You apply to Cambridge via UCAS, just as you would apply to any other UK university. However, applications at Cambridge are handled by the individual colleges, not by a department or faculty.
Most applicants select a college where they would like to live and work, and that college will then deal with their application. However, you do not have to choose a college – instead you can make an ‘open application’ and the central Cambridge Admissions Office will then allocate you to one of the colleges, which will deal with your application in the usual way. We ensure that ‘open’ applicants have the same chance of gaining a place as ‘direct’ applicants to the college. However, from your point of view, you may well decide that you want to have direct control over which college you may end up at. Obviously, we recommend St Catharine's...
At the outset it is worth mentioning that entry is entirely on the basis of academic potential (with 'clinical' potential mixed in for prospective medics and vets). Most people who apply are very able, and will attain (or already have) excellent grades at A Level, or equivalent (see our page on admissions requirements for more information). Regrettably, we have to make difficult choices, and every year we turn away well-qualified applicants simply because we don’t have the capacity to teach every one. But if you don’t apply, you cannot be considered. So why not give us a try?
St Catharine's does not accept applications from:
those applying as graduates for Law, Medicine or Veterinary Medicine
those part-way through a degree at another university
those wishing to study Architecture, Education, History of Art, or Linguistics
We also discourage applications from students who would be under 17 years and 9 months when they start their course. (Medicine applicants must be 18 by the November 1 of their first year of intended study - this is a University rule which applies to all colleges.)
See our page with important advice for applicants for further information.
Next tab: The application process
If after reading this website you still have questions about applying to St Catharine's for an undergraduate degree, please download a St Catharine's prospectus or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a some additional steps and things to consider when applying to Cambridge. This page is to give you an idea of what you need to do.
A note on COVID-19
We are aware that the COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted many candidates' plans to apply to university. In particular we realise that your school studies may have been partially interrupted. We are also concerned that the need to work from home, with access to a computer, internet, school resources, and a quiet working environment, widened the disparities in educational support available to our future applicants. Please be assured that we are aware of these problems, and we will carefully consider them if you decide to apply to St Catharine's in the future.
COVID-19 and work experience
St Catharine's usually recommends that Medicine and Veterinary Medicine applicants gain work experience in either a care or a medical setting. However, we realise that the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak means that many will not be able to do this - so we will not expect work experience, and applying without its will not disadvantage you. Please do not postpone your application due to lack of work experience. However, we encourage you to conduct some online research: for Medicine, on the NHS and wider healthcare system, and for vets the UK animal industries and veterinary profession (the structure of these systems, the challenges facing them, and clinical staff perceptions of their working lives). Please note that you should NOT have to pay for any resources, online or otherwise, before you apply to us.
Below is a summary of the application process for Cambridge. If, after reading this, you have any further questions, see our 'important information' page or get in touch using the details at the bottom of this page.
There are two or three things you must submit as part of your application, depending on your situation. Every year we unfortunately have to reject applications because candidates have not sent us the appropriate information.
- all must submit a UCAS application
- all must submit a subsequent Cambridge-specific online questionnaire - you will be sent information about this once you have applied via UCAS.
- all science applicants and many arts/humanities applicants must ensure they are registered for pre-interview assessments - by September 30th in 2022.
Applicants for some subjects will be asked to express a course preference during their application - for example, Modern Linguists will have to select languages. Natural Science applicants must select a 'physical' or 'biological' preference - if you are not sure you neatly fit either of these two categories, see the 'what we look for' tab on our Natural Sciences page.
Before the main UCAS submission deadline - special cases
- Applications for Organ Scholarships must be in by the start of September.
- Medicine applicant must sit the BMAT, and Law applicants the LNAT - check the BMAT and LNAT websites for registration deadlines.
- Some non-UK applicants may have to apply early - please see our page for international students for more information.
