools to monuments) and settlements (from villages to cities) to answer questions including: How did tool use affect evolution of the modern human brain? What can the earliest art tell us about interaction and cognition of early humans? How did daily life change with domestication of plants and animals? What are the sources of social inequality? When - and why - did leadership emerge? How did early empires encompass such vast territories, and why were their rulers so powerful?

Specialist courses in Ayssyriology (the study of Mesopotamia) and Egpytology are also available as part of the HSPS degree.

Find out more:

Posted: 22 May 2015

Biological Natural Sciences Subject Day: Thursday 16 July

Small cell carcinoma. Image credit: Yale Rosen

Cambridge Institute for Medical Research and King's College are jointly hosting a Biological Natural Sciences Subject Day on Thursday 16 July. Come and meet the CIMR's researchers and students and see the inner workings of their specialist research facilities, including world-class super-resolution microscopy. Join us at King's for lunch and for admissions and research talks by our Directors of Studies in Biological Natural Sciences. This event is open to Year 12 (or Year 13) students at UK schools who are currently researching applications for Biological Natural Sciences at university. Please note that this is not a suitable event for students who wish to apply for and study Medicine at university. Please see the provisional programme and apply online by Friday 19 June.

Posted: 20 May 2015

York Festival of Ideas 2015

Posted: 18 May 2015

June Events in Cambridge (early booking recommended!)

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies stand at an open day

A College subject day will be useful even if you are unsure about College choice or have already chosen a different College.

As well as the Cambridge Open Days across all subjects and colleges on Thurs 2 July and Fri 3 July, a number of Year 12(*) subject events in June are open for booking at the moment.

Although we know that most of you are really busy with exam work at the moment, do be aware that some of these events allocate places on a first come, first served basis, so do try to get your booking in as soon as possible if you are interested.

* 'Year 12' is the quick way to explain, but these events are for all students who plan to apply in October 2015.

Posted: 12 May 2015

New Stone Circle Discovered on Dartmoor

The newly discovered stone circle dates from the same Neolithic Age as Stonehenge, and may be even older. Image credit: Howard Ignatius

The discovery of the first stone circle on Dartmoor in more than a century has been confirmed. A preliminary excavation by volunteers from the Dartmoor Preservation Association has revealed a ring of 30 stones, each 1.5 metres tall, with a diameter of 34 metres, near Sittaford Tor. The stones are believed to complete a chain of eight stone circles that forms a ten-mile crescent across the northeast of the moor. The stones have lain undisturbed since they fell about 4,000 years ago during the Neolithic period. This will give archaeologists the first chance to excavate a stone circle on Dartmoor since the Victorian era, using the newest techniques and technology. The newly recorded 'Sittaford Circle' has already been added to this Guide to Dartmoor Stone Circles.

If you live in or near Devon...

... if you live further afield:

You can study Archaeology at Cambridge within our Human Social and Political Sciences degree course, whether you choose to focus on Archaeology from the beginning, or study it alongside related disciplines such as Social Anthropology and Biological Anthropology.

Posted: 11 May 2015

Summer Medicine Residential at King's: 23 - 24 June 2015

Skeleton, front court, King'sKing's skeleton

King's College Student Union invites prospective Medics at UK state schools and colleges to apply for our Summer Medicine Residential. If you're currently researching an application for Medicine at university, and would like to have a taste of what studying at Cambridge is like, this event could be for you! The participants will attend supervisions in Biochemistry, Physiology, and Anatomy, participate in admissions workshops, and visit the Gurdon Institute. The residential begins at 12 midday on Tuesday 23 June, ends at 3pm on Wednesday 24 June, and includes one night's accommodation and all meals free of charge. We ask students to arrange their travel to Cambridge and cover their own transport costs. Priority will be given to those students travelling from further afield.

Posted: 8 May 2015

Coding Summer School for Girls

Maths on a whiteboard
Are you female, aged 16-19, and interested in getting started with computer programming? If so, do apply for a place on the Cambridge Coding Academy Summer School for Girls, which will run from 10-14 August inclusive. The booking deadline is fast approaching so do apply today.

The summer school is supported by generous industry sponsorship, though do be aware that there remains a cost of £99. Subsidised accommodation is available in Queens' College and St John's College.

Please see the full information for details and to make an application.

Posted: 7 May 2015

Bite the Ballot? Voting Age and Youth Political Participation

Polling stationWould voting online increase youth participation? Image credit: Martin Bamford

Today is polling day in the United Kingdom General Election 2015.

The Electoral Commission will fill you in on who is eligible to vote. For those who are registered to vote, they advise on how to vote today.

How old should you be to vote? 18, as in UK General Elections, or 16, as in the Scottish Independence Referendum?

Younger people remain less likely to vote than older people.  Does it matter? How can youth political participation be boosted? Should we even try?

Posted: 7 May 2015

Women, Count! (And other Mathematics Operations) - Year 10

St John's College

St John's College is one of the larger Colleges. What is a College?

St John's College is running a brand new event targeted at Year 10 girls who have the potential to get an A or A* in Mathematics GCSE.

Through a fascinating day of practical sessions, panel discussions and research talks from a wide range of Mathematical fields, this day will provide a real insight into the many realms in which Mathematics can be used, both at University and beyond.

Schools are invited to bring up to 5 students plus the required members of staff. Students can also make their own way to Cambridge.

The day will run from 9:45-16:00 and include a buffet lunch and tours of St John's College.

Full information and contact details are  available on the St John's College website.

Posted: 6 May 2015

UK Supreme Court: see justice done

UK Supreme CourtUK Supreme Court. Image credit: IanVisits

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United Kingdom; it is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases and in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland for criminal cases:

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) is housed in the same building and formed in part by the Supreme Court Justices.  It is the highest court of appeal for many current and former Commonwealth countries, as well as the United Kingdom’s overseas territories, crown dependencies, and military sovereign base areas:

The Supreme Court and the JCPC have been live streaming their hearings for some time. Today, they have launched an on-demand archive of past hearings, which is expected to hold as many as 150 courtroom hearings and 900 hours of recordings at any one time.

You can also:

Posted: 5 May 2015

Studying Law at Cambridge

Law books

Brioni writes: You get a feel for what the important part of a case is, and which bits of a textbook need more or less attention.

What is studying Law at Cambridge like?

A good place to start is Brioni's detailed Student Perspectives piece (from the King's Law page), as well as the course website.

If you would like to attend an event in Cambridge to find out more, there are opportunities to apply for a place on the Trinity College Law residential (30 June-1 July) and/or the Law Faculty Day (1 July).

Posted: 2 May 2015

Louise Bourgeois: French-American artist, sculptor and printmaker

Spider sculpture

One of the Louise Bourgeois spiders. Credit: Appie Verschoor

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was a French-American artist and widely known as one of the most influential artists of modern and contemporary art.

You might enjoy exploring some of the themes in Bourgeois's work on the extensive Louise Bourgeois pages  from New York's Museum of Modern Art. This resource includes information about Bourgeois's techniques, and the presentation of her work in books and series.

If you would like to experience some Louise Bourgeois work close up, you may be interested in the exhibition featuring her Autobiographical Series (1994) and 11 Drypoints (1999) at Northumbria University Gallery, which is on until 22 May. You'll find the Gallery on Sandyford Road, Newcastle (NE1 8ST). See the Northumbria University website for details.

The same exhibition will be available at later dates in Hebden Bridge, Galway, Lisburn, Petroc, Leeds, Grimsby, Birmingham, Inverness and Dumfries - see the Hayward touring exhibition website.

Posted: 30 April 2015

Booking opens for Cambridge Open Days

Tour of King's with a current student

Booking is now open for the Cambridge Open Days on Thursday 2 and Friday 3 July 2015. If you are are thinking of applying for undergraduate study at Cambridge in the coming admissions round (either for entry in October 2016 or deferred entry in October 2017) you and up to two supporters are invited to visit the University of Cambridge and its colleges.

King's will be holding an open house for all Cambridge Open Day visitors from 9am to 5.30pm each day. Please do call in at your convenience to meet and chat to the admissions team and our current students and take a tour of the college. We will also be offering subject meetings (the programme will be published on our website nearer the time). We look forward to seeing you!

Posted: 28 April 2015

STEP Online Resources

Six pointed star

Six-pointed star. Credit: Ken

A pilot correspondence course started in January 2015 for Year 12 students who plan to take STEP Mathematics papers in Year 13.  It is intended for students who would not otherwise receive much help with STEP.

The assignments (and their 'postmortems') are being published online as the course progresses. Each assignment starts with some warm-up exercises. Then there is some preparatory work leading to a STEP question. Finally, there is an unrelated warm-down exercise.

If you will apply for Mathematics or Computer Science with Maths (STEP is only set for the 'with Maths' option), do have a look at the STEP Correspondence Resources website.

Further STEP resources including information about the popular NRICH STEP preparation course online are available in this previous post.

Posted: 23 April 2015

Lorca: Amor en el Jardin

Gala Theatre entrance

Dr Michael Thompson from Durham University will give a pre-show talk at the 5 May performance. Image credit:  mrgarethm

Théâtre sans Frontières is currently touring the UK with an adaptation of Lorca's El Amor de Don Perlimplín con Belisa en su Jardín.

The play is performed in Spanish with English surtitles.

  • until 25 April  - Southwark Playhouse, London
  • 27 April - Theatre Royal, Winchester
  • 28 April - The Brewhouse, Taunton
  • 30 April - Hazlitt Arts Centre, Maidstone
  • 5 May - Gala Theatre, Durham
  • 6 May - Queen's Hall Arts Centre, Hexham
  • 11 & 12 May - Z-arts, Manchester
  • 14 May - Nottingham Lakeside Arts

Do see the information and booking for further details.

Posted: 21 April 2015

Language and thought in children

Child reading

Credit: Gordon (image cropped)

One of the forthcoming public lectures at Newcastle University is on what happens when children develop language. Does language provide new ways of thinking about the world?

  • Date: 12 May
  • Time: 17:30 - 18:45
  • Speaker: Professor Jill de Villiers, from the Department of Psychology at Smith College, Massachusetts
  • Location: Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building, Newcastle University
  • Admission: Free of charge, open to the public, no booking required.

Information about the lecture is on the Newcastle University website, and if you download a map of Newcastle University Campus, the Herschel Building is number 17.

Do you live near a university? Do keep an eye out for interesting public lectures by members of their departments and visiting scholars!

Posted: 21 April 2015

Spotlight on HSPS: Biological and Social Anthropology

Exhibit at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge. Image credit: B

Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS) at Cambridge offers a unique range of related disciplines, which can be studied in many combinations, or with a concentration on a single discipline: you can work on Politics and International Relations, Social Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, Archaeology and / or Sociology. Many (or all) of these subjects will be new to you, so how do you know what's involved?

Biological Anthropology is a field which explores human biology and evolution. With an emphasis on the interaction between biology and culture, it sits firmly between the social and biological sciences. Biological anthropologists study human origins and diversity in present and past populations in the context of their culture, behaviour, life-style, morphological and molecular variation. What aspects of our biology and behaviour are uniquely human and what do we share with other species? Why is there so little genetic variation among humans across the world? Are we still evolving and why has natural selection not eradicated disease? Can a statistical test save lives?

Social Anthropology addresses the really big question – what does it mean to be human? – by taking as its subject matter the full range of human social and cultural diversity: the amazingly varied ways that people live, think and relate to each other in every part of the world. What does this diversity tell us about the fundamental bases and possibilities of human social and political life? Can it help us to comprehend the sheer unpredictability of how contemporary global changes manifest themselves in people's lives across the world?

Find out more:

Posted: 22 April 2015

University of Hull's OpenCampus Programme

Joseph Hillier, Moving Matters (2007), displayed outside the Logistics Institute, Hull University Business School. Image credit: Gnomonic.

It's a new term at the University of Hull's OpenCampus programme:

  • There is a new series of Tea-Time Talks, focusing on health and wellbeing, held on Tuesday evenings from 6.15pm to 7.45pm. The series will kick off with a talk by Professor Andrew L. Clark, Chair of Clinical Cardiology at Hull York Medical School, on 'The world's number one killer: "can you save yourselves?"' on Tuesday 5 May.
  • The Culture Café will be celebrating postgraduate and postdoctoral research emerging from the Department of English on Wednesdays from 2pm to 4.30pm. In the first session, Emma Butcher will explore the Brontës' childhood writings on Wednesday 6 May. 

Places are limited, so booking is essential. You can register online, or call Nicola Sharp or Jackie McAndrew on 01482 466321 / 466585.

Posted: 21 April 2015

Hexham Book Festival (20 April - 4 May)


Credit: Ryan Franklin

Hexham (Northumberland) has a large annual book festival, which will run from 20 April to 4 May this year.

There are more than fifty authors and speakers delivering events, so do look through the list of what you could attend on the festival website if you live anywhere near!

Posted: 17 April 2015

Explore the History of Science

At Cambridge, you can study the History and Philosophy of Science as an optional paper in the second year of Natural Sciences, Psychological and Behavioural Sciences, or Human, Social and Political Sciences if you choose to. If you choose this option, you will benefit from the world-class collection of scientific instruments and models at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, one of the university's teaching collections.

Use the Whipple Explore website to delve into the collection:

If you have chance to visit Cambridge (perhaps in the summer?) and would like to see some of these items and much more in person, remember that admission to the Whipple Museum is free of charge. See the opening times and location (it's just a couple of minutes from King's!).

Posted: 17 April 2015

Spotlight on HSPS: Sociology

Image credit: Mehran Heidarzadeh

Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS) at Cambridge offers a unique range of related disciplines, which can be studied in many combinations, or with a concentration on a single discipline: you can work on Politics and International Relations, Social Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, Archaeology and / or Sociology. Many (or all) of these subjects will be new to you, so how do you know what's involved?

Sociology is the study of modern societies and how they are changing today. Ever wonder why nationalism is such a powerful force in the modern world? Why there are protests, riots, and uprisings? Why Europe is in crisis? Why politicians are not trusted? Why Africa is so poor? Why racism persists? Why same-sex marriage causes such controversy? How globalization is changing our lives? Whether societies could ever be more just? Then Sociology is the subject for you.

Posted: 16 April 2015

Café Scientifique: science for the price of a coffee

A Cafe Scientifique meeting in Reading, debating 'food out of season: good or evil?' Image credit: Karen Blakeman

Café Scientifique is a place where, for the price of a cup of coffee, anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology. Meetings take place in cafés, bars, restaurants and even theatres, but always outside a traditional academic context.

Since 1998, cafés have covered almost every conceivable scientific topic: AIDS, the Big Bang, biodiversity, cancer, code-breaking, consciousness, Darwinism, ecology, evolution, extreme life, foetal experience, genetically modified organisms, global warming, infertility, nanotechnology, the Public Understanding of Science movement, sports science, superconductors and more.

Cafés Scientifique are also held in North America, South America, elsewhere in Europe, and Asia, Africa, and Australasia. From Bangkok, Thailand to Santa Fe, Argentina, you can find a forum to share your love of science and technology!

Posted: 15 April 2015

Mathematics Open Morning at King's: Saturday 25 April

Pure mathematics lecture at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences. Image credit: Ed Brambley

Are you thinking of studying Mathematics at Cambridge? Join us for the King's Mathematics Open Morning, followed by the Mathematics Faculty Open Afternoon on Saturday 25 April.

Prospective mathematicians arrive at 10.00 / 10.15 am and spend the morning at King's. You will have a talk and Q&A with an academic in Mathematics, a chance to meet current King's undergraduates studying Maths, and a tour of the College, as well as brunch in the College Hall.

In the afternoon we take you over to the Sidgwick Site where you can attend the Mathematics Faculty Open Afternoon (a series of taster lectures and information about STEP).  The afternoon programme and further information is available on the Mathematics Faculty website. The event ends at 16.40.

Please sign up for the day's events using the online booking form.

Posted: 13 April 2015

ELECTION - The Cambridge Politics Podcast

Spot the First Minister?! Nicola Sturgeon campaigning in Edinburgh on 3 April 2015. Image credit: hockadilly

Can democracy adapt to our strained political system?  Who (if anyone) will ‘win’ in 2015? What can the lessons of the past teach us about the future?

David Runciman, Head of the Department of Politics and International Studies here in Cambridge, puts these questions and more to philosophers, historians, scientists, and political thinkers in a weekly podcast in the run-up to the general election.

In recent weeks, he's talked to:

The ELECTION team publish a new episode every Wednesday.

Posted: 10 April 2015

Introduction to Archives Workshop for Sixth Formers at King's

Kennesaw State University ArchivesKennesaw State University Archives. Image credit: Anne G

  • Are you currently taking AS / A Level History or English Literature?
  • Are you interested in finding out about and using archives in your work?

If so, King's College Archive Centre invites you to an Introduction to Archives Workshop on Friday 10 April, using the papers of Rupert Brooke.

