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Undergraduate Study

 

Cambridge is known and respected across the globe for the excellence of our teaching and research, and the quality of our graduates.  Not only are you taught in the lecture theatre by academics who are experts in their field, but our supervision system means that you receive more personal tuition from them too.

How you're taught

At Cambridge, the University faculty or department arranges lectures, seminars and practicals that students from all Colleges attend together. Your College also arranges supervisions for you. Each academic year consists of three eight-week terms. As the terms are short, the pace and volume of work is likely to be greater than you’re currently used to and there’s much greater emphasis on independent and self-directed study here compared to school or college.

During term time, you’re expected to spend an average of 42-46 hours a week on your academic studies (including teaching/contact time and independent study), and you also need to undertake some work during the vacations (eg further reading/research, revision, assignments).

Every student adjusts to this new workload in their own way and time, and there are plenty of people who can offer advice and support while you get settled in and throughout your degree.

Teaching methods

Lectures

Lectures act as a starting point for your own research and typically last around 50 minutes. Depending on the subject anywhere up to several hundred students may attend.  Many lecturers are leading academics working at the forefront  of their field, so lectures are a fantastic opportunity to find out about the latest research.

Seminars and classes

These are usually for medium-sized groups (eg 10-30 students), last between one and two hours, and provide the opportunity to discuss particular topics in more detail. They’re led by academics but you’re expected to contribute actively.

Practicals

Sometimes called ‘labs’ or laboratory classes. Practical work on some courses may be assessed.

Supervisions

This system of personal tuition is one of Cambridge’s greatest strengths. Supervisions provide the opportunity to explore your subject more deeply, discuss your own work and ideas, and receive regular feedback. As they aren’t assessed, supervisions provide the ideal environment for you to test your ideas and interests, while encouraging you to develop your thinking.

  • Supervisions are small-group sessions (most often for between one and three students) with a supervisor (an academic), which are organised by your Director of Studies.
  • You do some preparation for each supervision – usually reading, writing an essay or working on some problems. In the session, you get feedback on your work and talk about/present your ideas.
  • Supervisors are specialists in particular subject areas (they may be one of the country’s or world’s leading authorities). So, throughout your course you go to different supervisors as what you're studying changes.
  • Typically, you have one or two hour-long supervisions each week, though the frequency varies from course to course.

Field trips, study visits,  language courses, study abroad

Several courses include opportunities to go on field trips, study visits or language courses, or to study abroad through exchange programmes. Naturally, where you go, how long for and what you do varies depending on your course. The faculties, departments and Colleges often have funds available to help you go on trips in Britain and abroad.

Independent research

A chance to carry out your own research, test out theories and put forward your own ideas. Your work might even get published while you’re still an undergraduate.

Work experience

Some courses include a period of work experience, giving you a chance to explore potential career paths and possibly leading to the opportunity of a job after you graduate.

Refer to the individual course outlines pages and faculty/department websites for more details about teaching.

Choosing a course


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