What is the ESAT and how do I prepare?

You might have heard of Cambridge and Imperial’s joint venture delivering a new admissions test, the ESAT. In short, 2024 is a year of change as many admissions tests have been discontinued and the ESAT is replacing quite a few of these. 

If you’re a student applying for university this year, or preparing to in the next few years, it’s crucial that you understand what the ESAT is as well as how to prepare for it. Currently, there’s a lot of confusion and uncertainty as universities continue to make announcements. So, this article breaks down all you need to know into clear bitesize chunks! 

Oh, and remember, The Profs are here every step of the way. We have admissions test experts, specialising in a range of disciplines and institution bodies. If you want tailored support or a personal guide to success, just reach out! 

We won the NTA’s Best Tuition Business of the Year award (2023) and helped over 95% of our students get into their first and second-choice universities. So, if anyone can help you achieve your goals, it’s us

You can also check out our blogs on how to get into Cambridge and Imperial, and what to do if you don’t meet Cambridge or Imperial’s entry requirements. We’ve also got tables breaking down Cambridge’s and Imperial’s courses and entry requirements.

What is the ESAT?

The ESAT stands for the Engineering and Science Admissions Test. 

This admissions test covers a range of subjects surrounding engineering and natural sciences. It is designed to assess your ability to use and apply your relevant knowledge to these disciplines

Ensure that you prepare for the test to maximise your chances of success! Thanks to our network of experienced tutors, many of whom are top UK university graduates and ex-admissions officers themselves, we have the very latest and best knowledge on what Cambridge and Imperial are looking for in successful applicants. 

Get in touch with us today to chat with a member of our team about how we can help you.

What universities are using the ESAT?

Currently, only Cambridge and Imperial are using the ESAT. So, you need only prepare for the ESAT if you are applying for a related degree at one of these two universities.

If you are applying to both Cambridge and Imperial, you need only sit the ESAT once, however, it must be the October exam. 

Remember, if you’re applying to top universities like Cambridge and Imperial, we’re who to get help from. Plenty of our team have graduated from Oxbridge, Imperial and LSE, and/or worked on the admissions teams there. Hence, we have insider knowledge of the application process. That’s why 55% of our students get into Oxbridge, that’s 3x the national average!

Who needs to take the ESAT?

You need to take the ESAT if you’re applying for Cambridge and/or Imperial to study one of the following courses:

Course:The University of CambridgeImperial College London
Chemical EngineeringX
Civil and Environmental EngineeringX
Dyson School of Design EngineeringX
Electrical and Electronic EngineeringX
Mechanical Engineering X
Chemical Engineering and BiotechnologyX
Natural SciencesX
Veterinary MedicineX

Please note: The X’s indicate which courses require the ESAT. You should also note that both universities do not offer the same courses e.g. Physics is not marked for the ESAT under Cambridge because Cambridge does not offer Physics as an undergraduate course.

Need help preparing for the ESAT? Gain guidance from our expert admissions test tutors.

What is included in the ESAT exam?

The ESAT is a computer-based assessment comprising individual multiple-choice assessments. 

Each section has a duration of 40 minutes, and you will take them consecutively on the test day.

Mathematics 1 is a mandatory section for all candidates. The remaining sections will vary depending on the specific Cambridge and/or Imperial course you are applying to.

In most cases (e.g. if you are applying for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, Natural Sciences or Veterinary Medicine), you will need to complete two additional multiple-choice sections from the following options: 

  • Biology.
  • Chemistry.
  • Physics.
  • Mathematics 2. 

If you’re applying for Engineering, alongside Maths 1 at Cambridge, you’ll need to complete Physics and Maths 2.

So, ensure that you check what specific ESAT assessments you’re required to take via Cambridge and Imperial’s 2025 entry course pages. Also, both institutions will make free practice materials available in May 2024. 

Our admissions test experts can guide you through practice tests as well as mark them, provide feedback and coach you on timekeeping. 

How long is the ESAT?

You are allotted 40 minutes per section. There are 3 sections, hence the total test duration is 120 minutes.

So, pace yourself. Take your time to carefully consider each question and provide your best response.

How is the ESAT marked?

In the ESAT, there is no pass-or-fail outcome. Instead, your objective should be to strive for excellence and perform to the best of your abilities. After all, your performance in the ESAT will contribute to the overall evaluation of your capabilities in the assessment process.

The final scores you receive are determined by the number of correct answers you provide. It is important to note that you will not be penalised for incorrect answers. Therefore, it is advantageous to attempt all questions, as you have the opportunity to gain marks for each correct response.

