Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
The Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (FAMES) consists of two departments - the Department of Middle Eastern Studies and Department of East Asian Studies. Each department offers a ‘pathway’ in the AMES Tripos.
Our courses cover the major languages and history and culture of the Middle East and East Asia. The Department of Middle Eastern Studies offers Arabic, Persian and Hebrew language and literature courses and departmental-wide courses in history and anthropology. The Department of East Asian Studies offers Chinese and Japanese language, literature and history courses, and Korean as a final year option. It also offers some departmental-wide courses in history and film.
The AMES tripos is a four year course which is divided into two parts. In Part I (two years), students receive intensive language training and introductions to history, literature and culture. In Part II (two years) students spend a year abroad practising their spoken language, taking courses and sometimes doing research towards their final year dissertation. They then return to Cambridge for a final year of more specialised courses.
In the Middle Eastern Studies pathway, it is possible to combine two Middle Eastern languages or study one Middle Eastern language combined with a modern European language such as French, Spanish or German as long as students have an A level in the European language. Students must apply for this option through FAMES not Modern and Medieval Languages. Students following the East Asian Studies pathway can only choose Chinese or Japanese. In the fourth year, they may take one other East Asian language including Korean in addition to their main language.
Undergraduates reading Asian and Middle Eastern Studies attend more classes than students reading some subjects due to the intensive language teaching element of the course. Most teaching takes place in the Faculty building and is complemented by weekly language supervisions, and approximately bi-termly supervisions for essay-based courses in which students review their own work in small groups with their instructors.
Magdalene warmly welcomes applicants in both East Asian and Middle Eastern studies. There are usually between 5 and 8 AMES undergraduates at the college as well as a small group of graduates. Magdalene has a internal fellow in AMES who meets with students on a regular basis and a growing AMES library collection to enhance our students learning experience. As a college supportive of small subjects, Magdalene encourages students to make connections outside their immediate subject. AMES has very close links with MML and we organise many college events that bring together students from both faculties.
Understanding the peoples and cultures who live around us is vital in today’s global world. We are looking for applicants who have a tremendous curiosity about Asia or the Middle East. It does not matter whether you are intrigued by the challenge of learning languages that are structured in a very different way to European languages, you love Japanese Manga, you admire the dexterity and beauty of Chinese or Arabic calligraphy, you spend your spare time reading Persian poetry or Israeli novels, or you want to know more about world religions, the key is that you have a genuine, deep commitment to the subject. Our course is very rewarding but it is also intense so we are looking for people who really want to learn about the languages and cultures they are studying.
The first few years of the course involve extensive language learning so you need to be comfortable with grammatical terminology, acquiring vocabulary quickly and, in the case of character-based Asian languages, have a good memory and visual sense. The third year of the programme is a Year Abroad, so we are also looking for people keen to explore and make the most of the opportunity to travel to China, Japan or the Middle East. Writing skills and the ability to analyse are also important. Once you have learned the basics of your language, you have the opportunity to delve into literature and read historical texts, and write essays that present your knowledge of the subject and your own views on it.
No prior knowledge of the selected language(s) is assumed, and there are no specific admissions requirements. However, some prior experience of learning a foreign language and of writing essays that demand some measure of critical ability would be an advantage.
Our typical offer for AMES is A*AA at A-level or 40-42 in the IB with 7,7,6 at Higher Level.
Interviews, Written Work and Assessment
If invited for interview in Cambridge, candidates normally have two interviews including one with specialists in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (usually the Director of Studies plus an academic in the student’s area of interest if necessary). Candidates are also asked to submit 2 essays in advance, written in English, on any area of their A-Level work. Students wishing to combine AMES with a language from the Modern and Medieval tripos are advised to find out about the admissions procedure for that language here.
Applicants will also need to take a written assessment. The assessment for AMES is a pre-interview assessment. This means that you will have to register to sit the assessment at an assessment centre near to you (for most applicants this will be your school or college). Registration for the pre-interview assessment is separate from your UCAS application and it is essential that you are registered by your centre before the deadline, which is 15 October 2018. The pre-interview assessments this year will take place on 2 November 2018. More information about registering for the assessment can be found here.
The admissions assessment for AMES will consist of two parts: a comprehension element (60 minutes) and an essay/text response element (60 minutes). More details about the format of the assessment, including some sample questions, can be found here. Please note that your performance in the pre-interview assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.