What to Do if You Don’t Meet Imperial College London’s Entry Requirements

Imperial College London has become one of the most prestigious universities in the UK, which is why it has a low acceptance rate: 27% (according to Admission Report) and 11.5% (according to UCAS). If you’re worried that you don’t meet Imperial College London’s requirements, there are some tips and tricks that could tip the scales in your favour. Let’s break them down.

Imperial College London’s basic criteria considers your grades, subject choices, the quality of your application (including the admissions test if you have one), your experience, your English language proficiency, and your interview. This article will explore each of these factors, helping you to identify which areas you might be lacking and to equip you with the know-how to combat this.

Contents:

What is the criteria to get into Imperial College London?

Imperial College London is ranked 3rd in the UK and 10th in the world by Times Higher Education (2023). As one of the best Russell Group universities, Imperial College London can afford to be choosey. Hence, it runs a competitive admissions process.

Meeting or exceeding Imperial College London’s entry requirements doesn’t guarantee you an offer. You are considered in relation to the standard of applicants that year.

When it comes to entry requirements, Imperial College London considers a variety of factors:

  • Grades: Imperial College London’s prestigious university ranking means that it can ask for higher grades than other UK universities. So, check whether your grades are up to par!
  • Subject choices: Some courses at Imperial College London might deem it essential that you’ve studied X or Y subjects. In other cases, they might recommend specific subjects. Beyond what is mandatory or advised, it’s important that your subject choices convey a genuine interest in your chosen degree, as well as applicable knowledge, and relevant capability.
  • Your application: Your personal statement (and CV and application questions for postgraduates) should demonstrate your suitability for both Imperial College London and your chosen degree. It should prove that you are motivated and impassioned by the course.
  • Your experience: Relevant work experience, extracurriculars, and extra/other qualifications might give you an edge over other students or make up for other areas in which you lack. Lived experience can help strengthen your application, though the weight this holds varies depending on the course.
  • English language ability: If you are an international student, Imperial College London might ask you for a qualification proving your proficiency in English. Often applicants to Imperial’s business school are expected to meet higher language requirements.
  • Your interview: Many universities do not interview their applicants so this is an extra step that adds some further effort and pressure to the process. However, it also gives you a valuable opportunity to stand out if your application on paper is not as strong as your peers!

It’s important that you familiarise yourself with Imperial’s application process as much as possible, including the structure, so that you can prepare equally for every step and avoid mistakes.

Imperial College London states that they consider an applicant’s examination results (already gained and predicted), their motivation and understanding of their course as a career, their potential for leadership and teamwork, their interests, their referee’s report, their admissions tests (if applicable) and their interview (if applicable). Consequently, Imperial does not appear to prioritise a particular aspect and each application is considered on its individual merits. So, it’s important to make your application well-rounded.

Feeling overwhelmed by all the factors you’ve got to consider? Or just generally daunted by the Imperial College London admissions process? Here at The Profs, we have amazing admissions tutors, with a proven track record of tripling their students’ chances of success. They can help you with meeting the entry requirements, as well as preparing your perfect application. Don’t stress, just reach out to our friendly team for an expert helping hand.

Also, check out our previous article for a general guide on how to get into Imperial College London.

Understanding Imperial’s entry requirements for undergraduates

First thing’s first, you need to understand Imperial’s expectations. We have made a table where you can see the university’s criteria for each of its undergraduate courses. Just click below to check it out:

View Table

Can’t find your subject? Click here to find your undergraduate course.

Are you an international student? Check out Imperial College London’s guide for undergraduate international students or their international entry requirement table which is organised by country.

Please note: All students who did not receive their grades from an English-speaking country must demonstrate a minimum level of English language proficiency for admission to Imperial, so check Imperial’s English language requirements.

Understanding Imperial College London’s entry requirements for postgraduates

Applying for a postgraduate course is completely different to applying for an undergraduate course. Imperial considers a new set of criteria, and it varies according to the course. We have made a table where you can see the university’s criteria for each of its postgraduate courses. Just click below to check it out:

View Table

Can’t find your subject? Click here to find your missing course.

Are you an international student? Check out Imperial College London’s information page on the minimum qualifications and grades that qualify you for a postgraduate degree at Imperial College London. Information by region can be accessed here.

Please note: All postgraduate courses require that students who did not receive their degree from an English-speaking country achieve the standard College requirement in the appropriate English language qualification. The approved qualifications as well as the minimum grades required to achieve this requirement can be found here. However, Imperial College Business School asks these students to achieve the higher college requirement in the appropriate English language qualification. So, if you are applying to a course offered by Imperial College Business School, make sure that you are prepared to meet this requirement.

What should I do if I don’t meet Imperial College London’s Entry Requirements, and how do I get in?

We have some insider advice to share if you don’t meet Imperial College London’s entry requirements. Imperial might not necessarily be beyond your reach! Below is a breakdown of what you could be lacking regarding Imperial’s entry criteria, and how to tackle this.

