Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

This (relatively) new Tripos (PBST) offers a stimulating range of topics that will appeal to students interested in both the experimental and social aspects of psychology, and who may be interested in pursuing a career in psychology. The course allows students to study a broad range of topics over three years, including behavioural and cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, as well as the study of atypical development and adult psychopathology. Experimental Psychology can still be studied within the Natural Sciences Tripos (NST) as an option in Part 1B and as a full-time subject in the third year (Part II).

Although there are several compulsory papers each year, students are given plenty of choice with options to pursue related disciplines such as politics, sociology, archaeology, biological and social anthropology, computer science, philosophy, natural sciences, economics, and education. Research projects and a dissertation also enable students to study particular topics in more depth, including emotion, memory, gender, visual cognition, language, biological psychology, neuroscience, morality, mental illness, personality, and ageing.

Cambridge graduates are highly sought after by employers. PBS is fully accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS). Graduates are therefore eligible for admission to professional courses in clinical, educational, forensic and applied psychology. PBS graduates are also equipped to enter professional sectors such as in the media, management, the Civil Service, finance, law and business.

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Being located near the centre of Cambridge, St Catharine's is only a short stroll to the Departments of Social and Development Psychology, and Experimental Psychology. Not only is it an ancient and traditional college with a legacy of academic success and excellence, St Catharine’s is widely regarded for its friendly and relaxed atmosphere, not to mention its superb sporting facilities. Students reading PBS will be taught by experienced and knowledgeable supervisors, many of whom are based in the Departments of Social and Development, and Experimental Psychology, and contribute to the course.

Regarding school subjects and exams, we prefer candidates to have studied Mathematics and/or one of  Biology, Physics or Chemistry at A-level or equivalent, in addition to other academically demanding subjects in sciences, arts or humanities/social sciences. Previous study of Psychology is neither particularly recommended nor a disadvantage. A typical A-level conditional offer would be A*AA in three academic subjects and we would normally ask that the A* be in Maths, Biology, Physics or Chemistry. Offers based on other examination systems would be set with a similar emphasis. Applications are warmly welcomed from candidates whose schools consider them capable of achieving these results.

St Catharine’s College strongly supports the moderation schemes put in place by the Cambridge Colleges and will ensure that strong applicants for whom we do not have room are considered by other Colleges. We anticipate admitting 2-3 students to read PBS each year.

Applicants to St Catharine's from 2020 onwards will not have to take an admissions assessment, either before or on the day of interview. You may of course be asked at interview to solve problems, plot graphs, design experiments and discuss sample results.

Applicants will receive one or two twenty-five-minute interviews with one or two interviewers present. The interview is largely subject-based, although more general questions may also be asked. The interviews are informal and aimed at giving all candidates the opportunity to demonstrate creative thinking and aptitude for studying Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at Cambridge. 

Find out about the general advice for anyone applying for undergraduate courses at St Catharine's.

There are so many reasons why Catz is the best place to study Psychology. Firstly, it has a very well-equipped Library and is really close to all of the lecture theatres and the Department of Psychology itself. The close-knit environment makes it the ideal place to study a subject as diverse as Psychology as there will always be someone on hand to discuss your work with and support you. I couldn’t imagine a better place to study PBS! 


I've really enjoyed my first year studying PBS at Catz. PBS is only a small subject making it really easy to ask for help, as well as accessing all the books and resources you need for the course. It's also in the perfect location - only a few minutes walk to lectures. The course itself is really varied, allowing you to explore a variety of interests within Psychology. I'm really excited for my second year of PBS!