This section is designed to answer the questions you are likely to have relating to the undergraduate Classics courses at Cambridge. If you have any additional questions about the course, please contact one of our Access and Outreach Officers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information about finance, international applications etc. can be found on the University’s admissions pages. As undergraduate applications are handled by the colleges, you are also advised to consult their individual websites.
- Why should I study Classics?
- What careers do those with a Classics degree go on to?
- What courses do you offer?
- Can I study Classics with another subject?
- Can I study Classics if I have never studied Latin or Greek before?
- I haven't studied either Latin or Greek: how do I know that I'll be good at them?
- Will I be at a disadvantage if I have not studied Ancient Greek?
- What should I do if I've got A level (or equivalent) Greek but not Latin?
- What subjects will prepare me best for a Classics degree?
- Am I disadvantaged if I decide to take a gap year?
- Does Cambridge welcome mature students on its Classics courses?
- What are the entry requirements for your courses?
- What is the standard offer?
- How will I be taught?
- Is there a lot of language work on the course?
- Will I have the opportunity to travel and do fieldwork?
- Which college should I apply to?
- What should I put in my personal statement?
- What happens in the interview process?
- Can I hear testimonials from students about whether they enjoyed the degree?
1. Why should I study Classics?
Classics is the study of two of the most interesting cultures in world history - those of ancient Greece and Rome - and of those they came into contact with. Understand how languages work by studying Ancient Greek, Latin and general linguistics. Learn to appreciate and critique the great imaginative achievements of Greek and Latin literature and art. Sharpen your argumentative toolkit by studying their philosophy. Learn to interpret the historical and archaeological sources for almost 2000 fascinating years of Mediterranean history. Furthermore, Classics also embraces the study of how the Classical world and its ideas have been received by more recent societies, right up to the present.
This breadth makes Classics at Cambridge vibrant, challenging and fun. The all-round mental training also makes our graduates highly marketable (see question 2)!
2. What careers do those with a Classics degree go on to?
Few degrees offer the same opportunities for acquiring advanced skills in languages, analytical thinking, essay-writing, visual analysis, critical sensitivity, spotting a biased source at a hundred paces, and so on. No wonder that Cambridge classicists are amongst the most employable graduates in the country. Our students have gone on to law, journalism, film and television, banking, consultancy, marketing, museum and gallery work, teaching and academia. In the Guardian’s last two University Guide to Classics, Cambridge came top in the country for ‘Career Prospects’. We have put a long list of transferable skills which classicists acquire here.
3. What courses do you offer?
We offer two Classics courses at Cambridge: a 3-year course, normally for those who are studying Latin up to A level or equivalent, and a 4-year course for those who aren’t. This second course is for a range of people: those with no Latin and Greek at all, and those who will have e.g. GCSE or AS level. On arrival, each student is taught at their particular level. All undergraduates study both languages, and can choose from the full range of optional courses which are designed to give an excellent grounding in all aspects of the Classical world. Those on the 4-year course do a preliminary year in which they focus on learning Latin. In their second year they then join the new in-take of 3-year course students and both groups will follow the same course structure. (Follow this link for more detailed information.)
4. Can I study Classics with another subject?
The Classics course is wonderfully diverse in its own right and offers the opportunity of borrowing a paper from another Faculty (e.g. the Tragedy paper from the Faculty of English, or Metaphysics from the Faculty of Philosophy) in the final year. You can, however, also combine study of either Latin or Greek language and culture with a modern language. For this combined degree, see the relevant Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages webpage.
5. Can I study Classics if I have never studied Latin and Greek before?
Absolutely! You can do our 4-year degree. The course is designed to ensure that you will have all the same opportunities as those taking the 3-year course.
6. I haven't studied either Latin or Greek: how do I know that I'll be good at them?
You might well have enjoyed a modern language like French or Spanish at school. But if you haven't had the chance to study any languages, or if you are still uncertain, you can always sign up for one of our open days, including a free annual taster day specially for students in your situation. These are advertised on the Events page.
7. Will I be at a disadvantage if I have not studied Ancient Greek?
No. The majority of students on the 3-year course do not have A level or equivalent Greek, and many have none. The course is designed to give everyone the language support they need, with special classes for those who are new to the language. The aim is to provide every student with good Latin and Greek by their final year, regardless of prior experience.
8. What should I do if I've got A level (or equivalent) Greek but not Latin?
Normally the Faculty will ask you to take the four-year course. If there are circumstances which make it appropriate for you to take the three-year degree, arrangements for the necessary Latin language teaching can be made within the Faculty. Such candidates will be identified by the Faculty at the admissions process. Directors of Studies will negotiate with the Faculty concerning the most suitable provision, so it may be worth contacting in advance the Director of Studies for the college to which you are applying: see the list here.
9. What subjects will prepare me best for a Classics degree?
If you want to take the 3-year degree, you will almost certainly need Latin A level (or equivalent); if your school offers Greek or Classical Civilisation, they are useful too. Any subject that calls for the capacities needed in a Classics degree, such as writing essays, criticising literature, learning languages, and handling historical evidence, would be useful preparation. However, our degree is designed to provide the training you need when you get to University. In the admissions process, what matters most is not that you've done particular subjects at school, but that you demonstrate a real desire to study our degree. That might involve reading beyond your set texts, or volunteering on a local archaeological dig, or any number of other activities. A levels in apparently unrelated subjects such as Maths are great, as long as you can persuade us that Classics is your next step.
