At the
University of Cambridge , mottoeng = Literal: From here, light and sacred draughts. Non literal: From this place, we gain enlightenment and precious knowledge. , established = , other_name = The Chancellor, Masters and Schola ...
, a Tripos (, plural 'Triposes') is any of the examinations that qualify an undergraduate for a
bachelor's degree A bachelor's degree (from Middle Latin ''baccalaureus'') or baccalaureate (from Modern Latin ''baccalaureatus'') is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to six ...
or the courses taken by a student to prepare for these. For example, an undergraduate studying mathematics is said to be reading for the '' Mathematical Tripos'', whilst a student of English literature is reading for the ''English Tripos''. In most traditional English universities, a student registers to study one field exclusively, rather than having " majors" or " minors" as in American,
Australian Australian(s) may refer to: Australia * Australia, a country * Australians, citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia ** European Australians ** Anglo-Celtic Australians, Australians descended principally from British colonists ** Aboriginal A ...
Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, many (or all) of these connections exist and are collectively the source o ...
, or Scottish universities. In practice, however, most degrees may be fairly interdisciplinary in nature, depending on the subject. The multi-part tripos system at Cambridge also allows substantial changes in field between parts; the Natural Sciences Tripos is especially designed to allow a highly flexible curriculum across the sciences.


The word has an obscure
etymology Etymology ()The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) – p. 633 "Etymology /ˌɛtɪˈmɒlədʒi/ the study of the class in words and the way their meanings have changed throughout time". is the study of the history of the Phonological chan ...
, but may be traced to the three-legged stool candidates once used to sit on when taking oral examinations (see ''
tripod A tripod is a portable three-legged frame or stand, used as a platform for supporting the weight and maintaining the stability of some other object. The three-legged (triangular stance) design provides good stability against gravitational loads ...
''). An apocryphal legend 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. Another tradition holds that the name derives from the three brackets printed on the back of the voucher.


Initially, the only way to obtain an honours degree at Cambridge was the Mathematical Tripos examination. John Jebb proposed reforms in 1772, but implementation was blocked by various matters such as lack of expertise in the smaller colleges in a wider range of subjects. Classed examinations in law were introduced in 1816 by
James William Geldart James William Geldart LL.D. (1785–1876) was an English cleric and academic. He was Regius Professor of Civil Law at Cambridge, from 1814 to 1847. Life The eldest son of the Rev. James Geldart, rector of Kirk Deighton, Yorkshire (died 12 Novemb ...
, who was then Regius Professor of Civil Law. Although a classical tripos was created in 1822, it was only open to those who already had high honours in mathematics or those who were the sons of peers. This restriction ended around 1850, and triposes in the moral sciences and natural sciences were introduced in the 1860s. The origin and evolution of the Cambridge Tripos can be found in William Clark's ''Academic Charisma and the Origin of the Research University''.


A tripos is divided into two parts: ''Part I'', which is broadly based, and ''Part II'', which allows specialization within the student's chosen field. Since a
bachelor's degree A bachelor's degree (from Middle Latin ''baccalaureus'') or baccalaureate (from Modern Latin ''baccalaureatus'') is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to six ...
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 the Mathematical Tripos; these are not required to complete a bachelor's degree. Some ''Part III'' courses allow the student to graduate with both a
master's degree A master's degree (from Latin ) is an academic degree awarded by universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice.
and a bachelor's degree: for example, scientific Part III courses allow the student to graduate with an M.Sci. degree in addition to the B.A. degree which all Cambridge graduates receive. The Engineering Tripos is divided into four Parts (IA, IB, IIA, IIB), each corresponding to one academic year, and leads to the simultaneous awarding of the B.A. and M.Eng. degrees. 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, but incorrectly, considered to be the classification for the overall degree. Most subjects are examined in all three years; for example, the Natural Sciences Tripos has examinations for Part IA, Part IB, Part II, and in some subjects, Part III. The English, History and ASNaC Triposes have preliminary rather than full examinations at the end of the first year, though History and English have recently scrapped Preliminary exams in the first year and moved to a IA, IB, II structure with classed examinations in all years. Degree regulations state that, to be awarded a degree, a student must have passed two honours examinations (i.e., two Tripos examinations) – this could include a Part I and a Part II, two Part I exams, or (in some cases) a Part I and a Part IA. From October 2011, students can only be awarded an
honours degree Honours degree has various meanings in the context of different degrees and education systems. Most commonly it refers to a variant of the undergraduate bachelor's degree containing a larger volume of material or a higher standard of study, or ...
if they have been awarded honours in a Part II or Part III examination; a combination of Part I examinations will allow a student to graduate with an Ordinary degree. All students must complete at least nine terms of residence (three years of study) – making it impossible for students to simply complete two one-year tripos parts. This makes it easy for an undergraduate to switch out of a subject. So a one-year Part I (or Part IA) must be followed by a two-year Part II, and usually vice versa. More exotic combinations are possible, with the permission of the student's college and prospective department, but some combinations create a four-year bachelor's degree. A few subjects – i.e. Management Studies, Manufacturing Engineering, and Linguistics (prior to October 2010) – exist only as Part II, and can be preceded by any manner of Part I subject. Students who already possess a bachelor's degree or equivalent from another university are generally permitted to skip Part I, and thus can complete a Cambridge bachelor's degree in two years or less. Students already holding a BA degree from Cambridge are not permitted to collect a second BA from the University. A student requesting to graduate (technically, 'admitted to a degree') is assessed mainly on two criteria: not only the Triposes they have completed (requirements laid by the statutes and ordinances of Cambridge), as recorded in the Cambridge University Reporter (Cambridge's gazette newspaper), but also the number of terms kept (at least nine required for a BA; 10 for an undergraduate master's degree). A student's requests to graduate should also be approved by their college, and be unopposed by the regent house, one of the university's governing bodies with vetoing powers.

