How to Get into Cambridge for Engineering

Engineering is a particularly competitive course at Cambridge University. Just 14.8% of applicants were successful in receiving an offer in 2021, so it’s important to ensure your application stands out to Cambridge’s admissions officers.

If you’re thinking of applying for Engineering or just curious about what it takes to get into one of the most competitive courses at Cambridge, this guide contains everything you need to know – from entry requirements to tips on how to prepare from our expert Engineering tutors.

The Profs’ Engineering tutors have first-hand experience of the admissions process and what is required to succeed at each stage. Thanks to our expert support, students who work with The Profs are more than three times more likely to receive an offer from Cambridge University. Reach out to our team today to maximise your chances of success.

What is Engineering?

Engineering is a branch of Science and Technology that encompasses the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures. Cambridge’s Engineering course is unique in that it allows students to keep their options open by exploring a range of Engineering fundamentals in years 1 and 2, before specialising in a chosen area of Engineering in years 3 and 4. The following specialisations are available on Cambridge’s Engineering course:

  • Aerospace and Aerothermal Engineering
  • Bioengineering
  • Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Electrical and Information Sciences
  • Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Information and Computer Engineering
  • Instrumentation and Control
  • Mechanical Engineering

Top tip: Many other competitive universities for Engineering, such as Imperial, require students to essentially ‘specialise’ in one area of Engineering from the moment they begin their degree. This is because each area is its own degree course; for example, you can apply for Mechanical Engineering or Aeronautical Engineering or Civil Engineering, etc.
For this reason, Cambridge might be a great choice if you are achieving very highly at A-level (or equivalent), but don’t necessarily know exactly which area of Engineering you’d like to pursue. It’s always important to research the range of Engineering courses offered by various universities before making your final UCAS choices.

What are the entry requirements for Engineering?

Engineering, like all courses at Cambridge, is very competitive. The course requires applicants to achieve excellent grades and show a strong aptitude for Mathematics and the Sciences. The table below shows the entry requirements for Engineering:

QualificationGrades
A LevelsA*A*A
Scottish/Advanced HighersA1, A1, A2
International Baccalaureate (IB)40-42 points with 776 at Higher Level.

Note that for 2017, 2018 and 2019 entry, the majority of successful applicants (87%) from an A Level background achieved A*A*A* – one grade above the entry requirements. For the same period, the majority of IB entrants achieved at least 43 points overall and/or grades 777 at Higher Level. You should therefore be aiming for the highest possible grades in your A levels, IB or equivalent to maximise your chances of an offer.

Worried that you won’t achieve the necessary grades to study Engineering at Cambridge? The Profs’ A level and IB tutors can help. We have extensive experience helping students excel in their coursework and final exams and achieve the entry grades for this competitive course. Reach out to our team for support.

Which subjects are recommended?

In order to study Engineering at Cambridge, you must have studied Mathematics and Physics at A Level (or equivalent). In 2017, 2018 and 20219, all successful applicants took Maths at A level, with 95% having taken Further Maths, 98% having taken Physics, and 62% having taken Chemistry.

Which admissions test do you need for Engineering?

All applicants to Engineering at Cambridge were required to take the Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA). However, it is being discontinued. The Engineering and Science Admissions Test (ESAT) will be used for degree programmes in Engineering, Natural Sciences, Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, and Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge.

Information on the ESAT is available here. We will also be releasing an article on the ESAT shortly, so keep your eye out. Until then, you may find our previous article helpful: How to prepare for the ENGAA.

If you are applying to study Engineering, unlike many other subjects, you are not automatically signed up for the admissions test. Instead, you will need to pre-register for the ESAT. The test will take place in October.

What does the ESAT involve?

The ESAT is a computer-based assessment consisting of multiple-choice assessments. Each assessment lasts for 40 minutes, and you will take them consecutively on the test day.

Mathematics 1 is a mandatory assessment for all candidates.

The additional assessments you will take depend on the specific Cambridge course you are applying to. In most cases, you will complete two more multiple-choice assessments, chosen from the following options: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics 2. This makes the total test duration 120 minutes.

Get support from our expert ESAT tutors.

How hard is it to get into Engineering at Cambridge?

Engineering at Cambridge is one of the hardest courses in the UK to get into. Not only is Engineering the second most popular course at Cambridge – an already competitive university – with 1,545 applications in 2021, but most of the applicants it admits achieve A*A*A* in their A levels (or 43 points overall and/or grades 777 at Higher Level in the IB).

In addition to achieving top grades, applicants also need to perform well in the ESAT and admissions interview, all of which requires intensive preparation.

Thankfully, The Profs’ Oxbridge admissions tutors can help you triple your chances of getting into Cambridge to study Engineering. Thanks to our network of experienced tutors, many of whom are Oxbridge graduates and ex-admissions officers themselves, we have the very latest and best knowledge on what Cambridge is looking for in top Engineering applicants. Get in touch with us today to chat with a member of our team about how we can help you.

What are the fees for Engineering at Cambridge?