(N.B. CHANGE IN 2022!!) 30th September - deadline for pre-interview assessment registration
- applicants for subjects in which an admissions written assessment is set should have been separately registered for this, usually by your school, or an exam centre - see this link - PLEASE NOTE: FROM 2022 ONWARDS, THIS DATE IS EARLIER THAN IN PREVIOUS YEARS
15th October - deadline for the UCAS application & pre-interview assessment registration
- All applicants should submit a UCAS form, including a course at Cambridge as one of your choices, and indicating St Catharine's as your preference college in the 'campus code' field. Check the UCAS website for precise details of the deadline, as we cannot accept late applications.
Soon after - deadline for the Cambridge-specific application questionnaire
- Soon after submitting your UCAS form, you will receive an email link to the online Cambridge-specific application questionnaire. Some parts of this questionnaire may not seem relevant to you, in which case, don't worry. However, you must submit it by the deadline.
- Currents students have begged us (!) to mention to you that if you gain a place at Cambridge, the picture you submit as part of this form will be used for various purposes once you start here (e.g. your university card) - so make sure it's a picture you like!
Mid-October - early November - pre-interview admissions assessments (many sciences and a few arts/humanities subjects)
- These assessments are sat in a local exam centre - for most applicants, this is their school. If you school cannot act as a centre, you will need to find a centre nearby.
Early-to-mid-November - submission of written work (some arts/humanities subjects)
- Soon after the Cambridge-specific questionnaire deadline, if you have applied for an arts/humanities subject which requires the submission of written work, you will be contacted with full details of what to do. Please see this page for information about the written work you are required to submit for some subjects.
First three weeks of December - Interviews (and at-interview admissions assessments in some arts/humanities subjects)
- Almost all in-Cambridge interviews take place between these dates. All candidates should ensure they are free to be interviewed during that period.
- If you are invited for interview you will be given full details of how the interview will be conducted - also, our student team will be able to assist you.
- In some subjects you will be asked to read a text before the interview(s), and in others there is an 'at-interview' assessment you will sit on a day near your interview - and again, you will be given full details of this in advance.
- You will have been given an opportunity to tell us if you need any special conditions for your interview, so please inform us in advance - once the timetable is arranged, adjustments are difficult and sometimes impossible.
- Please see this page for guidance on preparing for interviews.
By mid-January - decisions made
All candidates will receive a decision by post or email. There are three likely outcomes:
- That St Catharine's would like to make you an offer (conditional or firm as appropriate).
- That another college would like to make you an offer, after the Intercollegiate Winter Pool. This system allows colleges to make good applicants to whom they themselves were unable to make offers, available to other colleges. Many very well qualified students follow this route. We will usually be looking for candidates in some subjects, and we always do our best to find places at other colleges for those we have placed in the pool. For this reason, every January many applicants instead receive an offer from a college other than the one they applied to. Please note that decisions made at the pool are sent out at the same time as decisions made by the colleges to which applicants originally applied, so any written communcation you receive will take into account any redistribution to other colleges.
That neither St Catharine's nor another college is able to make you an offer.
The only applicants who may not receive a decision letter at this time are:
- A very small number of applicants - mainly in arts subjects - may be called for further post-pool interviews at a different college in January. At St Catharine's we do very few of these, and we would try to complete them before the main decision-notification day, anyway.
- The University runs an 'open offer' system by which a small number of offers - usually in Medicine and Veterinary Medicine - are made which are subsequently allocated to colleges in the summer, following publication of A-level results. Again, we try to make these decisions by the time all our other decisions are sent out.
If your application has been unsuccessful, you cannot re-enter the admissions process for that year - at St Catharine's or any other college. The only exception to this is that some unsuccessful UK-domiciled, UK-schooled applicants will be told in their January decision letter that they are eligible for the University's 'reconsideration' process because they meet certain widening participation criteria. This is a route by which, if you subsequently meet the University's typical conditional offer level in your exams, you may opt in August to be reconsidered for entry to the University. Please see this page for further information, but note that you should assume you are not eligible for this scheme if you are not notified in your January decision letter.
By mid-February - entry for STEP exams
- All candidates whose offer of a place is conditional upon STEP grades (only Mathematics at St Catharine's) must be entered by their examination centre (usually their school) for the relevant papers. See this link for details.
