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Frequently asked questions

When can I study History and Philosophy of Science?

  • Natural Sciences Tripos: You can choose HPS as one of your three Part IB subjects and then as your full-time Part II subject. We also offer a Part III course.
  • Other Triposes: HPS papers can be taken as part of the HSPS (Human, Social and Political Sciences) or PBS (Psychological and Behavioural Sciences) Tripos. Part IIA students can choose either of the HPS Part IB papers. Part IIB students can choose from some of the HPS Part II papers: see single-paper options.

I'm thinking about taking Biological and Biomedical Sciences for Part II. Can I study HPS as part of this course?

Yes, we offer three single-paper options to students taking the NST Part II course in Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

Can I take the full-time HPS Part II or Part III course if I'm not a Natural Sciences student?

Yes, but you will need to switch to the Natural Sciences Tripos. You should ask your Director of Studies about the procedure for doing this.

Can I study HPS Part II if I didn't take HPS Part IB?

Yes, HPS Part II is open to students who have not taken HPS Part IB.

How do I apply to take HPS Part IB or Part II? Do I need to fill in a form?

There is no application form; you just need to register your choice on CamSIS.

Is there a limit on the number of students who can take HPS?

There is no limit on the number of students who can take the HPS Part IB option, but we have a limit of 40 for HPS Part II and 12 for Part III.

What if HPS Part II is oversubscribed? How do you decide which students to take?

If you have taken HPS Part IB, we will make our decision on your performance in the HPS exams. If you have not taken HPS Part IB, we will look at your exam results, but we may also ask you to write a short statement that describes your academic background to date and explains why you want to take HPS Part II. We will contact you in mid-June to let you know if you have a place on the course.

And what if HPS Part III is oversubscribed? How do you decide which students to take?

We will look at your exam results and your statement of interests. We may also invite you to an interview.

I'm not used to writing essays. Will I find HPS too difficult?

Essay writing – structuring arguments clearly and effectively – is an important part of what the courses are about. But we realise that most students coming to HPS have not written a connected piece of prose in a long time, so our supervisors are always ready to give plenty of advice on techniques for effective composition.