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Faculty of Philosophy


The syllabus

In Part II, students take four Subject Papers and a fifth assessed component (either a General Paper or a Dissertation). There are no compulsory papers in Part II; Students are offered a free choice with regard to their four Subject Papers. In addition, students are allowed to write a Dissertation in lieu of sitting the General Paper (Paper 11) and to submit two Extended Essays for one of their Subject Papers instead of sitting the examination in that paper, just as in Part IB. Students hence have the option of submitting 40% of coursework. For possible combinations, please see the Guide to Courses (Syllabus).

Discussion of what papers a student is planning to take should start at the end of the Easter Term of the second year at the latest, and ideally earlier: many supervisors are already booked up for the year by the time 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. Directors of Studies should bear in mind that references from senior Faculty members will likely carry more weight in connection with applications for graduate studies. Part II students wishing to pursue graduate work will therefore benefit especially from having at least one Faculty supervisor during the year.

Extended Essays and Dissertations

As in Part IB, a student in Part II may submit two Extended Essays rather than sit the exam in one of the Subject Papers (including the papers borrowed from Classics).

Additionally, in Part II they may submit a Dissertation of 6,000-8,000 words in place of the General Paper.

Extended Essays: The timing and planning of these are the same as Part IB. Broadly speaking, the types of students you should encourage or be wary of are similar. Even more so than in Part IB, there are strong reasons to encourage students planning to do post-graduate research to write Extended Essays. It gives them greater experience of independent work. Also, if they are well organised and have completed one of their essays by the end of the Michaelmas term, they could use it as a writing sample in their graduate applications.

Dissertations: The same remarks apply to the planning and timing of the Dissertation as to the Extended Essays. Please note however that the deadline for submission of the Dissertation is the second Thursday of Easter Term, i.e. Thursday, May 2024. Dissertations are also excellent training for those wanting to go on to post-graduate work.

One major advantage of the Dissertation is that, unlike the Extended Essays, its topic need not be tied to the syllabus of any one paper, although the title must be agreed by the Chair of Examiners.

It is very important that students who are planning to do a Dissertation do a substantial amount of work for it during the summer. A Dissertation is a demanding piece of work; it is difficult to complete the requisite reading and writing while juggling regular weekly supervisions on other subjects. Students should meet with their potential supervisor before leaving for the summer, to get specific advice on what to read and how to get started. This is also and especially important for students who are also planning to write Part II Extended Essays.

By the end of Michaelmas Term, it’s a good idea for the Director of Studies to check in with the students about their progress on, and their timeline for completing the Dissertation. If a student has not made sufficient progress by then, it is worth considering whether it remains in the best interest of the student to pursue the Dissertation or whether to fall back on the General Paper.

If students are unable to submit their Extended Essays or Dissertations by the deadline (e.g. due to illness), requests for extensions should be sent to the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee (EAMC). Requests should not be sent to the Chair of Examiners. 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: <>.