Frequently asked questions on Undergraduate Admissions

DiscussionThis 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 Open Days page. 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). There is specific information for International students, and students who would like to be considered for interview in China, Malaysia, or Singapore should note the earlier application deadline of 20 September.
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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 the majority of 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. We do not conduct interviews by Skype or telephone.
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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 most subjects both interviews will be subject-specific and will be similar to a "supervision" which is one of the main methods of teaching at Cambridge. In all cases, though, our aim is to give you a chance to show yourself in the best possible light. There is University-wide information about interviews which may be helpful.
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Will there be a written test?
The following subjects require all applicants to sit a pre-interview assessment at an authorised centre. It's very likely that your local authorised centre will be your school/college – speak to your teacher/exams officer to find out if you'll be able to take your pre-interview assessment at your school/college. All assessments will take place on 2nd November and you must register for the assessment by 6.00pm (GMT) on 15 October, except for BMAT for Medicine - the registration date is 5.00pm GMT on 1 October.

  • Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic
  • Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • English
  • Geography
  • History
  • History and Modern Languages
  • History and Politics
  • Human, Social, and Political Sciences
  • Medicine (BMAT)
  • Natural Sciences
  • Psychological and Behavioural Sciences
  • Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion

More information about pre-interview assessments can be found on the University's Admissions website

At-interview assessments will be taken in Cambridge for applicants invited to attend interviews in the following subjects:

  • Archaeology
  • Architecture
  • Classics
  • Computer Science
  • Education
  • History and Modern Languages
  • History of Art
  • Land Economy
  • Law
  • Linguistics
  • Modern and Medieval Languages
  • Philosophy

Please note:

  • there is no common format written assessment for Mathematics (applicants will continue to sit STEP alongside A-levels), Colleges will assess aptitude, knowledge base and potential through short tasks at the time of interview
  • there is no common format written assessment for Music, Colleges will assess aptitude, knowledge base and potential through short tasks at the time of interview
  • applicants for History and Modern Languages will sit an assessment pre and at-interview
  • applicants for Chemical Engineering will sit the assessment in their chosen route (Natural Sciences or Engineering)

You may be requested to send 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. The deadline for receipt of your essays sample(s) is 15 November. 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.

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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 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?
DiscussionFor 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 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 are usually set at 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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Do I need to take the A-level science practicals?
The University expects that students taking linear A-levels in science subjects will complete and pass the practical assessment. 

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, an individual target may be slightly relaxed when all applicants' results are known (though no guarantee can be given). There is also a second inter-College Pool in August, and a few applicants who narrowly 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 if I already have a university degree?
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.

Maintained by Jan Marshall | Last updated Tue, 15 Aug 2017 - 9:04am