There is a lot of information out there on the Cambridge Admissions process, some of it good and some of it not so good. The Cambridge Admissions site is particularly good for students and teachers. Otherwise this section contains some succinct, basic information on information which will hopefully help you identify and aid Oxbridge candidates. You can also look at our ‘For Prospective students’ section for more information.
What are Cambridge looking for?
Admission to Cambridge is based purely on academic ability, so although applicants extra-curricular activities may help gain entrance to other universities they will affect a Cambridge application. What Cambridge wants is students who have the academic ability and the motivation and interest to study their subject for three or more years. Candidates should therefore be able to demonstrate their interest in their chosen subject through reading or work experience they have done, or other experiences which have stimulated their interest in their subject. Students should be academically able and be capable of achieving AAA* at A-level, the standard Cambridge offer. There is no minimum GCSE requirement and in fact admissions tutors put relatively little emphasis on this so do not allow students to be put off if their GCSE scores are not that high.
What should candidates put in their personal statement?
It is important not to interfere too much with candidates’ personal statements, as they need to be personal- the student’s own words. Applicants should address their chosen subject area for the vast majority of the personal statement, answering questions like why they want to study the subject, how they are suited to it and how they have pursued their interest in it up to this point. Extra-curricular activities should only be mentioned right at the end of the personal statement, as they may be relevant for other universities.
How can candidates prepare for interview?
Interviews are designed so students cannot be ‘coached’ for them and interviewers will deliberately put students out of their comfort zone to ensure an even playing field. There are however a few things students can do prior to interview. Firstly they should re-read their personal statement and any written work they have submitted- interviewers will often use it as a starter point for conversation. They should obviously also make sure they have done/read the things/books they say they have done/read as the interviewer may ask about them. A mock interview with an adult the student does not know personally can also be helpful just so the student can experience being asked to talk about your academic interests by someone they’ve never met.