Insider tip: If your school has limited resources, it’s good to apply for Oxbridge as well as Imperial (even if Imperial is your first choice or you have little/no intention of attending Oxbridge). This is because schools with limited support are more likely to give their Oxbridge applicants more time, help, skills, and resources. Don’t allow this to stop you from prioritising Imperial, this is purely a method of winning more support and attention on your application. However, obviously, to do this you need to take the time to apply earlier and do whatever Oxbridge is asking from you that might be different to Imperial.

1) If your subject choices don’t align with Imperial College London’s expectations

The subject combination you take can be used to determine whether you’re a suitable candidate for your chosen course as well as to assess your passion and relevant capability. If your grades meet/exceed Imperial’s requirements but you’re not taking “required” subjects then you might not be considered. However, if you are not taking “recommended” subjects then you might still be able to build a strong application by pursuing these subjects in alternative ways outside of A level/IB.

If your grades aren’t amazing then you should ensure that you are taking the subjects deemed “useful” and/or “recommended” by your chosen course to boost your chances of getting in (however this is unlikely to help you if your grades fall substantially below Imperial’s requirements).

Imperial College London specialises in Science and Technology based subjects. Hence, most of their courses are engineering related and they offer prestigious courses in Sciences, Maths, Medicine and Business. So, generally speaking, Imperial values STEM subjects, and many applicants take four A levels to include Further Maths. It is good to be aware of this when considering whether Imperial is the right fit for you and whether you have a combination of subjects that Imperial would deem attractive.

If you are hoping to take a STEM degree, Imperial values applicants taking Sciences and Maths – this is because they are best suited to courses of this nature and more likely to keep up with the work. That said, if you are taking four A levels rather than three, your fourth A level could be in a subject far outside of Maths/Science as long as you can explain how it has taught you transferable skills for your chosen degree.

Even if Imperial offers little to no guidance on required/recommended subjects for your chosen course, you should ensure that your subject combination makes sense for what you’re choosing so that you seem like you know what you want to do.

Check out our previous blogs on how to get into Imperial for Engineering, Medicine, Computing, and/or Physics.

Insider tip: If you choose one of Imperial College London’s unique courses, like ‘Aeronautics with Spacecraft Engineering’, ‘Biomedical Technology Ventures’, ‘Economics, Finance and Data Science’ or ‘Biochemistry with Management’ and use your personal statement to demonstrate thorough knowledge of it as well as passion, you can really stand out!

Recovery tips: What can I do if I don’t meet the subject requirements?

It is important to recognise that if a certain subject is required, it might be worth your time to take the missing subject.

Sometimes there are fast-track options available, such as using school holidays to take classes and revise. Alternatively, you can get a tutor, and invest time and effort outside of school into taking the added subject. If you implement these strategies, you might be able to catch up in time for the exam/coursework deadlines or proceed with later deadlines. If your school will not facilitate you adding this subject to your timetable, they might still allow you to sit the exams. If not, you might be able to find an external institution to sit the exams with.

If you’re applying for a postgraduate course with an undergraduate degree in the “wrong” subject, your solution might involve: enrolling in a conversion course, completing a course at Imperial College London’s Summer School, or completing a relevant supplementary qualification.

What if I can’t get a grade in my missing subject?

It is definitely worth explaining to Imperial College London why you have not studied a required subject. For example, if your chosen course requires you to have studied Further Maths, and your school doesn’t offer this subject, you should flag this in your application. Similarly, if you tried to enrol in Further Maths and your school wouldn’t let you, you should note this in your application. If your referee can mention this for you, that is ideal, but if not, ensure that you do so yourself. Imperial College London has contextual entry requirements precisely for situations where students lack advantages and opportunities. You can check the contextual requirements for courses on our tables. Don’t ignore what’s missing, try to confront it!

Another tip for if you are missing a required subject is: to try to find a related extra qualification that you can complete which can stand in for the missing one. For example, those who are not taking Further Maths but want to get into a degree programme that asks for a grade in this might consider taking the TMUA, MOOCs, UK Maths Challenge or STEP to demonstrate their mathematical ability and bolster their application. Or a student applying for a postgraduate degree in a business discipline despite not having studied any quantitative subjects might consider taking the GMAT/GRE to make up for this.

Recovery tips for if you don’t meet subject recommendations:

Finally, you might find that your subject profile does not clash with the subject requirements for your desired Imperial College London course, but only the recommended/favoured subjects. In this case, taking another A level course might not be wise at all, nor would be discussing the missing favoured subject in your application. However, it is never a waste of time to take a relevant extra qualification that could bolster your application and show capability in Imperial College London’s recommended subject/s.

Imperial College London is heavily competitive, so anything that you can do to present yourself as the ideal candidate for their course is advised. If most of the successful applicants for your chosen Imperial course have studied Physics and you are without this, you should pursue something along these lines outside of your curriculum and flag that in your application e.g. you could take part in the annual Physics Olympiad or work on projects with your school’s Physics department. If your course favours students who have studied Economics, attend relevant talks and try getting involved in fundraising, or better yet, something entrepreneurial.

