A Level: A*AA IB: 40-41 points, with 776 at Higher Level

Subject Requirements

Essential: A Level / IB Higher Level English Literature or English Language and Literature.

Also Useful: An A Level / IB Higher Level in a modern or ancient language or in History.

We expect all candidates for English to be taking an A-level (or equivalent qualification) in English Literature or English Language and Literature. Given the philological and historical nature of some parts of the course, we have also found a modern or ancient language (for candidates from schools which offer them) or History to be useful, but successful candidates in the past have studied a wide range of subjects at school or college.

Written Work

Candidates will be asked to send in two recent pieces of marked English Literature schoolwork, one of which should be, if possible, on either Chaucer or Shakespeare.

Admissions Assessments

As for all other Cambridge colleges, applicants are required to take the English Literature Admission Test (ELAT) pre-interview for English at an authorised centre local to them (for a lot of applicants, this will be their school/college).

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’re not able to register yourself. See the written assessments page for information about assessment centres and registration.

The ELAT will be taken on 2 November 2016. It will be a 90 minute assessment. You will be given six passages of poetry, prose or drama, from which you choose two or three to compare in an essay.

Please note that 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.

See the link below for further information.

Admissions procedures for English.

Why Robinson?

English at Robinson is thriving: students come here because they are passionate about literature. This passion shows itself not only in their rigorous approach to their academic work – our students consistently perform extremely well in the University Tripos examinations – but also in the various extra-curricular activities in which they are engaged, from dramatic production (Robinson boasts the best college auditorium in the university, as well as the only outdoor theatre) to poetry recitals.

We are committed to nurturing the academic development of our students – which is a far broader, far more important thing than mere examination tutoring. In addition to the university-wide lectures in English that are open to everyone from all colleges, our students are taught several times per week in groups of up to five people (with much work conducted in pairs, and all dissertation and portfolio work, one-to-one). In this close ‘supervision’ system it is possible for teachers to be highly responsive to the particular needs of the individual. You will be encouraged not only in what you learn, but in how you learn. Detailed feedback on your weekly essays will help you to write (and think) with greater clarity; the opportunity for discussion allows you to develop your ideas, to take intellectual risks in an environment where you feel comfortable and supported.

Robinson is very well situated for English students, immediately next to the University Library, and a couple of minutes from the English Faculty on the Sidgwick site, with its library and lecture rooms.

The English Fellows at Robinson have a wide variety of teaching and research interests, which range from Dante and translation to Wordsworth and the poetics of verse, to modernism and the philosophy of language.

Professor Robin Kirkpatrick

Dr Helen Thaventhiran (Director of Studies for Part I and Part II)

Course Details

The degree breaks into two parts; students are examined on Part I at the end of their second year (with a ‘Preliminary’ examination at the end of the first year), and Part II at the end of their third.

Part I is devoted to the study of English literature from the age of Chaucer to the present and is composed of six papers. Two of these are compulsory:

English Literature and its Background, 1300 – 1550


You can choose the remaining four papers from the following options:

  • Practical Criticism and Critical Practice
  • Early Medieval Literature and its Contexts 1066-1350
  • English Literature and its Contexts 1500-1700
  • English Literature and its Contexts 1660-1870
  • English Literature and its Contexts 1830-1945, or English Literature and its Contexts 1870-Present.

One or two of the last three optional papers can be replaced with coursework (one dissertation and one portfolio of essays).

You can also request to borrow an optional paper from one of the following other faculties: Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic; Classics; or Modern and Medieval Languages.

Part II enables study that is at once deeper and wider in its horizons. It is possible to focus on the history of ideas, literary theory, the comparative study of literatures and philosophies, as well as on the particular study of selected major authors, genres, and periods.

Part II is composed of four papers and a dissertation on a subject of your choice. Two of the papers are compulsory:

Practical Criticism


You select two further papers from the following:

  • Chaucer
  • Dreams and Visions 1066-1500
  • Shakespeare in Performance
  • Literature, Culture and Crisis 1631-71
  • Lyric
  • Modernism and the Short Story
  • English Moralists
  • American Literature
  • Postcolonial and Related Literature
  • History and Theory of Literary Criticism
  • Literature and Visual Culture
  • Contemporary Writing in English
  • Special Period of English Literature 1500-47
  • Special Period of English Literature 1847-72

For more details, see the link below:

Further information about the Cambridge English Tripos.

Updated May 2016