University preparation for offer holders

This section is for our offer holders who are studying at home. It contains general guidance and further info for each subject.

Many thanks for your help in completing our recent survey. At about this time, those of you with conditional offers would normally be starting a new term at school or college, and since in most cases that is not possible at the moment and most (but not all!) exams are cancelled, some of you have been asking us about where to put your focus for study at home.

We hope that by now with a bit more information from various exam boards available and the recent email you've also received from Dr Sam Lucy you are feeling a little clearer about what is going to happen when your 'results' are published. Most of you have also now been at home for several weeks, so hopefully at this point you're getting a sense of how you work and what the study challenges are.

We are providing this guidance in the hope that it will be useful. Obviously it comes with the caveat that we understand that you can only do your best in the circumstances. We know that you are having to adapt to ways of learning and living that you're not used to and that this is difficult. So please take this as it is intended: helpful guidance rather than another source of stress. At the end of the page we have also included some study at home tips, and most importantly we reiterate that you should only study when you are well enough to do so, that you should take breaks and make opportunities to connect with school friends (and some study buddies!) virtually when you can. Good luck and look after yourselves and those around you.


General guidance - timing

Between now and starting your university studies, we suggest that you think of your time in two clear stages:

Stage When? What to focus on
Stage 1 This term

Priority: Do any work that your school sets you and use any resources that they provide.


  • Complete your school syllabus so that you have covered all material that you were due to cover.
  • Revise all topics (even if you have to create your own revision exercises)
  • Practice by doing lots of exercises and past papers (which you should do as timed work).
Stage 2
Late August and September
If all has gone well with results and your offer is for 2020 entry: prepare for your Cambridge course.

Please see the further detail below.

Stage 1 (this term): Complete your school syllabus, revise and practice with past papers

If you are in your final year at school or college, advice for now is to focus on A level, IB or equivalent material for your qualification even if you will not now take the actual exams. That means doing any work that your teachers are still setting you, completing your exam syllabus in each subject, and then, importantly, making sure that you revise and learn the material you have covered in your full A level, IB or equivalent course carefully. You should use practice questions and online past papers regularly to test your progress. Bear in mind that it is essential that you have not only covered the material, but that you know the material and have practiced using it in timed exercises e.g timed essays, past questions. There is a big difference between the two!

Your challenge:
To get yourself as familiar with your school subjects and the skills needed to perform well on past papers as you would have been if you were taking the actual exams with the pressure of aiming for high grades!

Why is this important?

Revision matters - it's when you go back over material, consolidate your knowledge and often find that you understand things better, being able to see them in a wider context than when you looked at them the first time. You will need the knowledge and skills from your school courses to make a good start at university. University teaching will be fast-paced, will build on things we assume you can already do, and although supervisions will be less exam-focused than you will be used to (much more freedom), you will still be required to take end-of-year exams. Consequently you will need to be able to recall relevant material easily, have well-practiced problem-solving and/or essay skills (depending on your subject) and be able organise your knowledge and ideas under timed conditions to produce exam answers, even if it's not your favourite thing to do.

For further information about this suggested stage, please click on the page for your course in the table under the 'Course-specific information' heading below.

Stage 2 (late August / September): Summer reading / course preparation

We will receive all exam results by mid-August (some international results including IB will come out earlier, but A level results, STEP etc. will be published on 13 August). Shortly after this we will confirm places (any international students concerned about how it will work for your qualification, please refer to the email you've received from Dr Sam Lucy). For successful 2020 entry students, we will then provide information about work to do in preparation for the start of your specific course.

Please note that we can not send the preparation information early, even if you are currently on a gap year or if your results are published earlier (e.g. IB students). If you would like to do wider reading in early summer but before mid-August, remember that there's a helpful resources section on each subject page, if you are looking for suggestions.

Further information:

Course-specific information

Please have a look at the page relevant to your specific course:

Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Economics History & Politics Medicine
Archaeology Education History of Art Modern and Medieval Languages
Architecture Engineering Human, Social and Political Sciences Music
Asian & Middle-Eastern Studies English Land Economy Natural Sciences
Chemical Engineering Geography Law Philosophy
Classics History Linguistics Psychological and Behavioural Sciences
Computer Science History & Modern Languages Mathematics Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion


Study at home - skills

The following pages have some suggestions in case helpful. Take what you find useful, ignore what you don't. As you'll already know, different people find different ways to motivate themselves and engage with material, so it is all about finding out more about what works for you.

We may add further details on study skills here in due course, and there are links to exercise and mental health resources on the Coronavirus updates for offer holders page. Thanks for reading.


Back to offer holders main page / Coronavirus updates for offer holders