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Frequently asked questions

Approaching graduate study can be daunting. Here is a selection of frequently asked questions, which should help you plan your application and your study.

Should I get in contact with a potential supervisor before I submit my application?

Yes. Prospective PhD and MPhil students must identify a potential supervisor from the Department's website. Go to the Research page to browse our major research themes or view the Academic Staff page for information and contact details of individuals. Prospective MPhil in Psychology students should browse our list of potential MPhil supervisors.

If my prospective supervisor tells me that they would like to work with me and encourages me to make an application, does this mean that I will automatically get a place on the course?

No. All applications are considered by the Admissions panel of the Graduate Education Committee, who rank the applications and nominate the strongest ones for funding. Supervisors have only a limited number of places each year, and these will be offered to the strongest applicants.

What if my first language is not English?

You must pass an English test in order to be eligible. This is to ensure that you have the skills to succeed in your course. Specific details are available from the Graduate Admissions website.

How long will it take before I hear about the outcome of my application?

There is a significant amount of processing that has to take place before a decision about eligibility can be made. Applications have to be academically assessed within the Department.

Following assessment, a recommendation will then be made by the Department, and forwarded back to Graduate Admissions. Final checks and assessments must be made before Graduate Admissions can send details of a formal offer. We recommend, therefore, that you allow two months for the assessment of your application.

What are some of the reasons why my application would be declined?

The department is unable to respond to specific requests for explanations regarding declined applications. A few possible reasons for declining applications are listed below:

1. Your application is missing documents.

2. Based on your research proposal the department cannot provide you with appropriate academic support.

3. Your academic record and/or work experience does not indicate your suitability for a PhD at Cambridge.

Is there a danger that I won't be accepted at a college?

No. It is possible that the colleges that you list as preferences will not have any available places, however, there are plenty of places across the 31 colleges for all successful applicants.

How many available places are there on each programme?

There is no fixed limit on numbers admitted.

Can I defer admission if I can't take up my place in the year that I apply?

No, unfortunately not. The University does not offer a deferment option. If you wish to be considered for admission in a future academic year, you must make another application.

Do I need to provide GRE test results or other test results?

No. The only additional materials required are a research proposal, two academic references (a personal reference if you would like to be considered for Gates funding), and transcripts. If your first language is not English, you need to provide IELTS or TOEFL scores.

Do you offer a conversion course?

No. You must have an academic background relevant to Psychology research.

Do I have to apply through the Board of Graduate Studies?

Yes. Informal applications directly to the Department are not possible.

I have been admitted, but haven't heard anything from the University funding bodies.

You will receive news regarding scholarships directly from the funding bodies themselves. The department does not receive any notice regarding the results of your scholarship applications before you do, so we cannot provide you with the results of your applications before you receive them yourself.

Do you accept part-time PhD study?

Yes, part-time PhD study is available. You are advised to discuss whether part-time study would be appropriate with your potential supervisor. As for full-time students, each case is considered on its merits and requires an interview with the potential supevisor.

Can I defer entry to the PhD or MPhil in Psychology) to Lent or Easter terms?

Yes, if there are good grounds to do this – some funding agencies don’t make their awards until after 31st July for example, or academic transcripts might be available too late for conditions of an offer to be met in time. If you think that you might need to do this, please contact the to discuss your circumstances.

Can I apply to start the PhD or MPhil in Psychology in January or April rather than October?

This is not generally encouraged as it excludes applicants from competing for University funding and attending the induction events at the beginning of the academic year.

However, in extreme circumstances, the Department may be willing to consider such applications. Please contact the IN ADVANCE of submitting your application to discuss your options.