How to Get Into Cambridge


Being offered a prestigious place at Cambridge University is many students’ dream. Cambridge is one of the best universities in the UK and internationally, currently ranking second in the UK and third in the world. With its outstanding academic reputation, it’s no wonder that places at Cambridge are extremely competitive.

However, surprisingly few students know how to write an application that is tailored to Cambridge’s unique entry requirements. That’s where The Profs come in. With insider knowledge on the Oxbridge admissions process and expert support, we can help you make sure your application stands out from the crowd. Read on to learn how to maximise your chances of getting into Cambridge this year.

What is the Cambridge acceptance rate?

In 2020, the University of Cambridge acceptance rate was 19.6% (according to data from Cambridge). That year, the university received 20,426 applications and offered places to 3,997 students. The average acceptance rate for Oxford and Cambridge combined was around 18% in 2020. Thankfully, with the help of the Profs’ expert Oxbridge consultants, this acceptance rate jumps to 55%, making our students 3x more likely to get into Oxford or Cambridge.

What are the most competitive courses at Cambridge?

Though the average Cambridge acceptance rate is 19.6%, this rate is inevitably lower for its most competitive courses. These courses include Medicine, Computer Science, Architecture, Economics, Engineering, and Law. The acceptance rate for Computer Science, for example, is just 10%. The Profs’ expert tutors can offer one-to-one support for each of these subjects, as well as guiding you through the Oxbridge application process.

Is Cambridge a Russell Group university?

Cambridge University is one of the 24 Russell Group universities. This means that it is a research-intensive institution, known for both its quality and quantity of research. In fact, in the recent UK-wide assessment, 47% of Cambridge’s research was rated as world-leading and a further 40% was rated internationally excellent – one of the best results in the country. The Complete University Guide also ranks Cambridge as the second best Russell Group university behind only Oxford.

What are the Cambridge entry requirements?

The entry requirements for Cambridge courses vary depending on the course you’re applying to study and the country you’re applying from. The table below shows the A level grades required for entry, along with some of the most common international qualifications and their entry requirements. If your qualifications are not in this table, or you need more information on the English language requirements for entry, check Cambridge’s guide for international students. You can also get in touch with the Profs for one-to-one support from one of our international admissions experts.

Qualification Entry requirements
A Levels Typically range from A*A*A-A*AA, depending on the course.
International Baccalaureate (IB) Typically range from 40-42, with 776 in higher level subjects.
European Baccalaureate (EB) 85% overall, with scores of 9 or more in relevant subjects.
Gaokao (China) Offers are made on an individual basis and vary from province to province and year to year. As a guideline, successful applicants will usually have scores in the top 0.1% of those taking the Gaokao in their province.
Abitur (Germany) Overall score of between 1.0 and 1.2, with 14 or 15 in individual subjects.
Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Core subjects: Grades 5 in all subjects and grades of 5* in one or two relevant subjects.
Elective subjects: 5*5*5-5*55 depending on the course.
AP (Advanced Placement) and SAT (USA) Five or more AP scores at grade 5, and high passing marks on your school qualification (e.g. the relevant US High School Diploma), and a high score on the SAT (I) Reasoning Test or ACT.
Other international qualifications Check the full list of the international qualifications accepted by Cambridge.

Please note that Cambridge’s entry requirements differ depending on your chosen course, so make sure you check on the relevant course page before applying. If you’re a UK student and need support in meeting the entry requirements, then our A level tutors can help you boost your grades.

Does Cambridge give contextual offers?

Cambridge University does not offer systematic contextual offers, unlike some other universities such as UCL and LSE. However, Cambridge does use contextual data to provide academic assessors with the fullest possible picture of an applicant and the context in which their achievements occurred.

Insider information on Cambridge

Cambridge University likes outstanding students. Assessors like to see a history of high grades and will focus on a consistent academic track record. They will likely review your GCSEs (or equivalent) with more interest than other universities.

Like Oxford, Cambridge is also interested in extracurricular excellence and students who are looking to make an impact on the world. Ask yourself: What is your ‘X-factor’? What is the thing that makes you really unique? You may have competed nationally, scored very highly in a competition, or perhaps built a large following on your YouTube vlog. Excellence does not have to be academic.

For any mathematical courses, Cambridge will also want to see the highest grades. If you have any evidence of overachieving in quantitative subjects, for example achieving Gold at UK Maths Challenge or a high A* in your A level, then flaunt these in your application.

7 tips for getting into Cambridge

1. Check the specific subject requirements of your course

Although a general offer from Cambridge would require A*A*A-A*AA at A level, many courses have specific additional requirements that you need to meet. For example, students taking A levels in science subjects are expected to complete and pass the practical assessment (this also applies to Oxford).
Some courses also require certain subjects to be taken at A level. For example, in order to study Medicine (one of Cambridge’s most competitive courses), you must have A levels in Chemistry and at least one of: Biology, Physics or Mathematics. In the last three admissions rounds, 95% of applicants for Cambridge Medicine studied three or more Science or Mathematics A levels.