Peter Monteith, an archivist at King's College, will explore approaches to using archives for research with you. You will then gain experience of archives, through an exploration of the life, poetry, and myth surrounding King's student and First World War poet Rupert Brooke.

The workshop will equip you to use the King's College Archive Centre yourself, either during an optional reading room session on the morning of Saturday 11 April (numbers limited) or at another time during the Centre's normal opening hours.

See the programme for the workshop and email us now at to book a place. 

NB. Are you at a state school in one of the areas listed below? If so, please do request accommodation through the Year 12 Link Area Accommodation Scheme at King's for this or any other event advertised on the Cambridge page!

Posted: 23 March 2015

#CambTweet Q&A: Saturday 21 March

Twitter iconTwitter. Image credit: Jurgen Appelo

A message from Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) to all prospective students:

Interested in a quick, easy way to find out what life is really like as a student at the universities of Oxford or Cambridge? Here's one that won't even involve you leaving your computer - it's on Twitter! #CambTweet and #OxTweet are student-run Twitter-based schemes: student volunteers tweet daily about their lives at the universities - everything from what and how they’re studying to getting involved with clubs/societies and hanging out with friends. This Saturday (21 March) from 9-10pm, we are running a joint online Question and Answer session: many of our volunteers will be online especially to answer your questions about becoming and being a university student, so if something is on your mind that you want answered, tweet us with it!

CUSU also publish an Alternative Prospectus.

Posted: 17 March 2015

Theology and Religious Studies Open Day in Cambridge

Celebrating HoliCelebrating Holi, a Hindu Spring Festival. Image credit: Alessandro Baffa

The Faculty of Divinity is holding an Open Day for those interested studying Theology and Religious Studies at Cambridge on 20 April. You can find out more and book a place on the Faculty website.

You can find out more about studying Theology and Religious Studies at King's on our website. If you do visit Cambridge for the Open Day, you are very welcome to visit King's whilst you're here.

NB. Are you at a state school in one of the areas listed below? If so, please do request accommodation through the Year 12 Link Area Accommodation Scheme at King's for this or any other event advertised on the Cambridge page!

Posted: 13 March 2015

Cambridge Chemistry Challenge Online

Elements Top Trumps

Elements card game (designed for 7-14 yr olds). Credit: Duncan Hull

Are you a Year 12 (or equivalent) student interested in stretching your Chemistry skills? Then have a look at the monthly challenges in the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge!

In addition, if you live in the UK and want to take the annual challenge paper (a 90 minute written paper which you take at your school or college  in June), there is information about this on the UK lower 6th (Year 12)  competition page.

Posted: 9 March 2015

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Architecture


Detail from above the door at the Glasgow School of Art. Credit: Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup

Scottish Architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh is one of the leading figures of late 19th and early 20th Century architecture. The majority of his buildings are located in Glasgow (Scotland) and the surrounding area.

Posted: 5 March 2015

Year 12 Subject Days at Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Duck, Emmanuel College, CambridgeDuck, Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Image credit: mira66

Emmanuel College, Cambridge is holding two Subject Taster Days for Year 12 students over the Easter vacation:

  • East Asian Studies Taster Day on Friday 17 April
  • English Taster Day on Saturday 18 April

As well as providing information about these Cambridge courses, the events will give students an opportunity to ask questions and speak to University Lecturers, College Tutors and current undergraduates. The events are free to attend and lunch will be provided. Students are welcome to attend this event unaccompanied. For more information and to book a place, please see the Emmanuel College website.

Posted: 2 March 2015

Hwæt! Beowulf

An annotated copy of BeowulfA close reading of Beowulf. Image credit: Crossett Library

Hwæt! We Gar-Dena in gear-dagum, þeod-cyninga,  þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas  ellen fremedon!

(Arguably translated into modern English as "Listen! We have heard of the might of the Kings.")

Are you interested in early languages? Beowulf is the longest epic poem in Old English, the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest. More than 3,000 lines long, Beowulf relates the exploits of its eponymous hero, and his successive battles with monsters.

You can study Beowulf, among other Old English texts, as part of our Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic degree course, which centres on early and Medieval languges and history.

Bookings are now open for the Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic Year 12 masterclass on 21 March.  The next Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic departmental Open Day will take place on 24 June 2015.

Posted: 1 March 2015

Year 12 Subject Days at St. John's College, Cambridge

Bridge of Sighs, St. John's College, CambridgeBridge of Sighs (1831), St. John's College, Cambridge. Image credit: JH

Archaeology Study Day: 23 March 2015

What is it like to study Archaeology at university? What does it mean to be an Archaeologist in the modern world? Come along to St John’s College, Cambridge on the 23rd of March to find out! The day is run by a friendly mixture of Cambridge archaeologists and current students who will provide sample lectures, seminars and workshops designed to provide a real insight into life studying Archaeology at University. The day is free to attend and there is limited overnight accommodation available for those travelling from further away. For further information and the booking form, please see the St. John's College website

Biological Sciences Study Days: 25 and 27 March 2015

St John’s College will be hosting two Biological Sciences Subject Days. These days are aimed at Year 12 students taking at least two sciences at A Level (including Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics) who are interested in studying Biology and related fields at university. The day will include an exciting mix of lectures, supervision style workshops and information about making a competitive application. The day will also include a buffet lunch and a tour of the college. The event is free of charge and there is limited overnight accommodation for those that require it. For booking and further information please see the St. John's College website.

Posted: 27 February 2015

York Literature Festival (19 - 29 March)

Poetry books

Credit: Jameson Fink

If you live in or near York, do look at the programme for the 2015 York Literature Festival to see if there are events that you'd like to attend.

It's important to plan ahead because some events require you to book in advance. In some cases you may want to look at some of the material that will be discussed as well!  Here is a selection of what is on:

  • 19 March - How the Tories took Britain to the Brink
  • 20 March - Coalition past and future
  • 22 March - York's Place in History
  • 23 March - Ovid's Heroines
  • 24 March - Poetry reading: Jon Siddique and Tim Liardet
  • 25 March - How the Edwardians (almost) invented children's literature
  • 25 March - Civial War and Aftermath
  • 26 March - Virginia Woolf: One Hundred Years On
  • 26 March - Thomas Cromwell: Henry VII's right hand man
  • 26 March - Crime and Detective Work in the Roman Empire
  • 27 March - Creative and Critical Writing
  • 27 March - Watching Prime Ministers
  • 29 March - The Bletchley Girls: Women & Code breaking in WWII

For full information, please see the York Literature Festival website.

Posted: 26 February 2015

British Science Week: 13 - 22 March

Plant Sciences exhbit at the Cambridge Science Festival 2014Plant Sciences exhibit at the Cambridge Science Fesitval 2014. Image credit: CambPlants

British Science Week is a ten-day programme of science, technology, engineering and maths events across the UK for people of all ages. You can find an event near you on the British Science Association website.

Take a look at the programme of events planned at your local university:

Posted: 25 February 2015

Converse: the literature website

Chaucher's The Canterbury Tales... on KindleChaucher's The Canterbury Tales in a modern age. Image credit: david_jones

Would you like to broaden and deepen your experience of literature, perhaps with the thought of studying English at university?

Try the Converse website, which is packed full of resources developed by the University of Cambridge's English Faculty in collaboration with teachers and schools.

You'll find resources to support you in your GCSE studies, your A Level studies, or in researching and making an application to study English or a related discipline at university.

Posted: 24 February 2015

St. Catharine's Medicine Open Day

Catherine wheel, St. Catharine's College, CambridgeSt. Catharine's College, Cambridge. Image credit: John Jones

St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, is holding an open day on 30 June 2015 for high-achieving Year 12s interested in studying Medicine at the University of Cambridge. The day will give you a chance to hear talks from St. Catharine's Medicine Fellows, current pre-clinical and clinical students, and also experience a sample lecture. You will have time to look around St. Catharine's and the nearby lecture sites and have lunch in the college hall.

If you'd like to attend, please ask your teacher to nominate you (and up to three of your fellow students) using this form.

Posted: 24 February 2015

Trinity College Residentials for UK Sixth Formers in Cambridge

Fountain, Great Court, Trinity College, CambridgeFountain in the Great Court, Trinity College, Cambridge. Image credit: Matthias Rosenkranz

Trinity College, Cambridge is offering subject-specific residential visits in the Easter and Summer vacations. They are completely free, including accommodation and all meals, and they are open to applications from all students at UK schools who will be at least 16 by the first day of the residential.

Booking has now opened for the Humanities Residential which will take place during the Easter vacation from Tuesday 7 to Thursday 9 April.

Applications will be opening soon for the following residentials which will take place during the Summer vacation:

  • Science Residential: Thursday 25 to Saturday 27 June
  • Law Residential: Tuesday 30 June to Wednesday 1 July
  • Music Residential: Thursday 9 to Saturday 11 of July
  • Language-based Humanities Residential: Monday 24 – Tuesday 25 August

Keep checking the Access at Trinity website for updates.

Posted: 23 February 2015

Languages and Linguistics Open Day - Fri 13 March

Linguistics noticeboard

The Cambridge languages and linguistics courses are very broad, and you can tailor them to your interests.

The Languages and Linguistics Open Days on Friday 13 March are amongst the best opportunities to find out more about studying Modern and Medieval Languages, Linguistics, or Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University. 

You can go to sample lectures, talks on learning a language from scratch and the Year Abroad, chat with lecturers, current students and staff from the Language Centre, visit the Linguistics Labs for Phonetics and Psycholinguistics, as well as the Faculty Library, and have lunch at one of the Colleges (we'll take you there and back).

For details and to book at place, do see the website here for the Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics Open Day. The Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Open Day is available to book here.

NB. Are you at a state school in one of the areas listed below? If so, do feel free to request accommodation through the Link Area Accommodation Scheme at King's for this or any other event advertised on the Cambridge page!

Posted: 20 February 2015

Year 12 Subject Taster days at York University


Credit: Liz West

York University is offering opportunities for those of you in Year 12 to find out more about university-level study in a range of subjects:

  • Tues 17 March - Ever Thought About English Literature?
  • Wed 18 March - Discover History
  • Thurs 19 March - Digital Age Technologies
  • Mon 21 March - 21st Century Science
  • Tues 24 March - Love Learning Languages
  • Thurs 26 March - Management and Finance
  • Fri 27 March - Crime and Politics

For full details and how to book, please see the York University website.

Posted: 19 February 2015

What is infinity?

Infinity sign

Credit: m.a.r.c. (cropped)

Have you ever wondered about infinity? What it is? If it really exists? If it's countable?

If so, you might be interested to read this article on infinity by Marianne Freiberger from Plus Magazine, and if you enjoy that, there's more material on the subject in this infinity package.

Posted: 19 February 2015

The centenary of Arthur Miller's birth

The Crucible

The Crucible film starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. Credit: Karen

2015 is the centenary of Arthur Miller's birth. Have you read or seen any of his plays? How would you characterise his work? There are lots of opportunities to see them this year!

Here is a list of Arthur Miller plays and some examples of both professional and amateur productions (hint: if you look out for amateur productions, these are often much cheaper to attend and regularly very high quality):

Resources and reading suggestions:

Posted: 17 February 2015

What's the Big Idea?

Neighbours? Image credit: Julia McDermott

The Big Idea is a monthly podcast, in which a group of academics is brought together from across the University of Edinburgh to debate topical issues and showcase their research. Recent editions have focused on the Scottish referendum on independence, our relationship with technology, and women's role and participation in society. As you listen, ask yourself how each academic makes connections between their own work, their colleagues' work, and current affairs. Try linking your work in any subject to your work in another subject and / or the news.

Posted: 17 February 2015

Exhibitions at the Kirkleatham Museum, East Cleveland

Kirkleatham Museum

Entrance to the Kirkleatham Museum. Credit: David (cropped)

If you are interested in old Anglo-Saxon history, you might enjoy visiting the Kirkleatham Museum in Redcar & Cleveland, which is home to some important exhibitions:

  • The Saxon Princess
    This popular exhibition is based on a six-year archeological project in East Cleveland, in which archaeologist Dr Steve Sherlock and local volunteers made some spectacular finds - a royal burial site and precious metal jewellery from an un-named Anglo-Saxon princess, dating back to the seventh century.  See this short film of Steve Sherlock speaking about the area.
  • Street House before the Saxons
    Linked to the Saxon Princess material, this second exhibition is based on Dr Steve Sherlock's other excavations between 1979 and 2004. Through photographs, films and archaeological objects, you can find out more about a Neolithic cairn from around 3,000 BC, Bronze Age burial sites and the remains of a timber house and timber circles that date from around 2,000 BC, as well as a Roman villa (AD 370) and Anglo-Saxon village.

More infomation about visiting the museum is available on the Redcar & Cleveland website.

If you enjoy this material, it would be worth having a look at the Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNC) course at Cambridge (there's a film about it on the course films page).

Posted: 16 February 2015

Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference in Newcastle

Students in a College

Student conferences are a good opportunity to find out more from subject specialists, students and admissions staff

On 18 March 2015 there will be a free Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference in Newcastle (very close to the train station) for students in Year 12.

The conference covers courses available at Oxford and Cambridge (sessions led by subject specialists), Oxford and Cambridge Explained talks, and plenty of opportunities to chat with current students at both universities and find out what studying at Oxford and Cambridge is really like. You will need a teacher to book a ticket for you if you would like to attend - do read the information on the Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference website and ask a teacher to book your place.

Places are also available at similar conferences in Lisburn, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Surrey.

tracking our migratory birds to Africa and back
Posted: 15 February 2015

19 Feb: BBC Question Time in Stockton-on-Tees

Question Time

Credit: mjtmail (tiggy)

On Thursday 19 February, BBC Question Time will be broadcast from Teeside High School in Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees.

Question Time is a current affairs discussion programme, which aims to give people an opportunity to scrutinise directly senior politicians and others who exercise power and influence at a UK level. Did you know that more younger people watch Question Time than any other political programme on British television?

The guests on the 19 February panel include former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Heseltine; Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Labour's Shadow Energy Secretary, Caroline Flint MP; and local businessman and star of Dragon's Den, Duncan Bannatyne. If you would like to apply for tickets, you can do this through the online form on the BBC website.

Previous Question Time discussions are available to watch on BBC iplayer.

Posted: 13 February 2015

Economics essay competition


Credit: (cropped)

The Royal Economic Society runs an annual competition for students studying Economics at school, with questions based on key elements of your syllabus. 

You may find the questions set for this year's competition interesting to think about:

  • "Countries like Greece caused the Eurozone crisis by running up too much debt, so it is only fair that they should bear most of the burden of fixing it." Discuss.
  • Should the Government support manufacturing?  If so, how?
  • Should raising GDP be the primary objective of economic policy?
  • "The rising gap between rich and poor is not just bad for society, it is bad for growth." Discuss.
  • Should "fracking" be allowed? If so, who should benefit?
  • "It is immoral for the drug companies to charge large sums for drugs that are cheap to manufacture." Discuss.
  • "High saving promotes faster growth. So having  more savers in the global economy should be good for our long term prosperity."
  • "Does the economic case favour a new airport runway at Heathrow, Gatwick or elsewhere?"

You may also find it useful to look at the essay titles and winning entries from previous years (bottom of the page).

If you are studying Economics and are interested in entering an essay for this competition, do ensure that you read the full details and entry criteria on the Royal Economic Society website before you start work. The deadline for entry is Monday 30 June 2015.

Posted: 12 February 2015

Antarctic glaciers

Antarctic peninsula

The Northern Antarctic Peninsula. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is a very useful and interesting website on the the science of Antarctic glaciology written by Dr Bethan Davies from Royal Holloway, University of London. Here is the introduction:

Antarctic glaciers are beautiful and awe-inspiring. They affect us through their connections with the ocean and sea level, and environmental change is having rapid consequences in Antarctica. Antarctica is the world’s largest ice sheet, covering ~14,000,000 km2. Much of the ice sheet surface lies above 3000 m above sea level. This massive thickness of ice drowns whole mountain ranges, and numerous volcanoes exist underneath the icey exterior. It’s the world’s fifth largest continent, and it is, on average, the highest and coldest continent. Antarctica also provides a unique record of the Earth’s past climate, through the geomorphological record of glacier moraines, through ice cores, through deep sea sediment cores, and through past records of sea level rise.

If you would like to find out more about this fascinating topic, do explore the website, which includes information about different types of glacier, ice shelves, and ice streams as well as the section on glaciers and climate. There is a lot of material that you'll enjoy browsing, and if you are taking A level Geography, this section helps you to find the relevant material for different parts of your course. You can also ask questions here.

Posted: 12 February 2015

More Year 12 Saturday Masterclasses open for booking!

Lab work

What is studying your subejct at university level really like? Credit: Laurence Livermore

Booking has opened for more Saturday Masterclasses in Cambridge for Year 12 students. These events provide you with an opportunity to explore topics of interest beyond what is covered within your school syllabus, and offer the chance to experience typical undergraduate teaching at Cambridge.