2) Underestimated factors that carry weight

Your application is not about how great you are:

Surprisingly, a lot of applicants forget to mention what they intend to do with their degree as well as why they are applying, or why they are a good student for their chosen course at this university. This, however, is exactly what the application is supposed to focus on, rather than just proving why you’re great.

Imperial College London cares about their students having a genuine interest in and passion for their courses so your application is the perfect chance for you to prove this to them. Show Imperial College London that you’re well-suited to their course and the university itself. Explain why you are the best candidate whilst remaining truthful.

Perfect your personal statement

Your personal statement is supposed to demonstrate passion. However, it is best to do this without saying “I am passionate about X” like most other students. Why would you like to study this subject, why do you love this subject, and why should this department as well as Imperial take you on as a student? Speak from the heart and talk with motivation. Remain focused and concise: You should constantly be talking about your course. Your subject is the only thing your personal statement should be about so allow this to structure your writing. Any achievements, activities, and/or soft skills should only be mentioned in the context of your subject.

Remember to mention the quality and impact of everything you’ve done. For instance, it is amazing if you volunteered for a fundraising event but how did this work and what was the impact and result? Mentioning one or two things that you participated in over a long period is usually better than mentioning lots of short-term stuff because you are more likely to demonstrate excellence and offer a detailed representation of fewer things that you were committed to.

Demonstrate that you’ll be a good student for the next 3-4 years by showing that you’re willing to learn and that you have strong work ethic and time-management skills (these are characteristics specifically mentioned by Imperial). Most departments also value strong communication skills so try to showcase this in your experiences and writing.

Don’t waste time talking about grades! Imperial will see your grades when they look at your academic transcripts and predicted grades.

Bonus tip from Dr Leo (Imperial College London alumnus): “Imperial proudly adopts a case-based approach. Imperial relies less on textbooks and more on real-world examples which results in very high teaching scores. Hinting that you are looking for a university with a case-based approach to learning can be a hint to their admissions team that Imperial is your first choice.”

Engineering applicants: Don’t write a personal statement about studying “Engineering” generally. Tailor your personal statement to the type of Engineering course that you’re applying for. This will make your application stand out from the crowd.

Medicine applicants: Your personal statement should highlight that you have a mature character, can deal with stress, multitask, participate in teamwork, and be a leader.

Postgraduate applicants should check out our previous blog on how to write a PhD research proposal which includes more of Dr Leo’s insider tips.

Remember, Imperial does not systematically offer an interview component. Hence, you might not get the opportunity for an interview so there is A LOT of emphasis on your personal statement!

The Profs offer advice on crafting the perfect personal statement, just watch our video or read our previous blog on this subject.

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. 

Demonstrate insider knowledge:

Show that your understanding of the course is beyond comprehensive by talking about very specific and complex concepts. The best way to do this is to do your research and go beyond the curriculum and A level understanding. If you take the time to read a large breadth of quality literature around your subject, you can reference academic texts or textbooks and analyse them to demonstrate that you are an independent knowledgehunter and are able to work at university level. Be careful not to read the most popular texts that most students in your field might point to. Express something unique to your personal interests. Or find something unknown, underrated, niche, and/or peculiar to talk about. It’s important to demonstrate passion and knowledge for sub-subjects within your main subject.

Better yet, research your specific department, and discuss how you would contribute to their existing published research or accomplishments. Imperial College London favours students whose research will diversify that of their departments, or complement their interests. If you really want to impress Imperial College London, you could study the first 2-3 weeks of a first-year module for your chosen course and talk about this in your application to show that you are ahead of the competition.

Insider tip 1: Imperial’s excellent research has placed it at the forefront of Coronavirus epidemiology, virology, vaccine development and diagnostics in recent years. Hence, as a Medicine/Science student, it could bolster your application to show awareness and interest in this. Generally, you should research facts about Imperial to do with your course and utilise them.

Insider tip 2: Keep up to date with national and international current affairs relevant to your field. It can boost your application to link the outside world to your discipline. For example, an Economics applicant might mention developments within FinTech and Cryptocurrency as these concepts tie the subject into digital developments that are current and relevant.

When conducting your extra reading and research in your subject check out the variety of free online courses that Imperial offers. You can demonstrate a genuine interest in Imperial by mentioning that you took one of their courses.

Talk end goals:

A common mistake when it comes to Imperial is not including a detailed 5-year career plan post-graduation. Imperial is a particularly career-focused university, boasting one of the best careers departments in the UK. As such, Imperial likes to see that you have a serious career plan after you graduate and this is best explained at the end of your personal statement.

Imperial College London also values applicants with a clear and ambitious career plan because they want their students to continue on to get good jobs after university and maintain a strong Imperial College London alumni network. Imperial wants to know what you intend on doing after your degree, and if you have work experience, how this will help you in your degree as well as your future career and other goals. Imperial wants to know why you need this degree. So, mention your career aspirations in your application and be specific. What institution or company do you want to work for, and what do you want to specialise in? If you’re not sure, educate yourself.

