Before applying, applicants need to check that they have, or are likely to achieve, the right grades at the right level and in the right subjects for the course they have chosen. Please see the Entrance Requirements for furher details.
For a number of our courses, mainly in the arts and social sciences, applicants may be asked to submit examples of their written work that they have written as part of a relevant A Level/IB (or equivalent) course. A discussion of this may then form part of the interview.
Such work must be as submitted to and marked by the teacher – schools/colleges are asked to complete a cover sheet confirming that it is the applicant’s own work and detailing the circumstances in which it was written.
Helping students with personal statements
Personal statements allow students to tell us about their subject interest, and the process of writing a personal statement can often help a student better understand their academic interests and intellectual motivations.
Admissions decisions at Cambridge are based solely on academic criteria (ability and potential). Personal statements are often used as a basis for discussion at interview. In a personal statement we are looking for applicants to:
- explain their reasons for wanting to study the subject
- demonstrate their enthusiasm for and commitment to their chosen course
- express any particular interests within the field
- outline how they have pursued their interest in the subject in their own time
How important are extra-curricular activities?
As our admissions decisions are based on academic criteria, we expect to see evidence of students’ super-curricular activities and wider engagement with their area(s) of academic interest, such as reading and other exploration relevant to the course applied for.
In addition, we look at how these activities demonstrate other characteristics that will aid students' transition to life at university, such as how they balance their academic and personal commitments, and have developed particular skills or qualities such as perseverance, independence, leadership or team-working.
A student's participation (or not) in specific extra-curricular activities that are not relevant to the course applied for are not taken into account and do not affect their chances of being made an offer of a place at Cambridge.
Applicants can make additional comments relevant to their Cambridge application in their SAQ, for instance to highlight particular features of the Cambridge course that attracted them.
This additional personal statement is optional, applicants will not be disadvantaged if they have nothing to add and should be advised not to repeat information they provided in their UCAS personal statement as we will have already received a copy of this.
Helping students prepare for interviews
Interviews are discussion-based, and predominantly academic and subject-related, so applicants will be asked questions:
- that are relevant to the course they applied for
- about the information provided in the written elements of their application
You can help students prepare by encouraging them to talk with confidence and enthusiasm about their subject and wider interests. A mock interview can be helpful to give the experience of expressing ideas and opinions in response to unknown questions. Students are not expected to have ready-prepared answers, over-rehearsed answers can be counterproductive if students are preoccupied with recalling set speeches on general topics rather than listening to the interviewers’ questions and responding accordingly.
Students should be encouraged to read broadly in the areas of their A Level/IB Higher Level (or equivalent) subjects and must be prepared to think quite hard in their interviews but should be reminded that often there are no right or wrong answers to the questions they are asked. It is the process of reaching their answer that is generally of most significance, rather than the answer itself.
It is important for applicants to realise that interviewers will not be trying to ‘catch them out’, but will be challenging them to think and show how they can apply their existing knowledge and skills laterally to less familiar problems.
It is also important for students to understand that their performance at interview alone does not determine the outcome of their application. Admissions decisions are made holistically, taking all available information into account.
The HE+ website is for students looking to expand their subject knowledge outside of the taught curriculum. The website is host to fascinating self-study resources written by Cambridge academics and postgraduates to give potential applicants an introduction to university level learning and independent study.