Post-qualification applications

For students who will apply after completing A-level, International Baccalaureate, the Irish Leaving Certificate or other qualifications, rather than in their final year at school or college. 

Studying in the Library
Congratulations on your results and the work you've put in! 

At Christ's we welcome applications from students who have already completed A-levels, the International Baccalaureate or one of the many equivalent school-leaving qualifications that our students take around the world. 

With your results already published, you can make an application already knowing that you've got the grades specified by our entrance requirements. Of course, it remains a competitive application process, but if we make you an offer in January, we will normally be able to make an offer with no academic conditions if you have already met all the requirements for your chosen course. 

As the Cambridge application process takes a year you'll also have a gap year -  if this is the first time you've thought about taking a gap year, do take some time to look at our gap years page for information, as there are a lot of options for things you could consider doing, depending on your circumstances and interests, and it may also be an opportunity to read more or explore your subject in ways that weren't possible when you were at school. 

Senior Tutor with students

Who is a post-qualification applicant? 

You're a post-qualification applicant if you took your school-leaving qualifications in the academic year that's just finished, or in the academic year before. These qualifications could be A-levels, The International Baccalaureate, the German Abitur, or one of the many other qualifications that students take around the world. 

If there's a gap of more than two years between you finishing school and starting your university course, you're just as welcome to apply, but you'll most likely be a mature student rather than a post-qualification applicant, and the information is a bit different. If this is relevant, do read the mature students page instead!  

We also have a page for students who are applying from a university or after completing a university degree. See applying from a university if this is relevant for you. 

"I come from a school which doesn’t send many people to Cambridge, and applying as a post-qualification applicant was a last minute decision after I did better in my A-Levels in than I expected."

Victoria, History and Politics

Can I start this October? 

In most cases, the answer is a definite no - sorry. You would need to complete the full application process: You apply by 15 October (earlier in some cases such as if you want an overseas interview in Malaysia or Singapore) for entry the following October. So it is not possible to apply for October 2020 entry, but we welcome post-qualification applications for October 2021 entry. You'll need to wait for UCAS to open in early-mid September 2020 for the next applications round. 

There is one exception for Cambridge applicants who are unsuccessful after interview but meet some specific widening participation criteria. If this is relevant in your case then you will be informed and given details in your January decision email. Further information.

June 2020 update for students interested in 2020 entry - we're getting a number of hopeful queries asking if there is any change to the information above due to current circumstances (the Coronavirus pandemic). We are sorry to confirm that the answer is no - the information above remains accurate for this year.

Does it make a difference to my chances if I'm a post-qualification applicant? 

For strong applicants, your chances of getting a place are good no matter when you apply. We receive high quality applications from both pre- and post- qualification applicants and are happy to make offers in both cases. There are no quotas for the proportion for pre- and post- qualification offers we can make so we are free to admit the candidates we consider to have the best potential to thrive on their chosen course. 

Looking at overall statistics, there are differences in the proportion of pre- and post- application applicants who receive an offer. The overall success rate of applicants to Cambridge is one in five (with some variation depending on the subject). More than one in three of Christ's post-qualification applicants receive an offer (again, with some variation by subject). From a selection point of view, we have no bias either way, but we suggest that this difference is because the statistics for pre-qualification applicants are skewed by those whose application is not strong enough to be competitive (these are candidates that a strong applicant does not need to worry about!), whereas post-qualification applicants often do not apply if their grades are not high enough for a competitive application. 

The difference it makes to make a post-qualification application, then, is for you: 

  • the right time for a Christ's application comes for different students at different times. You are free to choose what works for you. 
  • having more information at the time you apply means that you can often make a better informed application (e.g. you know your grades already).

Here are the facts:

  • we're neutral about whether you make a pre-qualification application or a post-qualification application. Whenever you apply, what we will be interested in is the same as for every other applicant who applies: your academic ability and your potential to thrive on your chosen course.
  • for all subjects, at Christ's we are neutral about whether you take a gap year or not. This is your choice. See the gap years page for more information if you're thinking about one. 
  • for students taking a gap year we are neutral about whether you apply for deferred entry whilst you are still at school or whether you apply as a post-qualification applicant. Again, this is your choice. Indeed, some students who did their university applications in their final year at school choose to reapply the following year.

What if I applied to Cambridge last year? Can I reapply?

Yes! We assess every application we receive as a fresh application, so if you have applied to Cambridge before you will only be assessed on the information in your current application.

Before you reapply, it would be wise to consider feedback from the College you applied to last year before making your decision. If you have any questions about obtaining feedback, please contact the College you applied to. Take time to consider the information and think through all the possible outcomes of a fresh application.

When considering College choice, note that while the standard advice for students who are reapplying is not to apply to the same College for the same subject as last time, if you applied to Christ's last year and would like to reapply to Christ's, we are happy for you to email us for advice, once you have your exam results.

We advise students who are reapplying to pay careful attention to the current application process and requirements. Don't assume that  things will work exactly as it did last year, and note in particular that admissions assessment requirements and formats can change from year to year. If you applied to a different College last time, note how we organise things at Christ's and make sure you have read the relevant Christ's subject page carefully.

