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Tripos

From Academic Kids

This article is about the Cambridge Tripos system. For the computer operating system, see TRIPOS.

The University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, divides the different kinds of honours bachelor's degree by Tripos, a word which has an obscure etymology, but which may be traced to the three-legged stool candidates once used to sit on when taking oral examinations. A common (but untrue) myth says that students used to receive one leg of a stool in each of their three years of exams, receiving the whole stool at graduation. An undergraduate studying mathematics is thus said to be reading the Mathematical Tripos, whilst a student of English is reading the English Tripos. (In most traditional British universities a student is expected to study one subject exclusively rather than having 'majors' or 'minors' as in American style universities).

A Tripos is divided into two parts: Part I, which is broadly based, and Part II, which allows specialism within the student's chosen field. Since a bachelor's degree usually takes three years to complete, either Part I or Part II is two years, and the other one year. The details of this can vary from subject to subject. There is also an optional Part III offered in some subjects, such as Mathematics; these are not required to complete a Bachelor degree.

Students are examined formally at the end of each part, and are awarded a degree classification for each part. The Part II classification is usually considered to be the classification for the degree. Some subjects are examined in all three years; most Triposses have examinations for Part IA (read: "Part one A"), Part IB ("Part one B") and Part II ("Part two").

Degree regulations state that, to be awarded a degree, you must have passed both a Part I and a Part II examination. This places some restrictions on an undergraduate switching subjects. For example someone who wished to switch from a subject with a two-year Part I at the end of the first year (i.e. before they had been examined for Part I) would have to either wait a year and sit Part I in their old subject or sit Part I of their new subject, in which case they might take four years to complete their degree.

Students who already possess a bachelor's degree or equivalent, whether from Cambridge or elsewhere, are generally permitted to skip Part I, and thus can complete a Cambridge bachelor's degree in two years or less.


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