The College, the University, and the City of Cambridge

Studying at cambridge university

There is an extensive number of subjects taught at Cambridge. You will soon find out that these courses are very different, not only in content but also in the way of teaching. That’s why you will have your SUBJECT CONTACTS, who are usually second year students of your subject. You will spend a day with them in Freshers’ Week and they are always there to answer your study-related questions.

General overview:

  • The main (and unique) teaching method at Cambridge are supervisions: small group sessions on a particular paper. Supervisors can be academics, Fellows, or senior graduate students, typically from Queens’ but sometimes from other colleges. The style of the Supervision will depend upon the Supervisor but will generally offer a forum for discussion and allow you to raise problems with your work. In many subjects your Supervisor will be the person who sets and receives the majority of your essays, problem sheets and so forth.
  • Lectures are also going to be part of your studies. These vary, in some subjects being absolutely essential, in others non- compulsory, yet you’re always encouraged to attend. They are organised by your department and will typically be held at your departmental buildings. Some subjects also have practicals and classes.
  • Libraries – each college has its own library which is only available to the members of that college. Each department also has its own library which is open to all University students, not only members of that department (so don’t let any mathmos tell you you can’t use their cool library). On top of that you also have the University Library, which has every book published in the UK. You can borrow books on your University Card for free (if you don’t go over your due date) but every library has a different borrowing policy, so make sure you know how it works at your specific library. You can keep track of your books at idiscover.cam.ac.uk. Cambridge also has excellent online resources which you can also access through iDiscover.
  • The Cambridge academic year is divided into three 8-week terms: Michaelmas, Lent, and Easter (Exam term). Cambridge weeks start on Thursdays (don’t ask, no one really knows why). The first week after exams is called May Week and is dedicated to celebrating the end of the year.

Just remember everyone has a different way of studying. Don’t compare yourself to others, focus on finding what works best for you. There is always someone to help you – your supervisors, directors of studies, subject contacts, friends… So don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Most importantly, we know you might feel like everyone at Cambridge has to be a child genius, that you will not fit in and that you might not be able to make it. That is not true. You are here for a reason. There has not been a mistake, you do belong here. You can do it!

Important dates

Remember: term dates are not residency dates! Residency in Queens’ usually starts a week before term (on the Thursday) and ends a week after (on the Wednesday). NB. each college has its own policy.