How To Get Into Cambridge University - Requirements & Tips

Student walking on Cambridge University campus
November 24, 2023
10 min read


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/24/23

Want to know how to get into Cambridge University? This article will give you a head start on the application process. 

Cambridge University campus

Nestled within the historic city that shares its name, Cambridge University has been a beacon of academic excellence for centuries, drawing inquisitive minds from every corner of the globe. 

Aspiring to become a part of this venerable tradition requires more than just stellar grades; it demands a holistic approach encompassing unwavering dedication, rigorous preparation, and a deep-seated passion for learning. 

In this article, we delve into the multifaceted path of gaining admission to Cambridge, unveiling insights, strategies, and invaluable tips to guide prospective students through the intricate labyrinth of the application process. May it increase their chances of realizing the dream of studying at this prestigious institution.

Cambridge Acceptance Rate 

Cambridge’s acceptance rate hovers around 20%. Widely recognized as one of the most competitive universities globally, this low rate reflects the institution’s uncompromising commitment to academic excellence and rigorous selection process. 

Successful candidates are typically among the most intellectually curious, motivated, and accomplished students who demonstrate exceptional potential to contribute to their chosen fields. To be accepted, you’ll need to make sure you craft a competitive application that’ll help you stand out.

How Hard Is It to Get Into Cambridge?

It can be quite hard to get into Cambridge, due in part to the high level of competition and stringent acceptance policies. The university's renowned reputation for academic excellence attracts a global pool of highly accomplished applicants each year, intensifying the competition for limited spots. 

Learning how to get into Cambridge University is undeniably a formidable challenge. The admission process is rigorous and holistic, evaluating not only academic achievements but also personal statements, recommendation letters, and often requiring successful performance in interviews or admissions tests. 

What Are the Cambridge Entry Requirements?

US applicants can submit SAT/ACT scores as part of their Cambridge application. At the minimum, students should score 1460 on the SAT and 32-33 on the ACT. However, you should exceed these minimums to give yourself the best chance of acceptance. A GPA of 3.7 or higher is considered competitive at this school. 

Cambridge's entry requirements serve as a testament to its dedication to academic excellence and the pursuit of knowledge. The specific requirements can vary based on the course of study and the individual college within the university, but they universally demand a strong foundation of academic achievement. 

Typically, this entails a combination of exceptional grades, a stunning personal statement, admission interviews, and other course-specific requirements.

These stringent requirements reflect Cambridge's commitment to admitting students who not only excel academically but also possess the intellectual curiosity and potential to thrive within its challenging and stimulating academic environment.

Cambridge Application Process

The Cambridge application process seeks to identify and admit the brightest minds from around the world. Prospective students begin by submitting an online application through the UCAS system, detailing their academic achievements, personal statement, and relevant qualifications. 

For many courses, admissions tests or written work submissions are required, providing an opportunity for applicants to showcase their subject-specific skills and aptitude.

Shortlisted candidates often proceed to the interview stage, a critical component of the selection process where they engage in in-depth discussions with expert faculty members, demonstrating their analytical thinking, passion for learning, and ability to thrive in an intellectually stimulating environment. 

The holistic nature of the Cambridge application process aims to assess candidates not just for their academic prowess, but also for their potential to contribute to the university's diverse academic community. 

Application Assessment 

The Cambridge application assessment embodies the university's commitment to identifying individuals with exceptional intellectual potential and a passion for academic pursuits. 

Beyond traditional metrics, this assessment takes a comprehensive view of applicants, considering their academic achievements, personal statements, recommendation letters, and, where applicable, admissions tests or submitted written work. This multifaceted approach ensures a fair and thorough evaluation of each candidate's suitability for their chosen course. 

The interview stage further distinguishes the Cambridge assessment process, offering applicants a chance to engage with subject experts, demonstrate their analytical thinking, and showcase their enthusiasm for learning. 

Entry Requirements

Cambridge University's entry requirements stand as a testament to its pursuit of academic excellence and its dedication to nurturing bright minds. While specific requirements can vary depending on the chosen course and college, they generally demand a strong academic foundation. 

This often includes outstanding results in A-levels, IB, or equivalent qualifications in relevant subjects. Personal statements and interviews with faculty also play a pivotal role.

Some courses may also necessitate admissions tests, written work submission, or additional assessments that align with the program's demands. 

Personal Statement

The Cambridge personal statement serves as a unique platform for applicants to articulate their motivations, aspirations, and suitability for their chosen course of study. It is a crucial element of the application process, allowing candidates to showcase their intellectual curiosity, passion for learning, and the qualities that make them stand out. 

