Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic


In 2020, the admissions process is not operating as set out in the text below. The interviews in 2020 will be conducted remotely, and as a result the structure of the interviews and some of the assessments will be changing for this year. All applicants in the 2020-21 round should instead consult the ‘Pre-interview and interview notes’ document for 2020, which they will have been sent separately.

The Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic (ASNC) Tripos is concerned with the history, languages, and literatures of the different peoples of the British Isles between the departure of the Romans and the coming of the Normans. It is therefore strongly interdisciplinary in character. The languages offered are Old English, Old Norse, Latin, Medieval Welsh, and Medieval Irish, and the areas covered include not only Anglo-Saxon England and the Celtic regions of the British Isles but also Brittany and Viking-Age Scandinavia. But within these disciplines students have a large degree of choice, so that they can either go for an evenly balanced diet of literary and historical subjects, or opt to specialise mainly in languages or mainly in history.

The ASNC Tripos is divided into two Parts. In the first year of ASNC, a student selects a combination of four papers which will be assessed at the end of the year by means of a written exam, and two more which will be assessed by means of a more informal test, from the ten options available. The options comprise four historical papers (Anglo-Saxon England, Viking-Age Scandinavia, Ireland & Scotland, and Brittany & Wales), five language papers (Old English, Old Norse, Latin, Medieval Irish, and Medieval Welsh), and one on manuscript studies (palaeography and codicology). Part I is taken at the end of the second year, and involves offering a combination of six papers. All six of these may be the same six taken in the first year, from the ten core ASNC papers, but a student can also replace up to three of the six with alternative options, chosen from a wider range (including a dissertation). In Part II, taken at the end of the third year, a student is able to pursue his or her interests in particular areas of the subject as a whole, offering a combination of four papers (chosen from a larger selection), plus a dissertation.

The ASNC Tripos is intended to provide a varied and rigorous intellectual training: former ASNC students are found in a wide variety of professions, including teaching, publishing, banking, museum and library work, journalism, and the Civil Service.

Applicants for ASNC come from a wide variety of A-level backgrounds. Combinations of subjects studied at school usually include one or more of English, History, a modern language, or Latin, but there are no specific requirements. We are simply looking for evidence of academic ability in the general area of the humanities.

Candidates can expect to have one interview with the College’s Director of Studies and a second member of the College teaching staff. They will also be asked to submit some written work in advance. The interviewers will try to assess not only the candidate’s aptitude for the Tripos but also his or her commitment to the field of study which it represents. It is therefore helpful if the candidate has some idea of the papers he or she might wish to take and has done some exploratory reading in the relevant areas.

Conditional offers are set at the same general level as those made to candidates in other Arts subjects such as English, History, or Modern & Medieval Languages. The standard conditional offer is A*AA; comparable conditions are set for those taking the IB and other school-leaving examinations. Numbers applying are usually small; we would expect to admit up to three candidates each year.

Trinity’s Director of Studies in ASNC is Simon Keynes, whose own field of interest is Anglo-Saxon history.

Further information about the nature of the ASNC Tripos, or about suggestions for reading, is available on the ASNC website, or may be obtained from the Department of ASNC, Faculty of English, 9 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP (email

Teaching Staff

  • Dr Tessa Webber
  • Professor Simon Keynes


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