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Part IA Option B

This paper is available for the academic year 2023-24.


Post A-Level Course in the first year

The Post-A-Level course is an intensive course: it develops students' language skills in the use of Russian, translation and oral practice through a series of three weekly classes. It also offers students a challenging interdisciplinary introduction to Russian cultures from the medieval period through to the present.

All students in Part 1A, Option B must take the Diagnostic Test that will be offered via Moodle in September before the Michaelmas teaching term begins (more information on the test is given below). All students must also attend the briefing meetings for SL1 and SLB1 usually held on the Wednesday before the start of Michaelmas term. The meeting dates, times and locations etc. will be sent to students. Students should check their emails regularly as they will receive details for attending from their Directors of Studies or alternatively they can contact the Slavonic Studies Secretary. [Please note that timings of meetings are subject to change. Students and Directors of Studies are asked to refer to the start of term arrangements as listed in the Faculty's information packs or contact the Slavonic Studies Office]

Language Work

Language work aims to train students to use all elements of Russian grammar and syntax correctly and to acquire a sound knowledge of modern standard Russian. Because Russian is a highly inflected language, grammatical accuracy is essential both to understanding and to communication. Every area of grammar has therefore to be mastered. The course is designed to provide a comprehensive training system, covering grammar rules, exceptions and subtleties, syntax, idioms and set phrases, equivalents and non-equivalents in English and Russian, register, style, formulation of ideas, and argument.

You will be attending three weekly classes organised by the Slavonic Studies Section:

Assignments to language classes for Use of Russian and Translation will be announced on the Wednesday afternoon before classes begin. Your supervisors for the oral practice sessions will also be contacting you that Wednesday to arrange weekly supervision times. It is essential that you check your email and bring your diary to the briefing meetings for papers SLB1 and SL1 on Wednesday.

Literature, History, Culture

In addition to your language classes, you will also take paper SL1: Introduction to Russian culture. Teaching for this paper will be through:

  • a series of 16 lectures organised by the Section plus several workshops
  • fortnightly supervisions arranged by the Section on behalf of the Colleges


Students will take the Russian oral B examination just before the Easter term begins. At the end of the Easter term they will also sit three written exams:

  • SLB1: Use of Russian
  • SLB2: Translation from Russian into English (Oral B counts as one third of the SLB2 mark)
  • SL1: Introduction to Russian culture

Previous years' examination papers are available from the MMLL Library.

Before you start: Essential Summer Preparation

Your summer preparation must focus on both aspects of your future course in Russian: the study of language and the study of literature, culture and history.

Essential Language Preparation

It is vital that you work actively on your language skills over the summer. You may choose to take a summer language course or to spend time living or working in Russian-speaking destination. Or you may simply make a commitment to watch programmes and films, listen to the radio or podcasts in Russian, and read Russian books and newspapers throughout the summer. You should also review Russian grammar, especially if you have taken a gap year since your Russian A levels and have not worked much with Russian in that time. Your goal should be to enlarge your vocabulary, improve your listening skills, and increase the grammatical accuracy and syntactic complexity of both your written and spoken Russian.

Read as widely as you can on topics in Russian history, culture, and literature before starting your course. You will find specific reading suggestions in the online bibliography for SL1, but you may also just want to read Russian fiction, poetry, or journalism on your own. The more Russian literature and history you read (whether in the original or in translation) the better. Translations of the major novels of Dostoevskii, Tolstoi, Turgenev, Bulgakov, Solzhenitsyn, Petrushevskaia, and Pelevin are widely available. Bristol Classics (Duckworth) publish a range of short annotated texts in Russian.

For grammar revision use:

· James S. Levine, Schaum’s Outline of Russian Grammar. McGraw-Hill Education.

· Terence Wade, A Comprehensive Russian Grammar (Blackwell)

Essential Preparatory Reading

In order to be ready for the rapid pace of SL1: Introduction to Russian culture, please consult this link and read ALL of the preparatory readings listed there.

Additional Resources for Russian Students

Youtube is an excellent source of authentic Russian language material. You can find films and cartoons in Russian (also with subtitles), Russian television, podcasts, music and many other entertaining Russian materials there with just a little creative searching.

Obtaining books

Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge will have copies of some set texts by the beginning of the Michaelmas Term. You may also order books online from and Many Russian books are available to read free on the web. A quick Google search will turn up electronic copies of all the set texts listed above.

Keep in touch


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