"One of the main differences between my first (unsuccessful) Oxbridge application and this one was that I decided to read books that I was actually interested in rather than those I felt would look good."

Eebbaa, History and Modern Languages

What can strengthen my chances as a post-qualification applicant? 

As ever, we look at grades achieved in the context of the whole application, however in general it is true to say that: 

  • Of post-qualification applicants, those who have exceeded the Cambridge standard offer are, on average, more likely to receive an offer than those who have met the standard offer but not exceeded it. Of course, you must remember that this is a general statement - we consider every application we receive individually and very carefully and we look at all parts of the application before selecting students (see, for example, the point below). Here at Christ's, if we cannot make an offer to a student who has achieved the standard Cambridge offer for their subject and made a valid application*, we will almost always place the application in the Winter Pool for consideration by other Colleges, unless there are constraints at University level that prevent us doing so (for example, we are limited in the number of overseas applicants for Medicine whom we can pool). Please note that this applies to Christ's College only - as it is an individual college's choice whether to pool each applicant, we cannot guarantee that post-qualification applicants who have achieved the entrance requirements will be placed in the pool if you apply to a different College and do not receive a direct offer.
  • For candidates who have met the standard offer, which subjects you have achieved your highest grades in may also affect our assessment, as some subjects are more relevant than others for specific courses. Remember that in each case we are considering your potential for a specific course. If you have achieved highly in the most relevant subjects, this will increase your chances of success. 

*by a 'valid application', we mean a complete, on-time application, that is, you've met the relevant deadlines for UCAS form, SAQ, COPA (if relevant), transcript (if relevant) and pre-interview assessment registration (if relevant). For details, see how to apply.

"I made a post-qualification application to Christ's in my gap year, which worked really well for me since I had more time to read, think, and focus on my application."

Fred, Human, Social and Political Sciences
Porters Lodge at Christ's College, Cambridge

Post-qualification Application Advice Clinic
(2021 entry, eligibility criteria apply)

As part of our outreach programme at Christ's, we offer an annual 'post-qualification application advice clinic' (skype appointments) for high-achieving students at UK state schools and colleges that don't charge fees. The dates for this initiative in August 2020 will be confirmed here nearer the time. It is an opportunity for students who are not holding a Cambridge offer but have just received summer 2020 A level, IB or equivalent results that meet or exceed the required grades for Cambridge and would like to discuss the possibility of taking a gap year and making a post-qualification application for October 2021 entry* on one of our courses.

If you attend a UK state school or college and think a 2021 entry post-qualification application to Cambridge (any College) is an option you'd like to consider, please read the post-qualification application advice clinic page and check your eligibility details. At the time the A level exam results are published in mid-August 2020, an online booking form on the Post-qualification Application Advice Clinic page will allow eligible students (including those with IB and other non-A level qualifications) to request a brief appointment to speak with a member of our admissions team and discuss options.

*you can't be considered for 2020 entry unless you applied to Cambridge in Oct 2019, were selected for interview, were told in your 15 Jan decision email that you meet the widening participation criteria for UCAS Adjustment , and have gone on to be eligible for a course with available places at the time of results publication - note that we are unable to speak with Adjustment applicants as part of this particular clinic.

Students talking

Is the application process different if you apply post-qualification? 

No. Post-qualification applicants follow the normal application process set out on the how to apply page.

There are a few notes worth bearing in mind, however: 

  • We recommend that you get in touch with your former school / college as early as possible as they will need to provide a UCAS reference for you. If you have any difficulty in arranging this with your previous school, please email us for advice. 
  • You will also see that depending on your course, you may need to sit a pre-interview admissions assessment. Again, we recommend that you look into this early as you will need to make arrangements either to sit the assessment at your old school or college, or to sit it at another test centre. See the information about registering
  • UCAS provides a page on filling in your UCAS application including a pdf guide. If you are applying post-qualification you enter all of your qualifications and results as qualifications already completed. If you have made any previous UCAS applications, please bear in mind that this is a completely fresh application - you will need to provide full information from scratch. 
  • Please ensure that you've looked into the provisional dates for interviews in late November / early December. You will need to arrange your gap year so that you are available for interview, if invited, as we can't interview candidates at another time. 

What about STEP?

STEP is an additional maths exam that some students take at the end of Year 13. At Christ's, we require STEP Paper II and STEP Paper III for Mathematics, and STEP Paper I for Engineering and for Chemical Engineering via Engineering.

Post-qualification qualification applicants applying for these three subjects who have already taken STEP would include the results in the application as normal. If you've completed your other qualifications but not already taken STEP, you are still welcome to apply for these three courses, but do bear in mind that if we make you an offer, it may be a conditional offer asking you to take the required STEP papers. That said, STEP and the preparation for it can be a good way to keep your maths sharp and continue developing your skills during a gap year. Further information about STEP and how to prepare is on the three subject pages above.


Student profiles

Victoria, Hannah, Eebbaa, Fred and Arianna all made post-qualification applications, if you would like to read about their experiences.