Early May - acceptance of offers on UCAS
- All offers must be accepted (as firm or insurance offers) or rejected through UCAS. Check the UCAS website for the exact deadline for this.
Before mid-August - some examination result become available
- Grades for many examination systems become available before UK A-level results are published. If you receive your results before mid-August, and have met your offer, then your place will be confirmed.
- If you have narrowly missed your offer, then we will probably decide to wait until A-level results are published in mid-August, so we can compare your performance fairly against the entire field of our offer-holders.
Mid-August - examination results
- Once A Level and STEP results have been published, places are guaranteed for all conditional offer candidates who achieve the grade requirements set - your application status will be .changed on UCAS, and you need simply await information from us about accommodation and starting here as a student
- Some applicants who narrowly miss achieving their offers may nevertheless have their places confirmed, or be placed in the summer Intercollegiate Pool which takes place the day after A-level results are published. If you have taken A-levels, please contact us as soon as you can on results day with details of your module marks. All decisions will be finalised by Friday evening.
- St Catharine's aims also to admit some students via the reconsideration process. This is only open to previous applicants who meet certain specific criteria - and all of these candidates will have been informed of their eligibility previously - you do not need to contact us. If you are eligible, and you achieve the University's typical conditional offer in your subjects, we strongly recommend you participate in this process - a decision is usually made within 36 hours of the publication of A-level results. For more details see this link.
Last day of August
- All applicants who meet their offers following a re-mark by the last day of August will be allocated a place to start their studies at St Catharine's. Applicants who meet their offers by means of exam re-marks finalised after that date cannot be guaranteed a place that year - although we will endeavour to provide a place to start in the year for which they originally applied.
- The last day of August is also the deadline for completing our online accommodation application form (which is sent to you a few days after A-level results day). All first years are housed on our main site, but incoming students should submit this form by August 31 to increase their chances of being allocated to one of the the accommodation 'bands' they requested. All responses received before the deadline are considered equally. Obviously, if you have been informed relatively late of your place here - for example because you were waiting for a re-mark - we will be lenient about the deadline!
Next tab: How we make our decisions
If after reading this website you still have questions about applying to St Catharine's for an undergraduate degree, please download a St Catharine's prospectus or email us at email@example.com.
There is no single criterion on which we base our admissions decisions. We make an overall assessment of:
- your academic performance at school in public exams,
- information on your UCAS form,
- your performance in any admissions assessments we may ask you to sit,
- 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) and
- contextual information about your previous educational opportunities and support.
Although applying to Cambridge is competitive - we have approximately four/five 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.
At St Catharine's we use all the information available to us at each stage of the academic selection process, so there is no single overriding criterion which 'trumps' all the others.
Attainment in public exams, such as A levels or the IB, remains the cornerstone of our admissions system. That said, most candidates apply before they have finished their school exams, so usually receive offers conditional on them reaching a certain level in those exams.
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/A*/7/8/9 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 can be 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; Veterinary Medicine: A*AA
We usually set offers at these levels, but may occasionally 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 exclude certain subjects (for example, if a science applicant is taking a furth, arts/humanities subject).
Most of our conditional offers are based on A level exams which candidates sit in one go in their last year at school - although our actual requirement is that you study for and sit three A-levels 'within a three year period'. Thus, if you are taking a subject early, such as Maths, you need only take two other subjects at the end of school - see our 'important advice' page for more details.
If an applicant is taking four 'relevant' subjects, we may sometimes set a lower requirement in the fourth subject simply to ensure they complete the course and take the exam - for example, by giving an A* A* A C offer in a science subject. Otherwise we find that offer holders drop school subjects which we think would stand them in good stead for university! See our 'important advice' page for more about the pros and cons of doing more than three A-levels.
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 encourage potential applicants to tailor their choice of school subjects 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 Literature, all non-native languages, History, Geography, Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry and 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 - Music, Sociology, Government and Politics, or Psychology, for example. Do contact us if you would like any further advice.
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 instead of the Higher Level 'non-science' subject.
