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Typical questions that arise when completing the Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA)

Why do I have to complete a COPA?

The Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA) must be completed by anyone applying from outside the EU (this includes those applying from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway and Switzerland) or applying for an Organ Scholarship. This questionnaire has been developed to help us gather the additional information required to allow us to assess your application. In many cases there is also an earlier application deadline to allow time to arrange overseas interviews and the Organ Trials.

Do I also have to fill out a Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ)?

Yes. It’s very important that you also complete the Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ) after submitting your UCAS application – your application won’t be valid unless you also submit a SAQ.

We’ll email you a link to the SAQ once we receive your UCAS application. Once you’ve confirmed your identity, and entered your COPA Reference Number and your UCAS Personal ID in the boxes provided in Section 1 of the SAQ, you’ll automatically be taken to Section 8 of the SAQ. You won’t need to complete the rest of the SAQ questions as you’ll already have answered them in the COPA.

What's the deadline for submitting my COPA?

The deadline for submitting your COPA depends on the type of application you're making:

Organ Scholarship applications Submit COPA by Submit UCAS application by
Applicants who would like to be considered for an Organ Scholarship 1 September 2016
6.00pm (UK time)
15 October 2016
6.00pm (UK time)

Please note that you can wait until you have the result of your Organ Trial before you submit your UCAS application. See the Organ Scholarship information for guidance and application instructions. 

Applicants applying from outside the EU Submit UCAS application by Submit COPA by
Applicants who would like to be considered for interview in China, Malaysia, or Singapore 20 September 2016
11.59pm (UK time)
20 September 2016
6.00pm (UK time)
Applicants who would like to be considered for interview in Canada or Hong Kong – restrictions apply (see the FAQ - 'Where am I eligible for interview?') 15 October 2016
6.00pm (UK time)
19 October 2016
6.00pm (UK time)
Applicants who would like to be considered for interview in Cambridge 15 October 2016
6.00pm (UK time)
19 October 2016
6.00pm (UK time)
What's my COPA Reference Number and where can I find it?

When you submit your COPA and pay the application fee, you’ll be allocated a unique COPA Reference Number consisting of the letter ‘C’ followed by 9 digits, eg C170000000. Your COPA Reference Number will appear in our email acknowledging submission of your COPA. This email will be sent to the address you used to register your COPA.

I’ve submitted my COPA but I haven’t received an email acknowledgement, what should I do?

It may take up to 24 hours after you’ve submitted your COPA and paid the application fee to receive your submission confirmation email. If you haven’t received both a payment confirmation email and a submission confirmation email within 24 hours of submitting, you should contact the Cambridge Admissions Office (telephone: +44 (0)1223 333308; email:

Please check the ‘spam’/‘junk’ folder of your email account as well as the inbox before contacting us as your email provider may have incorrectly placed the confirmation email there.

I've submitted my COPA but want to change College. Can I do this?

No. Once you’ve submitted your COPA it’s not possible to change your College/open application preference under any circumstances, so make sure you research your College choice and are sure about your decision. If you’ve listed a different College choice on your COPA to that stated on your UCAS application then the College choice on your UCAS application will take precedence. Please note that this also applies if you’ve made an open application..

What should I do if there’s a problem with my email address?

If you realise that you’ve provided an incorrect email address or lose access to the email account you registered with, please contact the Cambridge Admissions Office (telephone: +44 (0)1223 333308; email: as soon as possible so that we can change your registration email address. You’ll need your UCAS Personal ID number, and we’ll also confirm your identity by asking you questions about the answers you’ve given in the COPA.

Receiving emails from the University of Cambridge

During the early stages of your application, the University will send important information and reminders to the email address that you’ve provided in your COPA and UCAS application. It’s essential that your email account is configured correctly so that emails sent from the University aren’t rejected or filtered into your 'junk'/'spam' folder by your email provider (you should check this folder regularly, as well as your inbox.

Your application to the University of Cambridge may be disadvantaged if you don’t take the steps described below.

The University of Cambridge will contact you from time to time using the following email addresses:

Please ensure that all six of the above email addresses are:

  • ADDED to your email client's Contact List
  • ADDED to your email client's Safe Sender List (if available)
  • REMOVED from your email client's Block Sender List

Help for some of the more commonly used email clients can be found at the following links:

What if I forget my COPA password?

Don't worry if you forget your password. If this happens you can enter your email address on the log-in page and click on the 'I have forgotten my password' link. We’ll send you a new temporary COPA password by email. You’ll be asked to change this temporary password to a password of your choice next time you log in.

