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How Hard Is It To Get Into Cambridge University?

Carmela De Simone May 3, 2022

Cambridge University boasts its admission system has the ability to assess each applicant individually. This means individual circumstance is taken into account.

Most successful applicants will have a uniquely tailored challenge presented before their place is secured.

Some offers will require applicants to meet certain grades in specific subjects. Others will have offers that differ from the standard course entry requirements. Whatever the case, Cambridge will demand that you excel.

Whatever system you’re being educated in, we require top grades in the highest level qualifications available for school/college students.

University of Cambridge Website

Is Oxford harder to get into than Cambridge?

In 2021, there was a higher success rate for students applying for Cambridge than Oxford.

Cambridge offered places to 4,245 of their 22,788 applicants, whereas Oxford offered 3,932 places to 23,414 applicants.

How course choice will affect your chances of acceptance

Typically, there are six applicants per place at Cambridge University, but variation between courses and colleges must be taken into account.

The University uses cross-college moderation to ensure that applicants are neither advantaged or disadvantaged by the volume of applications for their chosen college.

This ensures success rates are fairly equal across all colleges, despite how many applicants there are. The “pool system” means strong candidates for an oversubscribed college will likely receive an offer from another college.

Roughly 16,000 candidates are chasing just under 3,400 undergraduate places. 

Trinity College received 1,374 applications in 2021, the most of all the Cambridge Colleges, of which 201 applicants were accepted. St Edmunds had the least number of applicants in 2021; of 379 applicants, 76 were accepted.

Weightings

Weightings of different factors will affect how likely you are to be successful at securing an interview at Cambridge. Cambridge weights A-level predictions higher than Oxford, and strongly encourages students to exceed predicted grades, whereas Oxford pays closer attention to GCSE results and pre-tests when selecting interviewees.

Interview

Not only does the UoC admissions process individually consider each candidate, it also involves a vigorous and carefully deliberated interview process. Interviews at Cambridge usually take place in early-mid December. A small number of candidates are invited to a further interview in January.

Cambridge maintains that, although these take place at the end of the application process, they’re not a ‘final hurdle’ that ultimately determine your fate. Candidates who don’t perform well at interview still receive offers from the university.

The interview questions are designed to assess:

  • problem-solving abilities
  • assimilation of new ideas and information
  • intellectual flexibility and analytical reasoning

But don’t be put off by the 18 most bizarre questions asked at a Cambridge University interview. Such as, “I would describe maps as an example of unreal realism. How would you react to that statement?”. Most of us shudder at such abstract-thinking, I assure you.

Above all, If you do not apply, you have no chance at all.

Oxbridge Applications Website

Written Assessments

Some courses do require an at-interview written assessment, although these do not always take place on the same day as the interview. For 2023, courses that involve these assessments include History and Politics, Linguistics, Architecture and Classics.

How the pandemic affected admissions

According to Cambridge Admissions Statistics, in 2020 there was a total of 20,426 applications. The total number of offers made was 4,710 and, of those, 3997 acceptances.

The report highlights the “highly unusual” nature of the 2020 cycle, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on awarding of school leaving results. This meant the University of Cambridge accepted 13.3% more applicants than the previous cycle. Over 450 undergraduates than usual were accepted in 2020. This goes to show external factors are taken into account in the admissions process.

How important are extra-curricular activities?

By their own admission, getting accepted into Cambridge isn’t likely to be influenced by achievements in extra-curricular activities. Interviewers will likely ask about experience or interests and hobbies if they’re relevant to your chosen area of study.

If you are even considering applying for Cambridge or Oxford, in their own words “if you do not apply you have no chance at all”. The Oxbridge advising team is contactable on +44 (0)207499 2394 or at [email protected] for email enquiries.

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I am a journalism graduate from Brunel University. My background is in property lettings and the motor industry. I’m obsessed with all things health & beauty, travel, music and Turkish food. You will most often find me drinking vodka lime sodas and watching Shrek.