Yes. At any given time we will have several mature undergraduates in Classics.
A mature applicant is one who will be aged 21 or over at entry. Mature candidates can apply to any college that admits undergraduate students, but there are also four colleges that only admit mature undergraduates and specialise in catering to the needs of mature students: Hughes Hall, Lucy Cavendish, St Edmund’s and Wolfson. Candidates applying to a non-mature college will find themselves competing for places with non-mature applicants. It is recommended that prospective mature applicants get in touch with one of the mature colleges to ask for further advice on the admissions process, even if they decide in the end to apply to a non-mature college.
Mature candidates can apply in October, i.e. at the same time as all other applicants, and are advised to do so if they possibly can. However, there is also a further admissions round in March for mature candidates at the mature colleges only.
Candidates who already hold a degree at another university, or who would hold one by the time of entry, can apply for the Affiliated Degree: see here.
For further information about applying as a mature student, see here.
12. What are the entry requirements for your courses?
Greek or Latin at A level (or equivalent) is an essential requirement for the Classics (3-year) course. Almost everyone who takes the three-year course has Latin A level, but this is not an absolute requirement (see question 8).
While GCSE Latin or Greek or A level Classical Civilisation are useful, no specific subjects are required for the Classics (4-year) course. See question 9.
13. What is the standard offer?
The standard offer for a place on the Classics course is A*AA at A level, 40 points in the IB, or D2-D3-D3 at pre-U, but these are not set in stone. Offers are made on the basis of individual students, taking into consideration their ability and potential. For more information about admissions, including applying with an Access to HE Diploma or from abroad, or about the Special Access Scheme, see the University admissions pages
14. How will I be taught?
This question is answered in detail on this page.
15. Is there a lot of language work on the course?
Yes: we believe that studying Latin and Ancient Greek is integral to gaining a complete understanding of the classical world. It will be hard work, but ultimately very rewarding. Our aim is to enable you to read ancient sources independently, whether for literary, historical or philosophical purposes. Most students have weekly supervisions and/or classes in language throughout their first two years.
16. Will I have the opportunity to travel and do fieldwork?
Yes. The Faculty offers opportunities every summer for students to go on a dig in the UK or abroad, and there are numerous travel grants available, including prizes for those students who perform well in their exams. In past years our students have been on digs in Yorkshire and Italy as well as on trips to Troy, Carthage and Greece. We also run an annual exchange programme with Classics students in Munich.
17. Which college should I apply to?
Much of your teaching (e.g. all lectures) will be organised by the Faculty, and you will receive the same quality of teaching regardless of which college you are at. So you should make your choice of college on other grounds. Do you want to belong to an old college, or a new one? A college for women only, or one that is mixed? A large college, or a small one? Different people, quite properly, have different tastes and preferences in these matters. College websites (see the links here) will give you the information to help you decide for yourself. If you don’t mind which college you join, then you can make an open application.
Regardless of which college, if any, you initially apply for, you will have the same chance of getting into Cambridge: all applicants who are called for interview will also get the chance to shine at a second college (see question 19), and there is a ‘pooling system’ (explained here) designed to ensure that deserving applicants to oversubscribed colleges are considered by other colleges, and that the best-qualified applicants all get places.
18. What should I put in my personal statement?
There is no set rule for this. The personal statement is your opportunity to tell us about yourself and your interests. Your hobbies and achievements are worth mentioning, but are not as important as why you are interested in Classics. Be prepared to talk about your personal statement in an interview – if you write that you loved reading the Iliad, we may well ask you why. Questions such as this enable us to better understand your intellectual motivation and how you approach a subject.
19. What happens in the interview process?
If you are invited for an interview, you will be interviewed by the college to which you have applied (or been allocated, if you have made an open application) and by a second college selected by the Classics Faculty. All our applicants have this second interview, whose aim is to enable good candidates to shine even if their first-choice college happens to be overwhelmed with brilliant applicants in that particular year.
Each college has its own process of assessing candidates, so you might have one or two (or even three) interviews in your first-choice college; they are likely to last 20-30 minutes. The most likely starting-points for conversation will be your personal statement, your reasons for choosing Classics, any written work you have been asked to submit, and your experiences of language-learning; alternatively, you may be given a few minutes to study a short text or an image which will form a basis for discussion.While you are in Cambridge there will also be an assessment of your abilities in language. If you are applying for the four-year course this will take the form of a special verbal language assessment, adapted to your own personal language learning background, with one of our Language Teaching Officers. If you are applying for the three-year course it will take the form of a 1 hour exercise in translating Latin into English (or Greek into English, if you have only studied Greek and not Latin). These assessments provide a valuable extra piece of information about you that will be taken into account in assessing your application.
Our primary concern is to assess your potential, not how much you know already. We assess candidates based on the whole application process, so if any one aspect (e.g. a written test) does not go well, you may still be successful because of other parts of your application.
20. Can I hear testimonials from students about whether they enjoyed the degree?
The majority of students love the course, drawing particular attention to the breadth of the subject, and friendliness of the Faculty, as well as to the social life. You can hear some of their views in our videos about the undergraduate degree: the 2012 video can be found on Youtube; a similar film from 2008 can still be watched here. There is a page of testimonials here.