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Faculty of Philosophy


The syllabus Part 1B

In Part IB, students take five papers: four Subject Papers and (in place of the IA ‘Formal Methods’ paper) a ‘General’ Paper. At Part IB each of the five papers is weighted equally; the exception is if the student elects to take Paper 8, Experimental Psychology (see below). One of the four subject papers is compulsory (Paper 1 – Knowledge, Language and World); students must choose their other three subject papers from a menu of options. Please consult the Faculty of Philosophy web pages and the Guide to Courses for more detailed information.

It is standard for a student to do four supervisions for each of the four subject papers (plus one revision supervision per paper in Easter Term), and to have one-to-one supervisions. But in appropriate cases, a greater number of supervisions, or a greater number of students in each supervision, might be of benefit. DoSs are encouraged to try what seems promising to them and to share their and their students’ experiences of different arrangements.

Choosing options

Discussion of this should start at the end of the Easter Term of the first year at the latest, and ideally earlier: many supervisors are already booked up for the year by the time the Michaelmas term starts. Some reading over the following summer vacation can help students decide. The Faculty issues summaries of the papers with suggested preliminary reading.

Remember that the sooner you know which options your students wish to study, the easier it will be for you to secure supervisors. In any case, students must have decided on their options by the time they register for their exams in November.

Borrowed Papers will request students to indicate they wish to take these papers before the end of term so places can be secured.

Paper 6. Epistemology and Metaphysics of Science

The Philosophy Faculty borrows the Epistemology and Metaphysics of Science paper from Part II of the Natural Sciences Tripos, organised by the History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) Department. Lectures are organised by HPS, and listed in the Philosophy Lecture list.

Please note that HPS organises supervisions centrally for its Part II teaching (from which this paper is borrowed). There is no need for DoS to try to allocate supervisors.

However if any Directors of Studies would prefer to make their own assignments of supervisors to support HPS lectures, the DoS should contact the relevant paper manager in HPS so that any confusion or duplication of effort can be avoided. The relevant paper manager to contact for this paper is: Hasok Chang/Matt Farr. 

Paper 8. Experimental Psychology

The Philosophy Faculty borrows the Experimental Psychology paper from Part IB of the Natural Sciences Tripos. This is listed as Paper 8 in our Part IB Philosophy Tripos. The registration form for students wishing to enroll for this course emailed in May. The completed form, signed by the student and by you as their Director of Studies. There is no pre-requisite for registration. However, students with no background in natural science or maths may struggle with the material taught early in the course, as well as with some of the statistics. It is up to you to assess whether to advise student to take this option. The teaching is organised by the Department of Experimental Psychology. Lectures and practical classes are organised by that Department. With regard to supervisions, if you have candidates taking Part IB Paper 8 (Experimental Psychology) please note that the protocol now is that you should, in the first instance, contact the DoS in Psychology at the student's College, who will try to arrange supervisions with their  Natural Science students. If that does not prove possible, then the Department of Experimental Psychology itself may be able to help.

Students taking this paper need to be prepared to attend practical classes and to complete the same amount of work as the Natural Science students. The workload is considerable. However, there is some compensation. Any student taking this paper is exempt from the General paper. The Experimental Psychology paper is then worth 2/5 of that student’s total mark, with each of the remaining papers worth 1/5.

Extended Essays

At Part IB, a student can submit two “Extended Essays” in place of one of the following Subject Papers: paper 2, 3, 5, 7 or 9. The topics must come from the syllabus of the paper concerned. The titles must be submitted to the Faculty Office by Thursday 16 November 2023 for approval by the Chair of Examiners. Minor changes of title are permitted (subject to the approval). Remember that the DOS gives advice but not permission for titles. The deadline for submission of the essays is the end of Lent full term, i.e. Thursday 16th March 2024.

Where Extended Essays are concerned, it is particularly important for the DOS and their students to read the relevant sections of the 'Guide to Courses (Syllabus) very carefully, available here: "><>.

Do remind your students that in marking their essays, examiners take into account whether they adhere to scholarly standards, in particular with respect to proper citations. Every year, there are some essays that are substantially penalized for failing to properly cite or attribute material.

If students are unable to submit their Extended Essays by the deadline (e.g. due to illness), requests for a one-week extension should be sent to the faculty via the Google form. (This will be received and acknowledged by ekh46 and can be completed by either the DOS or the student.)  If a longer extension is required you will apply via the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee (EAMC). No requests should not be sent directly to the Chair of Examiners to maintain confidentiality. Students wishing to apply to the EAMC for an extension must do so through their College; the application must be submitted by the relevant Senior Tutor on behalf of the student. Guidance and the application form are available at: "><>.

Whom should you advise to do Extended Essays? Whom should you discourage?

There are no hard-and-fast rules here; advice should be tailored to the particular case. Some rules of thumb:


- Intellectually ambitious students, especially those who might later go on to research.

- In general, any student who shows a keenness to develop their own ideas ought to be encouraged, unless there are specific reasons against it.

Be wary of:

- Badly organised students; Extended Essays require long-term planning. Ideally planning should start in the summer vacation before the second year. Titles must be decided by November, while the student is doing work for other papers. Drafts of both essays ought to be complete by the beginning of the Lent Term. A particular risk is that work for the Extended Essays can eat into other work in the Lent Term, leaving the student seriously behind by the end of Lent.

- You should also be wary of perfectionist students who might become obsessed with their essays, to the detriment of other work.

How many supervisions should a student receive for Extended Essays?

Because they only constitute work for one paper, you should not expect the students to do more than four or five supervisions in total for both essays. It’s a good idea for students to get in touch with the person supervising their Extended Essays before that student leaves for the summer vacation so that they can get some advice on readings to complete over the summer.

May graduate students supervise Extended Essays?

The Faculty has no opposition in principle, especially if the subject of the essay tallies with the graduate student's research topic.

Note: If towards the end of the Lent Term, it looks as if a student will not be able to complete their essays satisfactorily, they are permitted to withdraw from this option and take the exam instead. This means that they will have to prepare further topics for the exams in the ordinary way, since the two topics studied for the Extended Essays will not provide adequate coverage. If a student chooses to withdraw from Extended Essays, both the relevant Tutorial Office and the Faculty Office must be notified (by Friday 15 March 2024 at the very latest) in order to update the student's exam entry.

Preparation for Paper 10 (General Paper)

This paper requires students to write a single essay in a three-hour exam period. DOS should encourage their students to write several practice three-hour essays for this paper. The Easter vacation is a good time to try this, with supervision on their attempts in the Easter Term.

The Faculty has issued advice on the web for Part IB and Part II students on how to approach this paper:


At the end of the Lent Term, after going through the supervision reports, you should identify the areas that might be improved and encourage some work to this end over the vacation. At the beginning of the Easter Term, conduct another assessment of where the student stands, in order to plan their revision effectively.