Preliminary Examination in Human Sciences


The examination shall be under the supervision of the Social Sciences Board in accordance with the same arrangements as those established under clause 3 of the decree concerning the Honour School of Human Sciences.


  • 1. The subjects of the examination shall be the five subjects listed below.

  • 2. All candidates must offer all five subjects at one examination:

    Provided that a candidate who has passed in two (or more) subjects but failed in the other subject (or subjects) may offer at a subsequent examination the subjects (or subject) in which he or she has failed.

  • 3. A candidate shall be deemed to have passed the examination if he or she shall have satisfied the Moderators in all five subjects either at one and the same examination or at two examinations in accordance with the proviso to clause 2.

  • 4. In the case of candidates who have satisfied the Moderators in all five subjects in a single examination, the Moderators may award a distinction to those of special merit.

  • 5. The examiners will permit the use of any hand-held pocket calculator subject to the conditions set out under the heading ‘Use of calculators in examinations’ in the Special Regulations concerning Examinations.

Subject 1. The Biology of Organisms including Humans

Principles of mammalian physiology: the cell, body fluids, the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, reproduction, hunger and thirst, movement, the senses, and the integrative organization of the central nervous system.

Principles of ecology: ecosystems, plant and animal communities and numbers, biotic interaction, the impact of man on the environment.

One three-hour paper will be set.

Subject 2. Genetics and Evolution

Principles of genetics and evolution illustrated by examples from human and other organisms.

Mechanisms of evolutionary change: selection and adaptation, evolution of sex, altruism, kin selection and co-operation. Alternative models of evolution.

The genetic material—its nature, mode of action, and manipulation: the chromosomal basis of heredity; molecular genetics; mapping the human genome; sex determination; mutation at the level of the gene and the chromosome.

Mendelian inheritance; genetic variation in populations and its maintenance; quantitative variation and its genetic basis.

One three-hour paper will be set. Candidates shall submit notebooks containing reports, initialled by the demonstrators, of practical work completed during their course of study. These notebooks shall be available to the examiners at any time after the end of the first week of the term in which the examination is held, and shall be taken into consideration by the examiners. A practical examination may be set for candidates whose record of practical work is not satisfactory.

Subject 3. Society, Culture, and Environment

Social and Cultural Anthropology: the comparative study of the world's civilisations and peoples, including cross-cultural, power-based, and gender perspectives upon social practice and theories of human life. Specific topics will include production and consumption; transactions and modes of exchange; elementary aspects of kinship and marriage; belief systems and social control; political and social organization; classification; technology and social change; material culture and ethnographic resources; the impact of colonialism; space, place and culture; environment and cultural landscapes in transition; land and property rights. Candidates will be expected to be familiar with appropriate ethnographic monographs.

Human Geography: Approaches to understanding contemporary international migration – from neo-classical to post-structuralist; forced migration, changing international, regional and national legislation and policy; diasporas and transnationalism, especially issues of identity, home and belonging; social divisions and the experience of migration and integration addressing gender, class and ethnicity; cosmopolitan or ‘superdiverse’ cities; and state policy and the influence of nationalism, xenophobia, economics, and ethics.

One three-hour paper will be set, on which candidates will be required to answer four questions. The paper will be divided into two sections: (A) Social and Cultural Anthropology, and (B) Human Geography. Candidates will be required to display knowledge of both sections, and will be required to answer at least two questions from section (A) and at least one question from section (B).

Subject 4. Sociology and Demography

Sociology: Current and classic discussions of explanatory strategies and social mechanisms, models of individual action and the consequences of aggregation. Empirical research involving these approaches in areas of substantive sociological interest such as social class, ethnicity, religion, the family, politics.

Demography: Elementary aspects of population analysis. Comparative study of fertility, mortality and family systems in selected human societies. The long-term development of human population and its relation to habitat and resources. The demographic transition.

One three hour paper will be set. The paper will be divided into two sections: (A) Sociology and (B) Demography. Candidates will be required to display knowledge of both sections.

Subject 5. Quantitative Methods for the Human Sciences

The use and importance of statistics and quantitative methods in the human sciences. Graphs, scales, indices, and transformations. Frequency distributions and their parameters, including the binomial, normal, and Poisson distributions. Notions of probability and risk. Problems of sampling. Tests of statistical significance including t-tests, χ2, and confidence intervals. Elementary analysis of variance, correlation, and regression.

One three-hour paper will be set, consisting mostly of examples taken from the human sciences. Graded questions will be set, not all of which will require numerical answers.