If you’re applying for a postgraduate degree, this is even more important. Why do you need to extend your studies and how will this postgraduate course help you to reach your goals in ways that your undergraduate course couldn’t? Imperial’s focus on careers cannot be overlooked, especially for postgraduate study. At MSc level, Imperial even has an additional career planning section. So, you will need to present a very clear objective behind this course: What do you hope to achieve with this and what makes your research proposal special?

Your work experience or professional experience (undergraduates):

As already mentioned, Imperial College London is a particularly career-focused university. Hence, whilst work experience might not be a requirement, it is certainly valued. Imperial College London is a very competitive university, especially for undergraduate entry, and it’s best to do all you can to stand out to maximise your chances.

Many of Imperial’s courses rely less on textbooks and more on case studies and practical applications. Meaning, any links that you can make to your work experience or Imperial’s case-based study approach can also help you to stand out from the crowd. Expressing what skills you have learned from this experience and how they will help you with your course will also make you a more attractive candidate. Moreover, work experience in a relevant industry to your chosen discipline can demonstrate your drive and commitment to the subject.

Remember, context is important. Remain as relevant to your degree as possible. For example, if your degree values quantitative skills you should be referencing work experience that marries up with this.

To stand out, consider taking part in Imperial’s Year 12 Work Experience Programme.

Insider tip 1: Get work experience at a prestigious institution/company and highlight that you are looking forward to working there or in the same field after university. This will show Imperial College London that you have a career lined up after your degree to support their employment survey and alumni network.

Insider tip 2: Show that you have the X factor by demonstrating an entrepreneurial spirit. Being able to say that you started your own business, even if it was a small side hustle, will give you an edge.

Your work experience or professional experience (postgraduates):

For postgraduate courses at Imperial College London, work experience or even professional experience is sometimes a requirement or recommended. Hence, it is very important to check your course’s entry requirements and make sure you complete what they ask and/or suggest. Even if work experience is not requested, it is a good idea to get some either way, to maximise your chances of getting into Imperial College London. The level that this experience should be depends on the topic of your course and its requirements. Again, make sure that you stick to roles and industries that complement your course. Though, varied work experience is useful.

Some of Imperial’s courses are even willing to overlook grades falling below entry requirements where students have substantial relevant industry experience!

All that said, some courses do not accept students with over two or three years of work experience. So, ensure that you check your course’s requirements. More isn’t always better.

Don’t forget to mention the experience you might have picked up during your undergraduate course. Imperial College London offers ‘Sector Weeks’, ‘Employer-Led Skills Workshops’, ‘Career Forums’ and ‘Networking Events’. It is great if you are able to say you’ve done this as it proves you have some niche experience, but more importantly, it shows that you have initiative, motivation and passion.

If you were a part of any university society, especially if you had a position such as president or treasurer, it could be advantageous to mention this.

Insider tip: If you completed an internship, it’s extremely valuable to highlight this and demonstrate an understanding of the industry. Take a look at LinkedIn. You can search there for senior students from the same school, country, or subject as you who completed a postgraduate course at Imperial. Have a look to get an idea of their background. This will give you an idea of what kind of experience to pursue. Not to mention, you can reach out to them directly, network, and ask for an opportunity. Searching through Imperial alumni is especially important if you are not applying with ideal grades as you can find graduates with similar grades to you and deduce from their profile what they might have done additionally to get in. However, minimum entrance requirements can vary year-to-year and Imperial is far more competitive than it was a decade ago, so some profiles of Imperial alumni could be misleading. Plus, people with subpar grades might opt out from sharing them on their profiles.

Your extracurriculars:

Extracurriculars are not to be overlooked. For Imperial, it is often beneficial to express interests beyond studies and portray an open-minded personality.

Extracurriculars can be a great opportunity to boost your application. If the activities are related to your chosen subject, they can demonstrate genuine passion and interest in the subject. If you have any accomplishments within your extracurriculars, they can be evidence that you have talent, capability, and skills that will equip you for your degree. That said, don’t write ‘fluff’, check that your extracurriculars genuinely relate to your chosen course and strengthen your application. Ensure you add new experiences to your repertoire if you’re falling short in any areas of your application.