  • Modern and Medieval Languages
  • Philosophy and Theology
  • Education
  • Law
  • Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic
  • Engineering
  • Politics and International Relations
  • Genetics and Biochemistry
  • Physics

For details and booking, please see the Cambridge admissions website.

Posted: 11 February 2015

GeomLab resource for Computer Science

Credit: Hillary

If you are interested in studying Computer Science at university, do have a look at the University of Oxford's GeomLab resource.

Through guided activities, GeomLab will introduce you to some of the most important ideas in computer programming.

Posted: 11 February 2015

Year 10 Women in STEM Event: Friday 27 February

Lab coatsLab coats. Image credit: Upupa4me

King’s College Student Union invites Year 10 girls at UK state schools to attend a Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics workshop on Friday 27 February in Cambridge.

The programme has been put together by our female mathematicians, scientists, and engineers to inspire young women to continue their study of STEM subjects at A Level and beyond.

Our current students will lead small groups in hands-on sessions in Maths, Natural Sciences, and Engineering.  There will also be a panel of current students who will lead a Q&A on studying sciences and living at university.

The workshop will begin at 10am and finish by 3pm.  We ask schools to cover transport costs, but once your group arrives at King’s all parts of the visit (including a sandwich lunch) will be free of charge.

Teachers who would like to book places (up to a maximum of 30) for their Year 10 girls are asked to email Eleanor (Schools Liaison Officer) for more information.

Posted: 10 February 2015

Sixth Form Philosophy Conference: 19 March

Question markThe Philosopher (2012). Image credit: Yau Hoong Tang

The University of Cambridge Faculty of Philosophy is holding a free one-day conference for Year 12 students.

The conference is open to those currently studying philosophy, or to those who are thinking of studying it at university. The day will consist of three lectures given by leading academic staff from the Faculty. The aim is to enrich and extend, rather than simply duplicate, the coverage of topics typically studied in school. There will also be a discussion session over buffet lunch for any teachers accompanying their students.

Places are limited, and are restricted to four students per school. Applications are now open, and must be made online by a member of school staff on behalf of their students. Applications close on 27 February ; schools will be notified of the outcome by 5 March 2015.

Posted: 10 February 2015

What's on? Public lectures at a university near you

Image credit: Marijn de Vries Hoogerwe

Universities share their latest research in public lectures, open to all, free of charge:

If you can't make it on the day, universities very often publish videos or transcripts of their public lectures on their websites after the event. For example, browse the latest uploads to the University of Cambridge's Video and Audio Service.

Posted: 7 February 2015

The Triple Helix Science in Society Review

Lego helix

Credit: Michael Knowles

The Triple Helix is one of the science societies in Cambridge. Each term, it publishes the Science in Society Review, with articles spanning a range of scientific disciplines but with a common focus on the interactions between science and society.

You may be interested to look at some of the previous issues:

If you are considering an application to study science at Cambridge, you may find Science in Society Review 6 from Lent term 2009 particularly useful: This was a special issue about Cambridge's rich history of science and discovery, produced for the University's 800th anniversary.

Would you like to get a short article published in the next issue of Science in Society Review? The society is running a science writing competition for sixth form students in the UK and will publish the winning entries. If you would like to take part, please read the competition details and submission form. The deadline for submissions is 21 February 2015.

Posted: 5 February 2015

Legal History: 1215 and all that

Magna Carta, 1215Magna Carta, 1215. Image credit: anselor

To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice. - See more at:
To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice. - See more at:
To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice. - See more at:

"To no one will we sell, to no one deny, or delay right or justice."

This week, the British Library marked the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta by bringing together the four remaining original documents for the first time. Radio 4's Law in Action recorded a special programme at the exhibition. Presenter Joshua Rosenberg asked a former Lord Chief Justice, a current lawyer, and the Head of Mediaeval Manuscripts at the British Library:

  • how much of our current law actually comes from the Magna Carta?
  • how much of its legacy is little more than myth?
  • to what extent are the protections attributed to Magna Carta under threat?

How can legal history enrich our knowledge and understanding of the law? Roman Law has been taught at Cambridge for over seven hundred years. Indeed, Civil (Roman) Law I is a compulsory paper for all our first years. Dr. Matthew Dyson explains why it remains important and offers a sample supervision sheet. Second and third years can choose to take a further paper in legal history.

Posted: 6 February 2015

Education at Cambridge

Education Faculty, University of Cambridge. Image credit: Steve Day

Cambridge is one of only a few universities to offer a degree in Education as an academic discipline. In the course of three years you explore Education as a broad social science, tackling its history, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. You combine your studies in Education with another subject, choosing from Biological or Physical Sciences, English, English and Drama, Modern and Medieval Languages, Classics, Geography, History, Music, or Religious Studies. Whilst the Education degree may be a route into teaching, educational psychology, research, policy, or publishing, it also opens up a wide range of career paths outside of Education. King's doesn't offer the Education degree, but you can apply to study it at most Cambridge colleges.

Posted: 5 February 2015

Saturday Masterclasses with places still available

Philosophy sign

Credit: dakine kane

There are still places available at the following Year 12 Saturday Masterclasses in Cambridge:

Saturday 7 February:

Saturday 14 February:

Saturday 21 February:

Ful details and booking are available on the Cambridge Admissions website.

Posted: 5 February 2015

King's Year 12 Link Area Accommodation Scheme

King's College

Credit: Shane Global (cropped)

If you go to a state school in one of the King's link areas (much of North East England and the West Berkshire area), do read about our Year 12 Link Area Accommodation Scheme. We may be able to help you to attend events in Cambridge such as a Saturday subject masterclass, a department open day, a science festival event, or any college open day by offering you free B&B accommodation in King's College the night before.

Posted: 5 February 2015

A Good Read?

Pile of booksImage credit: Pam loves pie

How do you make the reading you do in your own time count? One way to help yourself think independently and engage critically with your reading is to start or join a reading group. Take your inspiration from Radio 4's A Good Read, where the presenter and her two guests each choose a book they've enjoyed reading, introducing it to and discussing it with the others. Why not swap recommendations with a friend and meet to discuss your responses to each other's choice?

Posted: 4 February 2015

Royal Shakespeare Company broadcasts in local cinemas

Did you know that the Royal Shakespeare Company broadcasts performances to local cinemas around the UK and beyond?

If you are studying any works by Shakespeare, do visit the RSC onscreen website to find out about broadcasts in cinemas.

If you go to the cinemas and tickets page, you can look up what you could see near to where you live. For example, venues in Northumberland include The Maltings in Berwick upon Tweed, The Forum in Hexham, The Alnwick Playhouse and Vue cinemas in Cramlington.

Further information about the Royal Shakespeare Company is available on their website.

Posted: 4 February 2015

Year 12 UNIQ Summer Schools at Oxford University

Radcliffe Camera, University of OxfordRadcliffe Camera, University of Oxford. Image credit: Jónatas Luzia

How will you be spending your Summer vacation?

UNIQ is a programme of free summer schools at the University of Oxford. UNIQ is open to students studying in their first year of further education and who are based at UK state schools/colleges. Choose from a wide range of courses and spend a week attending lectures and seminars in Oxford in July or August. Applications close on 12 February, so get going now!

See also the Year 12 Sutton Trust Summer Schools for a similar opportunity in Cambridge. Sutton Trust Summer Schools also run at other top UK universities.

Posted: 2 February 2015

The Cambridge Science Festival programme is published

Hands-on activity

Science Saturday - a hands-on Engineering activity assisted by Cambridge undergraduates

Bookings open on Monday 9 February at 10.30am for the large 2015 Cambridge Science Festival running from 9 - 22 March 2015

There is a Cambridge Science Festival app, which you can search for on iTunes or Google Play.

Examples of talks:

  • Mon 9 March (17:30 - 18:30) - There's no business like flow business (age 15+)
    Inreasingly cells are providing us with answers. Scientists at the Babraham Institute carry out vital research on cells and cellular processes to learn how the body works and how it changes as we age. In this lecture, Rachel Walker and Becky Newman explain flow cytometry and how how it takes us a step further in understanding cells and cell populations.
    (Booking required)
  • Tues 10 March (17:00 - 18:00) - Colour, new dimensions, and the geometry of physics (age 15+)
    Professor Frank Wilczek from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the leading theoretical physicists of our time. Known for his discovery of asymptotic freedom, for which he received the Nobel Prize in 2004, his research ranges across particle physics, astrophysics and condensed matter physics.
    (booking required)
  • Thurs 12 March (18:00 - 19:00) - Melioidosis:biothreat infection and paddy-field disease (age 15+)
    Professor Sharon Peacock is a clinical microbiologist in the Department of Medicine, and works closely with Public Health England and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Intitute. In this talk, Professor Peacock shows how sequencing techniques can be applied to to study of Melioidosis, an infectious disease of tropical climates.
    (booking required)
  • Fri 13  March (18:00 - 19:00) - Searching for intelligence in the legs: robots that walk, run and dance (age 15+)
    Although there is enormous success in the use of robotic arms for the automation industry, robotic legs are very challenging to be engineered and used in our daily lives. Dr Fumiya Lida discusses why legs are so special, and whether we will see robots running around in the near future.
    (booking required)
Posted: 31 January 2015

Law Essay Competition

Trinity College has an annual Robert Walker essay competition open to students in Year 12 or Year 13  (the final two years of school).

The title set for this year's competition is:

"Should people be able to sell their bodily organs (e.g., their kidney(s) or liver)?"

If working on this question appeals to you, do ensure that you read the competition details on the Trinity College website. The deadline for entries is Monday 20 April 2015.

Essay competitions can be a good opportunity to get your teeth into an interesting and relevant question and to develop your research and argument skills. You will see in the competition details that the assessors will be looking at a range of factors, including how well your argument is sustained, the quality of your language, and how well you have used appropriate supporting material and facts in evidence for your arguments. Of course, these are questions it is worth asking yourself about all of your written work, whether for a competition or not!

Posted: 31 January 2015

Year 11 and Year 12 Subject Taster events at Newcastle University

Newcastle University

Newcastle University. Credit: Chris Thomson

Booking is open for Newcastle University's Discover More events on Wednesday 11 March and Wednesday 25 March 2015. 

If you are in Year 11 or Year 12, these events give you an opportunity to find out more about what studying your subject at university level is like, as well as gaining insights into future career possibilities.

Please see the information on Newcastle University website (which includes a link to the application form). If you would like to request a place, you must submit your application by Friday 13 February 2015.

Posted: 31 January 2015

Year 12 Taster Day (relevant to Classics, History, and History of Art)

Classical archaeology

Emmanuel College is offering an opportunity for Year 12 (or equivalent) students to visit Cambridge and find out more about studying Classics, History and History of Art at a Taster day on Tuesday 17 February:

The programme:

  • 09:45 - Arrival and welcome to Emmanuel College
    (Dr Chris Whitton, Director of Studies for Classics, Emmanuel College)
  • 10:15 - Talk: Studying Classics at University
    (Dr Nigel Spivey, Lecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology)
  • 11:15 - Lecture: Homer and the Origins of Greek Art
  • 12:15 - Lunch with undergraduates
  • 13:00 - Guided walk through Cambridge to the Faculty of Classics
  • 13:30 - Guided visit to the Museum of Classical Archaeology
    (Jennie Thornber: Education Co-ordinator)
  • 15:00 - Final question and answer session
  • 15:30 - Depart

If you would like to come to this event, do email Lizzie from Emmanuel College at with your name, the name of your school, and your contact email address.

Posted: 30 January 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day 2015: Keeping the Memory Alive

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, which remembers the victims of genocide across time and countries. 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death camps. 2015 is especially significant, since it is the 70th anniversary since the liberation of Auschwitz and the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebenica, Bosnia. This year's theme, Keeping the Memory Alive, asks us to reflect on the relationship between history and memory: how does one alter the other? What does it mean to memorialise the past and how shall we do it?

January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp - See more at:
January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp - See more at:

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust defines genocide and documents and commemorates the following cases:

Young Hartlepudlians will be Keeping the Memory Alive with a memorial at Avenue Ballroom in Lauder Street from 6.30pm to 8.30pm on Tuesday 27 January. The event is free and open to all, but booking is required, so please contact Beth Storey on 01429 523900.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust's Youth Champion Programme allows you to further research and reflect on the Holocaust and subsequent genocides and supports you in organising an event of your own.

The Anne Frank Trust UK remembers the Holocaust, and challenges prejudice and reduces hatred today, by drawing on Anne Frank's life and diary. You can visit the Trust's History for Today exhibition in York Minster from 26 January to 1 February.

Posted: 27 January 2015

Oxford Pathways: Year 12 Study Days on 17, 18, 19 March

Sheldonian Theatre, University of OxfordSheldonian Theatre, University of Oxford. Image credit: Julie Anne Johnson

The Oxford Pathways Programme is now taking bookings for its Year 12 Study Days on 17, 18 and 19 March. Subjects on offer range from Biomedical Sciences to Earth Sciences, History to Economics and Management, and Classics to German. The Study Days are open to Year 12 students, at non-selective state schools or colleges in the UK, who have the potential to make a competitive application to Oxford University. See a sample timetable and book online. There is some accommodation available, free of charge, for those who are travelling furthest: make your request on the booking form. Applications close this Friday 30 January, so act swiftly!

Posted: 26 January 2015

Teesside University Psychology Sixth Form Conference

Neurological studiesImage credit: Tim Sheerman-Chase

Teesside University is holding a Psychology Sixth Form Conference next Wednesday (4 February). Teesside staff and students will introduce you to diverse and topical aspects of psychology, including forensic psychology, counselling, educational psychology, and sports psychology. Year 12s and 13s (and mature students) can sign up online now, either as individuals or in school groups.

Posted: 26 January 2015

BBC Taking Liberties Season

Houses of Parliament, WestminsterThe Houses of Parliament, Westminster. Image credit: Treye Rice

2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. The BBC is leading commemorations with its Taking Liberties season of programmes on Britain's democracy: past, present, and future.

Ask yourself: are the democratic freedoms manifest in the Magna Carta or the de Montfort Parliament real or imagined, either then or now?

Posted: 26 January 2015

Cambridge GCSE Computing Online

A raspberry piImage credit: Teardown Central

The OCR Exam Board, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and Cambridge University Press offer a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) based on the Cambridge GCSE Computing curriculum. The course is free, open to all, and offers an introduction to how computers work, how they are used, and develops computer programming and problem-solving skills. Whilst completion of the course does not lead to a GCSE qualification, you will receive a 'Statement of Participation' to record your achievement. Find out more on the Cambridge GCSE Computing Online website, beginning with their FAQs.

Posted: 26 January 2015

Year 12 Studying Music Taster Days

King's MusiciansKing's Musicians

The Faculty of Music here in Cambridge is running Studying Music Taster Days for Year 12s on Monday 2 March and Friday 13 March. You will experience the teaching and facilities on offer at the Faculty, whilst meeting fellow Music students from across the UK. The day will include a sample lecture, a tour of a college, a practical session and a Q&A session with current undergraduates.

Whether or not you decide to study Music at Cambridge, there is a very active and diverse Music scene across the University and its colleges, with opportunities for every interest and standard!

Posted: 23 January 2015

VetCam 2015: introduction to Veterinary Science at Cambridge University

HorsesImage credit: Krysten Newby

The Department of Veterinary Science is running  a two-day residential course for year 12 students from Monday 30 - Tuesday 31 March in Cambridge. It is intended to provide an insight into both the preclinical and clinical courses and will include a mix of lectures, discussions, demonstrations and tours. Please see the Department website for more information.

The course costs £160, but there are a limited number of bursaries available for students from backgrounds with little or no experience of higher education, which will cover both the cost of the course and transport to and from Cambridge. Please email asap for more information as the deadline for applying for bursaries is 30 January.

Posted: 22 January 2015

Year 12 Residential visits at Robinson and Trinity Hall Colleges

Robinson College

Robinson College

All students at Cambridge are both part of the University and part of one of the Colleges. You can read about this collegiate system on the university website, and each College also has its own website, like King's.

Would you like to find out more about living and studying in a Cambridge College? There are places available on Year 12 (or equivalent) residential visits at Robinson College and at Trinity Hall College. Visiting any College will give you a good sense of what being part of a collegiate university is like and what is most important to you when you later choose a College. It will also help you to develop your course interests and find out more about how you will be taught at Cambridge.

  • 7-8 April 2015: Robinson College Arts and Humanities Student Residential
    Information and booking
    For further details please email Katie Vernon at
  • 29-30 June 2015: Robinson College Science and Maths Student Residential
    Information and booking
    For further details please email Katie Vernon at
  • 16-17 September 2015: Trinity Hall College 'Small Subjects' Student Residential
    For students interested in studying Philosophy, History of Art, Theology, or Land Economy.
    Information and booking
    For further details please email Katie Vernon at .
Posted: 21 January 2015

Classics & Ancient History Essay Competition

St John's College, Oxford is running an essay competition for UK students in Year 12 (or equivalent) who are interested in Classics & Ancient History.