If you are taking Maths as an IB subject with a view to applying for a science subject or Economics, your are strongly advised to take IB Higher Level 'Analysis and Approaches'. However, if this option is not available at your school, please contact us.
Scottish qualifications (Advanced Highers)
The typical offer is Courses with a typical A-level offer of A*AA generally require A1, A2, A2; and for courses with a typical A Level offer of A*A*A, offers are usually A1, A1, A2..
However, in some cases, two Advanced Highers and an additional Higher may be acceptable (e.g. when an applicant is prevented from studying more than two Advanced Highers due to reasons outside their control) – such applicants are considered on a case-by-case basis and should contact us for advice.
If your school/college can only offer a limited range of Advanced Higher qualifications, or you are only able to take two, please do indicate this in the 'Teaching difficulties' section of the Cambridge online questionnaire, so that this can be taken into account when assessing your application.
We set offers based on the following equivalence between pre-U grades and A-levels. For example, D2, D3, D3 is equivalent to an A*AA offer, and D2, D2, D3 is equivalent to an A*A*A offer. Successful candidates taking a mixture of pre-U and A Level qualifications will usually be given an offer which is equivalent to A*A*A or A*AA, although it may include multiple possible permutations!
STEP (Sixth Term Examination Paper)
At present, we require attainment in particular STEP papers as a part of our offer only for Mathematics or Maths with Physics (not Physical Natural Sciences or Engineering) - see the Maths subject page.
The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)
The EPQ would not normally form part of a Cambridge conditional offer, and we do not expect you to do one. However, if you are doing an EPQ, do mention it in your personal statement, and you may be asked about it at interview. Also, do bear in mind that your other university choices may include your EPQ in an offer, or reduce your conditional offer if you do well in it.
Students following other examination systems - especially outside the UK
We 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. We usually follow the University's list of recommended requirements for all these qualifications - follow this link.
Personal statement - how do we use it?
We do not assess the 'quality' of your personal statement, partly because applicants receive widely differing amounts of help with their statements. For example, it will not usually be used to decide who we interview, or to whom we make offers. The only time it would be used in these decisions is if a personal statement indicates that an applicant has completely misunderstood the nature of the course for which they are applying - and this is rare.
However, you should be aware that the personal statement can be extremely important in your application to other universities, so we advise you to tailor it to what they want, not us - and there is a helpful guide to writing your personal statement on the UCAS website. If the Cambridge course you are applying to is different, or has a different name (e.g. Natural Sciences), to your chosen course at other universities (e.g. Chemistry), then you should use the name it is given at those other universities - we are used to this.
Personal Statement - evidence of interest in your subject beyond your school studies
We may select things on your statement - especially 'supercurricular' academic interests and activities beyond your school curriculum - and discuss them with you at interview, This is often the only contribution your personal statement makes to your application to us. Please note:
- these activities may include reading printed or electronic resources (text, audio or video) or attending subject-related events or competitions
- you should not feel you have to spend any money - accessing web or library resources, or participating in school-based activities is fine
- you should interpret the phrase 'subject-related' very broadly - for example, applicants to any science/maths subject should feel free to mention activities in any science/maths subject
- supercurricular study will be helpful for your other university choices as well, so we recommend you use much of the space in your UCAS application explaining how wider study has contributed to your enthusiasm for, and ability to succeed in, your chosen university course
Applicants occasionally ask us what wider study they should do, to which the answer is that they should be guided by their own interests - don't feel you have to read a certain novel just because you think everyone else is, or that watching YouTube videos explaining how scientists blow things up is not sufficiently academic. That said, there is some useful guidance at this link.
Personal Statement - what about extracurricular activities?
Extracurricular recreational activities are not considered by St Catharine's or Cambridge during your application. This is partly because they are not directly relevant to assessing your academic potential, and also candidates vary greatly in their access to extracurricular activities. However other universities probably will be interested in your extracurricular activities, so do include them in your UCAS application.