Remember, the ESAT is designed to assess your knowledge and skills accurately. Focus on showcasing your understanding and proficiency in the subject matter. You can best do this by preparing diligently with our experts. We can help you to meet your potential and feel confident in the face of a brand new admissions test. Don’t live in the unknown.

How do I register for the ESAT?

To participate in the ESAT, it is essential to register in advance. Your registration will not be automatic. 

The assessment is administered at designated Pearson VUE test centres, offering a wide range of options globally. With over 5,500 locations across 180 countries, you have the flexibility to choose a convenient test centre near you.

To get started, please visit the Pearson VUE website, where you will find the necessary resources to facilitate your ESAT journey. On the website, you can create an account, locate the nearest test centre, and proceed with booking and payment arrangements.

We understand the significance of providing timely information to support your ESAT preparations. Therefore, in the spring of 2024, we will furnish you with comprehensive details regarding test dates, registration procedures, and cancellation policies. Stay tuned for these updates, as they will ensure a smooth and organised experience throughout the ESAT process.

We encourage you to make the necessary arrangements in advance, taking advantage of the resources available on the Pearson VUE website. By actively engaging in the registration process and familiarising yourself with the test centre options, you will be well-prepared to take the ESAT and showcase your abilities effectively.

When do I take the ESAT?

In order to accommodate a broader pool of applicants, the ESAT (Engineering Science Admissions Test) will offer test sittings during two key periods, aligning with the main deadlines for courses within the UCAS admissions process.

The current options are as follows:

  1. 15th and 16th of October, 2024. 
  2. 7th and 8th of January, 2025. 

Test dates are expected to remain in mid-October and early-January year upon year.

Note: Applicants to Cambridge must participate in the Autumn sitting in order to fulfil the admission requirements. 

So, choose the test date that aligns with your application timeline and ensure that you have the opportunity to showcase your abilities effectively during the UCAS admissions process.

What happens after the ESAT?

After you sit the ESAT, you don’t need to do anything else. The results will be automatically sent to Cambridge and/or Imperial, so you don’t need to share them yourself. 

When do I get my results?

You will receive your results via the Pearson VUE booking portal roughly six weeks after you sat the test:

  • If you took your test in mid-October (2024), this could be the end of November or sometime in December. 
  • If you took your test in early January (2025), this could be sometime in February or early March.

Want to get competitive results that will boost your application? Chat with our admissions test experts.

How much does the ESAT cost?

Participating in the ESAT requires an entry fee, which varies depending on the location of the test:

  • Tests taken within the UK and the Republic of Ireland cost £75.
  • Tests administered outside the UK cost £130. 

It is important to note that this fee must be paid at the time of booking, using a debit/credit card or a bursary voucher. If you qualify for a bursary voucher, ensure that you have the required documentation to utilise it as a form of payment. 

To provide financial assistance, bursary vouchers are available to eligible candidates. These vouchers can be utilised as a means of payment for the ESAT entry fee. They offer a valuable opportunity for those who require financial support to access the test and demonstrate their abilities.

For information regarding fees and bursary vouchers, please see Cambridge’s and/or Imperial’s ESAT page.

How do I prepare for the ESAT? 4 tips

1. Construct a game plan

Collect a wealth of information on:

  • The ESAT.
  • Topics/sections that are likely to be relevant to your chosen course. As mentioned, this will have to include Mathematics 1. Beyond that, you should look into Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics 2, where relevant.
  • Previous Cambridge tests (if you’re applying to Cambridge) on STEM subjects, predominantly those related to your degree.
  • Previous Imperial tests (if you’re applying to Cambridge) on STEM subjects, predominantly those related to your degree.
  • Talk to your teachers about your chosen course and the ESAT. Even better if you chat with us as well, the experts!

Use this bank of knowledge to build a plan. Take notes from your resources and decide what you will be referring to, the wider the range the better! Revise relevant topics and familiarise yourself with the format of the test.

Set specific dates as deadlines for yourself to have completed specific tasks and met certain goals. Your timeline should obviously be based on your chosen exam date in October or January.

This way, you are covering your bases and ensuring that you are keeping on track to be prepared by the time you sit your ESAT.

Also, set a reminder for May 2024. From this date, Cambridge and Imperial will release free practice materials to help you prepare, as well as provide information about the test format, specification and other useful support materials.

Our admissions test tutors and university applications team can help you plan your time, prepare, practise and get your offer.

2. Choose which sections you’re going to answer

The ESAT contains 3 sections. Only 1 section (Maths 1) is compulsory, however, Cambridge and/or Imperial will confirm the other 2 sections based on your degree.