Even where a subject isn’t required, there are often preferred subjects or subject combinations which Cambridge will favour over others. For instance, studying Mathematics gives you an advantage when applying for a huge range of courses, all the way from Psychology to Business. If you’re unsure of which course to apply for, what you need or where to start, get in touch with the Profs’ experienced Oxbridge admissions team who can advise you.

2. Aim to get the best possible grades you can throughout your studies

Along with Oxford, LSE and Imperial, Cambridge University is one of the most competitive universities in the UK. The entry requirements for its most competitive courses, including Medicine, Computer Science and Architecture, are A*A*A-A*AA. Unlike many other universities, Cambridge also looks at your previous academic track record when deciding who to offer places to. Ensuring that you achieve the best grades possible throughout your studies, all the way from GCSE to A level studies and any additional qualifications or competitions, is therefore a top priority if you’re looking to apply to Cambridge.

Our A level tutors have a proven track record of helping students achieve As and A*s in critical subjects, so if you’re in need of a boost, reach out to the Profs for support.

3. Think about the long-term plan

Getting into Cambridge is a great goal to have, but it’s also important to think about the long-term plan. Consider how a degree in your chosen subject from Cambridge specifically will help you to achieve your future academic or career goals. You may want to go on to study a Master’s or PhD, or use Cambridge’s excellent industry connections to land a graduate job at your dream company.

Whatever your reason, use this to communicate your reasons for wanting to study your course in your personal statement. Showing ambition and drive will prove to Cambridge that you are motivated and committed to your subject area and, most importantly, your academic future.

4. Prepare for your admissions test

A key stage of the Oxbridge application process is the admissions test. Which admissions test you’re required to take when applying to Cambridge depends on the course you’re applying for. Unlike Oxford (whose admissions tests are all sat prior to the interview stage of the application process), Cambridge’s admissions tests can be pre-interview, at-interview or post-interview. Make sure you check when your admissions test will be and whether you’ll need to register for it ahead of the Oxbridge application deadline of the 15th October.

Once you know which test you’ll be taking, it’s really important to prepare and practise as thoroughly as possible. Cambridge admissions tests are used to assess your academic ability, written work, and how well-suited you are to your chosen course. The result you achieve in your test will directly influence the outcome of your application. Our extensive network of admissions test experts can tutor you in both the academic content and technique of these tests, so get in touch with the Profs to begin preparing.

5. Get relevant work experience

To help prove your commitment to the long-term goals outlined in your application, you should look to gain relevant work experience in your field. Whether paid or unpaid, having experience working in your desired field will provide you with invaluable real-life knowledge about the industry.

If you can’t secure work experience, try to engage in as many extracurricular activities related to your chosen subject area as you can. For instance, if you’re applying for Computer Science, you could join a school Computing club or learn a new programming language in your free time to gain valuable extra skills to add to your application.

6. Invest plenty of time into writing your personal statement

For Cambridge’s many competitive subjects, lots of applicants will achieve the grades required for entry. Your personal statement will therefore be a critical deciding factor when the university comes to making offers. It’s important to invest plenty of time into this part of your application and use it as a chance to express what makes you unique. Include information about your ambitions, skills and experience, and crucially, use these to explain why you would be an excellent candidate for your chosen course.

Cambridge values academic personal statements that clearly demonstrate you going ‘over and above’. You should include any relevant work experience you’ve undertaken, further reading that’s enhanced your understanding, and extracurricular activities that demonstrate your commitment to your subject area. The Profs’ personal statement tutors can provide further guidance on how to write a stand-out personal statement for your Cambridge application.

7. Prepare for your Oxbridge interview

Around 75% of applicants are invited for an interview with a Cambridge college. You will not receive an offer before successfully passing the interview round. It’s therefore imperative that you prepare to be interviewed by practising your interview skills and developing your subject knowledge with a professional.
At Cambridge, Medicine interviews follow the traditional panel interview format (rather than the MMI format), so you’ll need to research common questions and practise interview techniques to maximise your chances of success. Interviews for other subjects also tend to follow the traditional panel format, but may form part of a wider admissions day that includes taking your admissions test.

Practising with an interview training expert who understands the Cambridge admissions process is the most surefire way to improve your interviewing abilities and maximise your chances of success.

How can we help?

At the Profs, we have many admissions consultants who can guide you through the process of applying to Cambridge, as well as LSE, Imperial and other top universities. In fact, Oxbridge applicants are over 3x more likely to receive an offer when working with the Profs’ experts, and over 90% of our applicants receive an offer from their first or second choice universities. We can even support you in your wider degree-level education, helping you with everything from writing your dissertation to applying for postgraduate courses. Reach out to our friendly team today to access our dedicated support.

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