University of Cambridge



Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

An exciting new course, Psychological and Behavioural Sciences offers a broad and flexible degree covering all aspects of psychology.

UCAS code C800 BA/PBS

Duration Three years

Colleges Available at all Colleges except Peterhouse and Trinity

2013 entry Applications per place: 6
Number accepted: 64
Open days and events 2015 College open days (sciences)
Cambridge Open Days

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Contact details


Our course

Psychology is very diverse and overlap with various disciplines such as anthropology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, sociology and many others.

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) at Cambridge gives you the opportunity to study cognitive, social, developmental and biological psychology within the broader context of the behavioural sciences.

The course covers, for example, cognitive psychology, psychopathology, language, brain mechanisms, gender, family relationships and influences, personality, and group social behaviour. Research projects and a dissertation also enable you to study the topics that interest you most in greater depth.

Teaching and facilities

In the Department of Psychology, you’re taught by lecturers and researchers of international excellence. Subject societies and seminar programmes offer regular talks from guest speakers too.

In addition to this academic expertise, you have access to the main Department library and specialist collections held in associated departments' libraries – amounting to around 50,000 books and more than 150 periodicals – as well as other resources and computing facilities.

Professional accreditation and careers

The University's teaching of psychology is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS). This means that students who successfully graduate (with at least a second class Honours) achieve the 'graduate recognition' needed to pursue a career in psychology.

Many students continue with further study and research, and graduates are eligible for admission to professional courses in clinical, educational, forensic or applied psychology. Numerous past students of psychology at Cambridge have gone on to prominent positions in psychology and related fields throughout the world.

Our course also equips you with skills and knowledge applicable in a range of professional sectors. Other recent graduates have entered careers in the media, management, the Civil Service, finance, law and business.

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 I)

In Part I, 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 examples include:

  • Humans in Biological Perspective
  • Language, Communication and Literacy
  • Evolution and Behaviour
  • Analysis of Politics
  • Microeconomics
  • Introduction to Computer Science

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

Year 2 (Part IIA)

Part IIA 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 as well as one of the following:

  • the Biological and Cognitive Psychology paper plus two optional papers
  • the Experimental Psychology paper, undertake a research project (assessed by submission of a 5,000 word essay), plus one optional paper

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 anthropology
  • history and philosophy of science
  • social anthropology
  • sociology
  • the sociology of education
  • philosophy of mind

Both the Biological and Cognitive Psychology, and Experimental Psychology papers involve laboratory work. With the exception of the research project, you sit a written exam in each paper at the end of the year.

Year 3 (Part IIB)

In your final year, you undertake a research dissertation of between 6,000 and 10,000 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:

  • Criminology
  • Development and Psychopathology
  • Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (two papers taken together)
  • selected papers from those offered at Part IIA
  • four additional psychology papers

Entry requirements

Typical offers require
A Level:
IB: 40-41 points, with 776 at Higher Level
For other qualifications, see our main Entrance requirements pages.

Course requirements

Essential No specific subjects
Highly desirable A Level/IB Higher Level Biology or Mathematics
Useful An A Level/IB Higher Level humanities/social science subject

Check College websites for College specific requirements. See also Entrance requirements and our Subject Matters leaflet for additional advice about general requirements for entry, qualifications and offers.

NB: Mathematics is essential for this subject at Magdalene College.

Admissions tests and written work

The table below sets out the ways in which each College assesses applicants for this subject. For more information about these methods of assessment and why we use them, see the main Admissions tests and written work page.

