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Undergraduate Study

 
Students in museum sitting on bench observing paintings

There are many different things you can do before you apply to Cambridge to improve your chances of being offered a place on an undergraduate course.

What we look for when you apply

You need to meet the entry requirements for the course you’ve applied to.

Check entry requirements for your course. In your UCAS personal statement and at interview you’ll need to show that you:

  • have your own thoughts and opinions, critical thinking and analytical skills
  • can consider different points of view and arguments
  • are curious about the world and open to new ideas
  • feel confident that you‘ve picked an area of study that’s right for you
  • are passionate and enthusiastic about your subject

How to make your application stand out

Before you apply to Cambridge, you should explore the subject that you’re interested in beyond what you’ve learnt at school, sixth form or college.

Suggestions for some of the things you could do:

  • read books about your subject, specialist magazines and journals. You can do this by checking the reading list for the course you’re interested in
  • browse websites related to your subject. Our department websites are a good place to start
  • visit museums, exhibitions and galleries
  • watch films and documentaries
  • listen to podcasts
  • attend online seminars and lectures online, or in person if you can
  • volunteer, or get some work experience
  • take part in academic competitions or get an award

We call these types of activities super-curricular activities. Super-curricular is different to extra-curricular.

Extra-curricular activities are activities you do outside of school that are unrelated to your chosen subject, such as playing sports or an instrument.

How to explore your chosen subject

If you know which course you want to study, take a look at our suggestions for things you can do to explore your chosen subject.

Architecture

Books

  • Bachelard, The Poetics of Space 
  • Davidson Cragoe, How to Read Buildings 
  • Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin
  • Perec, Species of Spaces and other Pieces

Journals and articles

Architects to familiarise yourself with

  • Le Corbusier
  • Miles Van Der Rohe 
  • Lloyd Wright 
  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Websites

Podcasts

Activities

Extra resources

Check the History of Art and Mathematics sections below.

Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Books

  • Solen and Harb, Introduction to Chemical Engineering: Tools for Today and Tomorrow
  • Denn, Chemical Engineering: An Introduction

Journals and articles

Websites

Other activities

Extra Resources

Check the Engineering, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences sections below.

Education

Books

  • Matheson, An Introduction to the Study of Education
  • Reay, Miseducation: Inequality, Education and the Working Classes
  • Young, The Rise of the Meritocracy

Journals and articles

Authors to familiarise yourself with

  • Diane Reay 
  • Michael Young 
  • Raewyn Connell 
  • David Gillborn 
  • Kalwant Bhopal

Websites

Video

Podcasts

Extra Resources

Check the English, Psychology, and HSPS sections below.

English

Books

  • Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature
  • Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction
  • Eco, The Name of the Rose
  • Fisher, Ghosts of my Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures
  • Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare 
  • Lewis, The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature
  • Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller
  • Nuttall, Shakespeare the Thinker
  • Paterson, Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A New Commentary 
  • Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World 
  • Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the 
  • Souvenir, the Collection

Journals and articles

Poets to familiarise yourself with

  • Frank O’Hara 
  • John Ashbery
  • W.S. Graham 
  • Lorine Neidecker 
  • Joan Murray 
  • Geoffrey Hill 
  • Denise Riley

Websites

Video

Podcasts

Extra Resources

Check the Classics section (above) and the Philosophy section below.

Geography

Books

  • Dorling and Lee, Geography: Ideas in Profile
  • Jackson, Prosperity without growth: economics for a finite planet
  • Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate
  • Massey, For Space
  • Oppenheimer, Eruptions that shook the world
  • Pascoe, Dark Emu
  • Platt, The Great Flood: travels through a sodden landscape
  • Solnit, Infinite City

Journals and articles

Authors to familiarise yourself with

  • Danny Dorling 
  • Naomi Klein
  • Robert Macfarlane
  • Hans Rosling
  • Rebecca Solnit 

Websites

Video

Podcasts 

Activities

Extra Resources

Check the HSPS, Land Economy and Natural Sciences sections below.

