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Undergraduate Study

 

Before applying, you need to check that you have, or are likely to achieve, the right grades at the right level and in the appropriate/relevant subjects for the course you have chosen. Whatever system you're being educated in, we require top grades in the highest level qualifications available for school/college students – most successful applicants ultimately exceed the conditions of their offer.

Offers are normally made on achievement in the qualifications taken in Year 13 (or equivalent) – if relevant, please see the FAQ on qualifications taken early.

Typical offers and requirements

Although this website mainly talks in terms of A Levels and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB), many other school and national examinations at an equivalent level are equally acceptable and these are shown below. We're happy to consider applicants taking a combination of qualifications from different examination systems providing the individual qualifications are acceptable and any subject requirements are met. If the qualification you're taking isn't listed here, please see EU and International qualifications.

One of the strengths of the Cambridge admissions system is its ability to assess all applicants individually, and all Colleges may modify offers to take account of individual circumstances. This means that some applicants may be set lower/more challenging offers than those listed on these pages/in the course entries, and some offers may specify grades to be achieved in particular subjects.

All undergraduate admissions decisions are the responsibility of the Cambridge Colleges so please also check College-specific requirements and subject preferences with the College(s) you’re considering applying to.

Please note you may be required to submit a transcript outlining details of your qualifications as part of your application.

AS and A Levels

You should choose a combination of AS and/or A Level subjects which gives a good preparation for your selected course at university.

Most Cambridge applicants are studying three or four A Level subjects in Years 12 and 13, and this is usually sufficient to show breadth of interests and ability to manage a range of differing academic tasks. We’d rather applicants develop broader and deeper knowledge of the subjects most relevant/closest to their chosen course than accumulate additional A Levels. Applicants taking four subjects won't normally be at an advantage compared with those taking three, although competitive applicants for STEM subjects often have Further Mathematics as a fourth subject.

If you're taking any modular courses, you're asked to report (in the Supplementary Application Questionnaire, SAQ) the details of your uniform mark scheme (UMS) performance for any modular AS and A Level units taken to date, whether certificated or not (we normally expect good A grades in relevant subjects, if the AS is taken at the end of Year 12). Colleges won't make unconditional offers on the basis of AS Level grades alone. You'll only have UMS marks for modular AS/A Level subjects. If you're taking linear qualifications, your teachers will provide us with information about your performance through their UCAS reference.

For 2018 entry, the typical conditional A Level offer will be A*AA or A*A*A, depending on the course. In countries where an A* grade at A Level is not available, three A grades would be acceptable.

Some applicants may be set lower offers or more challenging ones. Applicants may be required to achieve A* in a particular subject(s) depending on individual circumstances.

  • We expect that students taking A Levels in new science subjects will complete and pass the practical assessment.
  • Cambridge doesn't require 90 per cent in every AS or A Level unit/subject.
  • A Level Critical Thinking isn't considered an acceptable third A Level subject for any course at Cambridge. While it's regarded as a worthwhile addition to your portfolio of qualifications as a fourth AS or A Level subject, it's unlikely to be part of a conditional offer.
  • Key Skills and General Studies aren't required or included in academic assessment.

 

AS/A Level retakes

We recognise that even the best students can have 'bad days' when an exam doesn’t quite go to plan. Therefore, we’re not concerned if an applicant has retaken or is planning to retake one or two modular AS/A2 Level units for which the results obtained are clearly out of character.

At Cambridge, students are regularly assessed by examination and there's no opportunity to resit any exams (with the exception of professional qualifying examinations in Medicine and Veterinary Medicine). Therefore, we would be concerned about an applicant who is retaking large numbers of exams, unless this number of retakes was justified by circumstances beyond the applicant’s control and explained in their UCAS reference and/or Extenuating Circumstances Form.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB)

Typical offers usually require scores between 40 and 42 points out of 45, with 776 in Higher Level subjects.

Applicants may be required to achieve 7 in a particular subject(s), depending on individual circumstances.

Please note that for these purposes, Standard Level subjects will satisfy AS Level subject requirements, and Higher Level subjects will satisfy A Level subject requirements.

Access to HE Diploma

Attainment of an Access to HE Diploma – with Distinctions in all relevant subject units – can be acceptable preparation for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences and most arts subjects (excluding Economics) at the University of Cambridge. Some subjects may have additional academic requirements, see below and also check for any further requirements/preferences with the individual Colleges.

An Access to HE Diploma alone is not sufficient preparation to study a science subject (excluding Psychological and Behavioural Sciences) or Economics at Cambridge.

In all cases, you should contact a College admissions office to discuss your individual circumstances.

Certain subject-specific requirements may be included in conditional offers for particular courses at Cambridge as well:

  • Architecture – a good portfolio is required, and an ability to draw. An interest in the history of art is helpful. Mathematics is needed at least to good GCSE standard
  • Computer Science – A Level Mathematics is required
  • Economics – A Level Mathematics is required
  • Engineering – A Level Mathematics is required
  • Law – applicants will need to demonstrate an aptitude for logical thinking, as well as competence in essay writing
  • Mathematics – an Access to HE Diploma is not sufficient preparation
  • Music – at least grade 5 piano is required
  • Natural Sciences – A Level Mathematics is required for the Physical Sciences and recommended for the Biological Sciences (although there is a Year 1 for those without A Level Mathematics, the better applicants' mathematical ability is before they come to Cambridge, the better they will get on)
  • Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Classics and History of Art – applicants will need to demonstrate an aptitude for languages
  • History – applicants should note that an aptitude for languages opens up greater choices within the History course at Cambridge
  • Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion – applicants should be aware of the compulsory first-year scriptural language element

For further information email the Widening Participation Team at the Cambridge Admissions Office.

