Admissions assessments

The format of A-level exams is currently changing, and Cambridge and St Catharine’s admissions processes have changed to reflect this. Many applicants do not now sit AS exams in most subjects they intend to continue to full A-level. Because AS unit module scores were an important metric in our selection process, Cambridge has introduced alternative methods of gathering information on applicants’ academic potential.

The colleges and departments of the University now conduct 'written assessments' as part of the admissions process for most subjects, to be sat either before interview in local examination centres (usually applicants' own schools, usually early in November), or on the day of interview in the college in which each applicant is to be interviewed.

While information gleaned from these assessments will be fed into the selection process, it is important not to overestimate their role. Assessment results will be viewed alongside all other information available to us, including GCSEs (or equivalent), AS- and A-level grades where available (e.g. post-school applicants), applicants’ ability to discuss topics raised in their personal statement, and their ability to apply the academic skills they have learnt at school to novel information, concepts and tasks. Indeed, it is possible that the relative importance of some of these elements may increase following the ‘loss’ of AS-level-related information. Of course, achievement at A-levels (or equivalent) remains the central part of our admissions process, and we expect conditional offers to remain at a similar level to previous years.

We will also continue to consider carefully any contextual information which indicates that applicants have experienced any educational disadvantage.

It is very important that no one should be disadvantaged by the use of written assessments. It is for this reason that no preparation will be required to take these assessments, other than diligent participation in A-level (or equivalent) courses. Also, the University’s plans have received an enthusiastic reception at ‘focus groups’ including teachers from a variety of school types. In addition, Cambridge has many years’ experience conducting pre-interview assessments for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, specifically designed to treat all applicants fairly.

St Catharine’s seeks to admit candidates with the greatest academic potential, regardless of the educational opportunities they have had in the past. We believe that the new Cambridge admissions assessment system will help us achieve that goal.

Please note that all applicants (who do not already have a degree) to all Cambridge colleges for all subjects will be asked to take a written assessment for their chosen subject, with the following exceptions:

- there will be no admissions assessment in Maths or Music.

- in Medicine, the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) will continue to be used - it will, in effect, be the written assessment for this subject.

- from 2017, applicants in Veterinary Medicine will no longer be required to take the BMAT - instead they will be asked to sit the same admissions assessment as Natural Sciences applicants.

Full details of the written assessments, including detailed subject-by-subject information is available at this link.