The essay titles include:

  • Is it possible to write ancient Greek or Roman history without cities at its centre?
  • Who and /or what are missing from our archaeological record of the ancient world? Consider what types of objects survive and who they represent.

If you are interested in thinking about these kinds of questions or researching and writing an essay for the competition, do go to the St John's College Oxford website, where you will find a full list of titles and the submission details for the competition.  The deadline for submissions is 4 pm on Thursday 26th February 2015.

Posted: 19 January 2015

Year 12 Sutton Trust Summer Schools

Bodley's Court lawn

Booking is open for the Year 12 Sutton Trust Summer Schools in Cambridge! These are very popular subject-specific residentials in July and August for students in Year 12 (or equivalent) at state-maintained schools in the UK.  The programme includes lectures, seminars, discussion groups, practical work and social activities, as well as the opportunity to meet current staff and students and to live in a Cambridge College. The residentials are free of charge.

For full information and booking, please go to the Cambridge Admissions website.

The Sutton Trust Summer Schools provide a very useful insight into what it is like to study at Cambridge so do apply for a place if you are interested. Equally, please be aware that we receive far more applications than we have places available. It is important to read the detailed criteria for selection.

The application deadline is 9 March 2015. Good luck!

Posted: 15 January 2015

Year 12 Subject Masterclasses in Cambridge

Chemistry test tubes

Subject-specific sample lectures are available. Credit: Horia Varlan

Booking is open for some subject masterclasses organised by the central Cambridge Admissions Office.  These masterclasses take place on Saturdays in February  and are for students in Year 12 (the penultimate year of school).

The subjects are:

  • Classics
  • Linguistics
  • Medicine
  • Chemistry
  • Genetics and Biochemistry
  • Modern and Medieval Languages
  • History
  • Philosophy and Theology

...and if the course you want to study is not in that list, don't worry because further masterclasses will be announced later this year.

For more detail, please read the information about  Subject Masterclasses on the Cambridge Admissions website. If you would like to book a place, he link is available in the table on that page.

Posted: 5 January 2015

Going deeper into Mathematics

Lines and curves on an athletics track

Lines and curves.
Credit: See-Ming Lee

If you like (or dislike!) mathematics, what is it about the subject that makes you feel this way? What does studying mathematics at unviersity level involve, and how can you work out if you will enjoy it?

We advise students who are curious about maths (and subjects related to maths) to read the following explanation of rich mathematics:

If the kind of maths that makes you think and encourages you to go deeper inside the subject appeals to you, make sure you explore the NRICH Mathematics website:

  • Stage 5 material is for students in the last two years of school (normally aged 16-18).
  • Stage 4 material is for students in Year 10 and Year 11 (normally aged 14-16)
  • If you have a particular interest, you may also find the curriculum content section helpful
  • Or have a go at some of the live problems and see if you can get your solution published!
Posted: 12 December 2014

Year 12 Science / Medicine Essay Competition


Credit: OliBac

  • How has astronomy benefited society?
  • Suppose you could create a new checmical element. What physical and chemical properties would you ascribe to it, and what uses could this element be put to?
  • If you could take one item, which must fit in your pocket, back to the year 1800 with the goal of advancing science or medicine, what would it be and what would you do with it?
  • Is it more important to save tropical forests or the world's oceans? Why?
  • How far is it to the moon?
  • "Free health care at the point of delivery trivialises the service." Discuss. 

These are the questions that Peterhouse College is asking Year 12 students to think about for this year's Kelvin Science Prize. If you are interested in researching and writing one of these essays, please read the information carefully on the Peterhouse College website (see especially the Kelvin Science Prize pdf here, which contains full details of the questions and how to enter). The deadline is 20 March 2015.

Posted: 9 December 2014

History Virtual Classroom


What role can a historical novel play in the study of History?
Credit: Martha Garvey

If you enjoy studying History and want to know more about what it is like at university level, make sure that you have a look at the History Faculty's virtual classroom:

Posted: 5 December 2014

The French Revolution: Tearing up History

The death of marat

The death of Marat. Credit: paukrus (cropped)

There's an interesting documentary on BBC iplayer, which explores the history of the French Revoution through the story of its art.

The programme is presented by Dr Richard Clay, Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Birmingham.

Posted: 30 November 2014

OpenCampus at the University of Hull

Joseph Hillier sculpture 'Moving Matters' (2007) outside the Logistics Institute, Hull University Business SchoolJoseph Hillier, Moving Matters (2007), displayed outside the Logistics Institute, Hull University Business School

The University of Hull's OpenCampus programme offers an informal and friendly way for you to learn at your local university.

  • Drop into the Culture Café, which this term is focusing on Literature and Creative Writing. On Saturday 6 December at 11am, Dr. Daniel Weston, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century English Literature, is discussing 'Poetry for the City? Philip Larkin and Others.' This is part of the North and South Project, a collaboration betwen the University of Hull and the University of Southampton to explore what unites and divides their respective port cities. Next term's programme for the Culture Café is already available here.
  • Join a Tea-Time Talk, a series which launched this term around the theme of Society and Culture. On Tuesday 2 December at 6.15pm, Dr. Simon Green, Senior Lecturer in Community Justice and Criminology, explores 'Deviancy, destitution and moral degeneracy.' Why, he asks, do politicians and commentators increasingly explain crime and disorder with reference to moral character, instead of socio-economic conditions?

Places are limited, so booking is essential. To find out more and book a place, please contact the OpenCampus team directly.

Posted: 26 November 2014

Can science make a cyclist faster?

Theo Bos

Credit: jonthescone

Prof Tony Purnell will be giving the next lecture in the Cambridge Physics Lecture Series for Year 12 and Year 13 students at 6pm on Tuesday 2 December. 

Please see the details and directions.

The lecture will provide an overview of how science and engineering contribute to the raw speed of all Olympic cycling disciplines.

No need to book - just turn up!

Related resources:

Posted: 24 November 2014

Earth Sciences

Punakaiki Rocks

Punakaiki Rocks, West Coast of New Zealand. Credit: Jocelyn Kinghorn

What is the Earth made of? What processes shape and change it? What's happened to it in the past 4.5 billion years, and how do we know? What will happen to the Earth's climate in the future? The Cambridge Department of Earth Sciences has released a very useful introductory film:

If you'd like to find out more about physical and biological aspects of the Earth, here are two books that provide a good way into the subject:

Earth Sciences is just one of the many options available in the Cambridge Natural Sciences course, and no previous knowledge in geology or geography is required. You can combine it with your interests in other sciences, and you can specialise in it if you later choose to. Do explore the Department of Earth Sciences website for more detail.

Posted: 22 November 2014

Great Writers Inspire

Great Writers Inspire is a University of Oxford website which brings together a wealth of literary resources for sixth formers. 

You might like to explore the work of particular writers, such as Virginia Woolf, Thomas Hardy, or Jane Austen (to name just a few examples), or you could explore themes and questions, including Carribean writers, The Victorian Gothic, Political Literature, or What is literature and why does it matter?

Posted: 18 November 2014

Excellence Hub for Yorkshire and Humberside

York Campus

University taster events show you what studying a subject in depth at university-level would be like. Credit: John Robinson

The Excellence Hub for Yorkshire and Humberside is an exciting collaboration between the universities of Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York to provide enrichment events through the year for students who have been identified as high achieving by their schools or colleges.

Look at the list of upcoming Subject Taster Events.

The events are open to students across the UK. You can apply to attend the events as an individual, or one of your teachers can apply for a group from your school to attend. Priority for places is given to students who meet one of the criteria below, then the remaining places are given to students who do not meet the criteria. Some events are for Year 12 students, others are for younger students.

Priority criteria:

  • eligible to receive free school meals.
  • no history of higher education (studying at university level) in your immediate family (including any siblings).
  • living in local authority care.

Do keep an eye on this project. Further events will be advertised on the Excellence Hub website in due course.

Posted: 13 November 2014

Year 12 Politics and International Relations Essay Competition

Polling Station sign

Credit: secretlondon123

Here is some food for thought from an essay competition set by Corpus Christi College:

  • Is economic globalisation helping or hurting democracy in the world?
  • Are most citizens knowledgeable enough to vote in their own interest at the ballot box?
  • Should democracies try to promote regional stability in their foreign policies even if that means supporting authorotarian regimes?
  • Is it desirable to limit the effects of money on politics even if doing so inhibits freedom of political expression?
  • Would eliminating all nuclear weapons make the world a safer or more dangerous place?

Which question do you find most interesting? What approach would you take? Can you think of /research some examples to draw on?

If you are in Year 12 (the penultimate year of school in the UK) and would like to enter the competition itself, please see the details (the deadline is 15 February 2015). Further essay competitions are available in Law, English, Theology and Computer Science.

Posted: 12 November 2014

Year 12 STEP Correspondence Project

 Golden Rhombic Hexecontahedron

Credit: Eric S.

Cambridge (funded by the Department for Education) is offering a pilot correspondence course to Year 12 prospective mathematicians from UK state schools. This course is designed for students who would not normally receive much support for STEP Mathematics exams in Year 13.

In order to be eligible to take part, you must be:

  • studying at a state-maintained school or academy in the UK
  • taking, or about to take, Further Mathematics at A-level (or equivalent).

Please see the STEP Correspondence Project webpage for full details and the application forms.

The deadline for applications is Monday 1st December 2014
Both the student application form and the teacher support statement must be submitted by this date.

Posted: 7 November 2014

Preparing for interviews

How Stuff Works magazine

We recommend that you explore topics that interest you further (there are a lot of ways to do this).

We interview most (but not all) students who apply for a place at Cambridge. The interviews are with subject specialists who ask you academic questions to explore your potential for the course you have applied for.

How do you prepare for a Cambridge interview? Here are some tips:

Long-term preparation (before you apply)

  • If you enjoy learning, the good news is that you shouldn't need to change anything significant to prepare for interviews at Cambridge. The most important thing you can do is to develop your academic interests (which you're likely to find that you've already been doing!)
  • Find a Cambridge course that genuinely interests you so that you have natural curiosity and enjoy developing your skills and finding out more.
  • Look at the resources section on the relevant subject page for specific suggestions (e.g. Engineering), but also feel free to follow your own interests or use other resources and books that you find helpful. 
  • Understand that Cambridge interviewers will be interested in your academic interests and how you think and work, not only what you know. The interviews are academic interviews, designed to test this.  This film shows what Cambridge interviews are about.

Short-term preparation (after you have applied)

  • See this advice and our interview guidelines.
  • Watch Film 1 and Film 2 to get a sense of what will happen if you are invited for interview.
  • Carry on developing your academic interests.  Use the resources section on the relevant subject page if you are looking for suggestions.
  • Don't neglect your normal school work - if you are currently at school, we know how busy you are, and you can develop your interests within your school curriculum by putting your best into your homework assignments. Remember that most of your interview preparation has already been done at this stage.
  • Don't worry excessively about the interview itself. Know that the interviews are not a test of how good you are at being interviewed (we're not looking for polish or perfection). They are about your subject(s),  so the only way you can improve your chances is to carry on focusing on your academic work and interests.
  • Try to trust your interviewers if you can! They are all teachers and they want you to achieve. They will know how to ask further questions to tease what they need out of you, and they know that interviewees are nervous so they are looking for raw ability and academic commitment, not perfection.
Posted: 4 November 2014

Cambridge Subject Films

Marking on a map

Geography fieldwork. Credit: Richard Allaway

Are you exploring the courses available at Cambridge? One way to get a quick overview is to look at some of the subject films.

The films are only short, but they explain the structure and opportunities in each course, show you some of the faculty facilities, and have  current students giving their views and reasons for choosing each subject, tips for applying from the lecturers, and information about what students go on to do when they graduate.

You may also find the advice about choosing a subject useful, and there are lists of transferable skills for most courses (or options within courses). These lists set out the advantages that each subject gives you for your future career.

The most important question to ask yourself, is what would you enjoy studying in depth?

Posted: 30 October 2014

Competition: Engineering in Sport

Tennis racquet

Credit: Basheer Tome

Have you thought carefully about the role of Engineering in sports that you enjoy?

EngineerGirl (a US National Academy of Engineering website) is running a competition asking you to describe the technology used in a sport of your choice. The competition is open to male and female school students both in the US / Canada and beyond.

You may also enjoy reading the rest of the EngineerGirl website.

Posted: 29 October 2014

Headstart: Try Before You Apply

Container ships in the Port of SouthamptonContainer Terminal, Port of Southampton. Image credit: Garth Burgess

Are you a student who loves science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and is currently in Year 12, Scottish S5? Are you thinking about what you might like to study at university, but find it difficult to make up your mind?

Headstart provides engineering taster courses to encourage young people into technology-based careers. You could try Marine Engineering and Nautical Science at Southampton, Computer Science at DurhamElectrical and Electronic Engineering at Newcastle, or Material Science here in Cambridge.

Posted: 28 October 2014

Cambridge Sculpture Trails

Double Helix Sculpture

Double Helix sculpture in Clare College. Credit: Nige Brown

Did you know that Cambridge has lots of 20th and 21st century sculptures in and around the city? You will find both pieces by major international figures and work by up-and-coming sculptors.

Come and explore for yourself! There are three Sculpture trails that you can use, and if you follow the links and information on the website, you can find out more about the sculptors and their work.

Posted: 27 October 2014

Cambridge Year 12 Law Conference

Law Faculty

Lectures take place in the Faculty of Law.
Credit: Chris Huang

The annual Year 12 Cambridge Law Conference will take place from 16-19 March 2015.

Students on the conference have accommodation  in one of the Cambridge Colleges. The mornings will be lectures with Cambridge University lecturers and speakers from the legal profession, then in the afternoons there are workshops run by City Law Firms and Barristers Chambers, helping you to develop relevant skills such as debating, advocay and negotiation. You will also be taken on a tour of Cambridge, attend a session on applying for Law at Cambridge,  and have chance to visit some of the Colleges. The first evening is a social event, and later during the week there is a debate in the Cambridge Union between high-profile barristers and a mock trial.

There is a charge for this conference: it costs £150, which includes all meals, accommodation, lectures , workshops and tours. If you need advice on funding for this, there is an email address to write to so do look into it on the applications page.

Interested? Please read the full details and fill in the application form on the Cambridge Law Conference website (do read the Student Reviews in particular!).

Posted: 23 October 2014

Why Study Economics?


Credit: Ken Teegardin

Are you considering university courses in Economics? If so, do explore the Economics Network's website:

The website has a useful blog too!

Posted: 22 October 2014

Hot air balloon problem

Hot air balloon

Credit: Brent Myers

A hot air balloon of mass 350 kg is carrying 5 people each of mass 70kg. The total volume of the baloon is 2800m3.

The balloon flies horizontally in dry air 1km above sea level. The atmopheric pressure at this altitude is 89.9kPa and the surrounding temperature is 9ºC. Given that the molar mass of dry air is 28.97g/mol, work out the temperature of the heated air inside the balloon. (You can take gas constant R=8.31J/mol K and you may assume that air behaves as an ideal gas).

General and problem-specific hints are available.

This is one of the problems on, a resource from Cambridge University Engineering Department with more than 200 problems to help you to practice problem solving skills relevant to Engineering. The website also provides general advice such as how to get onto a good Engineering course (whether at Cambridge or elsewhere).

Posted: 21 October 2014

Dylan Thomas poetry

Dylan Thomas birthplace

The boathouse in Laugharne (Camarthenshire), where Thomas lived and wrote in the last four years of his life. Credit: Les Haines

If you enjoy language and thinking about how it can be used and the effects it can create, you might like to explore some of Dylan Thomas's work. It's a particularly good time to do this, as 2014 is the centenary of his birth. 

Do you like one or more of these? Why? How would you describe Dylan Thomas's writing to someone who has never read any? Can you see any connections with other poets & poems that you have read?

Further reading & events

Posted: 18 October 2014

Where is the Art in Science?

Julia Lohmann, Co-Existence (2009): an art work made of petri dishes commissioned and exhibited by the Wellcome Trust.Julia Lohmann, Co-Existence (2009). An art work made of petri dishes commissioned and exhibited by the Wellcome Trust. Credit: gwire

Do you have a love and flair for both the arts and the sciences? You're not alone!

The Royal Society of Chemistry's annual Bill Bryson Prize challenges students to think about science creatively. The 2014 competition asked 'where is the art in science?'  Brynn Brunstromm found many connections in his winning video entry.

On Wednesday 5 November, the Departments of Chemistry and Fine Art at the University of Reading are running a workshop for Year 9 students to explore the intrinsic links between art and science. Teachers can contact the Chemistry Teachers' Centre to find out more.

Posted: 16 October 2014

History: more than just dates?

Tent City University at St Paul's Cathedral during the Occupy London protestTent City University at St. Paul's Cathedral during the Occupy London protest. Image credit: duncan c

  • How did the tea bag become a symbol for a protest movement?
  • How have protest movements, including the Occupy movement, used public spaces?

