Frequently asked questions on Undergraduate Admissions

This information page is intended to answer some of the most frequent questions that we receive about Cambridge admissions. Please read it together with the current Cambridge Admissions Prospectus, which gives fuller details of the Admissions procedure and outlines the various courses available at Cambridge. However, remember that all applications are carefully assessed on a personal and individual basis. Candidates tend not to fit into convenient groups so that there are few rigid rules. Specific questions, not answered here or in the University or College Prospectus, are welcome at any time of the year and should be addressed to the Admissions Office

Can I visit the College before applying?
The College holds a series of Open Days each year for potential applicants; details and booking forms are available from January onwards on the College website. If you are in Cambridge at other times you would also be very welcome to look round, though - apart from on Open Days - it is not usually possible to arrange informal meetings with a Director of Studies or Admissions Tutor. We find that preliminary interviews are unnecessary for the majority of candidates (and certainly do not increase an applicant's chance of acceptance) unless there are specific questions that need to be resolved.

[From early May to mid-June, while students are working for their examinations, the College is closed to tourists. However, as a potential applicant you would normally be admitted if you first introduce yourself at the Porters' Lodge. We are sure you will understand the need to be quiet and to avoid distracting students from their work.]
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Does Cambridge application differ from other Universities?
The closing date for the receipt of applications is earlier: 15 October, instead of 15 January for most subjects at British Universities. If you are a UK or EU applicant, you will need to submit a UCAS application naming Cambridge as one of your choices. After your UCAS application has been received you will be asked to provide additional information through a Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ), in common with applicants to many other universities. Information for international students is available here.
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What is the minimum age for entry?
Generally students are expected to be over the age of 18 before commencing a Cambridge course. The College routinely accepts students who will be 18 by 1 January in their first year, and we are prepared to consider applicants who are younger. In all cases, however, one part of our assessment will be whether we consider that an applicant is mature enough and ready to commence a competitive degree course that involves self-motivated study and living away from home.
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Will I be interviewed?
We interview most applicants before reaching our decisions. The principal exceptions are likely to be certain overseas candidates, or in the few cases where it is clear from the application that a particular candidate would stand no realistic chance of receiving an offer. Most interviews take place in Cambridge in November or December. Whenever possible, interviews are arranged for a date and time that is convenient for the candidate. Sometimes, because of very tight schedules and other teaching commitments we regret that interviewers may not always be available on days most convenient to you.
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What form do the interviews take?
The interviews provide an opportunity to review and clarify your application and to settle any doubts about courses or qualifications. They may also provide you with a chance to raise any particular questions that have occurred, and enable you to see the University and Christ's College in particular. Most candidates have two separate interviews, which can vary in content and length (anything from 15 to 30 minutes). One may be mainly a general interview whilst the other may involve responding to technical questions on your subject. In some subjects both interviews will be subject-specific. In all cases, though, our aim is to give you a chance to show yourself in the best possible light. University-wide information about interviews.
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Will there be a written test at the interview?
There are likely to be written tests taken in Cambridge at interview time for applicants in Computer Science, English, Law, Modern Languages and Philosophy.  For subjects other than those listed above a formal written test does not at present form part of our normal interview procedures. However, you may be requested to supply recent samples of schoolwork if interviewers wish to see this, for example a couple of marked school essays for someone applying in an arts subject. Economics, Engineering and Natural Science applicants are likely to be asked to attempt a few written problems during interviews and applicants for Mathematics are asked to work through some exercises before interview.
In the case of the BMAT for Medicine, the test is taken in early November and details may be found at
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How likely am I to receive an offer?
Overall, Cambridge Colleges in general, and Christ’s College in particular, receive about four or five applications for every available place with more applicants in the most popular subjects (such as Economics, Law, and Medicine). 
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What happens if I am not taking A-level examinations?

In addition to offers on A-level and AS-level grades, similar offers are made to candidates who are taking Scottish Advanced Highers, International Baccalaureate, European Baccalaureate, Abitur, STPM, or other examinations at a comparable pre-University level. The comments in the paragraph below apply to all other examination systems as well as to A levels.

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What conditions do you specify?
For those selected for a conditional offer, the precise target conditions are assessed individually.  If you are made a conditional offer, you would have a guaranteed place at Cambridge provided that you achieve your target. It is difficult to indicate in advance the precise combinations of AS-level and A-level grades that will be set. The likely range of offers will be from A*AA grades (for arts subjects) A*A*A grades (for science subjects) to, exceptionally, A*A*AA grades in the most competitive subject areas. In general, offers for applicants taking four relevant subjects at A-level can be more flexible than for those taking three subjects.

For those taking the IB, conditional offers in the past have ranged from 40-42 points overall (including bonus points) with 7,7,6 or 7,7,7 in relevant Higher Level subjects.

For those taking Scottish or Welsh Baccalaureates, conditional offers will be made on the SQA Advanced Higher Levels or A levels being taken within the qualfication.

Cambridge Colleges have agreed that offers for places to read Medicine at all Colleges will not normally be set at less than A*A*A grades (or equivalent).  Offers in Engineering will usually include minimum grade 1 in STEP I. Offers in Mathematics tend to be more severe than other subjects and may include A*/1 grades in Mathematics and Further Mathematics A-levels and STEP II and III.
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What is STEP?
STEP is a series of 3-hour examination papers in Mathematics based on A-level syllabuses and taken at the end of June each year. Details may be found here. There is further information and advice on the Faculty of Mathematics website.
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What if I were not selected for an offer?
There is an Inter-College Pool of applicants in January and some candidates who are not selected for an offer at their College of first-choice may be invited for further interviews and/or receive an offer from another College.
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What if I do not achieve the conditions?
We hope that applicants respond to their conditions as a realistic challenge, and are not daunted by them. In practice, the target may be relaxed when results are known (though no guarantee can be given). In recent years nearly a quarter of Cambridge' s applicants who were finally accepted had narrowly missed their conditions. There is also a second inter-College Pool in August, and some applicants who miss their target may then receive an offer of a firm place from another Cambridge College. No further interviews are held at the time of the August Pool.
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What about Scholarships and Exhibitions?
Entrance Scholarships and Exhibitions are no longer offered by Cambridge Colleges (apart from special Music Awards). However, at Christ’s College a £100+ Scholarship will normally be awarded to every student who gains a First Class result in a University examination.
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What about deferred entry?
We would not normally require a candidate in any subject (Engineering included) to take a break between school and university, unless there are special circumstances. However, the College does welcome applications from candidates who are considering taking a gap between school and university, and who are able to make sensible plans for the year.
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Is it expensive to study at Cambridge?
The cost of being a student will depend upon the extent of your chosen activities, but our experience is that it is no more expensive to live and study at Cambridge than at other British Universities.  Indeed, because we can normally offer College accommodation throughout a student's course, it may even be cheaper. We also have a large number of Bursaries and small hardship grants available to assist in cases where students find difficulty in funding their studies and in recent years 40% of Christ’s students have received some support in this way.  In a joint scheme between the Colleges and the University, every UK student qualified for a student maintenance grant will be eligible on application to receive an additional Cambridge Bursary which is on a sliding scale for those in receipt of an annual student maintenance grant.
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Can I apply as an Affiliated Student?

Christ's rarely admits more than one affiliated student each year and more often none at all. Christ's does not accept affiliated students to read for Medical Sciences and may impose restrictions on some other subjects. For more details about being an affiliated student at Cambridge please see here.

Maintained by Jan Marshall | Last updated Thu, 28 May 2015 - 11:01am