Cambridge makes use of various teaching modes so that students get a rounded learning experience and are equipped with the necessary skills that will fuel their ability to progress into whatever career or further study they choose.


ASNC Lectures, Classes and Seminars

Lectures always start on the first Thursday of Full Term, and the first week of lectures runs from that Thursday to the following Wednesday. The Lecture List gives details of all forms of departmental teaching (lectures, classes, workshops, seminars, etc.) provided for each course. The Timetable shows the teaching in a week-view format for ease of planning. When you have made your choice of papers, you should draw up your own weekly timetable of your lectures, etc., and decide how to organise your life around them. Your workload of lectures, etc., in Part I will be greater (between 10 and 15 hours per week) than your workload in Part II (between 5 and 10 hours per week), since it is in the nature of Part II that a greater proportion of your time during term is devoted to private study.

Click here for information on Part I (and Prelim) papers
Click here for information on Part II papers
Click here for supporting information, resources handouts, PowerPoints etc made available by our teachers

Where possible, the Department will notify students (via email to their addresses) of changes to the timetable or cancelled lectures - students are advised to keep a close eye on their emails.


Attendance at lectures, etc.

The teaching organised by the Department is an essential aspect of your course of study. Attendance should not be regarded as optional, as appears to be the case in some other Triposes, and indeed is best regarded as compulsory. The teachers will provide information, elucidation, and argumentation, most of which will not be found in books or articles. They will introduce you to unfamiliar material, and will be trying to convey some sense of their own enthusiasm for the subject. They will give you documentation for the course, including useful handouts. You may have to miss a lecture or two through illness or other grave cause, but try not to miss any more. The usual reasons, such as oversleeping, an essay-writing crisis, a social engagement, or some other commitment, are never compelling. Failure to attend lectures may put you at a serious disadvantage when it comes to preparing for your examinations. Do not rely on others to attend lectures on your behalf; copying other people’s lecture notes is no substitute for being present yourself.

A certain amount of preparation for Departmental teaching is both expected and required. In the case of language classes, an amount of preparation of set texts will have to be undertaken each week (and you will be expected to translate in class and to comment on aspects of the text). In the case of lectures, the greatest benefit is obtained when some preliminary reading has been undertaken on the topic of the lecture.

Taking notes on lectures is a matter for individual judgement. Do not write down so much that you have no time to attend to what is being said; better to concentrate on the main headings of discussion or the salient points being made (which a good lecturer will emphasise), so that the outline is clear. Make use of handouts to save on note-taking (e.g. by referring to ‘handout example 3’ in your notes, or by annotating the handouts).

In classes and seminars, you should ask at once for clarification of any point which you do not understand; in lectures, it may be best to wait until the end of the lecture. Don’t be afraid to voice your uncertainties: others may well feel similar uncertainties, and will be grateful to you for speaking up.

In the case of seminars, topics for discussion are specified weekly, and bibliographies provided. It may be that you will be asked to prepare a short account of a particular subject; in which case you should prepare a clear and concise written text, and ensure that it is properly timed (ten or fifteen minutes, depending of the nature of the seminar). It is for some an intimidating experience; but have no fear, for no-one is going to take you apart. Any one of your teachers will be happy to give you advice and encouragement; and you should compare notes with your fellow-students. Above all, you should try to participate in the general discussion, and should not feel embarrassed to ask questions.



Your supervisions will be arranged by your Director of Studies, who will see you individually at the beginning of each term to discuss these arrangements, at the end of each term to read reports from your supervisors and discuss with you how things have gone, and at any other times by arrangement as necessary.

The organisation of your supervisions will depend on your choice of papers. A reasonable expectation is that you should have eight supervisions in each of your ASNC papers over the course of the two-year Part I. In practice this might work out in your first year as between four­ and six supervisions on each paper for which you are taking a Preliminary examination. The remaining supervisions on those papers will occur in your second year. During your second year you will also have eight supervisions on any ASNC papers in which you did not take a Preliminary examination and/or supervisions in up to two borrowed papers, if you choose to take them.
Your Director of Studies is responsible for appointing your Supervisor, and for making arrangements for your first meeting. Your Supervisor might be a senior member of the Department, or a Research Fellow working in Cambridge, or a current PhD student. All supervisors, whatever the nature of their connection with the Department, will provide essentially the same service.

