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Rainforest logging, Solomon Islands
Sami reindeer herding, Kuorpak

St John’s College currently admits around seven undergraduates each year to read Geography, making it one of the more important Cambridge Colleges for the subject.

We currently have two teaching Fellows in Geography, covering aspects of both Physical and Human Geography. There are also a number of graduate students doing Masters courses and Doctorates. The College has excellent library and computing facilities. We make grants to help defray the cost of purchasing those books that are essential for the course, and there are travel grants available to geographers to help to pay for long vacation projects. Undergraduate geographers run the Purchas Society (the College Geographical Society), which organises both academic meetings and social occasions.

The course in Geography

Undergraduates from all Colleges attend lecture courses, practicals and field classes organised by the Department of Geography. This teaching is supplemented by ‘supervisions’ organised by the College. The Cambridge Geographical Tripos is in three parts. Part IA is assessed partly by coursework but mainly through end-of-year examinations, and consists of two papers covering a broad range of topics in both physical and human geography.  Part IB provides structured choice, enabling students to specialise to some extent in their preferred area, whether Human, Historical/Cultural or Physical Geography. Part II provides free choice across a wide range of papers, and includes also a compulsory dissertation on a special topic chosen by the individual student.

Historic map of the South Pole, J SellerVacation Fieldwork

All students attend an overseas residential field course organised by the Department in the Easter vacation of their second year, usually in the Mediterranean area. In addition there may be the opportunity to join a course doing more specialised work, for example in Dublin (urban) or Iceland (geomorphological). Many students also carry out independent travel in connection with their Part II dissertation: Johnian geographers have recently been to Peru, USA, Uganda and Thailand among other faraway places to do dissertation fieldwork.

Directors of Studies

Dr Neil Arnold - Geography

Subject Fellows

UCAS Code: L700

Entry Requirements

Offers are normally conditional upon candidates’ performance at A2 or equivalent. Our standard, minimum conditional offer is A*AA at A2 (excluding General Studies and Critical Thinking).

Application / Interview Procedure

Pre-Interview Assessment

Applicants for Geography will need to sit the University's Pre-Interview Admissions Assessment, more information on which is available here.


Those invited for interview will have two interviews: one with the Tutor handling your application and one with two of the teaching Fellows in Geography. The aim of these interviews, each of which lasts for no more than half-an-hour, is to find out from you at first hand about your motivation and aptitude for the course you have chosen. We try to conduct our interviews in a friendly and informal manner, and you should not feel daunted by the prospect of them. Although we will naturally want to discuss some technical and subject-related questions with you, no special preparation is necessary or indeed desirable.

Interviews for Geography can be very wide ranging. During the interview we would expect to ask you about any A-level (or other) project work you may have done, or are proposing.  It will not count against you, however, if your course does not involve such work.  We also typically ask you to comment on, and interpret, a graph or diagram we show during the interview.  This would not involve any calculations etc., but we would hope that you would be able to make sense of the diagram, and comment on its possible wider geographical implications.  We also typically ask students to develop ideas or interests they discuss in their Personal Statements, again from a geographical perspective. Each interview is therefore unique; we have no set of questions we specifically ask, other than the areas above.  We are looking for a wide but informed interest in geographical and other issues, and an awareness of the possibly unique perspective that a geographer can bring.  Subjects within the broad geographical canon still excite us; we expect you to show a similar interest and passion.

Gavin Bennison
Background: A levels in Geography, French, Government & Politics and Maths (Wilmslow High School – state comprehensive).Hometown: Wilmslow, Cheshire'Studying at St John’s has been the most rewarding, exciting and intellectually challenging experience of my life. It has taken me in directions which I did not anticipate when I applied to study at Cambridge, and has profoundly shaped my world...

Further Information

A copy of Cambridge Geography, which describes the University Department, its staff, facilities and lecture courses, can be obtained from the Secretary of the Undergraduate School, Department of Geography, Downing Place, Cambridge, CB2 3EN; or you can e-mail them at vrf20@hermes.cam.ac.uk or visit their Undergraduate website.

Geography Course Video, courtesy of the University of Cambridge

See video