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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 (including International 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.

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.

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.
  • 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.

Cambridge Colleges welcome applications from those taking International A Levels (offered by Cambridge International, Oxford AQA or Pearson Edexcel) and these are recognised as equivalent to UK Board GCE AS and A Levels

Number of A Levels

Our typical offers are based on students taking three A Levels together in Year 13, and most Cambridge applicants are studying three or four A Level subjects in Years 12 and 13. 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 courses often have Further Mathematics as a fourth subject.

For courses where A Level Mathematics is required by all Colleges – Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, physical sciences options in Natural Sciences – students taking A Level Mathematics in Year 12, and A Level Further Mathematics and only one other A Level in Year 13 will be considered.

In such cases, your individual circumstances will be taken into account; including the context of your application, the combination of A Level subjects, the grade achieved in the early A Level, and your engagement with other relevant subjects in Year 13 in and beyond the classroom.

We recommend you seek advice from a College admissions office, and you should also consider potential implications for your other university options.

If you wish to apply for our Mathematics course, you should refer to the entry requirements guidance on the course page.

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 check for any further requirements/preferences with 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 alone is not sufficient preparation.
  • Music – at least grade 5 piano is required.
  • Natural Sciences – A Level Mathematics is required for the Physical Sciences and highly desirable for the Biological Sciences (the better applicants' mathematical ability before they come to Cambridge, the better they will get on – those without A Level Mathematics must take Mathematical Biology in Year 1 and are required to complete some preparatory work before the start of the course, see the course information for more details).
  • 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.

See also the information for students aged 21 or older (mature students), and for further details 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.

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.

College Board and ACT

Cambridge Colleges are used to assessing College Board and ACT qualifications, and these can form an important part of successful applicant profiles. Offers are made on an individual basis, and we recommend that you contact the College to which you wish to apply for further advice and guidance.

The typical offer level would be based on five Advanced Placement (AP) Scores at grade 5 in appropriate subjects. In addition, high passing marks on your school qualification (eg the relevant US High School Diploma) and a high score on the SAT (I) Reasoning Test or ACT, are expected.

Applicants taking these qualifications are required to disclose all qualifications taken and scores achieved (including retakes). Failure to disclose any scores may disadvantage your application and Cambridge Colleges reserve the right to contact ACT, College Board or your school to confirm your results.

Advanced Placement (AP) Tests
Our requirement is for at least five AP Test scores at grade 5. Applicants do not have to complete five AP Courses to meet this requirement, as a Test can be sat without completing the relevant Course. Advice on how to study for and take AP Tests is available on the College Board AP website.

We welcome AP Capstone and would encourage applicants to undertake AP Research and Seminar courses as it will help to develop independent study and research skills valuable for higher education. However AP Capstone courses won't normally be a requirement of any offer made, and AP Capstone scores will not usually count towards the five or more grade 5 score requirement.

When choosing which AP Tests to sit for, prospective applicants should consult our course pages to identify close subject matches. Please note that for Cambridge courses which ask for Mathematics and Further Mathematics A Level, Calculus BC is strongly preferred. For courses which ask for Physics A level, the two Physics C Tests are preferred.

AP Tests do not have to be completed in a single sitting to fulfil this requirement.

SAT (II) Subject Tests
SAT Subject Tests are not normally viewed as being equivalent to AP Tests and cannot normally be used as substitutes to meet the AP typical offer level. In cases where an applicant’s school does not routinely offer APs, applicants are advised to contact their prospective college for advice about how SAT IIs might be viewed in their application. Strong performances in SAT Subject Tests will strengthen an application; Colleges will pay close attention to percentile data as well as raw marks.

SAT (I) Reasoning Tests
A high pass equates scores of 750 in each component to give a combined score of 1,500 for most Science courses and Economics (Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine, Natural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine); and 730 in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and 730 in Mathematics, to give a combined score of at least 1,460 for all other courses.

Applicants are asked to send in results from full sittings of the SAT rather than individual section scores from separate sittings.

information on SAT I and II Tests can be found on the College Board SAT website.

ACT Tests
An ACT composite score of at least 32 (for Arts and Humanities) or 33 (for Sciences) out of 36 is accepted as equivalent to the SAT Reasoning Test scores outlined above. Further information can be found on the ACT website.

School Qualifications
Country specific requirements in conjunction with the above can be found on the Canada, India and USA pages. College Board and ACT qualifications can also be taken more generally to improve an application profile, especially in countries where the school leaving qualification alone is not regarded as suitable preparation for Cambridge.

 

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.

English language requirements

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

European Baccalaureate

Successful applicants are typically asked for 85-90 per cent overall, with scores of 9 or above in subjects most closely related to the course they want to study.

Extended Project (EPQ)

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, we recognise that not all students have equal access to them and so completion of an Extended Project won't normally 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 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 (7 is considered equivalent to an A in the new grading structure; and 8 and 9 is considered equivalent to an A*). 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, with H1 in subjects most relevant to the course.

Courses with a typical A Level offer of A*AA generally require H1, H1, H1, H2, H2, H2; and for courses with a typical A Level offer of A*A*A, Leaving Certificate offers are usually H1, H1, H1, H1, H2, H2.

International qualifications

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

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).

If English isn't your first language and you're being taught in a Welsh-medium school, you should also refer to the information on our English language requirements and the guidance on interviews.  Any examples of written work you submit (if required) must be in English (whether translated into or originally written in English).

We regularly receive applications from and admit Welsh students, including students whose first and main language is Welsh.  If you have any queries about our entry requirements or admissions process, you're welcome to contact the admissions office of a Cambridge College.

Cambridge Application Deadline

15 OCT

The application deadline for 2019 entry is the 15 October 2018, 6:00pm (UK time).

University term dates

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

2019-20
8 Oct - 6 Dec 2019 (Michaelmas)
14 Jan - 13 Mar 2020 (Lent)
21 Apr - 12 Jun 2020 (Easter)

The Application Process


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