Here is a quick list of tips pertaining to extracurriculars when it comes to your application to Imperial:

  • Imperial is research intensive, so any extracurricular that is entrenched in this or demonstrates research skills will be advantageous e.g. conducting research for a teacher or department and/or getting involved with your local library (preferably with their archives).
  • Joining clubs such as the Robotics Club or Science Club demonstrates that you have a keen interest in Engineering and/or Science. You could use an example like this to illustrate that you enjoy investigating into deeper scientific knowledge.
  • Imperial values innovation and open-mindedness so try to frame your extracurriculars through this lens. This should be easy with anything creative, against the grain, experimental, or led by the motivation of discovery.
  • One characteristic that Imperial is looking for is leadership. Any examples of this, such as being captain of a team or society or head student can go a long way.
  • Imperial’s new initiative ‘Imperial Together’ expresses the mantra: “Together, we are imperial”. Beyond this, Imperial generally champions teamwork and collaboration. Many of their interviews are in groups and demand collective effort. Hence, it is imperative for you to demonstrate that you’re a team player – which can certainly be proven through extracurriculars.
  • Imperial believes that your whole life shapes you as a candidate. Travel and volunteering could be worth mentioning if you can relate the roles or skills they taught you to your chosen course.
  • The power of extracurriculars is their ability to prove genuine passion. Watch a lot of documentaries or attend a lot of museum exhibitions on X subject? Mention it! Just be ready to answer any questions on this.

Timing (undergraduates):

Undergraduates should get started on their applications as soon as possible to ensure that they can dedicate maximum effort to it, and be familiar with all the steps expected from them, rather than rushing or being ill-prepared. However, applications will only be considered after the deadline. So applying early does not offer a higher chance of being admitted to Imperial.

Timing (postgraduates):

First of all, you should create your application portal before you start writing. Imperial has a long application process with additional sections of career preparation questions as well as demanding quantitative and software skills in addition to the personal statement. Many students discover these sections only when they apply, and rush these answers, giving them a huge disadvantage compared to students who have planned these sections and written them to the same high standard as their personal statement. Also, be careful to avoid duplication between these sections.

Second of all, postgraduate applications (unlike undergraduate applications) are on a rolling basis. Many students think the postgraduate deadline is the time you need to submit your application, but generally, you want to be the first to submit. Applications are considered from the opening date and courses remain open until they are full. So, your personal deadline should be the opening date for applications.

If you have the grades, went to a solid university for your undergraduate degree and have some relevant work experience, applying early will make it very likely you will get an offer. Applying early is especially important for popular courses as they tend to close early.

Also, note that some courses have fixed deadlines:

  • Bioengineering
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Imperial College Business School
  • Life Sciences
  • Materials
  • Physics

Don’t ignore the power of your referee:

You should always set up a meeting with your referee early in the application process because their statement about you is just as integral as your personal statement.

A good referee is important. Obviously, you want them to speak highly of you, but ideally, they will highlight your skills and qualities that are relevant to your chosen degree. For this reason, as well as for the general impression of your application, it is best to choose a referee who teaches your chosen subject or within your discipline. It is also a good idea to choose a referee who knows you well enough to write you something of quality.

Get to know your referee so that they can get to know you. Inform them of your extracurriculars and anything important or that you’ve done well in. Talk to your referee about your strengths that they might not be aware of: what you have read around your subjects, and your work experiences and non-school achievements. You want your referee to convince Imperial College London that you are good at your chosen subject/s, passionate about them, and committed to your discipline. Beyond that, you want your referee to sell you as a person and your characteristics as you’ll have already covered your academic triumphs. If you get to choose, choose wisely.

Use your referee wherever you need them and ask them to vouch for you. If you lack a particular qualification or a high enough grade in something, you want your referee to defend why that is and assure Imperial College London that you are still a suitable candidate with a good academic track record. Maybe they can say how you make up for this loss. However, it is important to note that this is somewhat relative. For example, it is unlikely that your referee’s commendation will save you if all your A level grades fall a good chunk below minimum requirements.

It is ideal if your referee can mention any weaknesses or extenuating circumstances in their statement. This way, you can focus your own personal statement on your strengths, rather than explaining or defending the weaknesses in your application. It can also sound more credible coming from a referee. Plus, you won’t have to use precious parts of your restricted word limit to say so yourself. However, if your referee won’t bring these things up, make sure that you do.

Bonus tip for postgraduates from Dr Leo (Imperial College London alumnus): Try to network and build personal bonds with professors if you’re hoping to go onto postgraduate education. Personal introductions and recommendations from trusted people can take you a long way. If you network, you can flag (or ask your contact to flag) your application to the admissions team. If you’ve built contacts and you’re liked it can be what gets your application chosen over somebody else with a very similar CV. For this reason, it is good to consider getting yourself a well-connected referee.

Dr Leo states: “Humble, hungry and well-connected is a pretty good formula for university and job applications. Humble (be curious but not a ‘know-it-all’/arrogant), hungry (show legit interest, do your homework and ask the right questions) and well-connected (work out who and how you can speak to the people that make decisions).”

All that said, don’t let a lack of access to Imperial’s alumni put you off. If you come from a background with low privilege and opportunity but you meet the minimum requirements, you are guaranteed an interview.

3) Embrace the power of your interview

Imperial College London is one of only a handful of UK universities that regularly interview applicants at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. However, not all departments interview you. Unlike Oxbridge, Imperial’s interview process is not routine or systematic. You may or may not be interviewed and the structure totally depends on your course. Check out our table of courses and application information for a clearer idea regarding what to expect interview-wise.

