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What can I study?

"The course at Cambridge is so broad! I can choose to study scripture, history, literature, anthropology, languages, philosophy or ethics.

Not only can you study these disciplines in their own modules, but often you can find ways of coming at questions that incorporate other subjects or disciplines, in order to form an original and interesting response." 

Caspar, first year student

Our undergraduate degree is structured to allow you the choice to sample all aspects of the Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion* programme or to select tracks which focus on particular elements of our teaching. You will develop a variety of skills by covering a broad range of intellectual pursuits including the study of scripture, critical analysis of the works of great thinkers, the history of particular periods of human civilisation and reflecting on the latest scientific theories.

The course allows you the freedom to choose from a range of religious traditions and allows you to pursue multiple interests from an historical, philosophical or comparative perspective. You can combine an interest in Religion with History, Sociology, Philosophy, Literature, Politics, Psychology or Science. The decision will be yours and you are not bound to follow any particular path at any stage of the degree. 

Teaching is provided through lectures, classes and supervisions. You can expect up to nine hours of classes and lectures a week as well as a weekly supervision.

Assessment is mainly by three-hour written examinations, but some papers are assessed on the basis of coursework essays.

The course is broken down into three years of study:

Year One (Part I)

This is a foundation year and you will study five papers (modules).

These will include a scriptural language, which is usually studied from scratch. This gives you a unique insights into the texts and will help you understand the impact of translation on understanding scripture. You can choose from Hebrew, New Testament Greek, Sanskrit or Qur'anic Arabic. Look at our Learning a Language page to find out more about what this involves.

You'll also choose a Biblical paper. Textual analysis is a core part of your education in all fields of religion. By taking the Old or New Testament paper you will be well prepared for undertaking further study in any of the major world religions:

  • David: Israel's Greatest Hero?
  • Jesus and the Origins of the Gospel. 

In addition you choose three more papers from a choice of six:

  • The remaining Biblical paper
  • Christianity and the transformation of culture: English Christianity before and after the Reformation
  • The Question of God
  • Understanding contemporary religion: The sociology of religion
  • World religions in comparative perspective
  • Philosophy of religion and ethics
Read descriptions of the papers available this year for Part I to find out more  (you'll leave this section of the site and be directed to information for current undergraduates). 

To get a grounding in these papers, have a look at the book titles listed on our page of Introductory reading

Year Two (Part IIA)

This year builds on the knowledge and skills acquired in your first year. You take four papers from 16, covering a wide choice so that you can tailor the course to your interests.   

You could also take, as an additional paper, an Elementary Scriptural language – from Part I.

Read descriptions of the papers available this year for Part IIA to find out more (you'll leave this section of the site and be directed to information for current undergraduates).

Year Three (Part IIB)

All of the teaching is informed by the research of our lecturers and supervisors, but in the third year there is particular opportunity to study in topics that bear closely upon the cutting-edge current research  (either in the so-called ‘D’ papers, or through a dissertation). 

Read descriptions of the papers available this year for Part IIB to find out more (you'll leave this section of the site and be directed to information for current undergraduates).

If you would like more information on any of these paper please see our Detailed Paper Descriptions. These pages include some or all of the following: courses descriptions, methods of teaching, recommended reading, lecture titles and sample exam questions.

 

Paper tracks

Some students prefer to follow a specific pathway that matches their interests for one or more years. You do not have to formally opt for one of these and if you specialise in one year, you are not bound to do so in subsequent years. However, some students find that it helps guide their choices, given the range of option on offer.

Possible tracks include:

  • Islamic Studies
  • Jewish Studies 
  • Religious Traditions of India 
  • Biblical Studies
  • Christian Theology
  • Christian History
  • Philosophy of Religion

Download a document to see how you could follow one of the tracks by combining papers that were on offer in 2014-15

 

*The new title will apply to all students applying in 2016 and starting the course on or after 1 October 2017. Candidates starting the course prior to that date will continue to take papers under the title of Theological and Religious Studies. The course content will remain similar.