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Cambridge University Admissions Introduce Entrance Tests

03 February 2016

Cambridge University Admissions Introduce Entrance Tests

Cambridge University have recently announced that they will be introducing new entrance tests for 2017 applicants. Read about the tests, and MPW’s comment on them, below.

Why have Cambridge introduced the tests?

When the government first announced plans to reform A levels, Cambridge University hotly protested the loss of AS levels, the examinations that most students take at the end of year 12. Cambridge University is one of the most competitive in the world. In the last five years, over 84,000* hopeful students have applied to Cambridge and just over a quarter (26%) was successful in receiving offers. This means that Cambridge admissions tutors need to sift through, on average, 16,091 applications per year and discard nearly 12,000 of them. How do they do that? By using as many criteria as they can to distinguish between applicants, including AS level grades. Cambridge particularly like AS grades as they believe that they are an accurate predictor of A level outcomes, in turn indicating the likelihood of success at undergraduate level. Dr Sam Lucy, Director of Admissions at Cambridge, explains that the tests have been introduced to meet “a need to develop new ways to maintain the effectiveness and fairness of our admissions system”.

What will be the format of the tests?

We are not certain at the moment. There are two types of test: pre- and at- interview. The likelihood is that pre-interview tests will be similar to the admissions tests that have long been administered by Oxford University. Indeed, the tests are scheduled for the same day as Oxford admissions tests (to make it easier for schools, who will host them for you). There will be no cost to applicants or schools.

Cambridge University have created a new admission assessments page which will be updated in March to provide more information on the content and format of the tests. Once it is ready you will be able to access it online.

What do I need to worry about?

In short, nothing. Do your best not to feel daunted by this development. Like AS levels, the tests will form part of your application as a whole. They are not ‘pass or fail’ exams or standalone indicators of whether you should be invited to interview. Like AS levels, a strong performance will strengthen your application and like AS levels, underperforming will make it harder for you.

Remember that any worries and concerns you might have are shared by every other Cambridge applicant, and that this new development is to maintain a fair and effective approach to admissions. The entrance criteria have changed but they have changed for everyone. It is still a level playing field and you have as much chance of success as you did before you found out about the new tests, so please do not be discouraged from applying next year. If you would like further guidance on making an application and how to use the rest of your AS year, including the summer months, to prepare, you can discuss this with your Director of Studies, or with Oliver Milton, Oxbridge Co-Ordinator. Further information will be available during the June UCAS Week.

* Data source: University of Cambridge