Cambridge History for Schools runs hands-on workshops for students in Key Stage 2 and 3 in the Cambridge area.

On the morning of Saturday 8 November at the Faculty of History, West Road, Cambridge:

  • Key Stage 2 (ages 7 to 11): Will Riddington, 'More Than Just Dates: signs and symbols in history' - create a protest movement and symbols of your own
  • Key Stage 3 (ages 11 to 14): Kristen Klebba, 'Public Parks and Their Politics' - design your own public space

Email or call 01223 335302 to book a place.

The Cambridge History for Schools programme continues into the New Year with more workshops scheduled for 28 February and 9 May.  Please see the full programme for more information.

Posted: 14 October 2014

Physics. You work it out.

Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi (1995) on the British Library PlazaNewton in Bronze, by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1995) on the British Library's Plaza. Inspired by Newton, by William Blake (1795) at Tate Britain. Image credit: Chris Beckett

The Rutherford Physics Partnership runs an online platform for prospective Physicists, Engineers, and Mathematicians called Isaac Physics. It will help you to bridge the gap between your A Level and undergraduate studies by working through problems online.

Get started:

Posted: 14 October 2014

The Cycle of Terms

'Parking problems': bicycles pile up outside King's. Credit: Phil Shirley

Full term began for our current Cambridge students last Thursday.  To celebrate the new academic year,  join them in their morning pedal to lectures by watching this video.

A number of our current students write about a typical day during termtime in their King's Student Perspectives.

All the best for the new academic year to everyone!

Posted: 13 October 2014

Beverley Literature Festival 2014

Beverley Minster: one of Britain's largest and most imposing parish churches. Image credit: Mill View

East Riding Libraries' Wordquake organises the Beverley Literature Festival in October and the Bridlington Poetry Festival in June each year.

  • On the closing weekend of this year's Beverley Literature Festival, there is still time to hear Shirley Williams talking about the life and work of her mother, pacificst and novelist Vera Brittain (1893-1970)Beverley Minster, 7.30pm to 8.30pm, Saturday 11 October
  • The Festival on the Run continues: John Godber's specially commissioned play Who Cares about the NHS is being performed by the University of Hull's Drama Department. Catch it at Goole Library and Holme Village Hall on Saturday 11 October, Withernsea Centre on Saturday 18 October, and Hedon Library on Saturday 25 October


Posted: 10 October 2014

Film competition

King's Chapel

Our own Chapel at King's is a fascinating mix of religion, politics, history, art and architecture.

Have you ever thought about the relationship between religion and other subjects that you might study?

  • History: Consider the impact of religious change on a society prior to 1900;
  • Literature: Reflect on whether literary criticism requires a knowledge of sacred texts;
  • Philosophy: Comment on the relationship between mortality and religion;
  • Politics: Explore the idea of secularism and national politics;
  • Science: Address the relationship between religion and a topic from the natural sciences;
  • Sociology: Consider how an awareness of religion helps understandings of multiculturalism.

Cambridge Divinity Faculty encourages sixth formers to research and think about one of the topics above in a team of up to four 16-19 year olds. The challenge is to produce a film lasting no more than five minutes in response to your chosen topic. This should be academic in content, but the film could take any form: debates, documentaries or responses with artistic elements are all welcome.

If you are interested, do read the further details on the Divinity Faculty website. The deadline is Friday 14 November 2014.

Posted: 10 October 2014

Celebrate Science with Durham University, 28 - 30 October

Durham Palace GreenThe Celebrate Science marquee will again be pitched on Durham Palace Green (seen here with the University Library in the background). Image credit: Lawrence OP

Durham University's fifth annual Celebrate Science festival will take place this half-term from Tuesday 28 to Thursday 30 October:

View the full programme of events.

Posted: 9 October 2014

The X Factor: Multidisciplinary (and Interdisciplinary) Approaches to Classics

Image credit: Ingo Gildenhard

At the recent Classics Faculty Sixth Form Study Days, King's Classicist Ingo Gildenhard explained how multidisciplinary approaches to Classics underpins teaching and learning at Cambridge.

The Classics Faculty is divided into caucuses, each of which brings a different approach to the study of Classics: Caucus A (Literature); Caucus B (Philosophy); Caucus C (History); Caucus D (Art and Archaeology) and Caucus E (Linguistics).

Dr. Gildenhard gave an example of how his colleagues in different caucuses each brought a different approach to the study of Ovid's Ars Amatoria [The Art of Love] in a recent lecture series:

  • A: Poetics, or: The (S)expert at Work
  • B: Sexual Ethics [gender relations, feminist readings]
  • C: The Empire Strikes Back [Ovid and Augustus, the politics of the Ars, Ovid’s banishment to the Black Sea]
  • D: Sex and the City [Ovid and the monuments, his rewriting of Rome’s urban topography]
  • E: The Language of Love (and Sex) [how can we understand the different range of meanings of Latin words to English dictionary equivalents - does raptor mean ‘rapist’ or ‘seducer’? and how does it relate to rapina and rapio?]

The students and academics gain enormously from exploring these multidisciplinary perspectives.  If and when they combine two or more approaches to address a particular topic, thereby transcending any one discipline, their work becomes interdisciplinary.

For this reason, King's Classicist John Henderson and his colleague Geoffrey Lloyd pioneered an X Caucus (Interdisciplinary) in the 1980s, to allow and encourage Cambridge students and academics to cross disciplines in their study of the Classics.

Multidisciplinarity is not restricted to Classics! You will be able to find multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) approaches to almost any topic. Have you got the X Factor? Think of a topic that has caught your attention in one of your A Level subjects and ask yourself what your knowledge and skills in your other A Level subjects can bring to it.


Posted: 9 October 2014

Mythologies (Roland Barthes)

Apple logo

Apple icon - a 21st century myth? Credit: Szilveszter Farkas (cropped)

In 1957, Roland Barthes published Mythologies, in which he discussed the workings of 'myths' in the society of his time. Drawing on ideas from semiotics (the theory of how signs and symbols work), and in particular the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Barthes was able to use language-like structures to study the social culture around him.

If you would like to read Mythologies, the most useful part for understanding what Barthes is doing is the second part (The Myth Today), in which he explains how myths form a communication system and what the value is of thinking about them in this way (how does it help us to understand the myths?). It gets a bit technical in places, so if there is more detail than you want, just take from it what you find useful. You might then like to look at some of the examples that Barthes gives in the first part of his book. NB. You will notice that Barthes's analyses are often political - they focus especially on the ways that bourgeois society uses myth to impose values on others.

One difficulty for modern readers of Barthes's work is that his examples are drawn from the fifties - they can be difficult for us to relate to. Radio 4 is currently running a series called 21st Century Modern Mythologies, in which Barthes's techniques are used to dissect contemporary myths. Do listen to some of the programmes and see what you think:

Suggestion for further reading:

Posted: 8 October 2014

Cambridge Physics Lectures

Juggling balls

How would you describe the patterns of juggling? Credit: Richard Leonard

The Cambridge Physics department runs a series of lectures through the year for Year 12 and Year 13 students. These are free to attend and you can just turn up (no need to book).

The first lecture this year is on Tues 14 October 2014, when Dr Colin Wright will speak on the Physics of Juggling. For further information about this and future lectures, please see the details on the department website:

If you live within range of a University, why not go on their website to see if there are any public lectures or lectures for sixth formers that might be interesting?

Posted: 7 October 2014



Credit: Horia Varlan

If you're aged 14-18 and you enjoy Chemistry, why not join the Royal Society of Chemistry's Chemnet? It offers free support and advice for all Chemistry students including:

The link to join Chemnet is here.

Posted: 6 October 2014

Freshers' reading groups

Welcome - letters displayed in a window

There's a great atmosphere in College as we help the new students to settle in.

Amongst the many activities that take place in Freshers' Week to settle new students into the College community, there are discussion groups in which tutors and students across all subjects meet to discuss a book that everybody has read in advance. This year's book is:

Monbiot is a journalist and activist who read Zoology at University. He presents his book as a polemic for "positive environmentalism". The book consists of a series of essays designed to promote the cultural and economic change that will be necessary to precede any ecological shift. On some level Feral is a radical book with a radical argument, however the question for the King's freshers is how substantial, how convincing is Monbiot's argument and his evidence, and how much of it is the ideological enchantment of a liberal public intellectual?

Book cover

If you fancy reading this book for yourself, you may be interested to think about how Monbiot establishes the veracity of his claims. How scientific is his thesis of "rewilding"? Does the book survive the lengthy anecdotal descriptions of his natural encounters, enchanting though they are? And is it telling that Monbiot is male, enjoys risky outdoor activity and has his moment of epiphany when he slings a dead deer over his shoulders and carries it home? Do you think that he would have a different environmentalism if he weren't so enamored by the wild in him? Or should we be cautious about any dismissal of his honesty? He discusses the effects of logging and mining on Yanomami lands at some length (and spent a fair amount of his own time experiencing it) - it is fair to say that his "rewilding" is borne of some knowledge of different cultural ecologies? Finally, do you think that we should be encouraged by this book, or discouraged?

Posted: 3 October 2014

'Remember' National Poetry Day

Philip Larkin statue, Hull Paragon InterchangePhilip Larkin statue by Martin Jennings at Hull Paragon Interchange. Credit: summonedbyfells

It's National Poetry Day! This year's theme is 'Remember.'

As the National Poetry Society explains, whether it's Thomas Hood or Philip Larkin's 'I Remember, I Remember'; the centenary of the First World War; or the national Poetry by Heart recitation competition; memory is an important part of poetry.

As our contribution to National Poetry Day, you may enjoy reading the King's Archive of the Month on Rupert Brooke and Ferenc Békássy.  They were both King's graduates, both poets, and both victims of the First World War. You could reflect on how their poetry has shaped the way we remember the First World War and how we remember them.

Posted: 2 October 2014

Year 12 Shadowing Scheme 2015

Chetwynd Court

Find out for yourself what living and studying at Cambridge is really like

If you are in Year 12 at a UK school and nobody from your family has studied at university / not many from your school have got places at Oxford and Cambridge, you might like to find out more by applying for a place on the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.

If you get a place, you would be invited to spend a few days in Cambridge, living in one of the Colleges and "shadowing" a current student studying the subject that you are interested in, that is, going to lectures, supervisions, social activities etc with them. It's a really good way to get a taste of what studying here is really like so do read the details if you think that you might be eligible to apply.

Posted: 2 October 2014

Choosing school subjects

The river in King's

For Cambridge Economics, Maths is required and Further Maths is very helpful where available.

If you have just started Year 11 (15-16 year olds), you will soon need to start thinking about which subjects you will take next year.

If you would like to study at a selective university such as Cambridge or another university in the Russell Group, it is especially important to make sure that you choose subjects that will give you good preparation for courses that you may want to apply for. You may already have a favourite subject that you can research, but don't worry if you don't know yet - the advice about making well-informed choices will help to put you in the best position for when you choose a university course later on. 

As well as the subjects you already do at school, it is worth remembering that there are a lot more courses available that you start new at university - the perfect course for you may be something you've not thought of yet!!

To help you with this process:

Posted: 10 September 2014

Beginning New Testament Greek

Greek text

Credit: darkwood67

Theology and Religious Studies students at Cambridge study a scriptural language in first year, choosen from New Testament Greek, Hebrew, Qur'anic Arabic or Sanscrit. You don't need to have studied foreign languages before, and this is a great opportunity to learn one of the original languages in which the texts of a major world religion were written.

If you are interested in New Testament Greek, we hope that you will find the new website launched by Cambridge Divinity Faculty useful:

Posted: 9 September 2014

Maths / Physics lectures

Einstein statue

Einstein statue at the US National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC. Credit: Mark Fischer (cropped)

The Millenium Maths Project has put films of some recent lectures for sixth form students up online. These were given at an event for 16 and 17 year olds, which took place at Cambridge University on 27 June this year.

If you enjoy maths and would like to receive notification of Millenium Maths Project events and resources, you might like to register to be on their mailing list or follow them on Twitter/Facebook.

Posted: 6 September 2014

Law in Action

Leicester Magistrates Court

Leicester Magistrates' Court. Credit: Steve Cadman

If you are interested in studying Law at university, it can be helpful to get some feel for the law in action, for example by observing a local court in session. You could visit your local Magistrates' and/or County Courts (or regional equivalent, such as the Sheriff Court in Scotland).

Even the very highest and grandest courts, such as the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand and the Supreme Court (Parliament Square), are open to the public.

Posted: 5 September 2014

Open House London (Sat 20 & Sun 21 September)

On the weekend of 20 and 21 September, there's a chance to explore building design and architecture in London. This is Open House London, which encourages you to explore buildings and spaces, including ones that aren't normally open to the public.

Posted: 4 September 2014

Economic Success Drives Language Extinction

Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia, named by the local Pitjantjatjara people. The Pitjantjatjara language is classified as vulnerable by UNESCO. Image credit: Sjoerd van Oosten.

Thriving economies are the biggest factor in the disappearance of minority languages and conservation should focus on the most developed countries where languages are vanishing the fastest, finds a new study. - See more at:

A new study has revealed that economic growth and globalisation are driving the loss of minority languages.

The researchers, including Cambridge Zoologist Tatsuya Amano, used the criteria for defining endangered species (as defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) to measure the rate and extent of language loss. They then analysed the geographical distribution of the endangered languages in order to draw conclusions about how and why they have gone into decline. Dr. Amano explained that:

As economies develop, one language often comes to dominate a nation's political and educational spheres. People are forced to adopt the dominant language or risk being left out in the cold - economically and politically.

The researchers argue that conservation efforts should therefore be focused on minority languages in more economically developed regions, such as northwestern North America and northern Australia.

Read the researchers' findings in full in Tatsuya Amano et al, 'Global Distribution and Drivers of Language Extinction Risk,' Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281 (October 2014).

Consult the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.

Look into the conservation efforts of the Endangered Language Alliance in New York City and the online Endangered Languages Project. National Geographic's  Enduring Voices project has produced eight online talking dictionaries in an effort to conserve minority languages.

  • What are the benefits / risks of applying the criteria for defining endangered species to minority languages?
  • How best can minority languages be protected?  Or should they be protected at all?
used the criteria for defining endangered species to measure rate and prevalence of language loss, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature - See more at:
used the criteria for defining endangered species to measure rate and prevalence of language loss, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. - See more at:
used the criteria for defining endangered species to measure rate and prevalence of language loss, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. - See more at:
used the criteria for defining endangered species to measure rate and prevalence of language loss, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. - See more at:
Posted: 3 September 2014

The Baroque in Britain


Credit: Adam Foster (cropped)

Radio 4 iplayer has a useful series of 15 minute programmes on the Baroque in Britain presented by Tim Marlow:

See also:

  • Klaus Carl and Victoria Charles, Baroque Art (New York: Parkstone Press International, 2014)
  • Ernst Hans Gombrich, The Story of Art (several editions)

Are you struggling to access Radio 4 iplayer? Click on 'How to listen' in the menu on the left of this help section. If you are outside the UK, see the iplayer access information.

Posted: 23 August 2014

Language and spatial conceptions of time



In most languages time is talked about in spatial terms, with the future presented as being 'in front' of the person experiencing it. For example, in English we speak about 'looking forward' to doing something.

A recent study in Psychology looked at the conceptualisation of time in Moroccan speakers of Arabic. Although in linguistic terms, the future is 'ahead' in Arabic just as it is in English, Juanma de la Fuente and colleagues found that Moroccan Arabic speakers went against this convention in their hand gestures, with implications for how we understand space-time mappings. (1)

Juanma de la Fuente and colleagues also mention Aymara, a language from the Andean region of western Bolivia. In Aymara, the relation between time and space does not seem to work in the same way. To quote a different article:

In Aymara, the basic word for FRONT (nayra, "eye/front/sight") is also a basic meaning PAST, and the basic word for BACK (qhipa, "back/behind") is a basic expression for FUTURE meaning. [...] Is it in fact an instance of the same mappings as we have seen in other languages, "reversed" in some way, or are there quite different metaphoric mappings involved? How would we know? (2)

How do you think that the differences between English and Aymara would be of interest to researchers in Linguistics and Psychology? Can you think of any research questions or hypotheses? How would you design an experiment to test your ideas?

You may be interested to look at:

(1) This British Psychology research digest post about the research by Juanma de la Fuente and colleagues.

(2) This difficult but interesting article about Aymara: Rafael Nunez and Eve Sweetser, 'With the Future Behind Them: Convergent Evidence from Aymara Language and Gesture in the Crosslinguistic Comparison of Spatial Construsals of Time' in Cognitive Science 30 (2006), pp1-49

If you would like to keep yourself informed about research topics in Psychology, do keep an eye on the British Psychological Society Research Digest Blog.

