How to Get Into Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) at Cambridge

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) is a unique and competitive course at Cambridge University. Just 15.5% of applicants successfully receive an offer for PBS at Cambridge and the application process is designed to be challenging.

If you’re thinking of applying for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences or just curious about what it takes to get into one of the best universities in the UK, this guide contains everything you need to know – from entry requirements to tips on how to prepare from our expert PBS tutors.

The Profs’ Psychological and Behavioural Sciences tutors have first-hand experience of the admissions process and what is required to succeed at each stage. Thanks to our expert support, students who work with The Profs are more than three times more likely to receive an offer from Cambridgel. Reach out to our team today to maximise your chances of success.

What is Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS)?

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) is a three-year course offered by Cambridge University which combines the study of cognitive, social, developmental and biological Psychology and studies these within the broader context of Behavioural Sciences. The course covers many traditional areas of Psychology, including Psychopathology and brain mechanisms, as well as overlapping with many other disciplines, including Anthropology, Linguistics, Sociology, and more.

What are the entry requirements for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS)?

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences is a competitive course at Cambridge and requires applicants to achieve excellent grades and show great potential. The table below shows the entry requirements for PBS:

QualificationGrades
A LevelsA*AA
Scottish/Advanced HighersA1, A2, A2
International Baccalaureate (IB)40-42 points with 776 at Higher Level.

Note that 65% of successful applicants from an A Level background in 2017, 2018 and 2019 achieved at least grades A*A*A – one grade higher than the minimum entry requirements. For the same period, the majority of International Baccalaureate entrants achieved grades at the upper end of the entry requirement range, achieving at least 42 points overall and/or grades 776 at Higher Level. You should therefore be aiming for the best grades possible when applying to PBS at Cambridge to give yourself the best chance of receiving an offer.

Worried that you won’t achieve the necessary grades to study Psychological and Behavioural Sciences at Cambridge? The Profs’ A level and IB tutors can help. We have extensive experience helping students excel in their coursework and final exams and achieve the entry grades for this competitive course. Reach out to our team for support.

Which subjects are recommended?

No specific subjects are required by all colleges. However, applicants are usually expected to have taken an A level/IB Higher level in Biology or Maths. Hence, taking one or both of these subjects could make your application more competitive. If you have not studied Biology or Maths for A level (or equivalent), Cambridge recommends that you have strong Science GCSEs. For IB students, Cambridge expresses a preference for those who take Analysis and Approaches.

The majority of successful PBS applicants took Psychology (78% of applicants) at A level, so if this is available at your school or college, taking it is strongly advised. If Psychology is not available to you, don’t worry. Any subjects that show you can understand the scientific and mathematical basis of Psychology are helpful. Around 82% of successful PBS applicants took at least one of Biology or Mathematics at A level, so these subjects are highly recommended.

So, for the most competitive application, pursue Psychology, Biology, Maths, and/or Analysis and Approaches (if applicable). If you’ve already started your A levels or IB (or equivalent) and you feel it’s too late for you to study these subjects, pursue them outside of class. Complete an independent study or research project in Psychology, Biology or Maths, or ask your school to enrol on Further Maths (even if you have to shadow the class rather than have it as an official class). Or take a MOOC or an extra STEM or quantitative qualification. For Pyschology, you could conduct research, attend open lectures, watch documentaries and listen to podcasts. Do what you can to prove your scientific and mathematical aptitude. You should also ensure that your GCSEs in Science and Maths are as high as possible – don’t be afraid to retake if not.

Which admissions test do you need for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS)?

There is no assessment required for PBS at most colleges. However, a written admissions assessment is required by the following colleges:

  • Gonville & Caius
  • Homerton
  • Hughes Hall
  • Murray Edwards
  • Newnham
  • Selwyn
  • Wolfson

This admissions assessment is a 2-hour exam designed to assess your thinking skills, mathematical and biological knowledge, and reading comprehension (section 1), as well as your ability to think analytically and form a clear argument (section 2). Registering in advance will not be necessary. Colleges will provide details to you. 