Understandably, most of our applicants' school references are good - explaining how well they are performing at school, and that they are expected to do well at university. As a result, school references often do not form a large part of our selection process. However, if you or your school have faced any particular challenges, then this is a good place for this to be mentioned, and we will certainly take such information into account.
If you are applying while still at school, as part of the UCAS process your teachers will be asked to make predictions of your eventual exam results. However, these predictions are not an important part of the admissions process at St Catharine's. This is because (1) accurate predictions are very difficult to make and (2) some schools and teachers tend to 'under-predict' or 'over-predict' for various entirely understandable reasons. As long as your predictions approach the 'general range' of our conditional offers, then they will often play little role in our decision whether or not to interview or make an offer. Also, we do not usually consider your predictions when setting your conditional offer level.
Cambridge additional online questionnaire
This is an additional form you must fill in, and the deadline for submission is usually one week after the UCAS deadline. You must complete this form, but don't worry if you think you have not written much! The questionnaire allows us to gather various information about the educational support you have had at school, and it also allows you to tell us anything 'Cambridge-specific' about your application. If you feel you have written everything you need to on your UCAS application, then it is fine to leave the respective boxes blank on the questionnaire - most applicants do.
Applicants in most subjects will be asked to complete a written admissions assessment for which they must be entered when they apply to Cambridge - please make sure you discuss this with your school in advance of the late-September application deadline. These assessments are sat either before or during the interview process:
- (most sciences and some arts/humanities subjects): 'before-interview' assessments are taken in local examination centres - usually applicants' own schools, usually between mid-October and early November, or
- (some arts/humanities subjects): near the day of interview
Details of which courses have which assessments is provided on this page of our college website.
The aims of these assessments are to provide a measure of how applicants are progressing in their academic studies, and indicate their future academic potential. Details and sample papers may be obtained on the University' admissions website here and its individual subject pages here. Please note, the assessments are meant to be difficult, so don't worry if they look difficult to you! The aim is to provide a wide spread of marks to help us distinguish among a very able applicant field, so candidates often receive offers having achieved scores which might seem low compared to their achievement in school and public exams. Please note:
It is very important that no one should be disadvantaged by the use of written assessments. It is for this reason that no preparation should be required to take these assessments, other than diligent participation in A-level (or equivalent) courses, and familiarising yourself with the sample papers. Also, the assessments received an enthusiastic reception at focus groups including teachers from a variety of school types. In addition, Cambridge has drawn on its many years’ experience conducting pre-interview assessments for Medicine, specifically designed to treat all applicants fairly.
However, we do realise that some applicants will have had less help than others when preparing for the assessments (as of course they may have had throughout their education), so we take contextual information about educational support into account when looking at assessment scores.
If you are a student for whom English is not your first language, then any offer of an academic place may include an additional requirement that you pass an English proficiency exam - click the 'International Students' menu tab for information.
The interview is the other piece of academic information we use when deciding to whom to make our offers. See the separate menu tab for more information about this.
In some arts/humanities subjects you may be asked to submit written work you have done as part of your normal school studies, and which has been marked - this is as much to assess the level of feedback and guidance you have received as to allow us to read what you have written. Thus, this written school work may be one of the things we discuss at interview. If we need written work to be submitted, we will provide full guidance - and please be assured that you do not need to write anything especially for your application.
This information is very important in allowing us to make our admissions decisions. See our webpage giving more detail about what information we use.
Complaints and appeals
If you wish to make a complaint or appeal about your applications, please see this page.
Next tab: you are encouraged to check whether any of the questions listed in the Important Advice tab applies to you.
If after reading this website you still have questions about applying to St Catharine's for an undergraduate degree, please download a St Catharine's prospectus or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of our undergraduate applicants will be applying to university for the first time, and it's natural that you will have questions. If the answers below don't contain the information you're looking for, feel free to get in touch using the e-mail address at the foot of this tab.
If my education has been disadvantaged in some way, can this be taken into account?
Yes. St Catharine’s enthusiastically supports the Cambridge Extenuating Circumstances Scheme.
I don't feel I have had access to good advice about applying to Cambridge - what should I do?
