Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences is a three-year course covering social, developmental, biological and behavioural psychology within the broader context of the Behavioural Sciences. If you are interested in studying subjects such as the development of social behaviour, psychopathology, cognitive psychology, language, brain mechanisms, gender, family relationships and influences, personality and group social behaviour amongst many other topics, then this could be the course to choose.

Subject Video

Subject Video
A short introduction to the Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Tripos at St John's College, filmed for St John's September Open Days 2020. Featuring our Director of Studies Dr Elizabeth Michael.


Course Outline

Teaching is provided through lectures, classes or seminars, and supervisions. Some papers include a practical element, which takes place in laboratories. You can typically expect two lectures a week for each paper.

You also have one or two supervisions a week to discuss your work and develop your reasoning and ideas.

Year 1 (Part IA)

In Part IA, you take a total of four papers, two of which are compulsory:

  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Psychological Enquiry and Methods (this includes practical demonstrations and exercises)

The remaining two papers are chosen from a selection of up to nine options. The optional papers available each year may vary but subjects usually include:

  • biological and social anthropology
  • evolution and behaviour
  • politics
  • philosophy
  • sociology

At the end of the year, you sit a three-hour written examination in each paper.

Year 2 (Part IB)

Part IB provides a foundation for the research-led teaching of the final year while also allowing you to begin to specialise in those areas that most interest you.

You take four papers in total. All students take:

  • the Social and Developmental Psychology paper
  • the Cognitive Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology paper, which teaches research methods and includes laboratory work

Two optional papers selected from a range of around 19 available. The subjects may change from year to year but typically include papers in:

  • biological and social anthropology
  • history and philosophy of science
  • sociology
  • neurobiology
  • philosophy

You sit a written exam in each paper at the end of the year.

Year 3 (Part II)

In your final year, you undertake a research dissertation of 7,000 words on a psychology topic of your choice. You also choose a further three papers from a selection available, each of which is assessed by a written examination.

The subject of these papers may change from year to year but typically include the following topics:

  • social and developmental psychology
  • cognitive and experimental psychology
  • behavioural and cognitive neuroscience
  • criminology
  • selected subjects from those offered at Part IB


Further details of the course and options are available on the Cambridge Admissions website.

Entry Details

Typical Entry Requirements

A Level: A*AA

International Baccalaureate: 40-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

Essential Subjects: None

Desirable Subjects: Mathematics and science subjects such as Biology, Chemistry or Physics will be useful preparation for this course. Psychology is not a requirement. 

Submitted Work: None

Interview Assessment: None


Admissions Interviews

Details regarding the operation of admissions interviews in the 2020-2021 admissions round have yet to be confirmed.