Clare College Cambridge

Studying PBS at Clare


In the first year students study the basics of psychological and biological sciences, along with two optional papers. Those interested in the biological side of psychology will probably choose to study Evolution and Behaviour (a topic shared with the NST) and Biological Anthropology (a topic shared with HSPS). 

Those interested in the Sociological aspects of psychology may choose to study subjects such as social anthropology and sociology (shared with HSPS) in the first year. Some candidates may wish to consider combining psychology with papers from the Philosophical Tripos.

After the first year, PBS offers candidates the ability to combine the study of core topics within Psychology with those papers that most suit their interests, whether that is the neurobiological basis of cognition and emotion, the history of philosophy of psychology and psychiatry,  or the development of gender roles within society. Clare has a teaching fellowship that is suited to support and encourage students in all of these areas.


Course outline

Teaching is provided through lectures, classes or seminars, and supervisions. Some papers include a practical element, which takes place in laboratories.

You can typically expect two lectures a week for each paper. You also have one or two supervisions a week to discuss your work and develop your reasoning and ideas.

Year 1 (Part IA)

In Part IA, you take a total of four papers, two of which are compulsory:

  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Psychological Enquiry and Methods (this includes practical demonstrations and exercises)

The remaining two papers are chosen from a selection of up to nine options. The optional papers available each year may vary but subjects usually include:

  • biological and social anthropology
  • education
  • evolution and behaviour
  • politics
  • philosophy
  • sociology

At the end of the year, you sit a three-hour written examination in each paper.

Year 2 (Part IB)

Part IB provides a foundation for the research-led teaching of the final year while also allowing you to begin to specialise in those areas that most interest you.

You take four papers in total. All students take:

  • the Social and Developmental Psychology paper
  • the Cognitive Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology paper, which teaches research methods and includes laboratory work
  • two optional papers

The optional papers are selected from a range of around 19 available. The subjects may change from year to year but typically include papers in:

  • biological and social anthropology
  • history and philosophy of science
  • education
  • neurobiology
  • philosophy

You sit a written exam in each paper at the end of the year.

Year 3 (Part II)

In your final year, you undertake a research dissertation of 7,000 words on a psychology topic of your choice. You also choose a further three papers from a selection available, each of which is assessed by a written examination.

The subject of these papers may change from year to year but typically include the following topics:

  • social and developmental psychology
  • cognitive and experimental psychology
  • behavioural and cognitive neuroscience
  • legal psychology
  • criminology
  • linguistics
  • selected subjects from those offered at Part IB

For further information about studying Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Cambridge see the Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Tripos website.