Subject tasters at Cambridge including an overnight stay

Trinity College

The Wren Library at Trinity College

Are you in Year 12? Do you want to attend subject taster events but struggle because you live some way from Cambridge? Some Cambridge Colleges offer taster events including an overnight stay, which will be very helpful if you want to find out more about what studying your chosen course will be like. There is no obligation to apply to the College organising the event (though you are welcome to if you want to).

All of the following residentials are free of charge, including accommodation and all meals. Do read the full information and check for eligibility criteria before making an application:

At Corpus Christi College:

At Trinity College:

Booking for all events below closes on 23 May. It's an extended deadline - please ignore the part on the page where it says that booking has closed. You'll see the extended deadline on the application form.

Date posted: 

Thursday 5 May 2016


Topical news debate

Question time panel

Can you think of a recent news story that has particularly interested you or got you thinking? Or one that has caused a lot of controversy?

You might be interested in the weekly Question Time programmes on BBC 1, with topical discussion and debate chaired by David Dimbleby. This week's programme was filmed in Hull and the panellists were Conservative communities secretary Greg Clark, Labour's shadow home secretary Andy Burnham, former leader of the SNP Alex Salmond, former director of the Centre for Policy Studies Jill Kirby, and hedge fund manager and chairman of the ARK chain of academies Paul Marshall.

Who do you agree / disagree with?

International Students: unfortunately you can't access BBC iplayer outside the UK, however there is an equivalent Radio 4 programme which you should be able to access on BBC iplayer Radio called Any Questions (and Any Answers)

Date posted: 

Thursday 28 April 2016


What are you concerned about?

Back court

Many thanks to students from the Hull are who recently visited King's. You may remember that we asked you to write down what you are concerned about at this stage, and said we'd answer some of your concerns here - we think that there will lots of prospective students who are worried about exactly the same things!

Leaving home

Student meeting

A student meeting in the bar
(Photo: Juan Zober de Francisco)

A couple of you mentioned this as a concern and it's certainly one that we meet a lot when we talk to students in schools. If you've not spent much time away from home before, it's worth bearing in mind that the terms at Cambridge University are short and intensive. Did you know that terms here only last eight weeks? Students can choose whether they go home in the vacations or whether they prefer to stay in College (international students often find this useful if they live too far away to go home every vacation). So when you're studying here, you won't really have left home - you'll still spend plenty of time with your family and friends from home as much as you choose to in the vacations. And in term, you can always chat with people on skype etc - it's never been easier to stay in touch with everyone. Importantly, though, you will find that you quickly settle into College life and regard your College as a second home with friends who you get to know really well because you see them all the time. There are also lots of people to talk to (no matter which College you are at) if you do need a bit of extra support.

Not being posh enough

Students on the Back Lawn

You definitely don't have to be posh! We know that it can be hard to get a sense of what it's actually like here, especially if you live some way away. One of our current students, Scott, has written about his experience of starting at King's, and you'll find very detailed pieces written by students on lots of courses on the student perspectives page. If you think it all looks a bit formal, you may enjoy these pictures from one of the King's fundays: file 1; file 2; file 3  and there's also a website called Be Cambridge, which has films and profiles which you might like to explore. The best thing is always to spend some time here (maybe on the summer open days - now open for booking) and chat with students - you'll probably find some who were once worried about not being posh enough too!

How to make my personal statement stand out

What we want more than anything else in the personal statement is for you to write about your genuine interests in your subject, and how you have developed your interests. You may find this FAQ on personal statements helpful. Sometimes trying too hard to stand out can be a bit distracting - we really just want you to be yourself so that your statement is helpful to your (potential) interviewers, to give them a bit of information about where your interests lie before they meet you.

What if I have completely no idea how to answer a question in an interview?

