St John’s College typically admits three undergraduates each year to read Philosophy. Combined with those transferring from other subjects, the total cohort is usually around 12 to 15, making it one of the largest colleges for the subject.

Teaching comes in several forms.

   • Lectures, which are run by the Faculty of Philosophy

   • Discussion groups and classes, which are also run by the Faculty

   • One-to-one supervisions, which are organised by the College's Director of Studies

The College provides generous grants to help with the purchase of books, and the College library has an excellent collection of philosophy books. Many teaching materials are also available online to Cambridge students for free.

Philosophers associated with St John’s

Thomas Hobbes (below) completed his BA at St John’s in 1608. He was tutor and secretary to several members of the Cavendish family, including William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle. William’s wife, Margaret Cavendish (below), was a noted philosopher of the Restoration era. William’s aunt, Mary Talbot, was a generous benefactor to St John’s, and her statue can be seen on the gatehouse to Second Court and her portrait hangs in the hall.

Thomas Hobbes and Margaret Cavendish

Subject Video

Subject Video


A short introduction to the Philosophy Tripos at St John's College, filmed for St John's September Open Days 2020. Featuring our Director of Studies Professor Alexander Bird.

Entry Details

UCAS Code: V500

Typical Minimum Entry Requirements

A Level: A*AA

International Baccalaureate: 42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

Essential/Desirable Subjects: There are no essential subjects for an application to Philosophy. Please note that Philosophy A level is not a requirement for an application. Useful preparation would be Mathematics along with an arts/science mix or an essay-based subject.

Submitted Work: None.

Admissions Assessment (Cambridge College registered): Applicants who are invited to interview will sit a written assessment for Philosophy consisting of a 40 minute essay and a 20 minute multiple choice assessment. More information can be found on the University’s webpage for Admissions Assessments and the University's course page

Admissions Interviews

Those invited for interview will typically have two interviews conducted by the Director of Studies and Fellows in Philosophy. The first interview is approximately 15 minutes and the second interview is approximately 25 minutes in duration.

The interviews will take the form of a conversation that may cover topics raised in the assessment or in your personal statement, as well as other topics. No specific preparation for the interviews is required.

Some examples of the type of questions that you might be asked are:

  • What value does Philosophy have? Does it have any value for society as a whole? And does it matter what kind of value Philosophy has?
  • Is there any important difference between being able to explain an event and being able to predict it?
  • Does beautiful natural scenery have value if no-one is there to enjoy it?

Further Information

Further Information

Further information on the Philosophy Tripos can be found in the Undergraduate Prospectus available from: Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge, CB3 9DA, by phone (01223) 335090, email or you can visit their website.  You can also book a place on the Philosophy Open Day by phoning or emailing them as above.