What's my UCAS Personal ID?

Your UCAS Personal ID is the unique number which UCAS gives you when you register with UCAS to make an application. If you’ve forgotten your UCAS Personal ID, please contact UCAS Customer Services (telephone: +44 (0)330 3330 230) or refer to UCAS Apply.

I don’t have a digital photograph of myself; what should I do?

We strongly encourage you to upload a digital photograph. However, if you’re unable to provide a digital photograph, please complete the Undergraduate Applicant Photograph Submission Form.

If you're making an overseas application the completed form should be returned to the Overseas Applications Administrator at the Cambridge Admissions Office by the relevant application deadline.

If you are applying for an Organ Scholarship, the completed form should be returned to the Admissions Office of your first preference College by 1 September 2016.

Where am I eligible for interview?

In the 2016-17 admissions round (for entry in October 2017, or deferred entry in October 2018), we anticipate that we’ll be conducting overseas interviews in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

Please note the following restrictions.

  • If interviews are held in your home or school country, you can only request to be considered for interview in that country or in Cambridge. You’re strongly encouraged to apply for an interview in your home/school country; there’s no advantage to being interviewed in Cambridge. Applicants for Architecture, History of Art, Classics and Music are advised to apply to be considered for an interview in Cambridge. However, please check our country-specific information for relevant interview arrangements prior to submitting your application. If in doubt, please contact the appropriate overseas interview team for further guidance. Contact details for each overseas interview team can be found at the bottom of each country specific publication.
  • Interviews in Canada are only available to applicants who are resident or at school/university in Canada, or who are Canadian nationals resident elsewhere.
  • Interviews in Hong Kong are only available to applicants who are domiciled, permanently resident or at school/university in the special administrative region (SAR) of Hong Kong. All other overseas applicants seeking interviews in Hong Kong, including Hong Kong residents attending schools outside the SAR, must apply by the earlier UCAS and COPA application deadlines of 20 September 2016 to be considered for interview in China, Malaysia, or Singapore. If you are a HK resident at school in the United Kingdom, the deadline for your UCAS application is 15 October 2016, in line with all other pupils attending UK schools. Like them, you may be called for interview in Cambridge in the first three weeks of December. As you are applying from within the UK you do not need to submit a COPA.

Applicants from other Asian countries (such as Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, South Korea, Taipei, Thailand and the Maldives), Australia, New Zealand, or a Pacific Island are invited to apply to be considered for interview either in Singapore or in Cambridge.

Applicants wishing to be considered for interview in Singapore should ensure they submit their application by the 20 September 2016 deadline, and indicate their preferred interview location in question D2.1.

What do you mean by a 'High School Transcript'?

By ‘High School Transcript’ we mean a record of your academic achievement to date in your secondary school/college examinations; for example non-modular A Levels and IGCSEs/O Levels, or the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma and the Middle Years Programme (MYP), or other equivalent qualifications.

If you’re currently studying at a university, you’re also required to provide a University Transcript.

For most students, the transcript will be an official document or certificate from your school/college/university which lists the subjects you’ve studied and the grades/qualifications that you’ve achieved. Please provide as much information on your examination performance as possible including details of any internal assessments that you may have undertaken.

Please do NOT include references, detailed project work, or any non-academic achievements.

Please do NOT submit a transcript if you’ve taken modular AS/A Levels or CIE A Levels, where you’re provided with Percentage Uniform Marks (PUMs).

If you’re unsure as to whether or not you’re required to submit a transcript (High School and/or University), you can find guidance under the FAQ 'Am I required to submit a High School Transcript?’, below.

If the original transcript isn’t in English, you must have it translated and authorised (ie signed or stamped) by an official translation service or by your school/college/university.

For an example of a High School Transcript and further guidance relating to transcripts, please see the transcript page.

Transcripts must be uploaded at Question A5.1 of the COPA.

Transcript submission deadlines

You must ensure that your transcript is uploaded by the relevant deadline. 

COPA applicants Non-COPA applicants

Overseas applications
Transcripts must be received by:

  • 20 September 2016 for those requesting to be considered for interview in China, Malaysia or Singapore
  • 19 October 2016 for those requesting to be considered for interview in Cambridge, Canada or Hong Kong

Organ Scholarship applications
Transcripts must be received by 1 September 2016

Transcripts must be received by 22 October 2016


Am I required to submit a High School Transcript?