History

Books

  • Fordham University History Sourcebooks
  • Boyd-Hilton, A Mad, Bad and Dangerous People? England 1783-1846
  • Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History
  • Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 
  • Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past 
  • Jordanova, History in Practice
  • Lawrence, Me, Me, Me: The Search for Community in Post-war England
  • Roper, Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet 
  • Rublack, A Concise Companion to History 
  • Saïd, Orientalism

Journals and articles

Websites

Video

Podcasts

Activities

Extra Resources

Check the Economics section (above) and the HSPS section (below).

History and Modern Languages

Books

Journals and articles

Authors to familiarise yourself with

  • Carlos Fuentes 
  • García Márquez
  • Isabel Allende

Websites

Podcasts

Extra Resources

Check the History section (above) and the Languages section (below).

History of Art

Books

  • History of Art department preparatory reading
  • E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art
  • John Berger, Ways of Seeing
  • Griselda Pollock, Vision and Difference 
  • Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing 
  • Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology
  • Edward Said, Orientalism
  • T.J. Clark, Image of the People
  • Alberti, On Painting, On Sculpture, On the Art of Building 
  • Vasari, Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, Architects

Journals and articles

Websites

Podcasts

Extra Resources

Check the Architecture, Classics, and History sections (above).

Law

Books

  • Barnard, O’Sullivan and Virgo, What About Law
  • Berlins and Dyer, The Law Machine
  • Bingham, The Rule of Law
  • Kennedy, Misjustice: How British Law is Failing Women 
  • McBride, Letters to a Law Student: A Guide to Studying Law at University
  • Williams, Learning the Law

Journals/Articles

Websites

Video

Podcasts

Activities

Extra resources

Check the History and Human, Social and Political Sciences sections (above).

Linguistics

Books

  • MMLL department preliminary reading
  • Adger, Language Unlimited: The Science Behind Our Most Creative Power
  • Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language
  • Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language
  • Peterson, The Art of Language Invention
  • Roberts, The Wonders of Language, or How to Make Noises and 
  • Influence People

Authors to familiarise yourself with

  • David Crystal 
  • Steven Pinker

Websites

Video

Podcasts

Competitions

Other activities

Extra resources

Check the Languages sections and the Psychology (below).

Modern and Medieval Languages

Books

  • Pinker, The Language Instinct
  • A Concise History of… published by Cambridge University Press 
  • French/German/Italian/Russian/Spanish Literature: A Very Short 
  • Introduction published by Oxford University Press

French texts

  • Albert Camus, L’étranger 
  • Françoise Sagan, Bonjour tristesse 
  • Joseph Joffo, Un sac de billes

German texts

  • Franz Kafka, Die Verwandlung
  • Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Der Besuch der alten Dame
  • Bernhard Schlink, Der Vorleser

Italian texts

  • Italo Svevo, La coscienca di Zeno 
  • Primo Levi, Se questo è un uomo 
  • Natalia Ginzburg, Lessico famigliare 

Portuguese texts

  • José Saramago, A viagem do elefante
  • Lygia Fagundes Telles, Antes do Baile Verde
  • Luís Bernardo Honwana, Nós matámos o cão tinhoso

Russian texts

  • Natalia Baranskaia, A week like any other 
  • Alexander Pushkin, Any short stories 
  • Nikolai Gogol, Revizor

Spanish texts

  • Federico García Lorca, La casa de Bernarda Alba
  • Gabriel García Márquez, Crónica de una muerte anunciada
  • Isabel Allende, La casa de los espíritus

Journals and articles

Websites

French

German

Italian

Portuguese

Russian

Spanish

Films and series

  • Netflix language films and series 
  • Mubi – films in many languages

French film

  • Jean-Luc Godard, A bout de souffle 
  • Mathieu Kassovitz, La Haine 
  • Laurent Cantet, Entre les murs