Applicants to some colleges are also required to submit written work prior to the interview.

How hard is it to get into Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS)?

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences is difficult to get into due to both the volume and calibre of applicants you’ll be competing against and the high entry requirements. The course has a 15.5% acceptance rate at Cambridge, meaning only around 1 in every 6 applicants are successful.

It’s therefore important to maximise your chances of success at every stage of the admissions process. Thankfully, The Profs’ Oxbridge admissions tutors have helped hundreds of students successfully get into Cambridge and know just how to help you make your application stand out, from developing a winning personal statement to performing well in your admissions interview. Reach out to our team to get started.

What are the fees for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS)?

The table below shows the fees for Cambridge’s PBS course for both home (UK) and overseas students:

Student statusCourse fees (per year)
Home£9,250
Overseas£35,517

You can find out more information about what fees you will pay on Cambridge’s fee status page. You can also use Cambridge’s fees, funding and financial assistance page to see the funding options available to you.

4 tips on how to get into Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS)

1. Prepare thoroughly for each stage of the admissions process

When applying to study PBS at Cambridge, there are many stages of the admissions process to consider, and you should prepare for each one thoroughly.

  • Your grades – preparation for your PBS application really starts from the moment you begin your GCSEs and A-levels (or equivalent). An excellent academic track record is essential in order to be considered for a place at Cambridge, so you should be aiming for A*AA in your A-levels (or equivalent) as a minimum.
  • Your UCAS application – the first official stage of your PBS application is completing your UCAS application online. As well as your grades, this includes your personal statement. This is the first chance you’ll get to showcase your suitability for PBS and prove to Cambridge that you are interested and committed to the subject areas. Your personal statement needs to stand out from the crowd and be as specific as possible to PBS and Cambridge itself. Why are you the perfect fit for this course at Cambridge? Check out our previous article on how to write a winning personal statement.
  • Your MyCapp application – the MyCapp is another application form that’s unique to Cambridge which asks for some extra academic and personal information. It also offers the opportunity for you to submit a second personal statement which specific and unique to the PBS course at Cambridge University. You should NOT copy/paste your UCAS personal statement into this box; in fact, it would be better to write nothing. You should write directly to Cambridge. Yes, there’s more effort and work involved in writing a whole new statement but the MyCapp is an invaluable chance to stand out and sell yourself as the perfect candidate. A lot of students overlook the MyCapp application and waste or misuse their second personal statement, don’t make the same mistake! Read out previous article on the MyCapp and reach out to our expert admission tutors.
  • The written assessment/written work, if required – some colleges require a written test and it’s important that you prepare for this in advance with an expert who knows what the examiners will be looking for. Reach out to The Profs’ admissions consultants for more information on this.
  • The interview – if your UCAS application is impressive enough, you may be invited for an interview at Cambridge. This is your last chance to impress the university and prove that you are an excellent candidate for the course. Oxbridge interviews are like oral admissions tests and there is often even a mark scheme your interviewers will be scoring you against, so it’s important to seek professional help to prepare effectively. We have a guide on completing Oxbridge interviews here. Oxbridge interviews are far different from most other university interviews and require a very specific approach, we have a lot of experience and inside information on exactly what Oxbridge interviewers are looking for.

Need some help with any of the steps above? We have experts for each niche: GCSE tutors, A level tutors, personal statement tutors, and interview tutors. We can help you smash each and every step.

Note that all students applying to university for 2023, 2024 or 2025 will still be required to submit a UCAS personal statement as normal. However, from January 2025 onwards (October 2024, for Oxbridge applicants), there will be changes to the UCAS application process and students will no longer be required to write a personal statement. Instead, all applicants will answer a series of shorter, more tailored questions provided by UCAS.

2. Read widely

Cambridge looks for applicants who are truly passionate about the subjects they’re studying. Although Psychology is not a subject requirement, it is therefore important to read widely, particularly around the subjects that you will be covering on the Psychological and Behavioural Studies course. Immerse yourself in relevant subjects as much as possible and mention your independent study in your personal statement.

