We encourage all prospective applicants to pursue their interests beyond the standard school curriculum, and to think carefully about topics which catch their attention. Most successful applicants to Cambridge and other competitive Universities will have spent some of their time on super-curricular activities, that is developing their academic interest beyond what is taught in the school curriculum. There is no perfect way to do this and there certainly isn't that one activity you have to do or that one book you have to read that means you will be guaranteed an offer. Everybody has different ways of engaging with their subject, for some it will be reading, other enjoy competitions. None of this should be box-ticking, but should ideally reflect an honest and deep interest in your subject.
Below, we are providing an expanding collection of resources, that applicants and their supporters can use as a starting point to delve deeper into their subject. The list is neither exhaustive nor exclusive and does not constitute a required reading or activities list for applicants to King's College, Cambridge. We hope that the resources are useful for developing your academic interest and provide a good starting point for your intellectual journey.
It is really important to note that we do not recommend buying books or paying for online resources. Try using your school or local library to access books, or material that is behind a paywall. For more specialist material, it could be useful obtaining a reader's card from your nearest university library. Librarians will be able to help you access their collections, so visit libraries if you can and speak to staff. Some libraries also offer online support for readers.
When choosing activities or resources for super-curricular engagement, some critical selection on your part is inevitable. While it is fine to browse and "shop around" a bit, you neither want to spend too much time on things that are irrelevant for your subject, nor do you want to waste time on low quality resources. If you are unsure, ask a teacher or a librarian to recommend a high quality book for your subject. With access to only one recommended book, you can use the snowball technique, by looking at references and further reading in the appendix, which should give you plenty more ideas for reading.
A good starting point when you are getting to know your subject a bit better is to look at reading lists. Most Universities provide reading lists for their courses online and while they are often aimed at offer holders or first year students, they can be really helpful to find relevant literature in your subject.
Reading lists can be a little overwhelming, especially if you are looking at more than one at the same time. Trying to decide which of the sometimes dozen or hundreds of books you should pick can feel like a massive hurdle. But there is no need to panic. Just treat reading lists as you would a recipe book and choose a few of the recommended books that are most to your taste and current abilities.
Introductions to a subject (for example the "Very short introductions" from Oxford University Press, which cover a broad range of subjects) can be an amazing gateway into an area of interest. You will probably find introductory reading on most reading lists, so do look out for those! You can also use the references and further reading sections in the appendix of books as a snowballing system to find further relevant reading.
The most comprehensive resource for subject-specific reading lists for offer-holders, curated by Cambridge Faculties and Departments, can be found here: https://libguides.cam.ac.uk/leganto/offerholder Please follow the links to your subject.
You might also find the following links useful as well:
While this varies from subject to subject, being up to date with current affairs is an easy way to prepare for your application. Picking the information that is important for your subject is key here, you are not expected to be an expert and knowledgeable on everything that is going on in the world. Pick a few quality newspapers or journals, whether online or in print, and search for articles that are related to your subject.
Podcasts can be a low key way to engage with your subject and they also allow you to do this "on the hoof". Whether you have some time to fill on the bus to school or during a rainy afternoon, podcasts can be a great stimulus to give you new ideas which areas of your subject to pursue in more depths.
There is a large variety of podcasts out there, some of them produced in professional recording studies, others by people with a passion in their garage. The quality of a podcast isn't necessarily determined by how professional the production was, so feel free to give hand-made podcasts a chance. As with all resources you use, some form of critical selection should take place.
If you have a bit more time on your hands and enjoy some independent but structured learning, then online courses can be the thing for you! It's important to check the length of a course and any pre-requisites to get the most out of this. Many course providers will give information about the length of the course, the recommend learning time each week and any requirements for the courses. Discussion boards allow for some dialogue with other students and can make this a bit more interactive.
Some providers offer certification of the course for a small fee, but there is no requirement to do this and it does not provide an advantage.