Please refer to the Transcripts requirements webpage. If you have any further queries/doubts, please seek advice from the College you’re applying to as soon as possible.

It’s your responsibility to check whether you’re required to submit a transcript. Please note that your application won’t be considered unless the appropriate transcript is received.

What do you mean by 'reference'?

References are an important part of our admissions process because they tell us about your academic abilities and potential. Comments that are particularly helpful to us are those that show evidence of your intellectual flexibility and curiosity, analytical ability, logical reasoning and the ability to learn quickly.

Your referee should ideally be one of your current teachers at school/college. If you're applying independently, have left school/college and/or haven't yet submitted your UCAS application, we recommend that your referee is someone who has most recently been acquainted with your academic ability and performance.

In the case of those with a COPA deadline earlier than 15 October (if you're applying for an Organ Scholarship or to be considered for interview in China, Malaysia or Singapore), we'll email your UCAS referee directly to request a copy of their reference along with predicted grades and ranking (ranking isn't required for Organ Scholarship applicants). This information must reach us by no later than the relevant deadline, 11 September for Organ Scholarship applicants or 20 September for those applying to be considered for interview in China, Malaysia or Singapore.

We’ll use the contact details for your UCAS referee you provide in your COPA to contact this person directly by email. We strongly recommend that you submit your COPA as early as possible to allow enough time for your referee to prepare and send us the required documents. Please note that your COPA won’t be considered valid if the documents aren’t submitted by the set deadline.

If you’re submitting your COPA for the 15 October deadline, the reference will be obtained from your UCAS application (we won’t email your UCAS referee separately).

You’ll be asked to provide your referee's email address at Question A4.1 ('Please provide details of your UCAS referee') of the COPA.

If you don’t know your referee's email address, please get in touch with them as soon as possible to obtain it. If your referee doesn’t have an email address, please contact the Cambridge Admissions Office for guidance as soon as possible (telephone: +44 (0)1223 333308; email:

How much detail do I need to give about topics that I have studied?

We’re looking for a list of the main topics that you’ve covered in your studies in order to help interviewers to compose appropriate questions to ask you, so you only need to include topics covered up to December 2016.

The two examples below give an indication of the level of detail that we’re looking for in this question. List as many topics as you can but don’t worry if you can’t list them all. Abbreviations are acceptable. If you’re unsure which topics you’ll be covering up to December 2016 we recommend that you ask your teachers for guidance.

If any of your qualifications are self-taught or you’re home-schooled, please enter '1' under 'Class Size' and provide further details in Question A3.4 ('Is there anything else you would like us to know?').

If your school year starts in January and ends in December, please select ‘2015-16’ under ‘Academic Year’ for any subjects studied from January 2015 to December 2015; and select ‘2016-17’ under ‘Academic Year’ for any subjects studied from January 2016 to (and including) December 2016. We also recommend that you provide further details under Question A3.4 (‘Is there anything else you would like us to know?’).

AS/A Level example

Subject Level Class Size Academic Year Topics
Biology AS Level 15 2015-16 Molecules and Cells, Exchange Transport, Genetics
Biology A Level 10 2016-17 Human Health, Respiration
Chemistry AS Level 8 2015-16 Atomic Structure, Bonding, Kinetics, Energetics
Chemistry A Level 7 2016-17 Functional Groups, Periodicity
English Literature AS Level 10 2015-16 Keats, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, A Streetcar Named Desire
Mathematics AS Level 15 2015-16 Algebra and Functions, Calculus, Trigonometry
Mathematics A Level 12 2016-17 Probability, Complex Numbers

International Baccalaureate example

Subject Level Class Size Academic Year Topics
English IB Higher Level 15 2016-17 Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Outsider, Anthony and Cleopatra, Yeats, Heaney
Spanish IB Higher Level 12 2016-17 Study of Grammar, History of Spain and South America, Spanish Literature, Politics and Culture
History IB Higher Level 15 2016-17 Russia 1850-1953, Causes of the Cold War, Rise and Rule of Single Party States
Biology IB Standard Level 15 2016-17 Cells, Digestion, Respiration, Health and Nutrition, Blood and Circulation
Latin IB Standard Level 10 2016-17 Catullus: Love Poetry, Horace, The Aeneid Book II, Translation of Ovid, Grammar
Maths Studies IB Standard Level 20 2016-17 Calculus, Trigonometry, Financial Mathematics, Algebra, Graphs
What do you mean by ‘AS/A Level or equivalent’?

