There is no single criterion on which we base our admissions decisions. We make an overall assessment of your past and likely future academic performance at school, your performance in any tests that we set you, your references, and how you perform at interview - your ability to discuss topics raised in your personal statement, and your ability to apply academic skills you have learnt at school to novel information, concepts and tasks
Although applying to Cambridge is competitive - we have approximately four applicants for each place - there are few hard-and-fast rules to applying to St Catharine's. The occasional low GCSE grade, aberrant A Level module score, or hasty interview response is unlikely to adversely affect your chances. Also, depending on the circumstances, we are sometimes able to accept candidates who have not quite made the terms of their offer.
Below is a summary of the qualifications we are likely to require from prospective undergraduates taking GCSEs and A Levels, and those following other exam systems. It is not a 'tariff' system, and we do assess every individual on their own merits. If you are in any doubt, please don't hesitate to contact the admissions office for advice.
Qualifications often taken in the UK
Not all applicants to Cambridge have perfect GCSE scores - indeed, many successful applicants do not. As a general rule of thumb, if you have been entered for the GCSE higher tier exams, and have gained at least a few A* and A grades, and are now comfortably expecting to attain A grades at A Level then you should feel confident about making an application. We are also happy with IGCSEs - indeed, these are often slightly more demanding than their GCSE counterparts, so we often find that applicants have taken slightly fewer of them.
At present the University's typical conditional offer is as follows:
- most science courses: A*A*A
- most arts and humanities subjects: A*AA
- Economics: A*A*A
- Psychological and Behavioural Sciences: A*AA
- Veterinary Medicine: A*AA
We may tailor offers to match the individual applicant, and you should also read the St Catharine's webpage about the subject for which you wish to apply, for details of any specific requirements. We may, or may not, specify in which subjects we would like you to achieve an A or an A*, or exclude certain subjects (e.g. General Studies or Critical Thinking). Most of our conditional offers are based on A2 exams which candidates sit at the end of year 13 (or the end of the Upper Sixth form year).
We may take into account certificated AS results, where available, along with all other relevant information, when assessing candidates' applications and deciding on offers. We do not at present require attainment in particular STEP papers as a part of our offer, except in Mathematics.
We encourage potential applicants to tailor their choice of A Level subjects (or equivalent qualifications) to optimise their chances of gaining admission to the courses they wish to study at university. If you read the specific page for your subject on this website, and indeed on the websites of other universities, you will get an idea of what subject choices may help. Some subjects, such as Medicine, have very specific requirements, whereas others, such as Law, do not.
If after choosing subjects to increase your chances of gaining a place to read your chosen university subject, you are left free to select additional A Level subjects, then St Catharine's particularly values traditional academic subjects. These include English, all non-native languages, History, Religious Studies, Geography, Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology/Human Biology. Many of our applicants are studying three such subjects at A Level, but obviously there are A-level subjects not on that list which may be very relevant to your proposed course of study. Do contact us if you would like any further advice.
The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)
The EPQ would not normally form part of a Cambridge conditional offer. However, if you are doing an EPQ you may be asked about it at interview, and also, do bear in mind that your other university choices may indeed count it as part of any offer.
A typical offer would be 40-42 overall and 7,7,6 in higher level subjects.
We often find that applicants to science courses have not been permitted to take three science/maths subjects at Higher Level of the IB - and if this is so, we recommend taking two science/maths subjects at Higher Level and one at Standard Level. In this case, we may set conditional offers which include a requirement for the Standard Level science/maths subject in addition to, or instead of, the Higher Level 'non-science' subject.
Scottish qualifications (Advanced Highers)
Our offer will typically be AAA or A1AA in Advanced Highers.
We set offers based on the equivalence between pre-U grades and A-levels stated in the pre-U website. For example, D2, D3, D3 is equivalent to an A*AA offer. Successful candidates taking a mixture of pre-U and A Level qualifications will often be given an offer which is equivalent to A*A*A for most sciences, or A*AA for most arts and humanities, although it may require complex phrasing.
Students following other examination systems
We do receive large numbers of applications from candidates following alternative examination routes. Since our offers are all tailored to the individual, this poses no problem to us whatsoever, and we welcome applications from all bright and motivated students. Very often we follow the University's list of recommended requirements for all these qualifications - follow this link.
Qualifications and assessments beyond your school examinations
Applicants in many subjects will be asked to complete a pre-interview or at-interview written admissions assessment for which they must be entered when they apply to Cambridge. Click the tab on the left-hand menu for further details.
One exceptions to this is Medicine, in which applicants to all Cambridge colleges must sit the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT), as this is the pre-interview written assessment for these subjects. However, unlike other subjects, applicants must register for the BMAT separately. See this subject's pages for details about this test.
Another exception is Mathematics, in which STEP is a requirement, and forms part of conditional offers.
The final exception is Music, in which no additional assessment is set.
If you are a student for whom English is not your first language, then any offer of an academic place may include and additional requirement that you pass an English proficiency exam.