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Photo: Allan Ajifo. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

  • Number of students per year: two to three
  • Typical offer: A*A*A or equivalent
  • Essential subjects: one of Biology or Mathematics
  • Useful subjects: Biology, Mathematics

Jesus College has a resident Fellow who specialises in Experimental Social Psychology: Professor Simone Schnall, an expert on the interaction of cognitive and affective processes. 

Dr Catherine O’Brien is Director of Studies for Parts IA and IB. Her research focuses on social and developmental psychology and has centred on schools - both primary and secondary - in terms of children and young people’s understanding of authority and power. She is also interested in autistic spectrum conditions from a social and developmental, and also depth psychology, perspective.

We encourage our students to develop their own interests within a supportive and challenging intellectual environment. Psychology is unique as a discipline because it spans a wide range of topic areas that can be approached from a biological perspective and a social science discipline.

Psychology is the study of the interface between mind and body. You should therefore have a good understanding of brain structures and processes, and bodily systems, including gene x environment interactions. Equally, you should understand the socio-cultural factors influencing or constituting our behaviour and the meanings we attach to it.

We are looking for those who can think both philosophically and neurobiologically about psychology. To a significant extent, this is a science-based course, therefore you should be prepared to engage with maths, statistics and methodology, and be keen to learn about cellular biology, synapses, neurotransmitters, anatomy, to a relatively in-depth level.

The University has published a video explaining what PBS is like at Cambridge. At Cambridge we emphasise the scientific study of Psychology and its link to other areas of study, which can be chosen as optional modules. In this way, our undergraduates have the opportunity to broaden their horizons and develop independence of thought and pleasure in intellectual engagement with the material.

The College has first rate study facilities, such as the Quincentenary Library, which has an excellent stock of textbooks and more advanced readings in Psychology and related areas, as well as a number of anatomical models that are useful for the study of the brain and neuroscientific investigation.

Our Psychology graduates find employment in a very wide range of professions because they develop a variety of skills that are popular with prospective employers, like the ability to analyse quantitative data, a skill that is extensively practiced in the form of statistical methods and research methods.

We're also very pleased to be able to welcome some of our graduates back as postgraduate students, in the first instance for the MPhil Degree in Social and Developmental Psychology, or as PhD students.

Find out more on the University webpage.
What we look for


Our typical offer is for two A* grades and one A grade at A-Level or equivalent.

To read Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) at Jesus College, you must have studied at A-Level (or equivalent) either Biology or Mathematics. Taking Psychology at A-Level (or equivalent) is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage.

You need to be open-minded, curious, engaged and passionate about psychological phenomena and current issues. You should have thought about the connections between psychology and other disciplines, and its applications. You should enjoy writing essays - expressing yourself clearly and combining ideas and empirical evidence in a coherent, lucid and compelling way. Finally, you should have read a good selection of psychology books and articles, which you can discuss enthusiastically and critically.


No specialist knowledge is required, but we expect you to have explored your interest in the subject.

Written assessment

There is currently no written admissions assessment for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences. 


In 2023-24, we’ll be interviewing shortlisted applicants virtually, with interviews taking place in December.

The interview process aims to assess your intellectual ability, potential, and commitment to the subject. Candidates are typically interviewed by at least three subject specialists, including the Director of Studies, and total contact time will be between 35-50 minutes in total. This could be in a single interview, or in two separate interviews. Further details will be made available to candidates closer to the time.

Interviews usually include some exercises designed to assess your aptitude to think creatively and logically about psychology, but no previous knowledge is expected.

Find out more about the interview process on the University website.

Written work

You don't need to submit any written work.

Deferred and post A-Level entry

We're happy to consider applications for either immediate or deferred entry, or from applicants who have already taken their A-Levels or equivalent qualifications. The College also welcomes applications from mature students.

Find out how to apply to study at Jesus.