Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

Psychology lecture

Director of Studies: Professor Theresa Marteau

Other webpages:

Course length: 3 years

Typical number of offers each year at Christ's: 3

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences is a three year degree course covering a broad range of psychology, including behavioural and cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, as well as the study of a typical development and adult psychopathology.

In the first year (Part I), students take two compulsory papers introducing them to psychology and psychological inquiry and methods, and two optional papers from a wide range of disciplines including politics, sociology, archaeology, biological and social anthropology, philosophy, natural sciences, economics, and education.

In the second year (Part IIA) students again take four papers, a social psychology paper plus a specialist paper selected from a wide range of options. For the other two papers students can take Biological and Cognitive Psychology and a second specialist topic, or Experimental Psychology and complete a research project.

In the third year (Part IIB) all students undertake a research dissertation on a psychology topic of their choice plus three further papers selected from a specialist list.

Further details of the course can be found on the PBS course website.

Why study Psychology at Cambridge?

  • Ranked second in the world for Psychology ( QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015 )
  • Ranked top for Psychology in the Guardian's University Guide 2015, the Good University Guide 2015 (Sunday Times, published 21 September 2014), and the Complete University Guide 2015.
  • Highest score in the latest Research Assessment Exercise, conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England in 2008.

Why study Psychology at Christ’s?

In addition to nominating Cambridge as one of your selected universities on the UCAS application form, it is a good idea to select a preferred College (the alternative is to submit an Open Application and allow your College to be chosen for you by computer). If you are able to visit Cambridge (preferably on a College Open Day) you will get a better idea of the location, atmosphere and facilities of various Colleges.

In addition to the Why choose Christ's page, our Psychology students list the following reasons for studying at Christ's:

  • very friendly – a real community feel.
  • close to the Psychology Department (see map).
  • offers accommodation for three years to all undergrads.
  • has a modern library that makes independent study feel less isolating.
  • great tutorial support for Psychology and optional paper.

For more detail, see the student profiles below.

Student Profiles

Oscar, Liz, and Yasmin study Psychology and Behavioural Sciences here at Christ's College. They have written about their experiences of studying PBS in their student profiles:

If you would like to read more accounts from Christ's students, please see the student profiles page.

"Out of all of my papers this year, I thought that the most interesting essay I got to work on was either one on social norms, or another on non-traditional families, as I enjoyed being able to explore ongoing research."


How to Apply

Our aim is to admit the best students regardless of their background. Details of the application process and timeline are available on our how to apply page, which we encourage all students to read, and once you've applied, our admissions office provides detailed support through the current applicants section.

Subject requirements

There are no specific subjects that you must be studying at school to make an application for PBS, though students with A-level, IB Higher (or equivalent) Mathematics and/or a science subject may be more competitive than those without. We do not require you to be studying Psychology at school.

Pre-interview Admissions Assessment

All students applying to the University of Cambridge for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences sit a pre-interview admissions assessment called the Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Admissions Assessment (PBSAA). The same assessment is used regardless of which College you have applied to. The Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Admissions Assessment examines your academic abilities, knowledge-base and potential, and forms part of our holistic admissions process: there is no set score that we are looking for. When applying, it is important to be aware of the registration and assessment dates:

  • All Psychological and Behavioural Sciences applicants applying in 2019 must be registered to take the Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Admissions Assessment by 18:00 UK time on 15 October 2019. See how to be registered.
    Please note that open centres may set an earlier deadline for accepting entries, and it is your responsibility to check if this applies at your centre.
  • All Psychological and Behavioural Sciences applicants applying in 2019 sit the assessment on 30 October 2019.

Information about the assessment including example papers and subject content is available on the University Admissions website from March each year.


Interviews in Cambridge usually take place in early December. PBS applicants selected for interview at Christ's have two interviews (about 25 minutes each). During one interview you will be asked to interpret a graph, solve a problem or comment on an essay question. Further information about interviews (including two useful films) is available in the Cambridge interviews section.

We also hold interviews in a number of locations overseas. If this may be relevant for you, please see the international students section


Christ's College does not have fixed quotas of places for different subjects and the exact numbers admitted in any one year will depend upon the strengths of the fields of applicants in various subjects. However, our aim is to make around three offers each year for PBS. 

Our typical conditional offer for PBS is A*AA at A level, 42 points overall in the IB with 7,7,6 in relevant Higher Level subjects, or the equivalent in other qualifications. If you are an international applicant taking another qualification, do look at the international students section for further information. If you apply after you have finished school and we give you the offer of a place, it will not normally have further academic conditions if you have already met our requirements. Further information is given on our page for post-qualification applications.

Resources and reading advice for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

Here are a few books you might enjoy reading that provide a general background to Psychological and Behavioural Sciences.

  • Pinker, S (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Viking).
  • Kahneman, D (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux).
  • Hrdy, S (2011). Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding (Harvard University Press).
  • Damasio, A. (2010). Self comes to mind: constructing the conscious brain. (Vintage Books).
  • LeDoux, J (2003). Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are (Penguin).
  • Eysenck, MW. & Keane MT. (2010) Cognitive Psychology: A Student's Handbook (Psychology Press)
  • Hogg, MA & Vaughan GM. (2009) Essentials of Social Psychology (Prentice Hall)

Please note: this section is to help prospective students who are looking for reading suggestions. If you decide to apply and are invited for interview we don’t expect you to have read all of these books.

You can find further resources to develop your interest in Psychology on the HE+ website, and specimen papers for the PBS Admissions Assessment are available on the Cambridge Admissions website

"Both the best and the hardest thing about PBS is that it combines humanities and the sciences."


Further Information

Do explore the PBS course website where you will find answers to frequently asked questions.

If you are able to come to a College Open Day, we will be glad to tell you more about Christ’s and studying Psychological and Behavioural Sciences here.

If you have any further questions about studying Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at Christ’s, please contact our admissions office:

Back to the subject list / How to apply / Why choose Christ's?