Generally, you will almost certainly be interviewed if you are applying to Imperial’s business school or for a postgraduate research course.

Imperial takes a tentative approach to interviews hence they are not a form of culling as they might be for Cambridge. Instead, interviews are another relatively equal-weighted step of Imperial’s holistic admissions process. Hence, you will only be interviewed if Imperial are genuinely thinking about giving you a place.

It’s worth noting that you have a little more room for a hiccup in your interview if you have an amazing admissions test score (if applicable). Whereas, if your score isn’t very good, the interview might become the be-all and end-all. In fact, some departments even say that your interview could save you if you marginally fail their A level requirements!

Familiar with Imperial’s interview style?

Imperial’s interview style is extremely different to Oxbridge’s. Imperial can facilitate interviews more like a test centre. Though, they offer a variety of styles. Here are a few of Imperial’s interviewing styles that are good to be aware of:

  • Some undergraduate Imperial interviews form part of a wider recruitment day, which will consist of other activities such as group tasks and written tests. Make sure you find out if this will be the case for your particular course so that you can prepare for any potential subject-specific tests or activities involved in a recruitment day beforehand.
  • Many Imperial MSc courses hold Kira prep interviews which are online pre-recorded questions. For a large question bank of past questions as well as expert tips on how to impress in this unusual interview, contact our team of admissions experts.
  • Some of the online interviews for undergraduates split the Q/A into sections: personal (e.g. strengths and weaknesses), technical (e.g. situational or key strengths in coding), and academic questions (e.g. solving a Maths question on the spot). Sometimes you are not able to prepare an answer and your answer is timed.
  • Civil Engineering interviews can often consist of one lecturer and a group of students. You are judged on your interaction with the group. Hence it’s important that you speak up but your active listening skills are just as important as your communication skills. It’s beneficial to show enthusiasm, share ideas and demonstrate your ability to collaborate. You might be asked to complete a practical test and experiment. Bigger groups might later be split into smaller groups for a chat where there will be questions aimed at individuals. At this point, you could be asked to share a personal reason for why you want to study Civil Engineering.
  • Medicine interviews follow a different format to all other interviews at Imperial. There are two main types of Medicine interviews: MMIs (Multiple Mini Interviews) and traditional panel interviews. Imperial uses MMIs, which are designed to assess a range of both academic abilities and practical skills required for Medicine via multiple interviewing ‘stations’. Due to this unique format, MMIs require specific preparation. Find out more about how to prepare for an MMI in our helpful guide to preparing for Medicine interviews. For more university-specific guidance, read our guide on how to get into Imperial for Medicine.

Insider tips: Imperial interviews

As mentioned, the structure of the interview can totally depend on the course you’re applying to, however, there are some general rules of thumb. We have compiled a list below of interview tips that are specific to Imperial:

  • Be thoroughly prepared to talk about your personal statement, including any reading or research that you mentioned in your application, or that might have been included in your curriculum.
  • Refer to examples in your answers e.g. lived experience, grades, work experience and/or extracurriculars. It’s good to have an idea of some things that you can link back to. Unique stories as to how you fell in love with this subject or why you want a career in X are especially beneficial.
  • Practice skills around your subject and learn as much as you can about it in case your interview includes technical questions or a test. Apply knowledge to the real world e.g. how does your knowledge on biomedical science relate to the covid virus.
  • Interviews can often be online and won’t follow a typical structure. So, if this is the case for your course, get to know the online platforms and structure by completing mocks e.g. Imperial often utilises Kira Talent.
  • Interviews can vary in terms of how many interviewers and how many interviewees there are, so always check. You could be speaking to an online system, one interviewer or a panel. Similarly, you could be solo or placed in a group, again online or in-person. So, it’s important to practise the scenario relevant to your chosen course.
  • If your interview is a group situation it is imperative that you demonstrate your ability to collaborate and function as a collective. Whilst Cambridge deems whether you are right for the university, Imperial deems whether you are part of their team.
  • Generally, Imperial is checking whether you think independently and are excited about your course.
  • When they ask you a question, they are watching how you answer it, rather than your answer itself. If you don’t know an answer, talk through your thought process. Imperial wants to know how you work through problems and approach problem-solving. If you are applying for a scientific course, they might want to see your curiosity for why something works or not, and the possibilities of how it could. Don’t be afraid to bring a piece of paper and write things down so that you can talk through your thoughts. This could go a long way to show how you think.
  • Be real! Don’t memorise things to say and try to look intelligent. It’s better to be actively engaged and present.
  • Showing curiosity and asking questions is encouraged.
  • Start preparing and practising early!

Remember: the interviewers are highly experienced and are able to see through nerves, stress and silly mistakes so don’t get too worked up about the little things. There are no trick questions, and if an answer seems obvious, it might be just that.

Check out our previous article on Imperial College London interviews for more advice! Also, further information provided by Imperial about their interview process can be found here.

