To make a strong application, students must:
- Be suitably qualified
- Be interested in our courses
- Have the potential to thrive at Cambridge
Be suitably qualified
Applicants should either hold or be currently studying for qualifications which meet our entry requirements. Where qualifications are ongoing, we will usually make any offer conditional on meeting the requirements and the qualification must be completed by the 31st August.
Qualifications must be relevant to the course applied for and recent (completed within the last 2 years). Where students hold older qualifications they are strongly encouraged to refresh their knowledge and academic skills with a short formal course. Providers such as the Open University or Oxford or Cambridge’s Institutes of Continuing Education are particularly suitable.
Be interested in our courses
Applicants are applying to study a demanding subject for several years. We want to see evidence that candidates have researched the courses offered and are particularly interested in the way the course is structured at Cambridge. It is much more encouraging for a candidate to want to apply because they’re fascinated by the approach the Cambridge course takes rather than a candidate who applies because of the University’s reputation without looking at how our course differs from that at other universities.
Our assessment of interest is done primarily through reading the personal statement. Candidates are encouraged to keep this at least 80% academic and to give evidence and examples of how they have pursue their interest in the subject.
Have the potential to thrive at Cambridge
Cambridge terms are very short (8 weeks long) which means that the workload can at times be heavy. We want to be sure that candidates are capable of excelling and can handle a busy schedule.
Much of the teaching in Cambridge is delivered through ‘supervisions’ where a small group of students (typically 1 or 2) meet with an academic for around an hour to discuss lectures and reading and to review the work set in the previous supervision. Students typically have between 1 and 4 supervisions a week. Although supervisions are not assessed, supervisions and the associated work will take up a significant portion of a student’s week. The conversational and discursive nature of supervision teaching is not for everyone; one of the primary aims of admissions interviews is to find candidates who could thrive in the teaching environment we offer.
You do not need to go to great lengths to ‘stand out’. We are looking for students with the above qualities and we aim to offer to the strongest students on these measures. If your application demonstrates potential and suitable academic preparation, you are highly likely to be invited to interview. At interview, we will assess your academic skills and potential.
What about passion?
We are looking for students with the appropriate background knowledge, academic skills, interest and curiosity to do well here. ‘Curiosity’ is probably a better word to describe what we are looking for than ‘passion.’ To demonstrate this, we will look for critical engagement with material outside of the curriculum you have studied.
Aside from Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, we do not expect candidates to have relevant work experience. Whilst this can be an important part of mature students’ journeys to Cambridge and can be a way to demonstrate interest and keep academic skills in regular use, we do not assess work experience as part of a formal part of your application and there are other ways to demonstrate these things such as qualifications and wider reading or academic exploration.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve wanted to study a subject since you were 5 or only decided a few months ago.