Posted: 21 August 2014

The Year In Industry Scheme

hard hat

Credit: Terry Ross

The Year In Industry Scheme places talented students in degree-relevant, paid work placements in the UK during a gap year between school and a university degree in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

This opportunity would allow you to gain relevant work experience in your  intended field, add new skills and knowledge to your CV, and deepen your understanding for your chosen degree subject. The Year in Industry Scheme applies to companies on your behalf, helps to coordinate any interviews, and supports you during the placement. Additional Maths courses are available through the Year In Industry to ensure that you keep your maths skills sharp while away from the academic environment.

Information for all students interested in taking a gap year is on our gap year page.

Posted: 21 August 2014

Law Virtual Classroom

If you want to study Law at university and have not studied the subject formally before, you might enjoy Pembroke College's virtual classroom.

Through exercises in the Understanding Law and Legal Skills sections, this resource aims to give you a better understanding of the nature and function of law, as well as some of the debates that surround the law. It will also help you to develop some of the skills involved in studying and practising law.

Posted: 20 August 2014

How Chemistry Changed the First World War (Cambridge, 11 September)

Experiment in lab

Credit: Ed Uthman

If you are interested in History and/or Chemistry and live close to Cambridge, you might be interested to attend Michael Freemantle's public lecture on how “The Great War” was a Chemists’ War.

The lecture will discuss how Chemistry underpinned military strategy and determined the shape, duration and outcome of the First World War. Chemistry was not only a destructive instrument of war but also protected troops, and healed the sick and wounded. From bullets to bombs, poison gases to anaesthetics, khaki to cordite, Chemistry played a pivotal role in the trenches, in the casualty clearing stations and military hospitals, in the tunnelling operations in the air, and at sea.

Michael Freemantle is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He is the author of Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! How Chemistry Changed the First World War (History Press, 2014).


  • 7pm on 11 September 2014
  • Pfizer Lecture Theatre, Department of Chemistry, Lensfield Road, Cambridge (map)
  • Please see this website for further details.
Posted: 18 August 2014

Cambridge College Open Days for Year 13

Entrance to King's Porters' Lodge

The Porters' Lodge, just inside the entrance of King's on King's Parade

If you are planning to apply to Cambridge this October and would like to attend a College Open Day, do see this page for the events available.

Here at King's, we welcome bookings for our open afternoon on Tuesday 16 September - see our open days page for details and the form.

If you are visiting other Colleges and would like to see King's on the same day, do introduce yourself at the porters' lodge and say that you will be applying to Cambridge. The porters will be happy to let you walk around the public areas, and you might find our self-guided tour useful so that you know what you are looking at. NB if there is a 'College Closed' sign at the front gate, please don't be put off as this just means that tourists cannot enter.

If you are visiting Cambridge on your own, you might also enjoy the Following in the Footsteps audio tour.

Posted: 15 August 2014

Young Geographer of the Year Competition

Glacial outwash river

A glacial river. Credit: Mike Beauregard

The annual Young Geographer of the Year Competition is run by the Royal Geographical Society in conjunction with Geographical Magazine. There are four categories for different age groups including 14-16 (Years 10 and 11) and 16-18 (Years 12 and 13), as well as younger pupils.

This year's question is: How can Geography help you?

  • Students in Years 10 and 11 are asked to produce an annotated diagram or map to answer the question
  • Students in Years 12 and 13 are asked for a 1,500 word essay, which can include illustrations, maps or graphs.

The deadline for entries is Friday 24 October 2014.

If you might like to enter, please read the full information on the Royal Geographical Society website.

Posted: 13 August 2014

Cambridge Science Centre: Extreme Engineering

Ant hill

Have you ever thought about ant hills? Credit: Elroy Serrao

If you are visiting Cambridge, do look up the Public Extreme Engineering exhibition and activities at the Cambridge Science Centre (18 Jesus Lane, CB5 8BQ). This runs until March 2015.

As well as the exhibitions, there will be lots of opportunities to meet research engineers in Cambridge and get a feel for the projects that they are working on. For details, please see the Extreme Engineering website and twitter feed.

Coming up:

  • 24 August - Robogals (Engineers from Cambridge University) will be running a workshop about programming and robotics using Lego
  • 29 August - Find out more about the ingenious structures created by animals with the Museum of Zoology
Posted: 11 August 2014

Animal Farm

Animal Farm book cover

Credit: Juan Pablo Ortiz Arechiga (cropped)

Have you read George Orwell's Animal Farm (first published in England in 1945)? It is just under 100 pages and is widely available in local libraries - why not read the book (or listen to it) without reading anything about it, and see what you make of it. Can you briefly jot down your impressions of what is important in the book? If you are able to get to a local library, you could then do some research about what other people have written on the themes in it.

  • George Orwell, Animal Farm (Penguin, 1996)
Posted: 10 August 2014

STEP Mathematics

Cambridge Centre for Mathematical Sciences

Cambridge Centre for Mathematical Sciences

Students who apply to Cambridge for Mathematics or for Computer Science with the 50% Maths option are normally asked to sit STEP Mathematics exams.

Don't be discouraged if STEP material looks very difficult when you first look at it - the style is very different from A level, IB etc. STEP exams normally require plenty of preparation and practice in order to do well, and there are lots of online resources to help you with this. Your work on STEP will help you a lot with the transition to the kinds of mathematical problem-solving you will meet at Cambridge. Once you get into it, we hope that you will enjoy working on the material!

Here are some resources to help you with your work on STEP:

Posted: 9 August 2014

Thames Tideway Tunnel

London City Airport and the ThamesLondon City Airport and the Thames. Credit: pencefn

According to King’s Engineer Mark Ainslie, ‘engineers are people who apply Maths and Physics to solve problems … in a creative way.’

So try applying your own Maths and Physics to a real life engineering problem: how to tackle the problem of overflows from London's Victorian sewers.  Designed for up to 4 million people 150 years ago, the sewers are not big enough to serve 8 million Londoners today, causing 55 million tonnes of raw sewage to wash into the tidal Thames every year.

Thames Water's proposed solution is the Thames Tideway Tunnel, running for 25 kilometres, at a depth of up to 65 metres below the river.  Tunnelworks is an online resource put together by Thames Water, in which you are asked to apply your Mathematics and Physics to the project.

Taking place for the first time throughout September 2014, Totally Thames is an exciting new, month-long celebration of the river across its 42 London miles:

Posted: 8 August 2014

Hull History Centre

Hull History CentreImage credit: gnomonic

The Hull History Centre brings together the material held by the City Archives and Local Studies Library with those held by the University of Hull. These include the City’s borough archives, dating back to 1299 and amongst the best in the country; records relating to the port and docks of Hull; papers of companies and organisations reflecting Hull’s maritime history; papers of notable individuals including Andrew MarvellPhilip LarkinAmy Johnson and William Wilberforce; records relating to local and national politics and pressure groups; and over 100,000 photographs, illustrations; maps and plans, newspapers, special collections and reference sources relating to Hull and the East Riding.

The History Centre runs regular events, including discovery sessions to learn how to use the resources available in your own research.

Find out about the History Centre's collections and plan your visit.

Posted: 7 August 2014

BALTIC, Gateshead: get involved with contemporary art

BALTIC gallery, GatesheadDavid Shrigley, "You cannot help looking at this," hanging on the north face of the BALTIC, Gateshead. Credit: Glen Bowman

BALTIC is an international contemporary art centre, housed in a converted flour mill on the South bank of the River Tyne in Gateshead.

It is currently showing exhibitions by Daniel Buren (until 12 October) and Lydia Gifford (until 2 November). The gallery is free to use and open to all daily from 10am to 6pm (10.30am on Tuesday). You can also drop into the BALTIC Library, in which you can browse books and journals on contemporary art and design.

BALTIC is currently recruiting a team of enthusiastic and motivated 14 - 25 year-olds to help create and curate new ways to get involved with contemporary art.  See the BALTIC website to find out more.

Posted: 6 August 2014

CREST Awards: for project work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

Making a pin-hole cameraMaking a pin-hole camera. Credit: Tess Watson

The British Science Association supports, assesses, and awards students undertaking project work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. You can register and work towards one of their CREST Awards either through your school / college or independently. You could build a pin-hold camera, design a bespoke fitness regime and diet for an athlete, or investigate the effect of natural and chemical additives in bread.

Look at the British Science Association website to find:

Good luck and enjoy!

Posted: 5 August 2014

AS / A2 Level Travel Writing Competition (for students in the South of England)

Multilingual sign outside restaurant in Lugano, SwitzerlandSign outside a restaurant in Lugano, Italian-speaking Switzerland. Credit: Eric Andresen

Routes into Languages (South Consortium) are running a travel writing competition for students currently taking AS or A2 Levels in the South of England.

Based on your travel experiences, write a feature article of no more than 500 words in your chosen target language (French, German, Spanish, or Italian). You could win a £50 Amazon voucher for your efforts! The closing date for the competition is 1 September and the winners will announced on the European Day of Languages (26 September).

For more information, please see the competition website.

Posted: 4 August 2014

'The words on the page': practical criticism

TextClose reading. Credit: Radek Szuban

Practical criticism is a skill required in all three years of the Cambridge English degree. Developed by Cambridge literary critic I. A. Richards in the 1920s, the exercise is designed to make you focus on 'the words on the page.'  You are given an unseen text and asked to respond to its form and meaning.

This year, Cambridge students hit the headlines when they were asked to analyse Morrissey's Autobiography (2013) and Andre Letoit's (Koos Kombuis) 'Tipp-Ex Sonate' (1985) (a poem with no words, only punctuation) in their practical criticism papers.

Why not try your hand at practical criticism yourself? The Faculty of English's Virtual Classroom provides a good starting point:

You can also read I. A. Richards, Practical Criticism (1929).

Posted: 1 August 2014

Siegfried Sassoon's war diaries published in the Cambridge Digital Library

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967). Credit: Pere Ubu

The Cambridge University Library holds the papers of its former student and First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967). Now, for the first time, Sassoon's journals are freely available online as part of the Cambridge Digital Library.

Amidst the daily minutiae of life in the trenches, Sassoon recorded:

  • the first day of the Somme, 'a sunlit picture of Hell,' on July 1916
  • the Battle of Arras, during which he was 'fully expecting to get killed,' but was instead shot in the shoulder by a sniper, causing a dramatic deterioration in his handwriting from 15 - 16 April 1917
  • draft and fair copies of his 'Soldier's Declaration' against the conduct of the war, written and issued in June-July 1917
  • an early version of his poem 'The Dug-Out,' with an additional, excised verse, written in July 1918 and published in Picture-Show (1919)

The Siegfried Sasoon diaries had previously been edited by Rupert Hart-Davies and published in the 1980s.  So how does seeing the original manuscript versions change our perceptions of Sassoon's life and poetry? Does seeing the mud and candlewax on their pages add to a historian's understanding of Sassoon's experience in the trenches? How useful is either textual criticism (the effort to establish a text as nearly as possible to its original form) or genetic criticism (the effort to trace and understand the process of writing a text) to a literary scholar?

You can read Sassoon's poetry and browse related primary documents in the University of Oxford's First World War Poetry Digital Archive Sassoon Collection.

Posted: 31 July 2014

Women in Engineering

According to the Institute of Engineering and Technology's latest skills report

"the number of women in engineering remains very low at 6%, which has not significantly changed in all the years this survey has been carried out."

Why are there so few female engineers? Zoe Conway reported from the Crossrail 2 project on why engineering remains a male-dominated industry for Radio 4's Today programme this morning.

The WISE Campaign (Women into Science and Engineering) offers lots of online resources to young women thinking about studying and pursuing a career in Engineering, including:

The Women's Engineering Society was founded in 1919 by women engineers in the First World World War who wished to continue their work in peacetime. They support prospective women engineers in gaining the Advanced Leaders Award for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

Here in Cambridge, the Department of Engineering holds an Athena SWAN Bronze Award, in recognition of its commitment to promoting and supporting the careers of women in engineering. Ann Dowling, Head of the Department, offers the following advice to young women engineers:

  1. try always to respond positively to opportunites that come your way;
  2. don't wait for the 'perfect time' before applying for things - sometimes you just have to have a go;
  3. find a field of resarch that really interests you and has scope to expand in the future.
Posted: 31 July 2014

Biologising the Social Sciences

Human skullSpoiling for a fight? Credit: driki

Academics have increasingly turned to evolutionary explanations for the human condition, variously arguing that:

You can find out more about evolutionary psychology and explore more of its theories in Evolutionary Psychology, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal showcasing work across the human sciences.

But are there limits to the explanatory power of evolution? David Canter, Professor of Psychology at the University of Huddersfield, thinks so. He made a trenchant case against biologising the social sciences in David Canter, ‘Challenging neuroscience and evolutionary explanations of social and psychological processes,’ Contemporary Social Science, 7 (2012), 92-115.

You can listen to David Canter debate the issues with Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, on Radio 4's Inside Science programme (the item begins at 18 minutes).

How far would you take evolutionary explanations of human behaviour?

Posted: 29 July 2014

Languages Summer School at Sidney Sussex College - places available!

German flag

Image credit: fdecomite

Sidney Sussex College is running a residential summer school for Language-based subjects on 18-20 August this year. If you are in Year 12 and considering an application to study languages at Cambridge, please do apply for this opportunity!

This course is suitable for students interested in studying:

Through sample lectures, classes and small group tuition you will have the opportunity to see what it is like studying languages at university level, find out more about languages and cultures themselves, and mix with other students from all over the country who share your interests. You will also experience the College environment, which will be helpful whichever Cambridge College you eventually apply to.

There is no charge for the summer school. If you are eligible for free school meals, Sidney Sussex may be able to help with travel costs.

If you are interested in attending the summer school, please email Carly Walsh at Sidney Sussex College for further details.

Posted: 28 July 2014

Mathematical ways to spend your summer


A spiral pattern in an aloe plant. Credit: Kai Schreiber

Here are some suggestions (suitable for students at all stages in maths) from Steve Hewson on the NRICH Mathematics website:

NB the 'stages' mentioned on the NRICH website correspond to UK Key stages. As a guide:

  • Stage 3 uses maths you would normally meet before the age of 14
  • Stage 4 uses maths you would normally meet before the age of 16
  • Stage 5 uses maths you would normally meet post 16.
Posted: 27 July 2014

On interviews

Woman reading

One of the things that interviewers look for is genuine interest. Image credit: THX0477

We interview most people who apply to Cambridge (more than 80%). It is in interviews that subject specialists are able to work with you directly, see how you think and work, and really explore your academic potential for the course that you've applied for.

We hope that you will find the following new Cambridge University film useful, and we particularly hope that it will put any summer work that you are doing to develop your interests into context!

Posted: 27 July 2014

Centre for Computing History

A Namco NeGcon controller

A Namco NeGcon controller for Playstation. Image credit: Blake Patterson

A Centre for Computing History opened in Cambridge earlier this year, which offers a fascinating exploration of the historical, social and cultural impact of developments in personal computing. It is open to visit Wed - Saturday each week, and there are also lots of workshops and talks over the summer that may be of interest. See full details on the website.

Online resources include:

For information about the history of computing at Cambridge, you may be interested in:

Posted: 26 July 2014

Sutton Hoo and the British Museum

Sutton Hoo Helm

The Sutton Hoo helmet at the British Museum. Image credit: Rob Roy

If you would like to explore Anglo-Saxon history and archaeology, you might enjoy visiting the sixth and early seventh century burial mounds and the Exhibition Hall at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, or the Sutton Hoo and Europe AD300 - 1100 collection at the British Museum in London.

Posted: 25 July 2014

Shakespeare Festival

King's garden

The College gardens are regularly used for outdoor theatre in the summer.

In the nice weather, you might enjoy some outdoor Shakespeare if you're visiting Cambridge. The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival is on at the moment and four new plays are about to start their run:

  • Othello in Trinity College Gardens (28 July - 16 August)
  • Twelfth Night in St John's College Gardens (28 July - 16 August)
  • The Merchant of Venice in Robinson College Gardens (28 July - 23 August)
  • The Taming of the Shrew in Homerton College Gardens (28 July - 23 August)

Performances start at 7.30pm, and if you bring proof that you're a student in full-time education, you can get a concession ticket for £11. Please see the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival website for full details and booking.

Posted: 24 July 2014

Navigation at sea in the eighteenth century

Navigation at sea was a real problem in the eighteenth century. Although ships could work out their latitude from the position of the sun, it was difficult to know how far east or west they were. In 1714 a Longitude Act was passed, offering rewards of up to £20,000 for anyone who could solve the problem of finding longitude at sea.

The National Maritime Museum and Cambridge University have put the archives relating to this period of exploration and invention online - do watch the film and explore the website. If you live near enough to visit Greenwich, you may enjoy one of the Longitude Season events.

Posted: 23 July 2014

The Rise, Rise, and Rise of Chemical Engineering

Everyday PlasticsEveryday Plastics. Art Exhibition in Christchurch Botanical Gardens. Credit: Geof Wilson

The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that the UK needs 100,000 graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) simply to sustain its existing industries. So Geoff Maitland, President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), is right to celebrate the rise in the numbers of applications for Engineering in general, and Chemical Engineering in particular.