AS Level and A Level qualifications are taken by the majority of English and Welsh students during their final two years of school/college. A certain level of achievement in these qualifications is usually required for entry to university in the UK.

When we ask for information about subjects studied at 'AS/A Level or equivalent', we’re looking for information about the qualifications you’ve taken/are taking in the final stage of your schooling.

Examples of qualifications that are equivalent to AS/A Level:

  • International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (Standard Level and Higher Level subjects)
  • US College Board SATs, ACTs and Advanced Placements
  • High School Graduation Diplomas/Certificates (eg Australia, Canada)
  • Malaysian STPM
  • Indian HSSC
  • Pre-U Principal Subjects
  • Hong Kong HKDSE

Examples of qualifications that are NOT equivalent to AS/A Level:

  • GCSE/IGCSE/O Level
  • International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme
  • Malaysian SPM
  • Hong Kong Certificate of Education
What do you mean by a ‘modular A Level’?

A modular A Level is assessed through individually examined units (modules) that are taken throughout the course, rather than by examinations at the end of the final year of study.

Applicants taking modular A Levels normally receive a Uniform Mark Scale (UMS) score for each unit completed.

In some countries, applicants receive a Percentage Uniform Mark (PUM) for each completed unit rather than a UMS score. UMS scores/PUMs can usually be found on the statement of results issued by the Awarding Body. If you’re unsure whether UMS scores/PUMs are available for your completed A Levels, please ask your school/college for advice. If no UMS scores/PUMs appear on your statement of results, please contact the Cambridge Admissions Office (telephone: +44 (0) 1223 333308; email: for guidance.

Your preference/allocated Cambridge College will require that you supply full and accurate evidence of your UMS/PUMs achievements once your application has been received. 

My COPA isn't displaying correctly, what should I do?

We strongly recommend that you download and use the Firefox web browser to complete the COPA, as it may not display correctly in other browsers.

If you're having difficulty displaying pages of the COPA correctly (when they have previously displayed without any problems), please try logging out and logging back in again. This should correct any problems you are experiencing.

I'm unable to submit my COPA, what should I do?

You’ll be unable to submit your COPA if you haven’t answered any compulsory questions or you’ve provided an invalid answer. Go to the 'Review My Answers' page by clicking on 'Review My Answers' to check for any errors (these will be highlighted in red). Once you’ve corrected any errors, try to submit your COPA again. You’ll need to agree to the declaration statement again.

I have difficulties logging in to my COPA, what do I do?

We strongly recommend that you download and use the Firefox web browser to complete the COPA, as this is the preferred browser and some applicants have experienced problems logging in using other browsers.

If you're experiencing difficulties logging in to your COPA, we recommend that you clear your ‘cookies’ and browsing history, and allow ‘pop-ups’. Alternatively, try using a different machine. 

What if I need to change information but have already submitted my COPA?

Once you've submitted your COPA, it's not possible to amend the answers online. If you notice an error in the information you provided or have any other queries please contact the Admissions Office of the College you applied to or, in the case of open applicants, the Cambridge Admissions Office (telephone: 44 (0)1223 333308; email: 

Can schools/colleges still submit an additional Cambridge-specific reference?

As we ask your teachers/referees to provide a copy of their UCAS reference, there’s no need to provide/send an additional Cambridge-specific reference.

However, if your teachers/referees have any particular comments to make that relate specifically to Cambridge that weren’t included in the UCAS reference, they’re welcome to do so and should send this direct to the relevant College or, in the case of open applicants, the Cambridge Admissions Office.

In order to ensure that any additional reference for an overseas application arrives at the right place it should be addressed to the Admissions Office at the College concerned and should include the applicant's full name, date of birth, course applied for and, if possible, UCAS Personal ID number.

In the case of an open application, this information and additional reference should be sent to the Overseas Applications Administrator in the Cambridge Admissions Office.

In the case of Organ Scholarship applications, this information and additional reference should be sent to the Admissions Office of the applicant's first preference College. Contact details for the Colleges can be found in the College contacts section.

COPA Register / Login

To register or login to complete the Cambridge Online Preliminary Application please click the button below. 

COPA Register / Login

COPA Contact

If you encounter problems completing the COPA please read the FAQs in the guide above or email COPA Help, for all other application enquiries please contact the Cambridge Admissions Office.

T+44 (0)1223 333308