List of Triposes

Below is the list of Triposes offered by the University (Latin numerals in brackets indicate the Parts available): * Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Tripos (ASNaC) (I, II) (two year part I) * Archaeology Tripos (I, IIA, IIB) * Architecture Tripos (IA, IB, II) * Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (formerly Oriental Studies Tripos) (IA, IB, II) * Chemical Engineering Tripos ("Chem Eng") (I, IIA, IIB) (part IIB completion leads to M Eng in addition to BA) * Classical Tripos (IA, IB, II) (pre IA year available to those without A-level Latin/Greek) * Computer Science Tripos ("Comp Sci") (IA, IB, II, III) (part III completion leads to M Eng plus BA) * Economics Tripos (I, IIA, IIB) * Education Tripos (I, II) (two year part I) * Engineering Tripos (IA, IB, IIA, IIB) (part IIB completion leads to M Eng in addition to BA) *English Tripos (I, II) (two year part I) * Geographical Tripos (IA, IB, II) * Historical Tripos (I, II) (two year part I) *Historical Tripos (from 2022) (IA, IB, II) *History and Modern Languages Tripos (IA, IB, II) (two year part II) *History and Politics Tripos (IA, IB, II) * History and Philosophy of Science Tripos (HPS) (IB, II) *History of Art Tripos (I, IIA, IIB) * Human, Social, and Political Sciences Tripos (HSPS) (I, IIA, IIB) * Land Economy Tripos (IA, IB, II) * Law Tripos (IA, IB, II) *Linguistics Tripos (I, IIA, IIB) *Management Studies Tripos ("Part II" only; the Management Studies Tripos is a one-year course) * Manufacturing Engineering Tripos (I, II) (part III completion leads to M Eng in addition to BA) * Mathematical Tripos (IA, IB, II, III) (part III completion leads to MMath in addition to a BA) * Medical Sciences Tripos (MedST) (IA, IB) *Modern and Medieval Languages Tripos (MML) (IA, IB, II) * Music Tripos (IA, IB, II) * Natural Sciences Tripos ("Nat Sci") (IA, IB, II, III) (part III completion leads to M Sci in addition to a BA) * Philosophy Tripos (IA, IB, II) *Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Tripos (I, IIA, IIB) * Theological and Religious Studies Tripos (I, IIA, IIB) *Veterinary Sciences Tripos (VetST) (IA, IB)

Proposed triposes (approval pending)

Triposes recently abolished, renamed or restructured

*Oriental Studies Tripos *Education Studies Tripos *Linguistics Tripos (Old Regulations) *Archaeology and Anthropology Tripos *Politics, Psychology and Sociology PSTripos *Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos (MVST); split into separate Medical and Veterinary Sciences Triposes (MedST/VetST) from October 2018.

See also

Honour Moderations Honour Moderations (or ''Mods'') are a set of examinations at the University of Oxford at the end of the first part of some degree courses (e.g., Greats or '' Literae Humaniores''). Honour Moderations candidates have a class awarded (hence the ...
(Oxford) *
Master of Arts (Oxbridge and Dublin) In the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin, Bachelors of Arts are promoted to the degree of Master of Arts or Master in Arts (MA) on application after six or seven years' seniority as members of the university (including years as an ...
* Wooden spoon (award) * Wrangler (University of Cambridge)


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