4) If your grades aren’t up to par

Many universities (even top universities) solely or predominantly consider your A levels. However, Imperial College London purposefully looks for applicants who have evidence of a long track record of success. Imperial College London considers your GCSEs as well as your A levels (or equivalent) so you must ensure that your grades are impressive across the board, especially in subjects relevant to your course.

The importance placed on your academic history can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you have the opportunity and platform to showcase all of your wins from when you were young. This can extend beyond your GCSEs themselves to any extra qualifications, courses, tests or extracurriculars you took and did well in, so long as they demonstrate academic excellence and/or talent in your field of interest. On the other hand, if you have had a dip in grades here or there over the years, this may weaken your application.

So, let’s talk solutions for if any of your grades are lacking:

Careful what you declare:

Put your best foot forward as long as it’s not deceitful.

If you have two GCSE or A level grades for a singular subject, with one being lower than the other, you might not need to declare both of them. If the better result is the most recent one, then this is your rewritten grade, and you should only present this grade to Imperial College London. Though there is a chance that they notice the date is later than your other GCSEs or A levels and ask you about that. If this happens you should explain that you completed the test twice and that this is your most recent result.

However, if your most recent grade is the lower one, then this is your current and rewritten grade and you have to declare it. But in this situation, you should declare both of your grades as evidence that you have in fact achieved higher before, and you can even state that the higher grade is the accurate representation of your abilities.

Similarly, if you took an extra test or qualification beyond your standard GCSEs and/or A levels then it is not mandatory for you to declare this or your results in your application to Imperial College London. If you didn’t do very well, don’t bring it up.

All that said, make sure you talk to a teacher at your school to double-check what you have to declare as you don’t want to get into trouble or have your statements mismatch anything your school files for you.

Offer an alternative track record:

Mention all your relevant wins from the beginning to the end of your time at secondary school. Again, this can include absolutely anything that demonstrates excellent academic ability and/or talent in your field of interest. The better these wins are, or the more you have of them, the more likely they are to make up for your academic blips.

For example, you can stand out by mentioning scholarships, awards, class prizes, the percentile you were ranked in your class (if your school offers this), and competitions such as the UK Maths Challenge. Even things like a high level on Minecraft can prove skills such as problem-solving and systems-building. Reading is also important. Demonstrating a keen interest in a wide array of academic texts around your subject and being able to analyse them comprehensively can demonstrate your interest and aptitude in your subject, even if you don’t have the ideal grades. For example, if you’re applying for Engineering you could stand out by engaging in a complex discussion regarding a range of texts about Thermodynamics.

Smash your admissions test:

Your admissions test should not be neglected. Imperial considers every aspect of your application so there is no exception here. Your A level grades are not more important than your admissions test score. Those who study hard for both have a better chance of getting in!

Alongside your grade requirements, Imperial often enforces admissions test requirements. For instance, your course might include a MAT and/or STEP condition (usually you only need to meet a MAT condition unless your grades or MAT score is lacking, then you might need to complete the STEP as well). For the STEP, there are 3 STEP papers but Imperial will tell you which ones they want you to sit.

If your A level grades are lower than you hoped, you should try your best to achieve amazing admissions test results to make up for this.

All that said, Imperial usually makes offers to students with higher grades/results than what is stated in their requirements for the course. So it’s important to get the best marks possible in every area.

It is recommended to start revising early, practise a lot, and ensure that you perform especially strong on any logic tests.

For more specific advice, check out our previous articles on the IMAT: ‘What is the Imperial Mechanical Engineering Admissions Test?’ and the IPAT: ‘What is the Imperial Physics Admissions Test?’

Improve your GCSE grades:

Imperial states that the majority of their student intake has 7-9 grades (A-A*) at GCSE level or the international equivalent, with a minimum of grade 7 (A) in Maths and Science subjects. Those with lower than 7 in GCSE English must take a supplementary test. So, your GCSEs can increase or decrease the competitiveness of your application.

If you fall below Imperial’s GCSE expectations, it might be worth investing some time and effort into GCSE retakes. The solution that is most likely to work is improving your grades.

However, context is important. If you’re hoping to study Maths and you only have one or two 6 (B) grades in History and RE, and for the rest you have 7-9 (A-A*), it might not be worth retaking.

It is important to assess your need for a retake based on your overall performance:

  • If you have mostly 7-9 (A-A*) grades and one or two 4-6 (C-B) grades in non-traditional subjects, like Art and Music, it is probably unnecessary to retake these. Assuming these grades are not in subjects related to your degree.
  • How low are your “low” grades? If your low grades are 4-5 (C) or above, then these might not be worth retaking, especially if you have 7-9 (A-A*) in subjects required for your course. However, grades below 4-5 (C) are important to retake, especially if they’re in traditional subjects.
  • Do you have 7-9 (A-A*) in subject/s related to your chosen course? For example, if you are applying for a quantitative degree like Economics, it’s worth retaking GCSE Maths to get the highest grade (level 9). Or if you wish to study Medicine at Imperial, you will want to retake all Science subjects to earn a top score.