The table below shows the fees for Cambridge’s Engineering course for both home (UK) and overseas students:

Student statusCourse fees (per year)
Home£9,250
Overseas£35,517

You can find out more information about what fees you will pay on Cambridge’s fee status page. You can also use Cambridge’s fees, funding and financial assistance page to see the funding options available to you.

4 tips on how to get into Engineering at Cambridge

1. Prepare thoroughly for each stage of the admissions process

When applying to study Engineering at Cambridge, there are many stages of the admissions process to consider, and you should prepare for each one thoroughly.

  • Your grades – preparation for your Engineering application really starts from the moment you start studying for your A-levels (or equivalent). Excellent grades are essential in order to be considered for a place at Cambridge, so you should be aiming for A*A*A in your A-levels (or equivalent) as a minimum and A*A*A* for the best chance of an offer.
  • Your UCAS application – the first official stage of your Engineering application is completing your UCAS application online. As well as your grades, this includes your personal statement. This is the first chance you’ll get to showcase your suitability for Engineering and prove to Cambridge that you are interested and committed to the subject areas. Learn more about how to write a stand-out personal statement in this helpful guide.
  • The admissions test – the ESAT is a notoriously challenging admissions test designed to identify the very top applicants to Cambridge’s Engineering course. It’s important that you prepare for this test just as you would for any other exam. For more information on the test and expert tips, get in touch with our experienced tutors for one-to-one support.
  • The interview – if your UCAS application is impressive enough, you may be invited for an interview at Cambridge. This is your last chance to impress the university and prove that you are an excellent candidate for the course. Oxbridge interviews are like oral admissions tests and there is often even a mark scheme your interviewers will be scoring you against, so it’s important to seek professional help to prepare effectively.

2. Do your research

It’s particularly important to do your research when it comes to applying for Engineering courses at university, as they all offer slightly different modules and styles of teaching. For instance, Cambridge’s Engineering course involves studying a wide range of Engineering fundamentals in years 1 and 2, and you won’t need to specialise in a chosen area of Engineering until the third and fourth year of the degree course. Imperial College London, in contrast, offers a wide range of specialised undergraduate Engineering courses that allow you to study one particular area of Engineering from year 1.

Making sure that you are aware of these differences and know why Cambridge is a great choice for you will help you to tailor your personal statement and prepare effectively for your interview. It’s a good idea to have specific modules in mind, for example, that you are particularly interested in studying. You might also offer some insight into what you may want to go on to specialise in by demonstrating that you have researched the third and fourth year modules (such as Aerospace or Mechanical Engineering) and done some additional reading around those areas in your free time.

You should also consider how a degree in Engineering from Cambridge will help you achieve your future ambitions, whether educational or career-related. Demonstrating that you have a long-term plan will show the admissions team that you are driven and committed to studying Engineering. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to stick to it and the university will expect your interests and ambitions to shift as you expand your knowledge and gain experience on the course, but that initial drive is what is really important.

Joe’s tip: To help you formulate a plan or generate ideas on what you might like to do with your Engineering degree, you should do your research into Engineering as an industry and the many different types that you can pursue as a career. If you can, try to get some work experience in these fields to give you a better understanding of what the real world of Engineering is like. You could also speak to people you admire or who have worked in the field you are interested in on LinkedIn, as well as looking into Engineering alumni of Cambridge and other top institutions to see where they are now for inspiration.

3. Demonstrate your mathematical ability and passion for Maths and Engineering

Places on Cambridge’s Engineering course are incredibly competitive and most successful applicants achieve three A*s in their A levels (or equivalent). It’s therefore important that, as well as excelling academically, you demonstrate strong mathematical ability and a genuine passion for Maths both in and outside of school.

The main way to highlight this aptitude for Maths is in your personal statement. If you’ve consistently performed exceptionally well in Mathematics and Maths-based subjects then include evidence of this in your statement. You can also ask your referee to vouch for this.
In addition, if you have competed in any extracurricular Maths challenges such as the UK Maths challenge or Engineering competitions, you should include these in your statement, as they are a great way of proving your abilities and passions and make your application stand out from other strong applicants.

Note that all students applying to university for 2023, 2024 or 2025 will still be required to submit a UCAS personal statement as normal. However, from January 2025 onwards (October 2024, for Oxbridge applicants), there will be changes to the UCAS application process and students will no longer be required to write a personal statement. Instead, all applicants will answer a series of shorter, more tailored questions provided by UCAS.

4. Seek help from an Engineering expert

Engineering is one of the most competitive courses at Cambridge and requires you to perform well in multiple stages to be in with a chance of securing an offer. Unfortunately, schools and colleges are oftentimes not equipped to provide specialist Engineering preparation due to a lack of experience, expertise or resources. As a result, we advise seeking a professional Engineering admissions tutor to help you through the process.

The Profs’ Engineering tutors have many years of experience helping students develop their academic profiles, prepare for the ESAT, and excel in the admissions interview. If you work with one of The Profs’ tutors, you are more than three times more likely to get into Cambridge. You’ll also gain invaluable independent study skills that will prepare you for study at an elite UK university, as well as a deeper and broader understanding of a range of Engineering fundamentals and more specialised areas. Reach out to our experienced team today to get started.