• UCAS Code: Q300 BA/E
  • Campus Code: 4
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Places per year: 6-8

The English Tripos at Cambridge University offers undergraduates a dynamic combination of historical perspectives and contemporary approaches to literature and language. The broad range covered in Part I over the first two years gives students an historical grounding in the range of literature in English since 1300. This enables students to make informed choices about areas of specialisation in their third year work for Part II. Students are expected to combine wide reading, increasing specialisation and independent research.

Course Overview

In your first year (Part IA), you take papers on Shakespeare and ‘practical criticism’, which involves training in close reading as well as reflection on different modes of critical practice.  You also start work on two of the period papers, which will be examined in part IB. In your second year (part IB), you take one compulsory paper (English Literature and its Contexts 1300-1550) and a further three papers from a list of four. Most of the papers are examined by a formal examination, but students may also opt to submit a dissertation or another form of coursework for selected papers. 

Part II of the course involves further study of practical criticism along with a paper on tragedy, and a dissertation on an independent research topic chosen by the student. There is a wide range of appealing options for additional examination subjects, which change regularly. In the past, options have included American Literature, Literature and Visual Culture, Literature from 1847-1872, Contemporary Literature, Postcolonial Literature, and papers on the history and theory of literary criticism and on moral and philosophical thought.

How You Learn

The core of a student’s work in English consists of supervisions in small groups, usually involving two undergraduates meeting with a supervisor to discuss an essay each week. Supervisions are arranged by the Directors of Studies and are taught by the College’s English Fellows as well as appropriate specialists from across the University.

Writing and discussing your weekly essays are the principal focus of study, but there is also a wide range of classes, seminars and lectures organised by the English Faculty at the Sidgwick Site, situated close by the University Library. There are also numerous talks by visiting speakers, as well as a diverse range of plays, films and other cultural events, such as drama workshops and poetry readings.

The College encourages students to make the most of the wide range of texts, issues, approaches and perspectives that the English course enables. Your supervisors work closely with you each week, which means that you have a wonderful opportunity to develop your styles of writing and thinking in a way that will equip you well for whatever your choose to do once you have finished your degree. We aim to support all our students to achieve the best results they possibly can. We also aim to encourage them to navigate the many available options on the course in a way that leads to the most enjoyment, intellectual development, and personal enrichment

Going beyond what you learn at school and engaging with super-curricular resources is a great way to develop your knowledge of your subject and demonstrate your passion at interview.

Watch this video of Dr Abigail Rokison-Woodall discussing editing Shakespeare for performance to learn more about English.

Typical Offer Conditions




41-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level


See the University’s Entrance Requirements page

Subject Requirements 


A-Level English Literature/IB Higher Level English Literature (see General Comments below)



Written Work

Two school essays written as part of your English course (excluding creative writing). For further information on submitting written work, please read our How to Apply page.

Admissions Assessment

All applicants for English are required to take a written assessment if shortlisted for interview. The College will register you automatically for this assessment.

General Comments

Although we are prepared to consider applications from candidates offering the combined English Language and Literature A Level (or IB Higher Level), we have a very strong preference for the single English Literature option since, in our experience, the combined course does not, by itself, provide adequate preparation for the demands of the Cambridge English Tripos. If you are reading this page for guidance in selecting your A Level/IB subjects, then we would strongly recommend that you select English Literature if your school offers it. If your school does not offer English Literature and you have already embarked upon English Language and Literature then your application will nevertheless be considered.

Trinity Hall looks for students with a wide variety of intellectual, cultural and social backgrounds who will bring something distinctive and original to the study of English at the College. We are looking for candidates who genuinely relish academic challenges, who already engage in their own independent reading, and who are eager to deepen and extend their knowledge of several centuries of English (and other) literature.