The first thing to say is please do not worry. Our admissions system focuses on specific academic things such as previous exam performance, our own admissions assessments, and how you fare at interview - and even when assessing these we always take into consideration information about how much educational support applicants have had.
Also, we do not base our decisions on things which are very dependent on how much guidance students have received - how polished their UCAS personal statement is, or how 'slick' they are at interview. The best advice is simple: do as well as you can in your public exams, don't worry if you find the admissions assessments 'hard' (some bits of it are meant to be), and be ready to talk about academic things at interview. And, of course, apply!
Should I take more than three A-levels? Will I be at an advantage?
You should be aware that (1) we assess applicants' school performance based on their three best 'relevant' subjects, and (2) A-level, Scottish system and many other conditional offers are usually based on achievement in three subjects. Thus, sitting four or more A-levels is not a direct advantage for an applicant to St Catharine's, and it is a personal decision whether doing more than three subjects is right for you. One disadvantage of doing more than three subjects is that you might think you are 'spreading yourself too thin'. Conversely, the advantages of doing more than three subjects are things you need to make your own personal decisions about:
- You may decide that you can maximise your chances of achieving your three-subject-based offer if you take four or more relevant subjects.
- You may feel that doing more subjects will help you get offers from your other university choices.
- You may consider that taking extra subjects will be a good preparation for your eventual university course.
- You may simply wish to continue with additional subjects because you enjoy them or because they provide you with skills which could be useful in the future (e.g. a language for a scientist, or Maths for an arts/humanities student).
If an applicant is taking four 'relevant' subjects, we may occasionally set a lower requirement in the fourth subject simply to ensure they complete the course and take the exam - for example, by giving an A* A* A C offer.
What subjects should I take at school?
First of all, you should read the information on the webpage relating to the specific university subjects in which you are interested - subject choice is extremely important for some Cambridge courses, and largely unimportant for others.
- If you want to apply for a science subject we strongly encourage you to take three of the following - Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology.
- Things are often more flexible for arts and humanities subjects, but it is a good idea to take subjects directly related to your chosen university subject, and then 'top up' with 'Russell Group facilitating subjects' such as English Literature, any non-native language, History, Geography, sciences or Maths.
- Obviously, applicants for certain courses often take subjects which are not Russell Group facilitating subjects, such as Music, Government and Politics, Classical Civilisation, Economics, Sociology, Psychology, and so on.
- However, we do not favour subjects which have less academic content, such as Art. Theatre Studies is an acceptable subject for potential English applicants.
- Archaeology and Law are notable because they encourage applicants who are currently studying sciences, arts, humanities, or any mixture of the three. Studying Law at school does not provide any particular advantage when applying to study Law, and indeed most of our applicants are not studying it.
- Please note that we consider Further Maths as a full subject in its own right - indeed, it is highly desirable for many of our courses.
There are some subjects we offer, for which you do not have to be formally studying the equivalent subject at school. These include Archaeology, Classics, Computer Science, Economics, Geography, Law, Music, Theology, Philosophy and Psychology. In addition, school Biology is not required for Biological Natural Sciences, Medicine or Veterinary Medicine. This may be for one of the following reasons - see individual subjects pages for details
- No specific prior knowledge is required (e.g. Law),
- Other subjects provide just as good a preparation (e.g. physical sciences for Veterinary Medicine)
- Other qualification types are acceptable (e.g. grade 8 Music Theory for Music)
- The University has developed alternative course routes for applicants who have not studied the subject at school (e.g. Classics)
- Enthusiasm and aptitude can be demonstrated by self-taught or recreational involvement (e.g. Computer Science).
If I have taken an A-level early, will it be taken into account when a conditional offer is made?
We frequently receive applications from candidates who have taken an A-level one year early - often, but not always, it is Maths. In general we require applicants to have studied for and sat 'three A-levels taken within a two-year period', as we believe this is an indication of how a future student will cope with the workload involved in studying for a degree.
