Clare College Cambridge

Choosing a subject at Cambridge

Think carefully about your choice of subject. Do not choose the obvious course without thinking about the alternatives. Most of our courses have a lot of flexibility within them. For example, you cannot apply to study just Chemistry, just Biochemistry or just Materials Science. However, if you apply for Natural Sciences, there are options to specialise in each of these subjects. HSPS includes Politics and International Relations, Anthropology, Archaeology and Sociology.

You may be qualified for more courses than you expect. You do not need qualifications in Arabic, Chinese, or any other Asian or Middle-Eastern language to study AMES. Law A-level is not needed to study Law. Neither Greek nor Latin is a requirement to study Classics. No knowledge of Anglo-Saxon, Norse or Celtic is required to apply for this course.

Are you a keen mathematician? Mathematics might well be the right subject for you. But what about Physics, Engineering, Computer Science, or Economics? All of these subjects require strong mathematical skills. It is possible to be good at A-level maths and not be suitable for the Cambridge maths course. STEP exams are a better test for mathematics, and are a requirement for everyone applying for mathematics at Cambridge. You should discuss these with your school or come to an open day to discuss entry tests with our director of studies.

Have you chosen a mixture of arts and sciences in your A-levels? This is a good combination for LawGeography, Philosophy, Theology, and Economics, amongst other options. It may not be so suitable for Natural Sciences or Medicine.

Are you keen on languages? MML may well be the right course for you. However, you should also look at Linguistics, ASNaC, AMES, Classics, and Theology. You might be able to study English and combine it with a foreign language.

Have you considered all the subjects that you cannot (usually) study at school? ASNaC, AMES, HSPS, Education, Land Economy, LinguisticsPhilosophy, Theology, Architecture, History of Art, Engineering.

Have you checked that the course content is what you expect? Music is not all about performing, but concentrates on the academic study of music. Computer Science is not a course in programming. Do you enjoy drawing or painting? You might consider studying the History of Art, designing in the Engineering course or else using your artistic skills in an Architecture degree.

It may well be that the course which seems the obvious choice for you turns out to be the one that you select. However, please make sure you consider all the courses that fit your qualifications and interests. The move from school to university is a good time to assess what is the best subject for you. Advice is available at our open days or you can contact us on

Dr Tim Chesters
Prof Howard Griffiths
Admissions Tutors