What GCE A level subjects should I take?
The most important thing is to choose subjects that excite your interest and enthusiasm. However, you will have to explain why you have not done History if you have not and should do at least one subject involving reading volume of text and writing about it to show how you would do in the subject at university.
What grades do you ask for?
In History the offer is typically one A* and two A grades at GCE A level or equivalent. If you are doing 4 subjects we usually give you the option of which 3 are counted though we will usually specify that the A* be in a major essay based subject if you are doing something that is not so relevant to History. We may specify History as the A*. Please do not be put off by the offer - if we make you an offer it means we want to take you.
What can I expect at the admissions interview?
We interview almost all applicants who apply to read History and the interviews are usually held in the first or second week of December. You will have one introductory interview of 15 minutes to talk about your school career and interests then the 30 minute subject interview, in addition there will be a written assessment.
Why do you set a written test? and what does it involve?
Each student is different - some people excel at interview while others show their talent more on paper. We find the combination of interview and test is a useful way of assessing a student’s capacity for problem solving together with their persistence and motivation. We are looking for both at Robinson. The written test lasts no more than one hour and involves writing about a general historical question on the basis of whatever history you know about so special preparation is not necessary. We want to see how you develop an argument under time constraints - not what you know but how you use it.
What form does the Subject interview take?
You will be interviewed by two of our Teaching Fellows usually Drs Woodman and Thom. The normal format is to discuss an unfamiliar piece of text to see how you read and interpret, to discuss your schoolwork and to finish by talking about what you read and what sort of history interests you.
Do you recommend a "year out" between school and university?
We are fairly neutral about this one. If you have a clear plan for your "year out" then it can help you broaden your outlook on life, explore the world of work or discover the world, or provide for your support as a student and for many people it proves to be very valuable. It does carry the risk of losing touch with the habit of studying and it may take a little while to get back up to speed. However, it rarely takes long to get over this.
How much time does the course take up?
In the first year, there are about eight lectures a week on the specific subjects you have chosen to prepare for examination, one hour of supervision each week, usually on your own, and a fortnightly university class from the second term. In addition you will need to work through your lecture notes, read round lectures as well as preparing for supervision. There is a fortnightly college class for Historical Argument and Practice which gives you a chance to think generally about History which is backed up by the faculty programme of teaching. Mostly you spend your time reading on the basis of recommended reading lists. Each term for the first five you do a weekly supervision on one paper while attending lectures for three in the first year and two in the second. You need to be well organised to fit everything into eight week terms and it is best to think of the work as a regular forty hour week!
How do you choose the particular subjects you study?
Any one student at Cambridge is doing a different combination of papers throughout their time here. The only thing they have in common is the general training in how to do History by studying sources and developing arguments from the work of others. That said, choice is limited by having to do some British history at least one paper in European and requiring you to do at least one paper before and after 1750. You may want to be entirely modern or a mediaevalist and you can do either with these limits. You discuss your interests at interview and then get the chance to choose what you do next at regular interviews with your Director of Studies who organizes your supervisions and helps you develop your own programme of work.
Updated July 2011