Because of this, our conditional offers do not usually include any A-level subjects taken early. However, you should be aware that 'early' A-levels still support your application in two ways. First, good performance in 'early' A-levels will certainly be taken into account in the assessment of your academic potential when we are considering to whom to make offers. Second, were you to narrowly miss your eventual conditional offer, high marks in a previous A-level would be one of the factors taken into account when deciding whether to still offer a place.
For example, if someone is studying Maths, Further Maths and Physics then they should study the three subjects and sit the exams within a two year period. If their school policy is for them to sit Maths at the end of their first year of A-levels, then their Maths grade will form part of their UCAS application, and we would set an offer based on Physics and Further Maths. (If they were studying a relevant fourth subject, then that would also be included in the offer, although were the applicant to narrowly miss their offer, the grades in all four would be taken into account when decided whether to still offer them a place.)
Can I apply to start a course at an unusually young age?
Please note that St Catharine's usually discourages applications from students who would be under 18 by the January 1st of the first year of their proposed course. For example, if you wish to start your studies in October 2022, you should be 18 by 1 January 2023. If you are in this situation, we strongly advise you to contact the college admissions office in advance.
(Medicine applicants must be 18 by the November 1 of their first year of intended study - this is a University rule which applies to all colleges.)
Is it ok if two candidates from the same school apply to the same course, the same college, or even the same course at the same college?
Because we simply seek applicants with the most academic potential, we don't mind if we receive applications from candidates at the same school (this happens quite often), even for the same course. Each application will be considered on its merits.
Can I take a year out before starting at St Catharine’s?
We are generally happy for candidates to apply to defer entry for a year, especially if they have specific plans for that 'year out'.
- However, please note that we discourage deferred entry in Mathematics.
- The situation is slightly complicated in Medicine, because the University and each individual college have strict, externally-imposed numerical quotas of medical students which they must admit each year (the St Catharine's quota is 11). Thus, any candidate applying for a deferred medical place is considered in the light of the likely field of Medicine applicants in the following year. However, if you wish to take a gap year, our advice is still to apply at the earliest opportunity - for most applicants this is their last year of school - because if you are not successful in gaining a place on a medical course, you can then re-apply during that gap year (see below, 'Does St Catharine’s consider candidates who are applying to university, or even Cambridge for a second time? ')
- In certain circumstances we will consider applicants who wish to defer for two years - in the past this has usually been applicants from Singapore who are expected to undertake national service. If you are in this situation, then you should apply via UCAS to defer for one year, but also email the St Catharine's Admissions Office to advise us of your intentions. Then, if you are successful, we would make you an offer deferred for one year in the first instance, but then move your entry year one further year into the future once this becomes possible in the UCAS system.
I am not from the UK – how does the application process work for me?
Applicants from other EU member states and outside the EU are considered in exactly the same way as UK applicants, and make up perhaps 25% of our students. There are no maximum or minimum numbers of non-UK EU or non-EU students we must take, so admission is based entirely on academic grounds.
The only exception is that the University as a whole does have a maximum quota of non-EU Medical students - see this link. If you are unsure of your status, you may want to contact our admissions office for more information. See also our page for international students, or the University website.
What score do I need to get in my Admissions Assessment or BMAT to be interviewed, or made an offer?
There are no absolute admissions assessment score thresholds for being called for interview or being made an offer. This is for two reasons:
- The assessment papers are not standardised from year to year, so the average and spread of candidates' marks will vary between years. Because of this, we start by looking at where each applicant falls within that year's distribution of marks. (For medics, there is a system of standardising marks between the two BMAT sittings in any one year.)
- We then look at lots of other information as well and certainly do not base our decisions entirely on assessment scores. We also look at public exam performance, the written content of the application, contextual information, and interview performance if an interview has yet taken place.
Does St Catharine’s consider candidates who are applying to university, or even Cambridge, for a second time?
We are very happy to consider such applicants in exactly the same way as we consider first-time applicants, although we would normally expect you to have met or exceeded the University's typical conditional offer in the relevant subject. If you've applied to Cambridge before, our informal advice is that you may want to consider having a fresh 'bite at the cherry' by applying to a different college the second time round.
