How to get into Cambridge: Tips to Help Your Application Stand Out

02/05/202319 minute read
How to get into Cambridge: Tips to Help Your Application Stand Out

The University of Cambridge is a collegiate research university in the UK. It is the world’s third-oldest surviving university. Cambridge is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the world. Its notable alumni include Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking, and David Attenborough, among others. In fact, Cambridge has produced 121 Nobel Prize laureates, 47 Heads of State and 210 Olympic Medalists. Being a globally diverse institution, Cambridge accommodates students coming from 141 different countries. As an aspiring international student, are you thinking about applying to Cambridge? This blog will provide you with some useful information and tips.

What is Cambridge’s acceptance rate?

Entry to Cambridge remains notoriously competitive. While it may seem like Cambridge’s acceptance rate is a lot higher than the acceptance rates of top American universities, it is important to note that there are higher barriers to applying – including the restriction that one can only apply to either Oxford or Cambridge and that one can only apply to 5 UK universities in the academic year. Here are some statistics showing the overall acceptance rate into Cambridge over the years.

Overall Cambridge Acceptance For the Last 5 Years
YearNumber of ApplicationsNumber of OffersAcceptance Rate

Source: University of Cambridge

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Most Competitive Courses at Cambridge
CourseAcceptance Rate
Computer Science9.3%
Economics 10.9%
Psychological and Behavioural Sciences10.9%
Human, Social, and Political Sciences12.7%
Land Economy14.8%

Cambridge Undergraduate Admissions Statistics 2021

For a complete breakdown of admission statistics at Cambridge, check out their Annual Admissions Statistical Report for 2021.

Differences between Oxford and Cambridge

Collectively, Oxford and Cambridge are known as Oxbridge in the university world. Both are prestigious institutions which have similar offerings. Applying to any of them would hardly be a mistake. Nevertheless, you may want to take note of some small differences between the two to inform your decision on which to apply, especially since applicants are only allowed to apply to one of the two for each year.

  1. Oxford is more expensive as an international student, but depending on where you are from, Oxford has more scholarship opportunities.
  2. Oxford is more well known for its humanities and social sciences courses while Cambridge is slightly stronger at its natural sciences courses.
  3. Assessments-wise, Oxford usually assesses its students in its first and final years to determine degree classification while Cambridge assesses its students at the end of each academic year and degree classification is based on the students’ collective results over the three years.

What Do You Need To Get Into Cambridge?

You definitely need to be competitive academically to meet the entry requirements of Cambridge. As a global institution, Cambridge accepts a whole range of UK and equivalent international qualifications. 

Generally, here are the expected academic qualifications needed: 

International A-levels and AS levels

  • Recognised as equivalent to UK GCE A-levels on a grade-for-grade basis
  • Grade requirements differ per course. A 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

International Baccalaureate

  • Typical offers are 40-42 points out of 45, with 6s and 7s in Higher Level subjects
  • Standard Level subjects will satisfy AS Level subject requirements, and Higher Level subjects will satisfy A Level subject requirements

European Baccalaureate

  • An average of 85% or above, with scores above 9 in the subjects most closely related to the course you want to study

Access to HE Diploma

Advanced Placement (AP) Tests

  • A minimum of five AP Test scores at grade 5, normally taken within two years of matriculation and with particular focus on APs that are taken in subjects related to the course applied for

Course-specific Requirements

For courses that do not have particular subject requirements, high grades are expected in the subjects most relevant to the course. Even for each course, entry grade requirements may differ slightly at each College. For example, some colleges may require an A* in a particular subject while for other Colleges, an A will suffice. Hence, as an applicant, you should check the entry requirements for the subject and corresponding College you are applying to.

Here are a few entrance tests that are course-specific:

Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA) for Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology, Natural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine

Test of Mathematics for University Admissions (TMUA) for Computer Science and Economics

Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA) for Engineering

National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT) for Law

BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) for Medicine

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3 Tips To Help Your Application To Cambridge Stand Out

1. Show enthusiasm for the subject

It is important to start thinking of which subject you would want to apply for university early on in your high school career so that you can start to prepare your application early. Importantly, to develop your interest and enthusiasm for a subject, you may want to consider taking part in relevant extra-curricular activities. For example, if you are interest in the humanities courses (e.g. English, History, Politics), it would help to join clubs such as Debating or Model United Nations to hone your argumentative skills and grasp knowledge on the relevant subject matter. This will also help when you are writing your UCAS statement, given that participating in these activities can show a demonstrated interest in the academic subject.

2. Wider reading

Given that Cambridge courses are known to be very academic in nature, academic tutors tend to look out for potential students who have genuine academic interest through the books that they read. They would want to see students who have read widely and beyond their high school academic syllabus. In part, this shows potential that the potential student would be able to handle the heavy independent reading required for surviving and thriving in the Cambridge academic setting.

3. Prepare well for the Interview

Cambridge is one of the few universities in the UK which require an interview for admission. The interview allows you to meet your potential academic tutors. In essence, the interview is a friendly academic interrogation which allows the tutors to tease out how you think about various academic subject matter, whilst also allowing them to see if you’re the type of student they can see themselves teaching. It is important to re-read what you’ve written in your personal statement, especially the books you’ve mentioned you’ve read and the projects you’ve undertaken. Interviewers may quiz you on what you’ve written in your personal statement. It would also help to have a mock interview with your school’s career advisor before going for the actual Cambridge interview.

Final Thoughts

Applying to Cambridge can be stressful. Hopefully, this article has covered some ground in guiding you through the application process. Believe in yourself and whatever the outcome, enjoy the process and good luck!

If you need additional help with the application process, book a free consultation with one of our expert UK admission strategists. They can provide individualized and highly informed support in every aspect of your applications.

Our support includes:

  1. Matching every student with a team of supporters who are graduates from Oxbridge and other top UK universities
  2. Addressing every part of the UCAS application in detail - from test prep to personal statements, extracurriculars to interview prep.
  3. Providing oversight by former Oxbridge admissions officers
  4. Sharing years of inside UK admissions consulting knowledge unavailable elsewhere

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