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Human, Social, and Political Sciences - HSPS Tripos


This page outlines our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the HSPS programme.

The HSPS administation team and the relevant Departments are keen to support our prospective students in gathering the information they need to make an informed application.

If you cannot find the answer to your query in our FAQs (below) or on the undergraduate admissions website (including their FAQs), please feel free to contact us.

If I already know what subject I want to study at Cambridge, can I focus on this subject within the HSPS Tripos, or do I have to study all of the subjects in HSPS?

The Tripos allows you to structure your own study so that if you have a particular interest you can immerse yourself from the start. The flexible nature of the Tripos means that you can supplement your choice of subject by bringing interdisciplinary perspectives to your learning, or keep a broad focus until you find a subject that you really love.

Are there any required subjects?

There are no required subjects for HSPS. We require only a minimum of A*AA in any subject at A Level (or equivalent), or International Baccalaureate of 40-42. We will look particularly closely at the average Uniform Mark Scheme, or UMS, of your best three subjects at A Level (excluding Critical Thinking and General Studies).

Are there any preferred subjects or subject combinations?

We will consider any subject at A Level. In addition, some Colleges may give preference to some subject combinations over others, so you should always check College websites to find out if they recommend certain subjects for entry.

If you have already decided that you want to specialise in a certain area, you may find it beneficial to have taken some subjects in the Sixth Form when starting the course. For example, students interested in Politics may benefit from having studied some History.

How should I write my personal statement? Other Universities that I am applying to don't have such an interdisciplinary mix; will I need to write a broad personal statement for HSPS, or can I specify a particular subject?

You should write your UCAS application to be appropriate for all courses to which you are applying. Once you've submitted an application to Cambridge University you'll be emailed and asked to complete a My Cambridge Application in addition to the UCAS statement. (It can take up to 48 hours for the email to arrive, as it takes a while to process your application. Check the inbox and junk folder of the email account used in your UCAS application on a regular basis.) You can use the My Cambridge Application to write specifically about why you are applying for HSPS.

We use My Cambridge Application to ensure we have complete and consistent information about all applicants. It helps us to collect information that's not in the UCAS application but is useful for assessing applications. For example, details of topics you've covered as part of your AS/A Level (or equivalent) courses may help our interviewers to decide which questions to ask.

Further information about My Cambridge Application is available at here.

You should write your UCAS application to be appropriate for all courses to which you are applying, and use the My Cambridge Application to be more specific about HSPS. Further information about My Cambridge Application is available at here.

Will I have to specify which area of the Tripos in which I currently think I want to specialise?

Some Colleges may ask you if you have any particular interest(s), as this helps them to co-ordinate their interview process. However, it's fine if you haven't yet made up your mind, or if you want to change it later; no choice that you make at interview will be binding if we make you an offer.

Will there be limits to the numbers of students admitted in each subject?

There are no quotas on subjects at the point of entry.

What will be the typical interview arrangements?

Each College organises its own interviews and this means that the process will not be identical at all of them. The most likely arrangements will be that you may be asked to submit some written work to form the basis of interview discussion, and that you will meet interviewers from more than one of the subjects within the range offered within the HSPS course. Please see College websites for details on the use of admissions tests and for other details.

Are there any limits on the combination of papers that I can take?

In the first year, students will choose four papers. If you know what you want to specialise in during your second and third years, you can choose compatible papers to help you prepare. However, if you aren't sure yet what you want your speciality to be, or if you want to take a broader interdisciplinary selection, you can do so and keep your options open. During the second and third years, each specialism has particular combinations of papers that you will need to take, although all subjects permit at least one borrowed paper from another discipline.

Do I have to know something about all of the subjects in HSPS when I apply and come for interview?

Due to the breadth of the course, no-one expects prior knowledge of all the subjects in HSPS and indeed you may well not have had the opportunity to study some of them before. You can focus your application and interview on one or more of the subjects, particularly if you have already expressed a particular interest. The interviewers will ask you to demonstrate awareness of the real-world application of the subject, and will ask you questions arising from your previous studies. What we are looking for in all applicants is a capacity to read widely and critically, to develop ideas flexibly, and to show potential to thrive on the course. The Tripos has a reading list that you might find useful when preparing for interviews, which you can find on our website here. There will be material here that will allow you to move beyond the specifications of subjects you are currently studying and/or to learn something of subjects that you have not yet studied.