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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)


Prospective Student FAQ


Do I have to have studied Politics before? 

No, we do not expect students to have studied Politics before, or indeed any of the subjects within the course. Since at Cambridge the various Colleges manage admission and applicants apply to a college rather than to the Department, it is always important to look at the college websites before making a choice as some colleges do express a preference for certain subject choices at A Level. However, you should remember that this is just a preference and for the Department no subject is essential for studying Politics and International Relations at Cambridge. If you are thinking of applying for History and Politics, some Colleges will require History A level or at International Baccalaureate.

Which college is best for Politics and International Relations? 

There is no one college that is best for Politics and International Relations and all of the colleges currently admit students for HSPS. We would advise you to read the college websites and prospectuses to see which college appeals to you most. This might include factors such as who the Director of Studies is, how many offers it makes in HSPS and History and Politics, where the college is and what it looks like, the facilities it has to offer, and the size of the college.

Can I study a language whilst at Cambridge? 

The University has a dedicated Language Centre where students can study languages alongside their courses.

Will I be interviewed on a subject I have not studied before? 

Interviews at Cambridge are not intended to catch you out nor are they a test of how many facts and figures you can recall. The purpose of interviews is to test your intellectual curiosity and capacity. You may well be presented with topics that are unfamiliar to you to test how you would approach problems and think around them. Interviews should be challenging and stimulating. Most colleges have information about the specifics of interviews on their websites and the University pages have helpful information about interviews as well:

Should I address all the areas of the course in my personal statement? 

Due to the breadth of the course colleges certainly do not expect you to mention your interest in all aspects of it. Your personal statement should demonstrate your interest in, and suitability for, your preferred subject(s) within the course. Your personal statement may well form a starting point for one of your interviews so make sure you only write about things you would be happy to discuss.

What should I be reading? 

You should be reading around your subject to try to discover which areas interest you. You may want to read some introductory books about the other aspects of the course to see which other papers might interest you in the first year.

Further information regarding Politics and International Studies in the HSPS tripos can be found on the HSPS website, for History and Politics click here