English Reading List

English at King's

King’s College is a vibrant and welcoming place to study English. Our students come from a range of different educational and social backgrounds, different regions of the UK, and different parts of the world. Although numbers vary, we make roughly eight offers to undergraduates in a typical year.

English has long been a strongly-represented subject in King's, and has a history of innovative teaching and research. Many poets and novelists have studied at King’s College, from Rupert Brooke and EM Forster to Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith. We encourage our students to pursue a broad range of interests, exploring the writing and thought of diverse times and places, and to experiment with new ways of reading and responding to texts. While here, our students often pursue interests beyond the curriculum, getting involved in performance, writing, and activism. Our graduates go on to pursue successful careers in a broad range of fields - from publishing and journalism to law, film, international development, museums and heritage, campaigning, and much else.

King's College Library is well-stocked, available 24/7, and provides a very pleasant environment for studying and writing essays and dissertations. The Archive Centre at King's is particularly strong in the field of early twentieth century literature, with significant collections on Forster, TS Eliot and the Bloomsbury Group. Students also have easy access to further libraries, as the College is one of the closest to the Faculty of English and English Library on the Sidgwick Site.

You can learn more about the course structure of English at Cambridge on the English Faculty web site and the University admissions pages. Please go to the Links tab under this paragraph. 

Fellows at King's in English:

Ordinary Fellow

Shakespeare and Renaissance drama; psychoanalytic theory; scepticism; the history of the body; interpretations of early modern culture.

Ordinary Fellow, Graduate Tutor

18th century British literature; textual representation of sensory experience; written experience of religious belief.

Professorial Fellow, Keeper of the College Collections

Medieval and Renaissance literature; devotional writings in English, French and Latin; theories of idolatry and embodiment.

ProfessorPeter deBolla
Professorial Fellow, Wine Steward

18th century British literature and culture; history of aesthetics; visual culture of the enlightenment; history and theory of criticism.

Research Fellow

Digital/computational humanities; British literature of the long eighteenth century; historical semantics; prosody and rhythm; literary geography.

Ordinary Fellow

medieval literature; literature and philosophy; histories of gender and sexuality

Applying for English at King's

We welcome candidates from all kinds of schools all over the world and from all backgrounds. Numbers vary, but we make roughly eight offers to undergradutes in a typical year.

Subject Requirements

Applicants for English should be studying English Literature at school. Candidates at schools which do not offer this course can apply with a combined English Language and Literature qualification.

Every student we admit is different, with distinctive strengths and special interests. We do, however, expect all our successful applicants to read widely and deeply, whether within or outside your school curriculum. We would also encourage you to explore writing from a range of places, historical periods, and in different genres, including prose, drama, and poetry. We’re always interested to learn about any other reading (or writing, creative practice or performance) you’ve done, that you feel illuminates your understanding of literature - whether that be literary criticism, biography, history, philosophy, sociology, music, science, or anything else.

Pre-Interview Assessment

All candidates for English at Cambridge are required to take the ELAT, a pre-interview written assessment for English, which will take place in schools and other assessment centres. The ELAT is a 90-minute assessment in which you are asked to compare extracts from passages of poetry, prose, or drama in any way you see fit.

You need to register in advance to take the ELAT. Information on deadlines for registration and exam dates can be found on the ELAT website; you can also find past papers to use as practice, mark schemes, and other resources. You can find a link to the ELAT page in the Links tab under this paragraph. 

Written Work

Once English candidates have applied through UCAS, they are asked to submit two recent essays or equivalent pieces of school work on a subject of literary interest.


Most (but not all) candidates are asked to come to Cambridge for an interview with two Fellows in English at King's in early December. Precise interview details will be confirmed later in 2021.

Thinking of applying to Cambridge? See here for details of how to apply, and why King's might be the right College for you.
Find out about how to register for your pre-interview assessment and see specimen papers from previous years.
Candidates for some subjects are required to submit written work as part of the application process - see more here.
It's completely normal to be nervous about coming to interview, but here's some practical advice about how to prepare for the process.

Student Perspectives

Bryony and Arran have written about their experiences of studying English at King's, including their reasons for applying, what it was like starting at King's, the course and different kinds of teaching, extra-curricular activities, and the application process. These accounts are well worth reading to get a sense of what studying English at King's is really like.

Reading, Resources and Events

Below are some links to further reading, resources and events that may be of interest to you. These include the English Faculty virtual classroom, which will give you a taste of some of the approaches to literary criticism used at Cambridge, and includes suggestions for further thought and reading. The English Faculty has also produced a website called Cambridge Authors, which was mostly written by Cambridge undergraduates, and offers a variety of materials relating to ten authors who studied at Cambridge, from Marlowe to Zadie Smith.

Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, CU Masterclasses 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.

Preparatory reading for applicants who have already been given an offer, or prospective students thinking of applying.
Find out more about our Open Days, visiting King's at other times and informal meetings with our Admissions team, or take the virtual tour!

Recent News

King's undergraduate awarded law scholarship

Undergraduate student Diallo Williams has been awarded a scholarship on the Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme. 


King’s medics top University anatomy exams

Three first year medical students have ranked 1st, 2nd and 3rd in Cambridge in the Part 1A exams in anatomy.


Inaugural participants selected for the King’s Entrepreneurship Lab

Nineteen students will form the first cohort of the year-long programme to support those wishing to explore a career path in innovation and entrepreneurship.