We would encourage all potential applicants to think extremely carefully before turning down confirmed places at other universities with a view to applying to Cambridge. Clearly this is an individual decision which depends on a candidate's perception of the place they hold, and what offers they might achieve in a second round of applications, but do be aware that the success rate of applicants to Cambridge is approximately 1 in 5.
If your exam results exceed your expectations, then in mid-August you could consider entering the UCAS 'adjustment' process to seek an offer at a different university. However, at present Cambridge participates in the adjustment process in only a limited way (see this link), considering only applicants who meet certain widening participation criteria, all of whom will have been notified of their eligibility by e-mail in the spring.
Can I apply to St Catharine's if I am resitting some exams / taking additional exams because I did not reach the University's typical offer level at my first, 'end-of-school', exam sitting?
An important part of our academic requirements is that applicants should have achieved their exam results as part of a 'normal workload' – for example three A-levels studied within two years. There is no opportunity* to resit exams at the University of Cambridge, so we would have strong reservations about an applicant's ability to cope with the pace and intensity of our degree courses, had they not met this requirement.
Most of our applicants have met/exceeded, or are on course to meet/exceed our academic requirements, so unless there are clear and strong extenuating circumstances, it would therefore be unlikely we would offer to a candidate if they have not met those requirements. You should also read the preceding section about applying to university for a second time.
(*Medicine and Veterinary Medicine students are eligible for resits in their professional qualification exams, but not in their classed Cambridge University exams.)
Does St Catharine’s consider applications to undergraduate courses by applicants already enrolled on courses at other universities?
We do not accept applications from candidates enrolled on undergraduate degree courses at other universities. An obvious exception to this is if you are just about to finish a degree course elsewhere and wish to apply as an affiliated student, in which case, see the next question. Also, you can of course enrol on short, non-degree, courses in advance of coming to Cambridge, if you wish.
We strongly discourage students from withdrawing from courses at other universities so they can apply to us. You should bear in mind that our applicants-to-offers ratio is 4-5:1, and that leaving a previous course could be seen as demonstrating a lack of commitment to higher education. Leaving a university course may also adversely affect funding opportunities to study in the future.
Does St Catharine’s consider affiliated student applications (students who already have a degree)?
We strongly recommend that potential affiliated applicants contact us in advance. Please note that we do not accept affiliated student applications in Law, Medicine or Veterinary Medicine - we recommend that you get in touch with one of the colleges which specialise in such students. Indeed, all graduate applicants may wish to consider applying to one of the Cambridge colleges which specialise in admitting and supporting such students - Clare Hall, Darwin, Hughes Hall, Lucy Cavendish, St Edmund's and Wolfson.
Does St Catharine’s consider mature (i.e. over-21) applicants?
We are happy to receive applications from mature students in all subjects. However, applicants in Medicine and Veterinary Medicine are strongly advised to consider applying to a college more used to considering such applications: Wolfson, St Edmund's, Lucy Cavendish (women only) and Hughes Hall (medics, but not vets).
Entry criteria for mature students are generally similar to those for other applicants - we will usually expect you to be studying (or have recently studied) at an appropriate level, and we will expect you to be able to show recent evidence of your academic ability. We are prepared to take mature students from non-standard academic backgrounds, but it is essential that you make contact with the Admissions Office at an early stage so that we can discuss your needs and give you realistic advice.
Does it matter which other universities I have applied to?
No. No one involved in the admissions process will know where else you have applied. We encourage you to use all the spaces available on your UCAS form (this advice includes medical and veterinary applicants who are sometimes erroneously told by other universities not to use their fifth, 'non-medic/vet' space).
Be aware, however, that UCAS does not permit applications to both Cambridge and Oxford in the same year (except for their Graduate Medicine Courses, for which St Catharine's does not accept applications).
If I do not get into my college of choice, can I still get into Cambridge?
Yes, through the Intercollegiate Pool - see the page about preparing for interviews for more information.
Where can I read an independent description of the admissions process?
For a very informative article about how we make our decisions, click here.