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for Undergraduates

UG CamGuides: How will I learn at Cambridge?

Different learning environments, both physical and online



Chemistry labPractical classes or “labs” provide a valuable opportunity to engage with your subject in a hands-on and interactive way. Participating in them will help to develop your experimental skills and to illustrate the themes and topics which are described and discussed in lectures and supervisions.

Labs may form a compulsory part of your weekly timetable or you may need to register for them. You may have to do this yourself or your DoS may do it for you. Either way, it is important that you are registered so that you have a slot in your timetable. If you have a lab book, you'll know what you are doing from week to week and on some courses this may involve being asked to produce a short write-up to submit at the end of the session.

Practical work may be formative (unassessed) or summative (it may count towards your end of year mark). Supervision and support in practical classes may be provided by departmental staff or lecturers, and there may also be postgraduate students acting as demonstrators in the labs to answer questions and provide help.

You may be required to purchase equipment for practical work, or your department may provide it; they'll let you know this shortly before or just after you arrive.


raised hands in a classroom

Classes or seminars are usually for medium-sized groups (for example, 10-30 students) and last between one and two hours. These may be in response to particular problems or examples you have been set, or they can provide the opportunity to discuss in more detail particular topics on your course. They’re led by academics or researchers but you’re expected to contribute actively. They may be closer to the way your learned at school or college.

Language classes are one example:

"They provide an important opportunity to develop your main language skills: reading, writing, and oral and listening where relevant. Classes will mostly take place in the foreign language you're studying, so that you get as much exposure to that language as possible. Do go along prepared to talk and listen. In the case of Translation classes, discussion might take place in English instead. You may be asked to prepare language exercises in advance of the class, or to submit written work which will then be marked by your class leader. For pre-modern languages, language classes mainly consist of text reading, including both texts prepared in advance and those seen for the first time in class."


With thanks to:

Jesse (Medicine)

Cheryl (Music)

Sean (Computer Science)

Image credits

Nathan Pitt. Sir Cam/University of Cambridge. All Rights Reserved.

Film credits

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