Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion

Deposition of Christ

Deposition of Christ by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta in 1568-73. Founders Chapel.

Welcome to the Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion subject page at King’s. You will find information here about studying Theology at King’s, the structure of the Cambridge degree course, the Director of Studies, and information about applying as an undergraduate.


Why study Theology?

According to Stephen Cherry, the Director of Studies at King's, 'The short answer is because it is fascinating, fun and important':

Theology at Cambridge

The Cambridge Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion Tripos (Tripos = course) is exceptionally open in the options it makes available to undergraduates. It enables you to either mix up subjects as you go or to carve out a specialist area of interest over the three years. Some students choose to focus on Ethics and Philosophy of Religion, and others on World Religions, and some home in on Christian Theology or Biblical Studies.

Dead Sea Scroll

Portion of the Temple Scroll in Hebrew, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls

In the first year you take 'Part I' which is designed to introduce you to the basic concepts and skills needed in this area. There are two compulsory elements which are a) the study of a scriptural language (Hebrew, New Testament Greek, Qur’anic Arabic or Sanskrit) and, b) the study of Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) or the New Testament. The other three papers in Part I can be chosen from the five options available, covering the other subject areas studied in the Faculty (Doctrine, Philosophy of Religion, Church History, World Religions and the Study of Religion). A sixth option, Logic, is likely to be offered in the near future.

In the second year you take what is called 'Part IIA': you study four papers out of a choice of sixteen. The wide variety of subjects available allows you to develop a course suited to your own interests within the discipline.

The final year, called 'Part IIB', also involves studying four papers from a wide range of options, including specialist and interdisciplinary papers. You can also choose to write a dissertation in the final year instead of one paper.

Assessment is mainly by three-hour written examinations, but in each year of the Tripos there are some papers which are assessed on the basis of two coursework essays.

Divinity Faculty on the Sidgwick Site

The Faculty of Divinity (you'll have University lectures with theologians from all Colleges here).
Credit: Notis Toufexis

The state-of-the-art Divinity Faculty building was opened in 2000, and the department is one of the largest and best-staffed centres of theological study in the UK. In addition to its own staff, it draws on the expertise of the Faculties of History, Philosophy and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, amongst others. This, coupled with the Cambridge supervision system, means that Theology students interact on a daily basis with experts in all the subjects studied within the discipline.

Theology at King's


Although Theology has been studied in some form almost continuously at King’s since the College was founded in 1441, there is nothing old fashioned about Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion today! It offers opportunities to study subjects ranging from the sacred texts of the world’s major religious traditions to the most pressing questions in the philosophy of religion or the most recent developments in medical ethics. It explores the fundamental questions relating to good and evil, war and peace, religion and science. It examines the way in which human society has expressed and used its religious convictions.

To study Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion at King’s you do not need to be religious - undergraduates who study for this course come from all religious traditions and none. What you need to be is interested in asking basic questions about human existence, meaning, and truth. You might like to read Dr Stephen's Cherry's personal invitation to study Theology.

A student reading by a window

Reading in King's Library

King's College Library is well stocked, available 24/7, and it provides many pleasant places to study (see the virtual tour). As well as having the advantages of being a central College on the river, with easy access to shops and other Colleges, King's is one of the closest to the Divinity Faculty, which is five minutes away on the Sidgwick Site (see map) and houses a specialist Theology library. The University Library is also just behind the Fellows' Garden.

The river Cam runs through King's

Theology students come from many different backgrounds and go on to a wide variety of careers. Recent King’s graduates in the subject have gone on into business, law, journalism, the Civil Service, music, charity administration, publishing, and teaching in both schools and universities.

Director of Studies in Theology at King’s

Stephen Cherry

Revd Dr Stephen Cherry is the Director of Studies in Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion and also the Dean of Chapel at King’s. He has recently published a book about sin (The Dark Side of the Soul, Continuum, 2016), as a follow-up his to his book on forgiveness (Healing Agony, Continuum, 2012).

Students at King's study options from the whole range of the course, and the Director of Studies arranges appropriate teaching for each student with subject specialists as well as ensuring support for the first year language learning.

What are we looking for?

Question mark

Credit: Micky Aldridge

Here are some of the qualities we seek in candidates for Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion:

  • philosophical curiosity and the ability to ask good questions
  • fascination with the way different people understand the meaning of life
  • enthusiasm to dig deeper into historical and sacred texts

To apply to study Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion at King's

applying for TRPR

Applying with limited support?

We welcome applications from students who look able to meet our entrance requirements from any kind of school, all over the world.

The application process for all subjects is explained on our how to apply page, which we advise applicants to read thoroughly in combination with the details below about what subject interests you need, the Theology pre-interview-assessment, written work, and interviews.

Subject requirements

Basically, there are no subject requirements for this course. We warmly welcome applications from anyone who wants to engage with Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion at university level. There is no need to have studied Religious Studies or Philosophy at school, though an interest in religion and an appetite for intellectual enquiry are both important.

Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion is largely an essay-based subject, so if you enjoy working with words, and would like the opportunity to learn the basics of a Scriptural language, is it definitely for you. But most of all you will want to do theology because you are fascinated by some of the deeper questions that have faced human beings over the centuries, and have a real desire to learn about how people have approached them and how religion has impacted in the past, and how it remains important today.

If you are choosing school subjects and would like some guidance, do see the advice on subject choices.

pre-interview assessment

All candidates for Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion at King's are asked to take a pre-interview admissions assessment, which will take place in schools and other assessment centres on 2 November 2016. You must be registered in advance (separately to your UCAS application) to take the assessment. The registration deadline is 15 October 2016. Your assessment centre must register you for the pre-interview assessment (you can't register yourself).

Information about admissions assessments
Including assessment centres and how registration works
The assessment for Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion
The format, content specification and example questions.
Specimen Papers

Your performance in the pre-interview assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.

written work

After you apply we will ask you to send two marked essays so that we can see how you think on paper. For those looking early, written work guidelines are published in September as part of the Applicant Information. All applicants will receive an email shortly after the 15 October deadline sending you to this information. The deadline for written work will be in early November (see how to apply) and essays must not be sent before 15 October.


Most candidates are invited for interview in King's, which take place in early December. Interviews are with the Director of Studies in Theology at King's and another academic in a related subject. In the half hour before the interview you will be asked to read some relevant material which we will discuss with you in the interview.

You will also be asked to go to another College for a second interview. This additional interview allows the other College to assess you so that, should King’s be unable to make an offer, the second college will be able to consider doing so or to offer more information to people in other Colleges should your application be placed in the pool.

Information about the interview options for international candidates are on the International Students page.

Introductory reading, resources and events

Stephen Cherry has written a detailed page for prospective students about reading for Theology, which follows Why study Theology? :

Of course, you should feel free to follow your own interests. There are no specific books that you must have read before making an application. 

New Testament greek website logo

If you are looking for further resources, the Faculty website includes online resources and a New Testament Greek website. We also provide general advice about developing your interests, and the subject resources page has a tag for posts on Humanities, which you might like to browse.

Oxford and Cambridge stand

Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include the Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion Open Day, Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, and King's Open Days.

Students from backgrounds where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education might like to think about applying for the Sutton Trust Summer Schools or the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.

Further Information

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