Improve your A level grades:

Attaining higher than the minimum A level requirements will boost your application.

Again, if your A level grades are lower than Imperial’s requirements, the safest solution is to improve your grades. Most of Imperial College London’s courses require AAA-A*A*A. It is highly recommended that you meet these requirements, or better yet exceed them. It is definitely recommended that you achieve an A*-A in your chosen subject. So, if you’re not predicted these grades or are worried about getting them, it might be worth your while to take some time out to retake one or two modules in order to improve your predicted grade or plan to retake your A levels before you hand in your Imperial College London application.

However, if retaking isn’t an option for you, you might want to consider achieving supplementary academic qualifications. You should ask your school and independently research what courses, tests and/or qualifications you can do to strengthen your academic repertoire. Obviously, you should only choose something related to your chosen course.

Insider tip: Oxbridge much prefers three amazing A levels over four less high A levels. However, Imperial differs to this because they are happy to accept one grade lower than their requirements if you’re taking four A levels instead of three e.g. A*A*A or A*AAA. Hence, if you think you are more likely to get an A in an extra (relevant) subject alongside a (relevant) subject you already have an A in instead of getting an A* in it, this could be your best strategy. However, not all courses mention four A levels so it is always worth checking this with your department.

Contextual grades:

Imperial offers contextual admissions schemes which enable them to look beyond solely academic achievements and consider your performance within context (such as your economic, social and educational background). This can include guaranteed interviews: if your predicted grades meet the minimum college entry standard at A-level or an equivalent level qualification in the relevant subjects, your department will guarantee you an interview. Imperial also employs an array of guaranteed offers – more information on this is available here. So, if you’re eligible for a guaranteed interview and/or offer, ensure that you pursue this as it could be a leg-up in the application process.

Improve your academic profile (postgraduates):

Imperial College London’s entry requirements for postgraduate courses don’t mention GCSEs and A levels. When it comes to postgraduate applications, secondary school qualifications become much less important as Imperial will predominantly consider your degree results.

However, if you don’t have a 7 (A) in GCSE Maths, Science and English this could weaken your application and it might be worth investing a little time into retaking to be on the safe side. Similarly, you wouldn’t want any poor A level grades to cast doubt on your application.

The majority of Imperial’s courses require a 2:1 or a First Class Honours degree, and the courses that require or recommend a GMAT/GRE expect a grade of at least 650. If you only just meet these requirements or fall beneath them, then your academic past will probably go under the microscope, and you should really consider revisiting and brushing up on any past grades which are sub-par. Another option could be retaking one element of your degree (an exam with strong weighting or your dissertation) to improve your overall grade.

Also note that for some courses, candidates who do not meet the academic requirements listed but have substantial relevant industry experience may exceptionally be admitted following completion of a ‘Special Qualifying Exam’ (SQE). So, if your grades are lacking, check if this is the case for your chosen course and if so, you might want to collect as much valuable experience as possible and prepare for the SQE!

Something else that you can do to boost your application (either as well as retaking or instead) is completing an extra higher-level qualification or course. Imperial College London offers many courses at their Summer Schools, which could drastically improve your application e.g. Imperial’s Year 12 Sutton Trust Summer School and their Summer Schools for Undergraduates. Also, many of the postgraduate courses that do not require the GMAT/GRE still favour students who have taken it. Hence, depending on your subject of interest, completing this test could make you stand out as an academically robust candidate. Moreover, there are a bunch of reputable online courses that you can take as well.

Consider what’s best for you:

Whilst it is easy to get carried away with the mentality of “I must get in”, take a moment to stop and reflect. If you’re really struggling to meet the requirements for Imperial College London, are you sure this is definitely the university for you? And if your history of grades for this subject is far below expectation, are you certain that this is the course for you? It might be worth taking some time to mull over whether this course and Imperial College London are suited to you and whether you’d be able to keep up. Your mental wellbeing and happiness are important!

However, if you’re dead set on Imperial then you can play the numbers game. It is not recommended to try to set your sights on a university and its name above a specific course or department, but if there’s no other university for you, then you could look at less competitive courses with less applicants and higher acceptance rates. You can always do your Master’s in your preferred field.

Please note: If you’re waiting to hear back with an offer, don’t despair prematurely. Imperial can be as late as March in getting back to candidates.

4) Consider your options

Here at The Profs, we have a dedicated, experienced, and friendly team of:

Anything you need, no matter how niche, we can help. We also provide application assessments, where we can tell you your chances of getting into Imperial College London, and where you need to improve. Getting students into university is our speciality! That’s why we have a 95% success rate in helping students get admitted to their first or second-choice university.

Finally, if you find that you meet none of the entry requirements mentioned in this article and you do not want to invest a year into getting everything up to scratch, or maybe a year couldn’t fix everything, then it might be worth considering a different course or a different university. Here at The Profs, we can help you establish your options and make a decision that is right for you.

We can help

Triple your chances of success with an expert Imperial College London admissions tutor! At The Profs, we know exactly how to help you get in.

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