So, it’s a good idea to consider the options available alongside your chosen degree and think practically. What is Cambridge and/or Imperial most likely to select for you? If you think ahead, you can prepare yourself in advance for the sections you will most likely need to complete. Remember to ask your teachers for their advice, as they might have better insight into the sections you could be asked to complete. 

Tailor your preparation to the sections you will be completing so that you can go into more depth on the relevant content you’ll need to know, rather than covering everything in less detail.

Don’t forget to check when Cambridge and/or Imperial are able to confirm which sections you should be completing. Check and double-check that you’re aware of this. It’s crucial that you know which sections you’re going to answer with plenty of time before entering the exam so that you can be adequately prepared and use your exam time efficiently.

Need help achieving your goals? No worries. Just let us know

3. Practise questions from a range of sources

Unfortunately, as the ESAT is a brand new exam, there are no past papers. Fortunately, there are plenty of past papers for previous Cambridge and Imperial admissions tests in relevant subjects.

Remember, it’s a good idea to practise questions from a range of sources.

ESAT questions are likely to look different to A level or IB-style questions, so try to avoid using only your school textbook to prepare for the topics included. There are lots of resources out there that you can use to help you prepare and to familiarise yourself with different types of questions. Some resources to try include:

Cambridge also provides NSAA specimen papers from 2018-2021, some even come with answers and explanations for those answers. These can be helpful in your preparation as they can help you to not only learn what the right answers are, but understand the ways in which you can come to these answers yourself in the exam.

Imperial has past papers available for the old Physics and Maths admissions tests.

You should practise old past papers from both of the universities’ different admissions tests even if you’re only applying to one of them. This is because they will be adopting the same new ESAT test, so they might be applying a combination of their old styles and content.

Similarly, don’t be afraid to use other institutions, like Oxford’s, admissions tests to help you practise your knowledge. For example, if you’re preparing for the Physics section of the ESAT, you can use PAT (Oxford’s Physics Aptitude Test) past papers to practise applying your knowledge to relevant questions.

The best practice is with the guiding hand of an expert. Chat with our team if you’re serious about securing your future at Cambridge or Imperial. Don’t take a risk when we have the recipe for success. 

4. Take practice tests under timed conditions

One of the best ways you can prepare for the ESAT is to complete past papers under timed conditions, just as you will face in the real exam. One of the main areas candidates struggle with is time-keeping and finishing all of the questions in the admissions test, so practising with time pressure will help you to work out how much time you should be spending on each question to ensure you complete the paper within the allotted 120 minutes.

Take the advice from the section above and use these resources, as well as any others that you find. Practising from a wide range of test materials will put you at an advantage.

Work your way through as many papers as you can, as these really are the best way of preparing yourself with both the content and the types of questions that you will encounter. This will ultimately give you a huge advantage on the day of your test. As soon as Cambridge and Imperial release their ESAT-specific resources, ensure that you utilise them.

Usually, past papers include the correct answers so that you can mark your own past papers. But it’s still advised that you ask a teacher (or one of our professional admissions test tutors) to mark your past papers, as they will be able to offer more insights into what you got wrong and why, where your weaknesses are, and what you need to learn to maximise your score. Feedback is crucial to improving!

Reach out if you want to ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward in your admissions tests. 

Get 1-to-1 help from an expert admissions test tutor

How you perform in the ESAT will impact how likely you are to be offered a place on your chosen course at Cambridge or Imperial, so it’s really important that you are prepared to do as well as possible in the exam. 

Unfortunately, schools and colleges are oftentimes not equipped to provide preparation for admissions tests at top universities due to a lack of experience, expertise or resources. In addition, there are no published mark schemes for the ESAT, so only a teacher or an experienced admissions test tutor can mark your practice papers based on their knowledge of the subject and the test. 

As a result of these difficulties, we advise seeking one of our exceptional tutors to help you through the process. Many of our team have graduated from Cambridge or Imperial or worked in admissions there. 

The Profs’ STEM, admissions test, and application tutors have many years of experience preparing students for Science, Engineering and Maths admissions tests at Cambridge and/or Imperial. Over these years, they have built a bank of knowledge reading what examiners will be looking for.

If you work with The Profs, you’ll also gain invaluable independent study skills that will prepare you for higher education, as well as a deeper and broader understanding of the subject area. Our success stories speak for themselves, view them here.

Plus, you can trust us to guide you through every stage of the admissions process to ensure that you don’t just succeed in the ESAT, but also achieve top A level or IB gradesReach out to our team today to get started.