If you have a passion for literature, we have a challenging course that will inspire you in your reading, and develop your critical and imaginative abilities.
Over the centuries, many writers have studied in Cambridge: Spenser, Marlowe, Milton, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Tennyson, Forster, Plath, Hughes, Byatt and Zadie Smith. When established, the Cambridge course was considered daringly innovative and this ethos continues to shape teaching and research.
Today’s course balances a strong grounding in the core of English literature with the chance to explore literature from around the world, other art forms, the English language, and related intellectual traditions.
You are taught by some of the most eminent writers and thinkers who, between them, teach and research almost every aspect of literature. We have no set approach beyond instilling the valuable skills of critical thinking, scholarly rigour and good writing.
You have access to the vast resources of the University Library, and to the Faculty library, which houses around 80,000 books and provides computer facilities, skills training and welcoming features such as ‘Tea @ 3’. Our modern Faculty building also includes a drama studio and garden.
Socially, many English students pursue interests in creative writing, journalism and the performing arts.
English students need an intellectual curiosity which drives them to try new things and ask probing questions. We look for reading beyond the syllabus, and for independent, well-informed critical thinking.
Our students develop the skills of critical thinking, close reading and effective communication. Many draw directly on their subject and pursue careers in arts management or information management, or go into academia or teaching.
Those same skills are valued by employers in many other professions too, such as the Law, the Civil Service, industry, accountancy and social work. And, unsurprisingly, many graduates go on to work in the media, theatre and film – such as Jeremy Paxman, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Sam Mendes – or become poets, novelists and playwrights.
Teaching is provided through lectures, seminars, and small-group supervisions and classes.
You typically attend at least six hours of lectures or seminars, and two to three hours of individual, paired or small-group supervision each week. You normally write one or two short essays per week which you then discuss with your supervisor.
As well as unseen exams, there’s a compulsory dissertation and over the three years, you can replace three more of the written exams with coursework. Prizes are awarded for the best work.
You’re introduced to the full range of English literature from the Middle Ages to the present day. There are few set texts so that while you must study widely, you can also focus on topics of interest to you. Over the first two years, you take two compulsory papers:
And you choose four from the following:
One or two of the last three optional papers can be replaced with coursework (one dissertation and one portfolio of essays).
Subject to certain restrictions, you are also able to take papers from the Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic; Classics; or Modern and Medieval Languages courses ('shared' papers).
You take two compulsory papers:
You also write a compulsory dissertation (of 6,000-7,500 words) and either submit a second dissertation (of 6,000-7,500 words) and take one optional paper, or choose two optional papers. The optional papers change regularly – the following are available in 2016-17:
Subject to certain restrictions, it’s possible to take papers from the Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic; Classics; or Modern and Medieval Languages courses.
Universities in the United Kingdom use a centralized system of undergraduate application: University and College Admissions Service (UCAS). It is used by both domestic and international students. Students have to register on the UCAS website before applying to the university. They will find all the necessary information about the application process on this website. Some graduate courses also require registration on this website, but in most cases students have to apply directly to the university. Some universities also accept undergraduate application through Common App (the information about it could be found on universities' websites).
Both undergraduate and graduate students may receive three types of responses from the university. The first one, “unconditional offer” means that you already reached all requirements and may be admitted to the university. The second one, “conditional offer” makes your admission possible if you fulfill some criteria – for example, have good grades on final exams. The third one, “unsuccessful application” means that you, unfortunately, could not be admitted to the university of you choice.
All universities require personal statement, which should include the reasons to study in the UK and the information about personal and professional goals of the student and a transcript, which includes grades received in high school or in the previous university.
All 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 Sunday 15 October 2017. 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 2017. 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 check the Admissions Testing Service website for scheduled start times.
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.
In addition to the pre-interview assessment, applicants who are invited to interview are required to take a College-set written assessment at interview at the following Colleges (see individual College websites for details): Churchill, St John's, Trinity
Mature students (aged 21 or over) applying to one of the mature Colleges should refer to the relevant information about pre-interview assessments on the written assessments page.
Your living expenses may be higher than for a Home student (eg if you stay in Cambridge/the UK during vacations). The minimum resources needed in Cambridge for the year (excluding tuition and College fees) are estimated to be approximately £10,080 in 2017-18 and £10,310 in 2018-19, depending on lifestyle (you should allow for increases in future years).