Advanced Diplomas

The Advanced Diploma in Environmental and Land-based Studies is acceptable for Geography and Natural Sciences (Biological), as long as you’ve taken two appropriate A Levels within the Additional Specialist Learning component. In the case of Natural Sciences (Biological), these should be A Level Chemistry and either A Level Biology, Mathematics or Physics. The requirements for Geography are more flexible.

The Principal Learning components of the Advanced Diploma in Engineering are acceptable for Engineering, providing you’re also taking A Levels in Physics and Mathematics (the Level 3 Certificate in Mathematics for Engineering is a suitable alternative to A Level Mathematics for these purposes). See the Department of Engineering website for further guidance and contact the admissions office of the College(s) to which you’re considering applying for advice.

Advanced Placement Tests

Prospective applicants from Canada and the USA taking SATs and Advanced Placement Tests should note that offers are usually made on an individual basis. In addition to high passes in the High School Diploma and the SAT, successful applicants normally have 5s in at least five Advanced Placement Tests in appropriate subjects.

AQA Baccalaureate

Offers are conditional on achievement in the A Levels within the qualification, rather than the overall Baccalaureate award.

Cambridge Pre-U

Conditional offers are set on an individual basis but are likely to require the achievement of Distinction level grades (D2 or D3) in Principal Subjects.

Core Maths

While we recognise the value of Core Maths in strengthening mathematical ability and, where appropriate, encourage students to take Core Maths, please note that it isn’t a suitable alternative to A Level/IB Higher Level Mathematics and won’t be a requirement of any offer made.

Edexcel International Diploma (Academic Route)

Offers are conditional on achievement in the A Levels within the qualification, rather than the overall Diploma award.

European Baccalaureate

Successful applicants are typically asked for 85-90 per cent overall, with 90 per cent in subjects most closely related to the course they want to study.

Extended Project

We welcome the Extended Project and would encourage applicants to undertake one as it will help to develop independent study and research skills valuable for higher education. However, completion of an Extended Project won't be a requirement of any offer made.

Foundation Year programmes

Standalone Foundation Year programmes can provide appropriate preparation for some arts courses at the University of Cambridge. However, they're generally less appropriate for those making an application in the sciences. Prospective applicants are advised to consult a College admissions office at an early stage, providing full details of their Foundation Year programme, in order to ensure that it will be adequate to meet the requirements of the course they wish to study.

GCSEs

There are no GCSE (or equivalent) requirements for entry to Cambridge. GCSE results are looked at as a performance indicator, but within the context of the performance of the school/college they where they were achieved.

Applicants have generally achieved high grades in subjects relevant to their chosen course, and most students who apply have at least four or five As or A*s at GCSE. However, there are always exceptions and we don’t require a minimum number of As/A*s at GCSE. One of the strengths of the Cambridge admissions system is its ability to assess all applicants individually.

Our research shows that post-16 examination performance is a much better predictor of degree success at Cambridge. While GCSE results are looked at as a performance indicator, this is within the context of the performance of the school/college where they were attained, and strong performance in Years 12 and 13 can make up for a less stellar performance at GCSE.

Irish Leaving Certificate

Offers are based on achievement in Higher Level subjects.

For courses with a typical A Level offer of A*AA, Irish Leaving Certificate offers would generally be H1, H1, H1, H2, H2, H2; for courses with a typical A Level offer of A*A*A, Leaving Certificate offers would commonly be H1, H1, H1, H1, H2, H2.

Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers

Offers usually require AAA at Advanced Higher Grade.

In some cases, two Advanced Highers and an additional Higher may be acceptable (eg when an applicant is prevented from studying more than two Advanced Highers due to reasons outside their control) – such applicants are considered on a case-by-case basis and should seek advice from the College to which they’re considering applying as early as possible.

For advice about suitable subject choices see course requirements. Please note that for these purposes, Highers will satisfy AS Level subject requirements, and Advanced Highers will satisfy A Level subject requirements.

If you're studying towards a Scottish Baccalaureate qualification, you're expected to offer three Advanced Highers as part of it.

NB: We recognise that the Scottish secondary school sector is undergoing significant curriculum reform. Please see the University's admissions policy statement on Curriculum for Excellence for information.

VCE and Applied A Levels, GNVQs and BTECs

VCE A Levels, Applied A Levels, GNVQs and BTECs don’t provide an appropriate preparation for most Cambridge courses, where the emphasis is more academic than vocational. As such, these qualifications can’t, unless otherwise stated, be used to replace the required or highly desirable A Level subjects listed for each course.

However, if any required/highly desirable subjects are covered, a six unit VCE or Applied A Level could be taken instead of a third A Level or as an additional fourth broadening subject. This combination of A Levels and VCE or other qualifications may be acceptable for some courses.

Potential applicants taking these qualifications are advised to seek further advice from a College Admissions Tutor as early as possible.

Welsh qualifications

For students taking the Advanced Welsh Baccalaureate, offers are conditional on three A Level subjects studied as options for the Advanced Diploma. The core may be taken into consideration in assessment for admission, and used as part of an offer.

Students taking any modular A Levels are required to provide details of these and their UMS in their Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ).

International qualifications

If the qualification you're taking isn't listed here, please see our EU and International qualifications page.

English language requirements

If your first language isn't English, see English language requirements.

Cambridge Application Deadline

15 OCT

The application deadline for 2018 entry is the 15 October 2017, 6:00pm (UK time).

University term dates

2017-18
3 Oct - 1 Dec 2017 (Michaelmas)
16 Jan - 16 Mar 2018 (Lent)
24 Apr - 15 Jun 2018 (Easter)

2018-19
2 Oct - 30 Nov 2018 (Michaelmas)
15 Jan - 15 Mar 2019 (Lent)
23 Apr - 14 Jun 2019 (Easter)

The Application Process