Think about the question carefully first, as you may be able to give a partial answer or explain what you are not sure about. Remember that it's OK to pause to think or to ask the interviewer to explain what they are asking a bit more. But if you have no idea at all, do say so. You won't be the first! Sometimes the interviewers may be able to give you a hint to get you started and then you'll be away, or other times, it may be that there's something that you don't haven't covered that you need, and it's helpful for the interviewers to find this out so that they can ask you a different question that will allow you to show them more about what you can do. Remember that the interviewers want to find out what you can do, so they will do everything possible to give you the opportunity. A really useful film to watch on interviews is this one.

Do I have to play a musical instrument fluently?


Do you enjoy thinking about music? Credit: Robin Zebrowski (cropped)

We assume that this is for an application for Music. You need not be a brilliant performer, though it would be unusual if you were not competent on at least one instrument. A piano technique roughly equivalent to Associated Board Grade VI (by the time you start the course) will be helpful. What is more important for the Music course at Cambridge is that you have a real appetite for approaching music as a subject of intellectual enquiry from a wide range of perspectives, and that you have the curiosity and motivation to engage fully with this challenging course. Of course if you are reading this and really enjoy performing on an instrument, you may be interested in taking the 'performance pathway' option. See the information.

More questions? They can be specific or general. Please don't hesitate to email us!

Date posted: 

Thursday 14 April 2016


Year 12 Mathematical problem-solving day (female only)


Are you:

  • female
  • at a non-selective state-maintained school, sixth-form college or academy in the UK
  • studying A level Maths (and Further Maths if offered by your school), IB Higher level Maths, or equivalent
  • considering applying to study Mathematics or a very closely-related subject at university?

Then do have a look at this mathematics problem-solving day on Monday 18 April

This full-day event is designed to be a stimulating introduction to advanced mathematical problem-solving, and will help students to develop their mathematical thinking and confidence in tackling challenging problems. The day will include morning and afternoon interactive problem-solving workshops, as well as talks giving an accessible insight into some of the areas of maths you may encounter at university.

NB. a limited number of travel grants available, particularly for schools/colleges which are a considerable distance from Cambridge.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 9 March 2016


A round up of forthcoming Year 12 events in Cambridge!

Linguistics talk

There are lots of events in Cambridge and new ones are being advertised regularly. Here is a quick round up of key dates. Click on each link to see info and to book a place:

If you would like to look around King's whilst you are in Cambridge for one of these events, remember that the public areas of College are always open to prospective students. If you introduce yourself at the porters' lodge, the porters will give you a copy on the self-guided tour for prospective students, which will show you what you are looking at, and please feel free to email us after your visit with any questions.

We welcome requests from students at state schools in the areas (except Cambridge) listed below to stay overnight the night before events if accommodation is not provided. If this is relevant to you, please read the full information about the Link Area Accommodation Scheme and how to book an overnight room at King's.

Date posted: 

Thursday 25 February 2016


What does it look like? Virtual tours!

A supervision with two students

A supervision in an academic's room in King's - lots of books!

Increasingly, UK universities are offering virtual tours so that prospective students who can't visit have the opportunity to look around.

If you are thinking about studying at Cambridge University, you may have read about the Cambridge Colleges where students live, socialise and have subject supervisions in small groups with an academic, but sometimes we know that it can be hard to imagine what they look like if you've not had a chance to visit.

Students by a bicycle rack

At King's, we have virtual tours so that you can look around the grounds, the College library and our Chapel. In each case, you can use the 'navigate' button in the top left of the screen to move from place to place. You may also find our map and facilities section useful.

Newnham College

Newnham College. Credit: Steve Cadman (cropped)

You may also want to look inside some of the other Cambridge Colleges. Thanks to Google Streetview, you can look inside: Trinity Hall, Newnham College, Queens' College, Gonville & Caius College, and St John's College. In each case once you are on Googlemaps, you need to look out for the yellow man in the bottom right corner of the screen, and drag and drop him onto the map where the College is in order to look inside.

