Preparing for History at Cambridge

Molly Carswell
Created: 7 months, 1 week ago
Last modified: 7 months, 1 week ago

A current History Director of Studies at Cambridge provided this advice:

When applying for History, the only obligation is to have studied it for A-Level. Besides that, you just need to have a passion for what we can learn about the past, comparing it to the present, and how we can grow in the future. You use many transferable skills from across all your time in formal education - I did Maths for A-Level, and though not explicitly relevant, the ability to break down a question was really helpful when approaching interviews, and also now when writing essays.

History is not about listing facts, but rather making what you say mean something - it is about justification, like every other degree. For this you do need evidence, but it is more about what we can learn, or more significantly what we cannot learn, from a specific source. This ability is looked at in interviews and pre-interview assessments, and used vigorously during your studies. What you do not see is probably more important than what you do see, because then you have to look elsewhere for evidence that may support, or may even challenge, your point.

What you will find quickly, and should expect when going into your interview, is that nothing is ever simple. As a History candidate, you must find this exciting. Moreover, in interviews, expand on your answers and think out loud - never respond with a single-worded answer; expand!

In your personal statement, and through into your interview, mention a part of history, or a category of analysis (such as gender, race, religion) that intrigues you and draws you into the subject. History at Cambridge as a subject is broad, and it is highly likely that you can study your interests, or even better, you may find new interests. From this you can spot patterns - changes and continuities. These are key to historiographical thought! In addition, supervisors love when a candidate considers perspectives - this could include class, so how would the wealthy see an event in comparison to the less wealthy.

Lastly, History as a subject is great because you can study so many variations - it can be studied with a modern language, alongside politics and art, or even specialise in areas if you choose Classics or Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic.

History is a great subject, and, as a student who had no mock interviews, I can say if you are passionate about the subject, you can discuss, debate and enjoy studying it.

If you're interested in applying to History at Cambridge, check out our InsideUni History Course Page 🔗 🌟 for suggested resources to explore. For resources which are relevant to History applicants at all universities, see our InsideUni History Subject Guide 🔗 🌟 for a list of recommended books, podcasts, videos and more!