The list below shows the readings recommended by Cambridge to help you prepare for PBS. Referencing these in your personal statement and in your interview are great ways of standing out to admissions officers and showing your dedication to studying this particular degree course at Cambridge.

  • Inventing ourselves by S-J Blakemore (2018)
  • The inflamed mind by E Bullmore (2018)
  • Invisible women by C Criado-Perez (2019)
  • Self comes to mind: constructing the conscious brain by A Damasio (2010)
  • Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are by J LeDoux (2003)
  • Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the myths of our gendered mind by C Fine (2017)
  • The Righteous Mind by J Haidt (2012)
  • Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding by S Hrdy (2011)
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by D Kahneman (2011)
  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by S Pinker (2011)
  • The Man who mistook his wife for a hat by O Sacks (1985)
  • Why zebras don’t get ulcers by R Sapolsky (1994)

You can appear like a keen and dedicated student by referencing a couple of these books to show that you’ve read Cambridge’s suggested reading list. But it’s best if you can go beyond their reading list and demonstrate independent thought by linking one or two of these texts to some more niche texts that you found yourself. Go beyond your syllabus by studying less-known and obscure subjects and/or texts.

Also, keep up to date with the world. Take theory and apply it to current events e.g. new trials and criminal profiles in the news. Show that you have the independent faculties to use your academic knowledge to process the world around you and that you want to. Appearing curious, stimulated and enthusiastic will present you as the type of student Cambridge’s PBS course wants. After all, they only want to invest in students who are hungry and will stay motivated throughout an undergraduate degree. Potential is the key thing, so your academic intelligence isn’t enough on its own. It’s how you use it.

Feeling overwhelmed by all the preparation? Unsure whether you’re doing the right things? We have skilled Psychology tutors as well as Cambridge admissions tutors who can help you submit the perfect application. 

3. Demonstrate your quantitative, mathematical abilities

Around 50% of the compulsory papers on the Psychological and Behavioural Sciences course at Cambridge focus on Statistics and Neuroscience, making quantitative and mathematical skills extremely important. You should therefore be able to demonstrate strong abilities in these areas.

There are many ways you can show your aptitude for Maths and Statistics. One of the best ways is to take Mathematics and/or a quantitative or Science subject at A-level (or equivalent).

You can also participate in extracurricular activities or challenges such as the UK Maths Challenge to showcase your passion for Maths outside of the classroom. Volunteering as a Maths or Science tutor to younger students and gaining work experience in a STEM industry are also great ways to help your application stand out. Consider entering a competition, completing a research project, shadowing a class, or completing a MOOC in a STEM subject. You can also complete a quantitative qualification outside of school, like the MAT, STEP or TMUA.

Regardless of what you have previously studied or included in your personal statement, it’s important that you brush up on your Maths skills ahead of your university interview. College interviews for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences are likely to include Maths-based questions, so it’s important that you are prepared to showcase the best of your knowledge on the day.

We have experienced Maths tutors and interview coaches who specialise in Cambridge admissions. Don’t gamble with your future, just reach out!

4. Seek help from a PBS expert

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences is a very competitive course at Cambridge and requires you to perform well in multiple stages to be in with a chance of securing an offer. Unfortunately, schools and colleges are oftentimes not equipped to provide specialist PBS or Cambridge admissions preparation due to a lack of experience, expertise or resources. As a result, we advise seeking a professional  PBS or Cambridge admissions tutor to help you through the process.

The Profs’ Psychological and Behavioural Sciences tutors have many years of experience helping students develop their academic profiles, prepare for the admissions assessment (if needed), and excel in the admissions interview. Many of our Cambridge admissions tutors have studied at Cambridge or worked in Cambridge admissions. If you work with one of The Profs’ tutors, you are over three times more likely to get into Cambridge.

Gain invaluable independent study skills that will prepare you for study at an elite UK university, as well as a deeper and broader understanding of a range of psychological concepts and critical thinking approaches. Reach out to our experienced team today to get started.