The supervision is the cornerstone of college teaching. You will probably have at least one a week, either alone or as one of a pair. Each supervision lasts an hour, and the discussion will normally be focused on an essay or other piece of written work that you have been asked to produce. The length of the essay will vary depending on the nature of the topic, and you should ask for your supervisor’s advice about this. Your supervisor will suggest a topic for your essay and provide a reading list. You will be asked to hand the essay in for your supervisor to read beforehand; this leaves more time for discussion and allows more detailed attention to the quality of your writing.

Your work should be the focus of the supervision. The supervisor will probably take you through your essay, discuss its content (whether orally, or in written comments, or by combination of both), and ask you to enlarge on certain matters. You can use the supervision to follow up things said in lectures, or to raise questions that interest or perplex you. Your supervisor will also help you to improve your essay-writing skills.

For further information about writing essays, see:


Private Study

Many ASNC students report that they spend at least 20 hours per week in private study during term (not counting time in lectures, classes or supervisions). You should try to work out a regular plan for your week which leaves you several periods free for concentrated reading and writing. Work out in advance what you can reasonably expect to read in the time available, and when you need to stop reading and begin to organise your thoughts and write. Your total working time should be consistent with your status as a full-time student. A 40-hour week (eight hours a day) is a reasonable target, but you may well find that it is often necessary to work in the evenings, and over the weekends, in order to meet a deadline. Of course you should reserve space in your timetable for some extra-curricular activities, such as acting, rowing, singing, dancing, and so on; but bear in mind that such activities should not interfere with your academic work, and that if they do, you may have to curtail them. The key is self-discipline, coupled with effective organisation of available time; and we hope that your natural enthusiasm for and commitment to the subject will carry you through!

Work out in advance what books you will need to read, and which library or libraries you need to go to. Make accurate and tidy notes on your reading, with bibliographical details (including library shelf-mark) and precise page references in the margin; this may save you a lot of hunting and checking later on. Most libraries have systems whereby you can recall a book you need if it has already been taken out by another reader. Do not wait until the very moment when you need a book and then give up because you can’t find it. Try to foresee what your needs will be and plan in advance how to meet them.

It is important that at an early stage you find a suitable place to work. If you find that there are too many distractions or interruptions in your college room, go to a library where you will not be disturbed (and also have reference books to hand). Make full use of college computing and photocopying facilities.

You may well find that it helps to discuss your work with your fellow students; though do not allow yourself to be taken in by those who claim to know it all already, or by the bravado of those who boast of their non-attendance at lectures - we have seen many such students with their head in their hands come results day.

Your timetable in term will undoubtedly be packed, so you should use your vacations wisely so as to ease the pressure. Get hold of reading-lists for next term’s work before you go down, and do as much preparation as you can (including, for example, preparation of set texts). Many students may want to do some paid work during vacations, and to enjoy the Christmas and Easter holidays; but you should be aiming at the same time to do as much academic work as you can, so that you are not slogging through basic reading when you should be getting the most out of the teaching programme.

You will need to plan your revision carefully. It is not wise to assume that you can make do with your accumulation of lecture notes, your supervision essays (which might be almost two years old), and any other notes taken in preparation for classes and supervisions. Nor is it wise to target specific subjects which you predict will turn up in the examination. A good essay is one in which it is clear that the student is thinking on his or her feet, and working things out in relation to issues suggested by the question. It is important, therefore, to make sure that you read some new material, or cover some new ground, in order to extend your knowledge across the field and to keep everything fresh in your mind.


Other University Lectures

The University Lecture Listings, which covers all teaching offered by the University for the whole academic year, is on sale in Cambridge bookshops at the beginning of Michaelmas Term. From the Lecture List you can also find out about lectures in other Faculties (e.g. Archaeology and Anthropology, History, or Modern and Medieval Languages) which might meet your particular needs and interests. You are free to attend any of the advertised lectures in the University.


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