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.

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. However, English Literature and Language A Level would also be considered, especially where English literature A level is not offered.

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.

Written Assessment

All applicants for English are required to take a written assessment if shortlisted for interview. You will not need to register in advance for this assessment and the College will provide details directly to you.

Please note that your performance in the assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.

Written Work

Once English candidates have applied through UCAS, they are required to submit two recent essays or equivalent pieces of school work on a subject of literary interest. We will provide information on how to submit this after 15th October. 


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 the year.

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 written 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


Gates Cambridge Class of 2023 announced

Five graduate students will be coming to King's in Michaelmas Term as part of the 2023 cohort of Gates Cambridge. 

H E Durham Fund 2023

Applications are open for small grants for projects related to the life sciences.


King’s rowers make Boat Race history

Students Luca Ferraro and Janeska de Jonge helped Cambridge complete a clean sweep over Oxford in the 2023 Races.

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