Are you thinking of studying Engineering at university? Why not Chemical Engineering? IChemE explains:

Chemical engineering is all about changing raw materials into useful products you use everyday in a safe and cost effective way. For example petrol, plastics and synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon, all come from oil. Chemical engineers understand how to alter the chemical, biochemical or physical state of a substance, to create everything from face creams to fuels.

Posted: 23 July 2014

Girl Summit 2014

Alimatu Dimonekene speaking at the Girl Summit

Alimatu Dimonekene speaking. Image credit: UK Department for International Development

The Girl Summit 2014 was held in London yesterday, focusing on domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage.


World Health Organisation factsheet on Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change

Girl Summit 2014:

How should an anthropologist study female genital mutilation?

Posted: 23 July 2014

How well do you know your local area?

Berwick upon Tweed town centre

Berwick upon Tweed, Northumberland. Image credit: Laszlo Ilyes

The Office for National Statistics has produced an interesting survey based on the 2011 census.

If you live in England or Wales, do have a look:

Further ways of exploring the census data are available in:

Posted: 22 July 2014

Tony Blair: Twenty Years On

Tony Blair at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2009Tony Blair in Davos in 2009. Credit: World Economic Forum

Twenty years ago today Tony Blair was elected leader of the Labour Party. Read his first speech on becoming leader and his latest speech reflecting on the twentieth anniversary of his election.

Key figures and commentators from the Blair years  have been reflecting on Blair's legacy in the newspapers:

You could follow up on these assessments by reading more about Tony Blair in his own words...

... and in the view of political scienitsts:

How have assessments of Tony Blair's leadership and legacy changed over the course of the past twenty years and why?

Posted: 21 July 2014

Edgar Jones Philosophy Essay Competition (Year 12)

Middlesbrough Library

Middlesbrough Central Library. Image credit: summonedbyfells (cropped)

If you have just finished Year 12 and are looking for some Philosophy questions to get your teeth into during the summer, you may be interested in the 2014 Edgar Jones Philosophy Essay Competition which is being held by St Peter's College, Oxford.

You are asked to choose one of the following two questions:

  1. Does the fact that our senses can deceive mean that we can have no perceptual knowledge?
  2. Could you be a bad person and yet do the right thing all the time?

The closing date for submissions is 12 September 2014, there's a word limit of 2000 words, and you will notice that the judges are looking for clarity of thought and expression and cogency in your arguments in particular. Do read the full details on the St Peter's College website before you start your research!

Posted: 21 July 2014

The Virtual Chopin

Chopin statue in Manchester

The Chopin statue in Deansgate, Manchester. Image credit: Mike Kniec (cropped)

Have you come across any music by Fryderyk Chopin that you can think of? He was a nineteenth century composer and is the subject of The Virtual Chopin presented by Professor John Rink from Cambridge University Faculty of Music.

Further exploration:

Posted: 20 July 2014

The Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi

A Raspberry Pi. Photo credit: Teardown Central

The Raspberry Pi is a flexible low-cost computer. It is great for experimenting with programming and electronics.

The Raspberry Pi website includes an introduction, quick start guide, software downloads and lots of other information to help you get started on all kinds of projects.

There are three models:

  • Model A (15 British pounds / 25 US dollars)
  • Model B (22 British pounds / 35 US dollars)
  • Model B+ (22 British pounds / 35 US dollars)

There are lots of resources available online so if you have a particular interest, do search for it. Here are a few useful sites:

Posted: 19 July 2014

Trainers, pumps, plimsolls or daps?

Plimsolls? No, daps. Credit: dave

How do you refer to the appropriate footwear for a PE class?  Trainers, pumps, plimsolls, or daps?  The word you use almost certainly reflects where you live, or where you grew up. 

Researchers in Linguistics can use lexical variation (our choice of words or phrases), phonological variation (the way in which we pronounce certain words), and syntactic variation (the way in which we construct sentences) to draw maps of dialect variation, such as those produced by the Multilingual Manchester project.

King's teacher and researcher Bert Vaux and his colleague Scott Golder created a dialect survey whilst he was at Harvard in 2002 which went viral when it was featured in the New York Times last year. Bert says:

"What's been most exciting about the newest viral episode is the demonstration over a pool of several million test subjects that it is possible to identify the regional origins of English speakers just from subtle lexical 'tells.'"

You can hear Bert discussing the latest success of the survey and the conclusions he drew from it on National Public Radio (NPR) in the U.S. in February.

If you'd like to contribute to Bert's ongoing research, you can take the Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes now.

Posted: 18 July 2014

RIBA Stirling Prize 2014 Shortlist

The London Shard from Tower BridgeThe Shard from Tower Bridge. Credit: Loco Steve

The Shard: do you love it or hate it? The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) have nominated the controversial London skyscraper for its Stirling Prize 2014. The Prize is awarded annually to the best building in the UK by RIBA chartered architects and International Fellows, or in the rest of the EU by a RIBA chartered architect.

The full shortlist is:

The debate about the worthiness of the contenders, the injustice of the omissions, and the rightfulness of the eventual winner has begun. Join in the debate on Building Design Online.

RIBA offers extensive information and guidance on becoming an architect and runs regular educational activities. Get involved!

Posted: 17 July 2014

The Euro and Its Impact

Euro notes

Credit: Images money

What does economics tell us about the operation of single currency areas and currency unions (such as the Eurozone)?

This is one of the questions that the Euro and Its Impact resource asks you to consider. This pdf was produced by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), and is designed for sixth formers with an interest in economic affairs and policy. It provides information on the topic as well as suggestions for further reading.

If you would like to find out more about the Institute of Economic Affairs and what it does, do have a look at its IEA website. If you have a particular area of interest, you may find the policy areas section useful for finding relevant material.

Posted: 17 July 2014

Trinity College's Robson History Prize (Year 12)


What is to be gained by studying the histories of seas or oceans?
Image credit: AvidlyAbide

If you are interested in History (including historical aspects of a wide range of courses from Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic to Economics, Philosophy and Theology) why not think about some of the questions that Trinity College has set for their Robson History Prize? There's a wide choice of 59 titles, so you are bound to find a topic that you would enjoy studying.

Here are just a few of them:

  • What was the role and influence of Queens in Anglo-Saxon England?
  • Was the Hundred Years War really a single conflict?
  • What were the causes of the European ‘witchcraze’ in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?
  • What sort of a revolution was the French revolution?
  • How did the Atlantic slave trade affect state formation and economic growth in West Africa?
  • Why was the Spanish civil war so bloody?
  • ‘The Attlee government’s failure to create a socialist commonwealth was as much due to ideological shortcomings as economic constraints.’ Discuss.
  • To what extent do market forces pose a threat to the accuracy of popular history?
  • Is the goal of Aristotle’s Politics to arrive at a theory of the best state?

If you would like to work on an essay to enter in the competition, the deadline is 1 August and do make sure that you read the full details (including the full list of titles) on Trinity College's website before you start. If you don't have chance or don't want to do that, do have a look at the titles nonetheless as there's plenty of inspiration for research and thought.

Posted: 16 July 2014

Summer Reading (and Writing)

Pile of booksCredit: Pam loves pie

As you break up for the vacation, you may be resolving to read through the pile of books that has built up on your bedside table during a busy academic year. But how do you make your summer reading count? As the University of Cambridge advises its students:

Reading for a degree requires different reading skills to reading for pleasure. Developing understanding through reading needs to be an active process, whereby you engage with the text, question and develop your ideas in response to it.

Listen to Hanna Weibye (one of the King's Fellows in History) making a similar point, when she recommends that you read as widely and as critically as possible.


The University of Southampton, the University of Manchester, and the Open University all offer useful advice on how to read in an engaged way.

One way to read effectively is to... write! Once you've read a text, why not write and share a review of it? The Wellcome Trust blog offers advice on how to write a news story from a scientific paper.  The Guardian's Blogging Students advise on how to blog.

Posted: 15 July 2014

The Life Scientific

Julia Lohmann, Co-Existence (2009). An art work made of petri dishes commissioned and exhibited by the Wellcome Trust. Credit: gwire

In the Life Scientific on Radio 4, Professor Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work, finding out what inspires and motivates them. It is fascinating to hear how their academic interests were sparked and developed as they studied and how this led them to forge a career in science.

This morning's programme featured Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, Britain's largest medical research funding charity. Farrar reflected on how his undergraduate studies in Medicine at University College London took him away from medical practice and into clinical research:

The degree opened my eyes to the fact that you could dream a little bit beyond facts and you could ask questions and you could design things to try and answer them.

As a result of his experience as a junior doctor treating patients infected with HIV in the early 1980s, Farrar was inspired to take a PhD in immunology. For sixteen years he was Director of Oxford University's Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where he researched the outbreak of SARS and avian influenza in the region.

If you wish to pursue a career in clinical research, like Farrar, there is the possibility of combining your clinical studies with a PhD. You can read about the MB/PhD programme at Cambridge here.

The Wellcome Trust works to make inspiring, high-quality science education available to all young people. It publishes the Big Picture, an online journal exploring the implications of cutting-edge science. Its June issue includes a feature on citizen science and makes suggestions of how to get involved in scientific research yourself over the summer vacation.


Posted: 15 July 2014

BODY WORLDS Vital - the exhibition of real human bodies (Newcastle, 17 May - 2 November)

Life Science Centre

The Life Science Centre in Newcastle. Credit: Samuel Mann

If you are interested in anatomy, physiology and health, there's a fascinating exhibition of real human bodies, specimens, organs and body slices at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne. The exhibits have been preserved through Plastination (which you can learn more about at the exhibition).

If you can get to Newcastle, it's easy to visit as the Life Science Centre is very close to Newcastle train station. You do have to pay for tickets (see ticket prices).

Posted: 13 July 2014

World population day

Map of the world

Credit: Sherrie Thai

It was World Population Day this week (11 July). Here are some of the articles published:

Posted: 12 July 2014

Pierre Bourdieu: What affects our tastes?

Beach Scene by Renoir

For Bourdieu, cultural consumption  is 'an act of deciphering, decoding, which presupposes practical or explicit mastery of a cipher'. Renoir image credit: freeparking

How much is taste shaped by education and social influences? Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher who looked into these questions, most famously in his 1975 book, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste.

In the introduction, Bourdieu writes:

Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier. Social subjects, classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classifications is expressed or betrayed.

Bourdieu collected information through questionnaires which asked people questions about their tastes in art, literature, music etc. For example, he compared preferences for different musical pieces and charted these against information about each particpant's social background:

Bourdieu's text includes diagrams and charts which plot his results and show correlations that he found in the data. A key idea in this book is that of 'cultural capital', that is, 'assets' that people acquire, such as education and cultural experience, which can affect social mobility regardless of financial means.

If you have the opportunity to look at Bourdieu's work, do have a think about this way of looking at taste. Do you agree / disagree / recognise aspects of it? Can you think of any examples in modern culture and society? What do you think of the way that Bourdieu collected and used his data? Does his work have wider implications for questions of taste, sociology and identity?

Further exploration:

Posted: 11 July 2014

Wrexham Science Festival (17 - 25 July, North Wales)

St Giles Church, Wrexham

St Giles Church, Wrexham.
Image credit: Alan Myers

Do check the list of public events at the Wrexham Science Festival in North Wales on 17-25 July, and book your tickets if you live close enough!

Talks include:

  • Climate Change: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but… what the world’s top climate scientists agree upon
  • Black Holes — What are they and why are they so weird?
  • Heavy Metal Marine Biology - A Rocking Guide to the Seas
  • How well do renewable energy technologies pay back the carbon and energy that is initially invested in them?
Posted: 10 July 2014

Engineering - how to prepare for an application

A bulk superconductor

A bulk superconductor over a magnet

King's Electrical Engineer, Mark Ainslie, is looking at how superconductors can make electric motors work better, and is part of a team that has just broken the world record for the strongest trapped magnetic field in a bulk high-temperature superconductor:

Listen to Mark Ainslie giving advice about how to prepare for your application to study Engineering, and what to expect in your interviews.


Finally, do read about the maths and physics that you need to make a competitive application.

Posted: 9 July 2014

Virginia Woolf exhibition (London, 10 July-26 October)

Book cover

Orlando (1928) is a semi-biographical novel. Credit: crowbot

Virginia Woolf is amongst the most well-known writers of the twentieth century. Do you know what her writing is like?

There is a Virginia Woolf exhibition over the summer (10 July to 26 October) at the National Portrait Gallery in London. It explores Woolf's achievements as a novelist, intellectual, campaigner and public figure.

If you plan to visit the exbibition, you may like to read some of Woolf's work in advance. If you're not sure where to start, here are some suggestions to choose from: 

  • Novels such as Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), or The Waves (1931)
  • Collections of short stories e.g.  A Haunted House and Other Short Stories (1944)
Posted: 6 July 2014

What makes a good question in mathematics?

Question marks

Credit: Roland O'Daniel

What sorts of questions do you enjoy working on in maths and physics? Read Marianne Freiberger's article on mathematical questions in +plus Magazine.

Here are some questions that +plus Magazine has explored:

...and here are some puzzle questions (and links to solutions):

Posted: 3 July 2014

BBC Radio 3 resources


Credit: Jason Hollinger

If you are interested in studying Music, we advise you to get to know as much music as possible, including musical repertoires other than those related to your principal instrument(s). Have you explored the BBC Radio 3 resources? These include:

Posted: 2 July 2014

Cambridge Architecture: exhibition of student work (11-16 July in London)

Preparation for the exhibition

Preparation in Cambridge for a previous ArcSoc exhibition

ArcSoc, the Cambridge University Architecture Society, invites you to attend its summer show:

  • Dates: Friday 11 to Wednesday 16 July 2014
  • Location: Testbed 1, 33 Parkgate Road, London, SW11 4NP
  • Opening times: 10am-6pm
  • Website: ArcSoc

This annual exhibition is entirely planned, built and curated by students. It's a great opportunity to get an insight into the Architecture Department and the work of students from first year to fifth year.

Free public lectures and a day for prospective students are also planned - see the ArcSoc website.

Posted: 1 July 2014

Viktor Shklovsky: making things strange


In Tolstoy's Kholstomer (Strider), a horse is sometimes the narrator.
Image credit: Phil Roeder

In his 1917 essay, 'Art as Technique', Russian writer Viktor Shklovsky argues that often we don't notice things because they are familiar to us. However, art (a term that Shklovsky uses in a broad sense to include literary writing) can present things in a strange or unfamiliar way, which makes us look at them for longer:

Habitualization devours work, clothes, furniture, one's wife, and the fear of war. "If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been." [Shklovsky is quoting Tolstoy's diary] And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects "unfamiliar," to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object.

You might like to read the full text of 'Art as Technique', which was published in English translation in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, ed. by L,T. Lemon and M, J. Reis, pages 3 - 24.

What do you think of Shklovsky's description of the purpose of literary writing? Does his argument apply to all literary texts? Are there genres where you would expect to find this technique more frequently? Can you think of any examples in texts you have read / are reading where something is presented in a strange way that makes you notice it? And can you think of any limitations to Shklovsky's argument?

Further reading:

Posted: 29 June 2014

James Dyson Foundation Challenge: Geodesic Domes

Geodesic dome

Biosphere in Montreal. Credit: Nic Redhead (cropped)

Do you know what a geodesic dome is? It is a structure named in 1949 by an American Engineer called Richard Burkminster Fuller. Amongst the interesting features of geodesic domes is their structural strength and that they are relatively easy to construct.

To build your own geodesic dome out of jelly sweets and cocktail sticks and explore the structure, see this challenge designed by Neil, an electronics engineer at Dyson. Can you describe in as much detail as possible why the geodesic dome is a strong structure?

Posted: 28 June 2014

Precision: the Measure of All Things

Big Ben

Big Ben: accurate to one second an hour, but today we can build clocks that loose one second in 138 million years. Credit: Taz Wake

There was an interesting TV documentary last night telling the history of the science of measurement.

Throughout our history, developments in our ability to measure the world around us have changed our lives. In the documentary, Prof. Marcus du Sautoy explores how seconds and metres came to be as two of the most fundamental units of measure, how distance and time are linked, and the quest for ever greater precision in science.

Catch it on BBC iplayer:

Further documentaries in the same series will be on in the next couple of weeks:

Posted: 26 June 2014

Language learning

Screenshot from Duolingo

Screenshot from Duolingo. Credit: Kristian Bjornand

One of the challenges of learning a foreign language is that you're constantly learning new vocabulary and grammar, yet you also need to meet words that you've previously learnt regularly enough for them to stick in your mind and become part of your active vocabulary.

Here are some resources that you may find useful and enjoyable:

Reading in your language is an important habit to get into. It is not easy, but the more you do it, the more enjoyable it becomes. Do ask your teacher to recommend texts that you could try at your current language level, and look at magazines / newspapers as well.