German film

  • Wolfgang Becker, Good bye, Lenin!
  • Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Das Leben der Anderen
  • Marc Rothemund, Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage

Italian film

  • Vittorio di Sica, Ladri di bicicletta 
  • Federico Fellin, i La dolce vita 
  • Matteo Gorrone, Gomorrah

Portuguese film

  • Margarida Cardoso, A costa dos murmúrios
  • Walter Salles, Central do Brasil
  • Fernando Mereilles and Kátia Lund, Cidade de Deus

Russian film

  • Andrey Zvyagintsev, Leviathan
  • Sergei Bodrov, Prisoner of the Mountains
  • Andrei Tarkovskii, Ivan’s childhood

Spanish film

  • Guillermo del Toro, El laberinto del fauno
  • Pedro Almodóvar, Volver
  • Sebastián Leilo, Una mujer fantástica

Extra resources

Check the History, HSPS, Philosophy, and Linguistics sections (above).

Music

Books

  • Cook, Music: A Very Short Introduction
  • Harper-Scott and Samson, An Introduction to Music Studies

Journals and articles

Websites

Video

Podcasts

Extra resources

Check the History section (above).

Natural Sciences

Books

Biological Sciences

  • Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
  • Margulis, What is Life?
  • Mukherjee, The Gene/Emperor of All Maladies
  • Reich, Who We Are, and How We Got Here
  • Ridley, Nature via Nurture
  • Sapolsky, Behave
  • Schilthuizen, Darwin Comes to Town

Physical Sciences

  • Hawking, A Brief History of Time
  • Mann and Crease, The Second Creation
  • Orzel, How to Teach Quantum Physics to your Dog
  • Povey, Professor Povey’s Perplexing Problems
  • Warner, A Cavendish Quantum Mechanics Primer
  • The Feynman Lectures on Physics

Journals and articles

All Sciences

Biological Sciences

Physical Sciences

Websites

All Sciences

Biological Sciences

Physical Sciences

Videos

All Sciences

Biological Sciences

Physical Sciences

Podcasts

All Sciences

Biological Sciences

Physical Sciences

Competitions

All Sciences

Biological Sciences

Physical Sciences

Activities

All Sciences

Biological Sciences

Extra resources

Check the Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine sections (above).

Philosophy

Books

  • Annas, Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction 
  • Beaney, Analytic Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction 
  • Blackburn, Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy 
  • Critchley, Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction 
  • Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy
  • Mill, On Liberty
  • Plato, Meno
  • Russell, The Problems of Philosophy

Websites

Video

  • David Chalmers (Philosophy of Mind) 
  • Daniel Dennett (Philosophy of Mind) 
  • Jaegwon Kim (Philosophy of Mind)
  • Noam Chomsky (Philosophy of Language) 
  • Peter Singer (Ethics)
  • Philippa Foot (Ethics)

Podcasts

Extra resources

Check the Classics, History, and Maths sections (above).

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS)

Books

  • Blakemore, Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain 
  • Eysenck and Keane, Cognitive Psychology: A Student’s Handbook 
  • Damasio, Self comes to mind: constructing the conscious brain
  • Hogg and Vaughan, Essentials of Social Psychology
  • Hrdy, Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding
  • Johnson and de Haan, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience: An Introduction
  • Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow
  • LeDoux, Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are
  • Pinker, How the Mind Works
  • Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat 
  • Schaffer, Key Concepts in Developmental Psychology 
  • Ward, A Student’s Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience

Journals and articles

Video

Podcasts

Extra resources

Check the HSPS and Natural Sciences sections (above).

Veterinary Medicine

Reading

Journals and articles

Authors

  • Emma Milne - a vet, author and animal welfare enthusiast.

Websites

Video

Podcasts

Activities

  • Inside Nature’s Giants documentary series

Extra resources

Check the Medicine, Natural Science, and Maths sections above.

Related Documents

Super-curricular suggestions