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Department of Computer Science and Technology


Super-curricular activities for prospective students

Admissions staff are looking for evidence that you have both the academic ability to thrive on our course and a real passion for Computer Science. Doing 'super-curricular' activities - i.e. learning about the subject independently, beyond what you’re taught in school - will broaden your knowledge and can help you demonstrate your passion. Below, we highlight some examples of super-curricular activities.

Personal projects

These can involve any aspect of computer science that you find interesting. For example, if you enjoy programming you could build an app or website. This doesn’t have to be something complicated and polished - a simple program you can run from the command line would be a great example. If you like working with hardware, you could use a Raspberry Pi to build something cool. Or if you are intrigued by a more theoretical aspect of Computer Science, you could research this topic and write an article reporting your findings. These suggestions are intentionally vague to encourage you to use your creativity to find a project that really interests and suits you!

Two women building a piece of hardware together.

Something else you could choose to undertake is a research project - for example during a Nuffield Research Placement, a free programme that involves working with a researcher or industry professional at a host organisation on an independent project.

Learn a new programming language

A laptop on a desk with code on its screen.

If you choose to do this, it may be a good idea to learn a language that is not explicitly taught in the Cambridge course. Doing so obviously helps to avoid repetition, but also gives you a wider perspective on languages that can be useful later in your degree and in employment. A popular choice is Python, for which there are many tutorials available online, for example:

Solve programming problems

If you’d like to extend your programming knowledge, you could complete some programming puzzles. Some examples include:

  • Project Euler - a huge array of mathematical problems which you (usually) need to write some code to solve. The problems range in difficulty, with easier ones generally towards the start.
  • Advent of Code - a series of programming puzzles released in December each year in the build up to Christmas. Similarly, these programs get harder as time goes on. You can access all of the past years’ puzzles on the Advent of Code website.

Computer Science challenges

There are a number of challenges you can find online that can give you an introduction to the types of problem-solving used in Computer Science, for example:

  • Bebras Computing Challenge - you can take part in this as a competition or you can try past questions on the Bebras website.
  • Cipher Challenge - this challenge introduces you to Cryptography, in particular cryptanalysis and code-breaking, by asking you to solve a mystery.

Learn more using online resources

There are a wide variety of websites and online courses that you can use to practise your problem-solving skills and learn about certain aspects of Computer Science, for example:

  • NRICH - a series of maths problems designed to develop A-level Maths subject knowledge, as well as problem-solving skills.
  • Brilliant - a vast array of interactive courses covering many topics in Maths and Computer Science. Even though access to the full courses is paid, each initial chapter is free, and gives a great introduction and jumping off point for your own research.
  • Ada Computer Science - a platform for learning the concepts covered by GCSE and A-level Computer Science through online resources written by teachers and a large bank of interactive questions.
  • Khan Academy - a series of courses covering Computer Science fundamentals, including one about computer animation and Pixar’s filmmaking process.

Read around the subject

This includes reading books, blogs or articles. The following list includes a number of suggestions; however, it is not an exhaustive list and there are many other books/articles about Maths and Computer Science that are worth reading if you find them interesting.  

  • The New Turing Omnibus, A. K. Dewdney
  • Computing with Quantum Cats, John Gribbin
  • How to Think Like a Mathematician, Kevin Houston
  • The Emperor's New Mind, Roger Penrose
  • Algorithmic Adventures: From Knowledge to Magic, Juraj Hromkovič
  • The Code Book, Simon Singh
  • New Scientist
  • Quanta Magazine

Explore Computer Science through YouTube videos

There are a number of YouTube channels dedicated to exploring Maths and Computer Science, you can use these videos as a source of inspiration and a starting point to doing your own project or research. Below are a few examples of such channels:

This page was written with reference to the University's Central Admissions Office page on super-curricular activities. To find out more about super-curricular activities and activities for other subjects, you can find their page here.