College Assessment of applicant for this subject
Christ's School/college essays
Churchill School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview
Clare Interview only
Corpus Christi School/college essay
Downing Interview only
Emmanuel Interview only
Fitzwilliam School/college essay; Test at interview
Girton Test at interview and/or preparatory study at interview
Gonville & Caius Test at interview
Homerton Preparatory study at interview
Hughes Hall Interview only

School/college essay; Test at interview

King's School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview
Lucy Cavendish School/college essays; Test at interview
Magdalene School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview
Murray Edwards School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview
Newnham School/college essays; Preparatory reading at interview; Test at interview
Pembroke School/college essays
Peterhouse Not available at this College
Queens' School/college essays
Robinson Preparatory study at Interview
St Catharine's School/college essay
St Edmund's TBC
St John's Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
Selwyn Preparatory study at interview
Sidney Sussex School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview
Trinity Not available at this College
Trinity Hall School/college essays; Test at interview
Wolfson School/college essay; Test at interview
How to apply

If you are interested in applying for this course, please see our Applying section for more details.

Further Resources

Find out more about Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at Cambridge

  • Course website - Find out more about Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) on the course website.
  • Course FAQ - Frequently asked questions about the PBS course.
  • Course leaflet - An overview of the PBS course can be found in the leaflet 'Studying Psychology at Cambridge'.
  • Course structure - A detailed overview of the structure of the PBS course, and the different papers available.

Improve your knowledge of Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

  • Preparatory reading - A short recommended reading list can be found towards the bottom of the FAQ page.

Tools to help you with your Psychological and Behavioural Sciences application

  • Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) Preparation - Resources to help prepare for the TSA (required for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at some Colleges). Includes practice tests, suggested textbooks and further reading.

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences and your future

Unistats info

Contextual Information

From September 2012, every undergraduate course of more than one year's duration will have a Key Information Set (KIS). The KIS allows you to compare 17 pieces of information about individual courses at different higher education institutions.

However, please note that superficially similar courses often have very different structures and objectives, and that the teaching, support and learning environment that best suits you can only be determined by identifying your own interests, needs, expectations and goals, and comparing them with detailed institution- and course-specific information.

We recommend that you look thoroughly at the course and University information contained on these webpages and consider coming to visit us on an Open Day, rather than relying solely on statistical comparison.

You may find the following notes helpful when considering information presented by the KIS.

  1. The KIS relies on superficially similar courses being coded in the same way. Whilst this works on one level, it leads to some anomalies. For example, Music courses and Music Technology courses can have exactly the same code despite being very different programmes with quite distinct educational and career outcomes.

    Any course which combines several disciplines (as many courses at Cambridge do) tends to be compared nationally with courses in just one of those disciplines, and in such cases a KIS comparison may not be an accurate or fair reflection of the reality of either. For example, you may find that when considering a degree which embraces a range of disciplines such as biology, physics, chemistry and geology (for instance, Natural Sciences at Cambridge), the comparison provided is with courses at other institutions that primarily focus on just one (or a smaller combination) of those subjects.

  2. Whilst the KIS makes reference to some broad types of financial support offered by institutions, it cannot compare packages offered by different institutions. Different students have different circumstances and requirements, and you should weigh up what matters to you most: level of fee; fee waivers; means-tested support such as bursaries; non-means-tested support such as academic scholarships and study grants; and living costs such as accommodation, travel.

  3. The KIS provides a typical cost of private (ie non-university) accommodation. This is very difficult to estimate as prices and properties vary. University accommodation can be substantially cheaper, and if you are likely to live in College for much or all of the duration of your course (as is the case at Cambridge), then the cost of private accommodation will be of less or no relevance for you. The KIS also provides the typical annual cost of university accommodation and the number of beds available. Note that since most universities offer a range of residential accommodation, you should check with institutions about the likelihood of securing a room at a price that suits your budget. Knowing the number of beds available is not necessarily useful: it may be much more important to find out if all students are guaranteed accommodation.

  4. Time in lectures, seminars and similar can vary enormously by institution depending on the structure of the course, and the quality of such contact time should be the primary consideration.

  5. Whilst starting salaries can be a useful measure, they do not give any sense of career trajectory or take account of the voluntary/low paid work that many graduates undertake initially in order to gain valuable experience necessary/advantageous for later career progression.

The above list is not exhaustive and there may be other important factors that are relevant to the choices that you are making, but we hope that this will be a useful starting point to help you delve deeper than the face value of the KIS data.