There are three periods of formal examination in ASNC:

  • the Preliminary Examination to Part I, which is taken at the end of the first year and consists of four papers;
  • Part I, which is taken at the end of the second year and consists of six papers (or five plus a dissertation);
  • and Part II, which is taken at the end of the third year and consists of four papers plus a compulsory dissertation.

Some notion of the nature of individual examinations may be gleaned from past examination papers.

Various aspects of examination procedures are explained in a document entitled Examination Procedure for Students which can be found here. Tripos examinations are marked by Boards of Examiners appointed by the University, and include External Examiners (from other universities) as well as members of the Department


Dissertations are optional in Part I and compulsory in Part II. If/when you are completing a dissertation, you should take a look at the Department’s ‘Guidelines for Tripos Dissertations’ and other useful documents available here.

Our Advice

  • Take care to write legibly. If your writing is bad, practise improving it now.
  • Time your answers sensibly (practise beforehand if you are bad at this). With the best will in the world, examiners cannot give marks to a non-existent essay, and if you write only three essays instead of four, you have automatically lost one quarter of the possible marks.
  • Pay attention to the rubrics (general instructions) on the examination papers; ignoring them is another way of losing marks unnecessarily.
  • Above all, make sure you are actually answering the question asked. Don’t just memorise your essay on (say) Bede and dump it on any question that suggests his name. Arrange your material to fit the question, and shape your whole answer (not just its opening and close) accordingly.

Your performance in Tripos will be judged as a whole, and it is important, therefore, not to neglect any of its elements. A poor performance in one paper may pull you down on average by a whole class overall; and failure in two papers may mean you are not classed at all. The Preliminary Examination does not formally count towards your BA degree, and is to be regarded as good practice for the second and third years, and as an indicator of your ability in relation to other students. If you get a First in Part I, and a First in Part II, you have the distinction and satisfaction of a ‘Double First’; if you get first-class marks across the board at Part I you will probably be awarded a ‘Starred First’; the same applies to Part II.

The N. K. Chadwick Prize is awarded by the Examiners for the most outstanding performance in Part I.

The H. M. Chadwick Prize is awarded by the Examiners for the most outstanding performance in Part II.