How you Learn
For the first year of the course in HSPS, students follow four subjects. For each of the four, they typically have two lectures a week, which introduces them to a topic. After the lecture, students will usually read a mixture of books, chapters of books and articles from academic journals to deepen their understanding.
Having been to the lectures and read the texts, roughly fortnightly, they will write an essay of around four or five sides of A4 on a chosen question. These are submitted to a supervisor and then students meet with the supervisor and usually one other student who has written on the same topic to talk about their work and the issues more generally for around one hour.
With similar schedules in four different subjects, that means students might attend 32 lectures, read 4 chapters a day, and write 12 essays for twelve supervisions during each of the first two eight–week terms. If students take one of the non-HSPS optional papers, such as Archaeology and Biological Anthropology, include more practical or hands-on elements.
During the third term, students choose topics to revise, and using their notes from the lectures, readings, their own essays and the supervisions, prepare for four three-hour exams.
In the third year of the course it is typically possible to replace one of these exams with a dissertation.
|Typical Offer Conditions
||41-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level
||See the University’s Entrance Requirements page
Two school essays, at least one of which should preferably be related in some way to politics, international relations, sociology or anthropology.
All applicants are required to take the pre-interview written assessment for HSPS at an authorised centre local to them (for a lot of applicants, this will be their school/college). Please see the Admissions Assessments page on the University website for further details.
There is no ‘typical’ educational background for a student in HSPS. We do not require any particular subjects at school. However, you should be intellectually curious and you should enjoy reading and thinking about how states and societies are organised, how things could be different, and about why people, in different places and times, have done things the way they have.
It may sound obvious, but the two main challenges that students of HSPS face are reading closely a lot of long texts, and writing a lot of essays. The most useful background is a love of reading and of writing. The only way to work out whether you are interested in these subjects is to read books about them. One very good way to improve your essay writing is to read essays, and to think about what you make of the argument, the evidence, and the style in which they are written. Print and online sources, such as Harpers magazine, History Today, the London Review of Books (LRB), The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books all contain beautifully written essays on relevant subjects and from diverse perspectives.