Fitzwilliam College

Fitzwilliam College. Credit: Alvin Leong

Other Colleges have tours more like the King's ones, such as Selwyn College, Pembroke College, Fitzwilliam College, and Sidney Sussex College. Although there is much more to a College community than the buildings and gardens, sometimes liking how a College looks can be the thing that inspires you to find out more on the College websites.

As well as belonging one of the Colleges, all students at Cambridge also go to the relevant faculty for their course (there's a building for each subject), where you are taught in lectures and can use any labs, studios or equipment that is needed, as well as the specialist faculty library. In your faculty, you are taught with students from all of the Colleges who study the same subject as you, so it's also a good chance to meet more people who share your academic interests.

Foyer in the Music Faculty

Foyer in the Music Faculty

For example, in the Music Faculty, as well as lecture theatres and classrooms, the spaces and facilities include the entrance foyer, Music library and Concert Hall, which you can look at (click on the pictures at the bottom to change place).

Date posted: 

Friday 5 February 2016


7 Things you need to know about prime numbers (filmed lecture)

Number 11

Credit: Maret Hosemann (cropped)

Prime numbers are fundamentally important in mathematics. In this Year 12 talk by Dr Vicky Neale (Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford), discover some of the beautiful properties of prime numbers, and learn about some of the unsolved problems that mathematicians are working on today.

For more maths talks and other online resources, see the Millenium Maths Project website.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 3 February 2016


How did you choose your subject or course?


Credit: Dean Hochman

I wouldn't say that I really chose to study Maths at any point. It was simply my best subject and the one I most enjoyed all through school, so naturally if I was going to go to university, I would apply to do maths.
- Josh, Mathematics (more from Josh)

I was ready to commit to science after enjoying it at school but wasn't ready to commit completely to physics, making the Natural Sciences Tripos perfect for me with its breadth.
- Jonny, Natural Sciences (more from Jonny)

I have been interested in people and how they think and behave since I was a small child. I had always seen it as an innate interest, and it wasn’t until I was in sixth form that I began to consider studying social sciences at university. I had never studied Psychology or any similar discipline as an academic subject before, but I realised that a lot of what I was reading, the things I chose to watch on television, and lectures, museums and events I went to had this common theme.
- Lucy, Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (more from Lucy)


Credit: Nick Page

Having decided that I wanted to take further the skills I enjoyed learning in the sciences and maths at school,I decided that Engineering was for me as it provides a more practical and real-world approach to learning than perhaps a ‘pure’ science would. [....] What attracted me to the Cambridge Engineering course was the relatively unique course structure, allowing me to study a wide range of engineering subjects in the first two years before choosing to specialise in the final two years.
- Mark, Engineering (more from Mark)

I didn’t always want to do medicine, like many people claim. [...] But I somehow started to look into [brain surgery] in Year 11. At first, I had no idea what was involved - I thought that I could take a course in neuroscience at university and then (with some training) be allowed to be a brain surgeon! But, the more I dug into the details, the more I realised that actually, things aren’t that simple. You need a medical degree, and have years of specialist training in hospitals afterwards before you can cut up someone’s skull and probe it with various instruments. And so that’s what inspired me to study medicine. Interestingly, I no longer want to be a brain surgeon as I’ve become interested in other areas of medicine, but brain surgery is important because it is what got me into medicine to begin with.
- Shedeh, Medicine (more from Shedeh)

The idea of being able to concentrate on my studies for three years like any other undergraduate immediately appealed. Firstly I would get to further my scientific curiosity before I became a “real” medic, which I hoped would teach me to think critically about every clinical procedure I would have to do, by evaluating its relevance and importance to the scientific community. Secondly, it could also lead to a much swifter entry into research, an alternative field I had been entertaining, if I decided that this was for me.
- Anne, Medicine (more from Anne)

Date posted: 

Friday 29 January 2016


How did you choose your course?

Student reading in the Library

Reading in King's Library: what would you be studying?

