Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

Everything you are about to read has been written by current and recently graduated students at the University of Cambridge, to give you honest information about what it’s like to be a student at Cambridge.

Most lectures are in the city center. There are about 65 students per year, however, the modularity of the course means that you will have lectures and supervisions with students from other departments too. Although science A-levels are not a requirement for entry, the course includes some basic neuroscience, genetics and statistics in the first year. However, if you particularly like biology, make sure the Natural Sciences course wouldn’t be closer to your heart.

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What about the PBS course at Cambridge appealed to you?

Jess, PBS, Newnham College, 1st year
Jess
Newnham College, 1st year

I was particularly attracted to the PBS course at Cambridge as it was extremely unique in comparison to all other Psychology courses I’d looked at elsewhere. The ability to ‘borrow’ modules such as Anthropology, Sociology, Education, Natural Sciences, Economics and Philosophy alongside the Psychological core of the course was something that really appealed to me, as it meant I could keep my options open and continue to explore new areas - it’s a course you can really tailor to your own interests! I also really liked the hands-on approach that Cambridge offered - within my first week here I had handled a real human brain(!!) and the integration of both biological and social perspectives throughout the course.

How have you found the structure of the course?

Jamie, PBS, Emmanuel College, 1st year
Jamie
Emmanuel College, 1st year

My aspects of the course’s structure are its breadth and flexibility. The two compulsory modules give you a great insight across many aspects of psychology, as well as neurobiology, statistics and experimental techniques. Essays give you a degree of flexibility to read into what you find interesting, while the ability to choose your two other modules from a whole range of scientific and humanities based subjects allows you to not only choose those subjects you’re most interested in, but also to focus your studies on a particular area or get a broad perspective across a whole range of subjects. I personally used this to create my ideal course with a scientific base focussing on evolutionary Biology as well as the broad compulsory psychology options, though it’s possible to combine subjects as different as Philosophy and Computer Science.

What is your faculty/department like?

Jess, PBS, Newnham College, 1st year
Jess
Newnham College, 1st year

The Experimental Psychology department is located on the Downing Site, central in the city of Cambridge; made up of classrooms, laboratories and offices which I usually visit = once a fortnight for practicals. Asides from this, I love the fact the department offers a tearoom on the first floor which is a really nice place to visit inbetween lectures or supervisions, to complete some work or have a coffee with friends. I also visit the department often to take part in paid psychological experiments, which gives you a great insight into real research whilst also being a fun way to earn some money in Cambridge! Psychology students can also access Libraries on both the Downing and New Museums site (across the road!) including the Psychology library, SPS library and Haddon Library - so you can ALWAYS find your books!

What types of work do you have to do?

Amandine, PBS, St Edmund's College, 1st year
Amandine
St Edmund's College, 1st year
Jess, PBS, Newnham College, 1st year
Jess
Newnham College, 1st year

Amandine: You can expect to be set 1 to 2 essays a week on average, for which you have to do some reading. Each essay is supposed to take about 6 hours, but this can vary a lot depending on you and on the question! I mostly use research papers as sources, but some people prefer books. As a Cambridge student you will have access to a wealth of scientific journals and to some ebooks, and to the faculty libraries, your college library, and the massive University Library.

Jess: I study the Education paper on PBS, so I also have to complete a 3,000 word piece of written coursework on my childhood experiences of learning language and literacy. It’s called a ‘theorised autobiography’ and it’s really interesting to frame your own experiences with psychological research!

Do you have career plans?

Amandine, PBS, St Edmund's College, 1st year
Amandine
St Edmund's College, 1st year
Jess, PBS, Newnham College, 1st year
Jess
Newnham College, 1st year

Amandine: I would like to do research into the biological roots of behaviour. Cambridge is a fantastic place if you are interested in research, and there are a lot of exciting projects being conducted within the university. There is also always an interesting talk to go to!

Jess: After PBS, I would like to go on to study for a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology and become a Clinical Psychologist perhaps working in Neuropsychology with brain traumas and strokes. Alternatively, I’d also really love to study for a PGCE and become a secondary school teacher. That’s the great thing about PBS - it’s so versatile that it keeps all your options open!

What about your course would you change?

Jamie, PBS, Emmanuel College, 1st year
Jamie
Emmanuel College, 1st year

Admittedly there’s very little about my course of any significance that I would want to change. Sometimes the timetable becomes very bunched up and busy at one point of the week and frees up later on but this is unavoidable and a very minor criticism. Some of the practical classes take a long time, but this is usually made up for by their interesting content and what you learn. My Natural Sciences practical are assessed which is a little stressful at times, but they are only once every two weeks and this only applies if you choose this one module.

Typical timetable of a 1st year Psychological and Behavioural Sciences student

Jamie, PBS, Emmanuel College, 1st year
Jamie
Emmanuel College, 1st year

Below is my personal timetable, it’s quite busy but high contact is my preferred study type. This is partly because of my more science based options that I’ve taken, other more humanities based students will have more independent study time. A lot of the work time is still unstructured, so you can work when and where you want to, which is nice change from school.

- Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
9am Neuroscience Lecture Primatology Lecture Stats Exercise Class - Experimental Methods Lecture
10am - - - - -
11am Psych Lecture NatSci Lecture Human Evolution Lecture NatSci Lecture -
12am - - Qualitative Analysis Supervision - -
1pm - - - - -
2pm Psychology Practical - - - Psych Lecture
3pm Psychology Practical - - - BioAnth Supervision
4pm - Watch a seminar or talk if one’s on NatSci Supervision Stats Supervision -

What has been going on at Psychological and Behavioural Sciences?

- Recent Events -

Psychology Society re-launch

We’ve relaunched the Psychology society - a group of us from several years got together to discuss future planning future Psychology-based events and even formal halls!

Science Festival

For the Science Festival, the Psychology Department has organised talks on topics such as vision or music in films, discussions, interactive experiments (including EEG sessions) and cognitive tests.

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Please note that as student volunteers we are unable to answer questions on admissions requirements - e.g. school/college qualifications needed to apply. You are best asking these questions to admissions@cam.ac.uk