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Subject Summary: Part II Psychology

Teaching is provided in three broad sections: 

  1. Cognitive and Experimental Psychology
  2. Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience
  3. Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Individual Differences. 

Candidates for the Psychology Option study material across all three sections. The Cognitive Neuroscience Option enables students to specialise in sections A and B. The lecture courses on offer in each area may vary slightly from year to year. Students will have been introduced to some of these topics in the Natural Sciences Tripos courses: Part IA Evolution and Behaviour, Part IB Experimental Psychology or Part IB Neurobiology, or in the Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos courses: Part IB Neurobiology and Human Behaviour. 

Teaching is also provided on statistics and experimental design; these skills are examined by compulsory questions in Paper 1. Paper 1 also tests the candidate's ability to relate and integrate information from different branches of the subject, and includes questions on conceptual and historical issues in psychology. Papers 2-4 test the three sections (A-C) described above; candidates taking the Psychology option sit each paper, answering three questions on each paper. Candidates taking the Cognitive Neuroscience option sit three papers on sections A and B only. Within these constraints, there is ample scope for students to pick courses that match their interests. Students typically study about half the range of subjects on offer. 

There are no practical classes. Instead, each student conducts an experimental research project, under supervision, over two terms, and submits an independent written report. A dissertation - an extended critical review of an area of the psychological or cognitive neuroscience literature other than that of the project - may also be submitted. The Tripos mark is based on the project report (20%), and Papers 1 to 4 (20% each).  For students submitting the optional dissertation, the dissertation may be used to replace the lowest second class (or above) mark from the written Papers 2, 3 or 4.  

Almost all those admitted to the course will have taken Part IB Experimental Psychology in the Natural Sciences Tripos, or Part IB of the Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos. Students may transfer from either the Philosophy Tripos or Politics, Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Tripos. Any other student may transfer, but would normally be required to devote two years to the Part II course. For those who have met the examination requirements for NST IB Experimental Psychology and NST Part II Psychology (excluding the Cognitive Neuroscience option),, the degree received is recognised by the British Psychological Society as conferring 'graduate basis for registration', an essential prerequisite for postgraduate training and practice in certain professional branches of psychology.  

Programme Specification: Part II Psychology

This course is taught by the Department of Psychology. There are two options: 1) Part II Psychology (Psychology); 2) Part II Psychology (Cognitive Neuroscience).


  1. to provide teaching to students via lecture courses from several areas of experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience;
  2. to provide students with freedom of choice to specialise in particular areas;
  3. to provide students with a training in experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience which would enable them to subsequently pursue advanced education and/or training in psychology.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students should have:

  1. developed conceptual tools required for analysis of mind, brain and behaviour;
  2. extended their knowledge and understanding of selected topics to the frontiers of research;
  3. gained experience of psychological research and scientific reporting, through the conduct and writing up of a supervised research project;
  4. learnt and exercised techniques of statistical analysis commonly used in experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience;
  5. had the opportunity to develop the skills of literature research, critical review and extended expository writing through preparing a dissertation.

Teaching and Learning Methods

These include lectures, statistical classes, project supervision and supervisions on lecture material.


Assessment for this course is through:

  • four unseen written examinations, based on the content of lecture courses and statistical classes (for aims 1, 2 and 3 and learning outcomes 1, 2 and 4);
  • submission of a practical report of experimental work conducted with the guidance of a supervisor (for aim 3 and learning outcomes 3 and 4);
  • an optional dissertation (for aims 2 and 3 and learning outcomes 1, 2 and 5).

Courses of Preparation

Essential: None, although see Subject Summary for requirements for British Psychological Society accreditation.

Recommended: NST Part IB Experimental Psychology or Part IB of the Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos. (NST 1B Neurobiology is also considered sufficient preparation for the Cognitive Neuroscience Option)

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Websites pages.