In a panel session with undergraduates from Leeds and Sheffield universities, one of you asked about how they chose their course. This is a very good question to ask when you meet current students! Here are some responses from Cambridge undergraduates who enjoyed History at school....though you'll notice that not all of them chose the course called History!

At school, I always enjoyed and did well at essay subjects like History and English. I was just never that excited about maths or science lessons, and I never imagined studying those subjects for longer than I had to.[...] I went to lots of Open Days at various universities around the UK when I was in Year 12. It was the talks about studying History that I found really exciting and which made me want to learn more.[...] I thought that Cambridge was a beautiful place and also small enough that I wouldn’t get lost! When I came for a Cambridge Open Day, I went to a talk about studying History here. Several lecturers spoke to us about the course and the material we could study here, and I was surprised at the different kinds of things I could choose to study. Some areas didn’t interest me at all at first, but some lecturers were so enthusiastic about their specialist areas that I couldn’t help but be interested. Apart from anything else, the talk was really useful in terms of practical information, helping me to understand how the course would be structured, what kind of options were available, and even how to go about studying History at university level. I definitely recommend going to these sorts of talks on Open Days, because even simple information like how many lectures you’d expect to be given, and how you’ll be assessed, can help you decide whether it’s the right subject or university for you.
- Fiona, History (more from Fiona)

I discovered Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic (ASNC) while flicking through the Cambridge prospectus. It’s one of the University’s lesser-known degrees, so I hadn’t seen it online before. The wonderful images of artefacts and the obscure topics in the prospectus entry had me instantly hooked, and I immediately wanted to find out more about the course. I had originally intended to study History at Cambridge, and to specialise in this period, but as soon as I saw ASNC I knew straight away that it was for me! After some further research, it was the small size of the faculty and the total freedom that the course offers from the first year that drew me to it.
- Tom, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (more from Tom)

I chose to study History because it is a subject which I really enjoyed. I definitely think studying something at university that you enjoy is the best idea; you will be spending a lot of time on it!
- Marie, History (more from Marie)

The breadth of my degree is what first drew me to it; the opportunity to continue to explore history and literature and languages all together. Learning ancient languages has always felt a little bit magical for me, like you’re accessing some arcane wisdom, and breaking a code at the same time. Being able to study a culture in its entirety, to track its changes, to read its language, to explore its philosophy, just opens up a whole world of exploration of big ideas about human history and identity, whilst also allowing you to really get to grips with the nitty-gritty textual analysis and specific ideas.
- Qasim, Classics (more from Qasim)

In lower sixth I realised that the one thing that united my A level subjects was the theme of 'religion' and I realised that a Theology degree at Cambridge would enable me to pursue my interest in literature and History while focusing on a core interest of mine, namely religion.
- Eliot, Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion (more from Eliot)

At college I took A-levels in History, English Literature and French. I originally thought that I wanted to study English at university, but as I went through my AS year I realised that History was really where my interest lay, and as I researched university courses I saw how appealing the breadth of material to study as part of a History degree was. Not only did I like the course at Cambridge, but I also knew that I would be being taught by the leading historians in the field.
- Sarah, History (more from Sarah)

Date posted: 

Thursday 28 January 2016


Reith Lectures on Black Holes (Stephen Hawking)

Each year the BBC invites leading speakers in different fields to deliver the Reith lectures, which are broadcast on Radio 4. The subject of this year's Reith Lectures is Black Holes and the speaker is Stephen Hawking. If you have not already caught them, you might enjoy the following Radio 4 broadcasts:

..and if you'd like to test your knowledge, do have a look at this quiz on black holes.

Information about accessing BBC iplayer content outside the UK: See this information and see the podcast download page.

NB. This is an example of a resource that can be accessed from lots of different places. We tag such posts with 'all locations'. If you live some way from Cambridge, clicking on the all locations page can be useful so that you filter out events in Cambridge and events in specific areas of the UK.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 27 January 2016



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