Direction of studies: Yves Boubenec (
Key Dates
Leaflet (Pdf)

The Département d’Études Cognitives recruits "normaliens" who will prepare the ENS diploma in all the specialties related to cognitive science. We mainly welcome applications from psychology, linguistics, biology, mathematics, computer science, physics, philosophy and social sciences. We recruit students from universities as well as from preparatory classes, scientific, economic and commercial, and literary.

For applications at the L3 level,  the L3 year is mainly done in another department, but the student takes courses at the DEC at the same time and can do a research internship as part of the ENS diploma. The student can also, depending on the case, do his or her licence in a Parisian university, or be registered in the first year of the ENS diploma and take all the courses at the DEC. At the end of this year, the preferred path is the Master of cognitive science.

For applications at the M1 level, candidates MUST also be candidates for the  Master of cognitive science

STEP 1 : Applications can be submitted between March 8th and April 23 (23h59)
The application must first be made for the CNES 2024 on
Then the application must be sent by email to

You will receive an acknowledgement of receipt within 48 hours of your submission. If you do not receive an acknowledgement of receipt, please contact the DEC studies department  (

The file must include : 

  • A CV
  • A cover letter: see our guide!
  • Transcripts of grades
  • A single recommendation letter to be sent by the recommenders themselves  to
  • For M1 level candidates, a proof of your application to the Master of cognitive science (screenshot of the confirmation email for example)
  • The cover letter and the recommendation letter can be the 
    same as for the Master of cognitive science application

A practical question? 
I contact the DEC pedagogical secretary:
I contact the DEC Director of Studies: Yves Boubenec (

STEP 2 : The results of the preselection will be communicated on May 18th

Our pre-selection criteria: The pre-selection criteria include academic results, including possible results in competitions, and elements that demonstrate an interest in and familiarity with certain aspects of cognitive science (choice of courses, research internships, readings), as well as an aptitude for research. The letter of recommendation and the cover letter should highlight these elements. Do not hesitate to consult our tips for writing a good cover letter.

STEP 3: The selection tests take place between May 27th and June 21st

Test 1: You will have to prepare a 10-minute oral presentation on a cognitive science issue that you consider to be of the utmost importance, and on which you would like to work, or have already worked. Your presentation must demonstrate your ability to synthesize and analyze a field of cognitive science, as well as your scientific mind.  The jury will also expect clarity and rigor in the ideas presented. A 10-minute interview will follow the presentation.

Test 2: The jury will interview you for 30 minutes to evaluate your motivation. During this interview, the jury will review your background, your motivations, and your general and specific knowledge of cognitive science. You will also have to prepare a time-limited exercise (to consult the annals, click here).

If you are applying to two departments, the interview may be shared with the other department. In this case, the rules of the other department will apply to the interview. However, a member of the DEC is present to ask the candidate questions.

Our selection criteria: Evaluation of knowledge, analytical skills, scientific potential, originality, open-mindedness and critical thinking, sense of initiative and motivation of candidates for training through research. 

If you have a scholarship, the DEC will pay for your train tickets. If you are unable to travel, it is also possible to organize the first and the second test remotely, by videoconference.

Some statistics on the DEC student normalien exam:

In 2023, the DEC admitted 7 student normalien.nes, including 6 at the M1 level and 1 at the L3 level.
In 2022, the DEC admitted 7 student normalien.nes, including 7 at the M1 level and 0 at the L3 level.
In 2021, the DEC admitted 7 student normalien.nes, including 7 at the M1 level and 0 at the L3 level.
In 2020, DEC admitted 9 student normalien.nes, including 7 at the M1 level and 2 at the L3 level.
In 2019, DEC admitted 7 student normalien.nes, including 5 at the M1 level and 2 at the L3 level.
In 2018, DEC admitted 5 student normalien.nes, including 3 at the M1 level and 2 at the L3 level.
In 2017, DEC admitted 5 student normalien.nes, including 2 at the M1 level and 3 at the L3 level.
In 2016, the DEC admitted 6 normalien.nes students, including 4 at the M1 level and

Depending on the year, the selection rate varies between 7 and 10%.

Between 20 and 30% of the students admitted to the Concours Étudiant.e are scholarship holders.