Examinations are an important marker of your progress throughout your course, and they are the clearest and most immediate measure by which a potential employer or funder may judge you.
It is important to approach exams seriously, calmly and ambitiously. A thorough review of course notes can work wonders for the confidence, and offer a reminder of just how much progress has been made. Exams can be a powerful catalyst: many students find themselves propelled into the next stages of their academic work with a new clarity of focus and a more compelling and personal sense of intellectual engagement.
In many subjects College Preliminary Examinations are held in January, offering an early opportunity to ensure you are keeping pace with your course, to familiarise yourself with the style and level of Cambridge examinations, and to adjust your approach to work if required. For most students the first Tripos examinations arrive in April or May.
Performance in exams
More than a hundred Fitzwilliam College students every year receive prizes in recognition of their excellent examination performances. College Regulations require students to show evidence of satisfactory progress in their academic work, by their performance in each set of University or College examinations. Failing normally means they will have to leave the College. Students have the right to explain the reasons for their failure in person to the Master and Tutors and the Governing Body before such a decision is taken.
Exam access arrangements
If you have an illness or disability and you require some form of special arrangements for your examinations, please contact the Tutorial Office and your Tutor.
The University website provides more information on what arrangements may be possible for:
Most students enrol online using CamSIS either by themselves or through their Director of Studies. Entries must only be made following consultation with your Director of Studies about paper choices. Further information will be emailed at the start of each Michaelmas Term.
All the papers available in your Tripos will be visible to you once you reach the online enrollment page. However, if you wish to check the papers and rules governing your Tripos, take a look at the entry form templates available on the Board of Examinations website. Please note that these are for information only and do not act as entry forms.
The Exam Verification process will happen, for most, in Lent Term - this is completed on CamSIS and details will be emailed to you accordingly. Exam Confirmation Timetables will be issued in the Lent and Easter Terms.
In order to allow sufficient time for Directors of Studies to approve entries before the Board of Examinations' closing date for online enrollment, students must make their entries by the given deadline. Please check your emails from the Tutorial Officer on this and make sure you meet the deadlines.
If you have any queries, please contact your Director of Studies or the Tutorial Officer (Ms Sally Law).
Under certain circumstances, candidates may be allowed to take their examinations under special conditions. These applications are always made through your Tutor. The closing date for applications relating to existing, diagnosed conditions is 31 January. It is important that you allow sufficient time to discuss your requirements with your Tutor or the Tutorial Officer prior to this deadline.
Cambridge University Students Union have gathered very useful resources regarding special conditions, revision and examination skills, and the formalities of the Tripos system, on their Student Advice website.
Information sessions and workshops are held each year in the College, in many Departments, and elsewhere in the University, to help you to prepare effectively.
On the day
Most morning exams start at 9am and most afternoon exams at 1.30pm. Find out well in advance where your exam is being held (bearing in mind that each exam may be in a different location) and allow plenty of time to get there.
You must take your University Photo ID Card with you and place it on your desk alongside your name ticket. You may take a small screw-top bottle of water into the exam room with you. You must not take a mobile phone into any exam hall. Take your yellow timetable with your candidate number on it – you will need to write this number on all cover sheets.
In the exam
As soon as you have found your desk you may read the top page of the question paper (to check that you have the correct one), and read the instructions (also called the “rubric”), but you must not turn the page to start reading the questions or to start writing until told to do so.
When invited to start, read through all the questions. If you think there is a mistake in a question, don't be afraid to ask straight away (mistakes do happen): an examiner is there for this purpose for the first 20 minutes of each exam.
If you become ill during an exam, ask the invigilator to contact the Tutorial Office.
On the day your results are due, they are published first on CamSIS and then at 4.30pm each day they are posted on the wall at the Senate House.
You can find you own expected results publication date via CamSIS self-service. A full listing can be found on the University website. Please note that these are only expected publication dates and they are subject to change.
Your Director of Studies will be able to send you a more detailed breakdown of your paper marks, and will be able to interpret the marks for you as necessary.
Undergraduate scholarships and prizes
Undergraduates who achieve a First Class in University examinations (or the equivalent in unclassed University or College examinations) are awarded both a Scholarship and a Prize. These carry a combined value of £300 to a continuing student. These awards are available through the generosity of alumni and other donors.
At the end of each academic year the Tutorial Committee awards a number of other academic and non-academic prizes in recognition of outstanding scholarly achievements and impressive contributions to the broader life of the College.