Key facts

Average number of students offered a place per year


Average number of applicants per year


“...whoever wishes to become a philosopher must learn not to be frightened by absurdities.”
- Bertrand Russell

Our standard conditional offer for this subject is usually A*AA at A level or 41 - 43 points overall and 7, 7, 6 at Higher Level in IB.  All Colleges may modify offers to take account of individual circumstances.  Further information can be found here.

The Philosophy course at Cambridge is both challenging and wide–ranging, and it helps students to explore many of life’s absurdities in a fearless manner.

After focusing initially on core areas such as Metaphysics, Philosophy of Language, Ethics, Political Philosophy, and Logic, it is then possible to select from a wide range of subjects including Philosophy of Science, Wittgenstein, Greek and Roman Philosophy, and Aesthetics.

Teaching consists of regular lectures and supervisions, and students are required to write one essay a week during the Michaelmas and Lent Terms.

If you wish to find out more about Philosophy at Downing College, please contact the Director of Studies.

You are also advised that you can find out all sorts of further information, including details about other members of the Philosophy faculty, from the Philosophy Faculty’s website.

It is not necessary for students to have studied Philosophy before reading the subject at Cambridge, and Part IA of the Philosophy Tripos is taught on the assumption that they have not done so. Students with A-Levels (or equivalent) in either arts or science subjects are equally acceptable. A mix of arts and sciences is ideal.

At present, Philosophy applicants receive two half-hour interviews on the same day, with two interviewers present at each interview. Those applying for Philosophy will be asked to submit in advance of their interview two pieces of written work, produced in the course of their studies.

There is a one-hour written exercise, held on the same day as the interviews. This is meant to assess your aptitude for the subject rather than to test your previous knowledge of it.

Further advice about entry requirements and interviews for all subjects can be found in the Applying to Downing section of this site.

Further information about studying Philosophy at Cambridge can be found at the Faculty site.

This site contains a short video about the course, and it also gives a list of recommended preliminary reading. The books on the list are given as a guide to help applicants gain a better understanding of the subject matter. They are not intended as preparatory reading and interviewers will not expect candidates necessarily to have read any of these titles.

Resources for exploring the subject further can be found at