Year 13

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?

Date posted: 

Tuesday 18 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.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 4 November 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.

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Monday 27 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:

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Tuesday 14 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.

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Friday 10 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.


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Thursday 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:

Date posted: 

Wednesday 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?

Date posted: 

Tuesday 7 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?

Date posted: 

Friday 3 October 2014


Literature & Languages at Cambridge Festival of Ideas


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