Parallel text book cover

Credit: Damian Cugley

There are a range of ways to approach reading, and it's good to vary what you're doing. Sometimes you might read a short passage and look lots of words up, other times you could read to get the gist, and only interrupt yourself to look occasional words up. You may also like to explore parallel texts, as these have the language you're learning on one side and the text in English on the other, which can be very helpful.

Posted: 26 June 2014

Medicine essay competition (Year 12)

Laptop and notebook

'I have three supervisions every two weeks, requiring me to write an essay for each.' Shedeh (Medicine).
Photo credit: rhodesj

Are you interested in studying Medicine? As well as needing a strong grounding in your sciences/maths subjects (which is likely to need most of your focus), it's worth remembering that the course requires you to write regular short essays for supervisions. Robinson College is holding an essay competition for prospective Medicine students. The deadline for entries is 1 August 2014, and you can choose between three essay titles.

Posted: 25 June 2014

In Our Time

Students discuss their work with their supervisior in a King's supervision.A King's supervision in progress

What do we mean when we say that we're looking for students who can think critically and independently?

Listening to Radio 4's In Our Time programme will give you an insight into what Cambridge is looking for in our students, our methods of teaching and learning, and our interviews. Each week, presenter Melvyn Bragg discusses a topic in depth with three academics.  You'll notice how in the course of forty-five minutes the guests identify the key questions to be addressed, examine all sides of the debate, frame clear and confident arguments of their own, and engage enthusiastically and flexibly with each other. Much of the teaching and learning at Cambridge happens in similar small group discussions, known as supervisions. In many respects, our interviews model the format of a supervision, so that we admit the students who will benefit most from this style of teaching.

But most importantly, tuning into In Our Time will give you insight into your subject, whatever it may be! The BBC has an archive of 646 programmes and counting, which cover wide-ranging topics in culture, history, philosophy, religion, and science. Last week, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed the philosophy of solitude.  This week, they'll discuss the medieval writer and mystic Hildegard of Bingen. Whatever your interests, you'll find a relevant programme.  You're just as likely to become fascinated by a topic you'd never heard of or thought about before.

Posted: 25 June 2014

Universities Celebrate the Tour de France in Yorkshire and Cambridge

Bicyles outside King's College, CambridgeBicyles outside King's Credit: Paul Shirley

The Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2014 is coming to Britain!

Stage 1: Leeds to Harrogate

The University of Leeds has been counting down to the start of Stage 1 with a timepiece crafted by Engineering students, among other events.

The West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds is showing Maxine Peake's tribute to British cycling champion Beryl Burton from 30 June to 19 July. The theatre is also host to a panel discussion on women in sport on 30 June.

Stage 2: York to Sheffield

The University of York cycled the solar system last weekend in readiness for Stage 2.

Academics from Sheffield Hallam University will lead athletes and commentators in a discussion of the Tour de France's impact on science and techology, health, and economy in its Science of Cycling event on 30 June.

Stage 3: Cambridge to London

The peloton will roll past King's College at the start of Stage 3. The University of Cambridge Museums are marking the occasion. The Polar Museum is holding an exhibition called 'Reinventing the Wheel: Bicyles in the Polar Regions' from 10am to 4pm on 1 - 12 July. The Fitzwilliam is hosting Cambridge Cycle of Songs on the steps of the museum from 11.30 to 12.30 on 7 July.  Local school choirs will sing from nine pieces specially commissioned from composers and poets to celebrate iconic locations along the Tour's route in Cambridge.

As the Tour crosses the English Channel again, Britain's celebration of the bicycle continues. The annual Stockton Cycling Festival returns on 11 - 13 July.

Posted: 24 June 2014

Architecture - Exploring spaces

The Shed (temporary auditorium)

The Shed by Haworth Tompkins - an example of pop up architecture. Image credit: David Holt

What catches your eye? If you're thinking of studying Architecture at university, the summer is a great time to practice your drawing skills, to have a go at capturing your interests with a camera, and to think about the spaces and effects that you notice around you through explorative work in a range of media.

You can do this very well on your own, following your interests. You might like to read the information about portfolios if you would like some advice about work that you can later use in an application to Cambridge, and there are also some examples of application portfolios available - see Portfolio 1 and Portfolio 2.

If you are looking for events to attend, as well as any websites about what is on in your local area, RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) has a good What's On? page for events up and down the UK, or you can look up events all over the world on the e-architect website

Posted: 22 June 2014

Last chance to book for Cambridge Law Open Day!

Inside the Law Faculty

The Law Faculty reception area

If you'd like to book a place on a Cambridge Law Faculty Open morning or afternoon on Wednesday 2 July, do send your booking form as soon as possible. The deadline for the faculty to receive your form is Wednesday 25 June (you need to post or email the information).

Posted: 21 June 2014

Tails You Win: The Science of Chance

There is another opportunity to watch David Spiegelhalter's Tails You Win: The Science of Chance documentary on the BBC iPlayer. David Spiegelhalter is "Professor Risk," or more properly Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. He shows us how to use (or how not to use!) statistics to understand the risks we face in everyday life.

Read more of David Spiegelhalter's work on his Understanding Uncertainty website and in the archive of his columns for Plus magazine.

Posted: 18 June 2014

The 2014 Cambridge Open Days Programme is published!

Cambridge Open Days programme cover

The large Cambridge Open Days are on Thurs 3 and Fri 4 July. This event is for students who are considering an application in September/October 2014.

Do explore the 2014 Cambridge Open Days programme for details of course presentations and sample lectures in your subject, College opening times and locations. If you are interested in visiting a particular College, their website will normally have more detail. At King's, we're open from 9 until 5.30pm as part of the Cambridge Open Days, and we invite you to join tours of the College, subject meetings (students only for those) and chat with current students and admissions staff. See the details for Thurs 3 July and for Fri 4 July.

Booking is required. Although there are no general places left for the Cambridge Open Days, there are still plenty of places available for students who book to attend a College Open Day (you will also be able to attend Cambridge Open Day events in the afternoon) or a North East Welcome Event (please email us for details if you're from the North East). Please see the information about how to attend the Cambridge Open Days now that registration has closed.

We hope to see you there! If you can't attend, don't worry though, as the information that you need to make a successful application is also available online, and you are welcome to email us with any questions.

Posted: 18 June 2014

Use Your Local Library

Student studying in King's College Library

King's graduate Zadie Smith (English, 1994-1997) celebrated and defended local libraries in this 2012 essay, explaining that:

"Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay."

At Cambridge, our students have 114 libraries to choose from.  You can take a virtual tour of the King's College Library and watch Cambridge students' quest for the perfect desk.

As your exams come to an end and a lovely, long Summer beckons, you'll have more time to read around your subject.  If you don't already use your local library, you will find out where it is and what it has to offer here.  If your local library doesn't have what you're looking for, you can request an inter-library loan.

Your local university library may be able to help, too.  For example, Newcastle University's Sixth Form Access Scheme provides reference facilities for Year 12s and 13s in the North East of England.  The University of Reading Library offers similar opportunities to local sixth formers.

Posted: 17 June 2014

Are you going to a UCAS Higher Education Convention?

Hull Paragon Station.
Credit: Phil Richards

There are lots of UCAS Higher Education Conventions on at the moment. These are a great opportunity to talk to reps from different universities and explore your options further. There will be a lot of people there, so our advice is to make a list of the universities that you particularly want to talk to, and also to think about what questions you will ask them before the event. Good luck!

Posted: 15 June 2014

English Literature essay competition (Year 12)

It's important not just to read, but to think about the books.
Credit: Robert (cropped)

Essay titles from Trinity College:

  • 'Homer and the other poets... composed false stories which they told and still tell to mankind.' (Plato); 'Now, for the poet, he nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth.' (Philip Sidney). Discuss any aspect of the relationship between literature and lying, with detailed reference to at least one work.
  • 'The only advice, indeed, that one can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions.' (Virginia Woolf). How much is reading a matter of instinct, how much is it a matter of reason, and does reading ever bring instinct and reason into conflict? Discuss with reference to one or more works.

These are just two of the six possible essay titles that Trinity College, Cambridge has set for students who would like to enter their Gould Prize for essays in English Literature (open to students in Year 12). See the Trinity College website for full details (including the rest of the possible essay titles). The submission deadline is 1 August 2014. Good luck to those who enter!

Posted: 14 June 2014

Summer Science Exhibition in London (1-6 July)

What do you know about the evolution of butterflies?
Credit: Dennis Jarvis (cropped)

The Royal Society has an annual display of the most exciting cutting-edge science and technology in the UK, including everything from artifical intelligence and car crash investigation to tropical storms, ultrasonic waves, and immune-bacterial interactions

Do make a note if you live close enough to visit. The dates are 1-6 July this year, and the exhibition will take place at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG (near Charring Cross tube station).

See the exhibition website, which includes details of the events and exhibits.

Posted: 13 June 2014

Gender in Japanese Studies - Free book for your school library?

A book of undergraduate dissertations was published last year, exploring emerging and divergent gender issues in Japan. It is called Manga Girl Seeks Herbivore Boy: Studying Japanese Gender at Cambridge, and it offers some fascinating insights into modern Japanese culture and society, as well as a great way to get a flavour of the kinds of material that you could study if you choose Japanese in the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course (even if you've never studied Japanese before!). To find out more about the book, read the news article.

In order to introduce Japanese Studies, the department is offering a free copy to 50 school libraries. Why not ask your school librarian to click here for further information and the request form!

Posted: 12 June 2014

Slavery: Past and Present

Anti-Slavery Graffiti by Paul Don Smith

Street art by Paul Don Smith. Credit: MsSaraKelly

The Queen's Speech last week included the announcement of a Modern Slavery Bill, which promises to strengthen the prosecution of  human traffickers and improve the protection of victims.

The University of Hull's Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation hosts research into both historical forms of slavery and contemporary forms of enslavement. You can watch Prof. Catherine Hall (UCL) deliver the Institute's Annual Alderman Sydney Smith Lecture on 'Re-thinking the Legacies of Slavery.'

Hull Museums have extensive collections celebrating the work of local son and anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833). You can visit Wilberforce House Museum to see the collections for yourself.

Liverpool is home to the International Slavery Museum.

M Shed in Bristol reflects on the city's role in the slave trade. You can visit the museum, or browse its Transatlantic Slave Trade collection online.

The University of Cambridge offers some resources for the study of slavery here.

Anti-Slavery Day is on Saturday 18 October this year. How will you mark it?

Posted: 11 June 2014

What's on Radio 4?

Credit: Adam Foster (cropped)

If you're interested in economics, politics or sociology, recent programmes available on bbc iplayer radio include:

To find other programmes, do explore the Radio 4 website.

Are you struggling to access Radio 4? Click on 'How to listen' in the menu on the left of this help section. If you are outside the UK, see the iplayer access information.

Posted: 11 June 2014

Free Taster Day in Latin and Classics - Saturday 21 June

Credit: Giovanni

If you're considering an application for Classics at Cambridge and you've never studied Latin at school or college, we invite you to book a place on a free taster day in Cambridge on Saturday 21 June. Fifty travel bursaries of up to £50.00 are available on a first come, first served basis.

Please see the Classics Faculty website and further information for details of the event and how to book your place.

Posted: 10 June 2014

Fantasy GCSE Set Texts

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

Credit: tonynetone

What set texts did you read for your GCSE English Literature?

In the Guardian this weekend, authors chose the set texts they would like GCSE students to read.  Cambridge Classicist Mary Beard took the opportunity to 'bring in the classical world by the back door, via some great works of English literature.' She set William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (1599); Robert Graves, I Claudius (1934); Chrisopher Logue, War Music (1959 - 2011); and Carol Ann Duffy, The World's Wife (1999).

  • Which texts would you set GCSE students?
  • In making your choice, what is the most important consideration?  Introducing students to classic works, or engaging their interests?  Representing a range of literary genres and periods, or promoting particular approaches and topics?  Capturing the national heritage, or celebrating cultural diversity?
Posted: 9 June 2014

'Eugene' Passes the Turing Test

Alan Turing

Alan Turing

Sixty-five years ago, King's mathematician and pioneer computer scientist Alan Turing famously asked 'Can Machines Think?' To answer his own question, he conceived a test in which questions would be put to both a human and a machine, in an attempt to distinguish one from another.  On Saturday, the Turing Test was passed for the very first time by supercomputer 'Eugene Goostman,' which convinced some of the judges that it was a thirteen year-old boy from Odessa, Ukraine.

  • Is 'Eugene' really thinking?
  • What are the limits to artificial intelligence?

Find out more about the successful Turing Test 2014, organised by the University of Reading and hosted by the Royal Society.

Talk to 'Eugene' yourself (you may have difficulty accessing this site due to the extent of public interest at the moment!)

Read more about the sixty-five year history of the Turing Test in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Posted: 9 June 2014

Treating MS - science and clinical trials

When a patient has MS (Multiple Sclerosis), the immune system begins to attack the body's own healthy nerve cells. The disease strips away their protective sheath, and prevents electrical signals from moving effectively between the brain and the body.

Researchers at Cambridge have been working on a treatment for MS for some time, and the drug that they have developed was recently approved for use in people with MS. The following film explains the science and clinical trials behind this:

Posted: 8 June 2014

Celebrating Dickens

Illustration from 'The Pickwick Papers'

Illustration from The Pickwick Papers. Credit: Sue Clark

Have you read a book by Charles Dickens?

The University of Warwick have a Celebrating Dickens website, on which you can access articles, videos, podcasts, and a documentary about different aspects of the work of Charles Dickens and the Victorian era in which he lived. There's also a mobile app if you prefer.

Posted: 7 June 2014

Problem-solving website for Engineering

Connel Bridge

Connel Bridge in Scotland
Credit: artq55

When you're doing exercises in maths and physics, how much do you feel like you're relying on previous examples that you have memorised, and how much time do you spend problem solving, or working on a kind of question that requires more thought?

Cambridge University Engineering Department has a website designed for developing and practicing problem solving in many contexts - do explore this resource:

Further information

Posted: 6 June 2014

Universities Week: 9 - 15 June 2014

Elvet Bridge, Durham

Elvet Bridge on the River Wear, Durham. Credit: Tim Rawle

Next week is Universities Week! From Monday 9 to Sunday 15 June, universities across the UK are inviting us to be inspired, get involved and discover the work that they are doing to improve the way we live our lives.

As part of Universities Week 2014, you can...

  • Dive into Durham. Find out about the amazing discoveries made by Gary Bankhead, underwater archaeologist at the University of Durham, in the River Wear.  The exhibition opens at Palace Green Library, Durham, on Saturday 7 June
  • Try to tell a human from a machine at Turing 2014.  King's mathematician Alan Turing famously asked 'Can machines think?'  The University of Reading is conducting live Turing tests - pitting man against machine - at the Royal Society in London on Saturday 7 June
  • View the Cleveland College of Art and Design's Degree Exhibition 2014.  The students' work will be showcased to the public at Church Square, Hartlepool from Friday 6 to Saturday 14 June

Find an event near you.

Posted: 5 June 2014

Subject Conferences at the University of York

Booking is open for Year 12 subject conferences at the University of York, offering an insight into degree-level study in specific subjects.

  • 27 June - Philosophy Conference
  • 11 July - Chemistry Conference

See the York University website for details and booking.

Posted: 5 June 2014

Literature of the liberation (1944-1946)

Cambridge University Library

Cambridge University Library

What sort of books do you think were published in France just after the liberation of Paris in 1944? This website and film are part of an exhibition at Cambridge University Library exploring the first writings of French authors on their experiences in the War, occupation and liberation.

Once Paris was free and the Vichy government had collapsed, there was no more censorship. Books were published even while the War was still being fought in some parts of France.

If you're near enough to also visit, this free exhibition is open from 7 May until 11 October. See details for visiting.

Posted: 4 June 2014

Vice Chancellor celebrates Britain's 'living languages'

Italian books

Credit: Helder da Rocha (cropped)

Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, yesterday made a persuasive case for learning languages.  He was speaking from personal experience; as the Welsh-born son of Polish refugees,  he spoke Polish at home and learned English when he began school at the age of five.  He has found that bilingualism is an asset, both to the individual and to the nation:

These are real languages: living languages that give people a huge insight into culture and give the children who can speak them additional opportunities.

'I'd love to see more children in Britain having more than one language,' he concluded.

Cambridge offers opportunities to learn and use languages in its Modern and Medieval Languages, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Classics, and Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic courses.

Whether or not you study a language as part of your degree, you can always take a language course alongside your undergraduate studies. The MML Certificate and Diploma is available, both for students starting new languages, or those continuing a language they studied at school. There are also a range of Language Centre Courses, as well as opportunities to study a language independently using the Language Centre's resources.  The Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic Department provides free classes in Modern Icelandic and Irish.  There are also more informal opportunities to learn and speak a foreign language.  Student societies organise conversation meetings, such as the CU German Society's Stammtisch where society members meet in the pub to socialise in German.

Posted: 4 June 2014