While tailored to the course's specific requirements, a Cambridge personal statement typically highlights an applicant's academic achievements, extracurricular pursuits, and any relevant experiences that have shaped their interests. 

It also offers insight into an applicant's thought processes, their ability to engage with complex concepts, and their potential to contribute to the university's academic community. 

School or College Reference

School or college references for Cambridge applications are integral components that provide valuable insight into an applicant's academic abilities and personal qualities. 

These references, typically written by teachers or counselors who have closely interacted with the applicant, offer a comprehensive perspective on their performance in the classroom, their engagement in extracurricular activities, and their potential to excel at the university level. 

A strong reference outlines the candidate's intellectual curiosity, critical thinking skills, and capacity for independent learning, while also highlighting their character, work ethic, and contributions to the school community. 

These references play a significant role in bolstering an applicant's profile, helping Cambridge admissions teams make informed decisions that align with the university's commitment to admitting students who can thrive academically and contribute positively to the university's vibrant academic atmosphere.

University Forms

University forms, submitted through the UCAS application, serve as a structured canvas where candidates present their academic qualifications, achievements, and chosen course preferences. 

Students also use these forms to submit their personal statements and incorporate details about any admissions tests or written work that might be required for their specific course. 

University forms allow the admissions committee to gain a holistic understanding of each applicant so they can make informed decisions that align with the institution's commitment to academic excellence and diverse scholarly engagement.

University Tests

Cambridge uses university tests to assess an applicant's subject-specific knowledge, critical thinking abilities, and suitability for the chosen course. 

These tests vary based on the field of study and the individual college within the university. Designed to challenge and identify the most capable candidates, these tests go beyond conventional assessments and aim to gauge a candidate's capacity for analytical reasoning, problem-solving, and independent thought. 

The results of these tests provide valuable insights to the admissions committee, helping them make well-informed decisions regarding an applicant's potential to excel within the demanding academic environment at Cambridge. 

By integrating these tests into the application process, the university underscores its commitment to selecting students who possess both the academic acumen and intellectual curiosity necessary to thrive within their chosen disciplines.

Written Work & Portfolios

The written work component allows applicants to showcase their intellectual prowess, analytical thinking skills, and passion for their chosen field of study. 

This requirement, prevalent in certain courses, offers candidates an opportunity to showcase their ability to engage with complex concepts and communicate their ideas effectively through the written word. 

Whether in the form of essays, research projects, or other forms of scholarly output, written work creates a portfolio of work which provides insights into an applicant's academic journey, independent research, and critical analysis. 

This component of the application process allows the admissions committee to evaluate candidates' potential contributions to the academic community and to ascertain their readiness to thrive within the intellectually stimulating environment that Cambridge University offers.

Contextual Data

Contextual data in Cambridge applications represents a vital tool for the university to understand an applicant's achievements within the broader context of their educational and personal circumstances. 

Recognizing that academic potential can be influenced by various factors, such as socioeconomic background, school performance, and access to resources, Cambridge's consideration of contextual data aims to ensure a fair and equitable assessment of each candidate. 

By factoring in this data, the university can identify promising individuals who have demonstrated remarkable achievements despite facing challenges. This approach aligns with Cambridge's commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive academic community, where talent is recognized and nurtured irrespective of background. 

Contextual data enriches the admissions process, helping the university identify students who possess the potential to excel academically and make valuable contributions to the university's dynamic scholarly environment.


Interviews are a pivotal aspect of the Cambridge application process, offering candidates a unique opportunity to engage directly with faculty members and demonstrate their intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and suitability for their chosen course of study. 

These interviews, conducted by subject experts, delve into the candidate's academic interests, problem-solving abilities, and desire to learn. They provide a platform to showcase one's ability to think on their feet, analyze complex concepts, and engage in rigorous academic discussions. 

Interviews are designed to assess an applicant's existing knowledge, as well as their potential for growth and development within Cambridge's intellectually stimulating environment. 

While rigorous, these interviews reflect the university's commitment to fostering an inclusive and diverse community of scholars who can contribute to the rich academic discourse that defines Cambridge University.

Cambridge Deadlines

Deadlines for Cambridge applications mark crucial milestones in the journey toward joining the university's esteemed academic community. These deadlines, varying depending on the course and applicant's status, are meticulously set to ensure a systematic and fair evaluation of all applications. 

They provide candidates with a clear timeframe to gather required documents. Adhering to these deadlines is vital, as late submissions might not be considered. 

The deadlines underscore Cambridge's commitment to maintaining a structured and thorough application process, allowing the admissions team adequate time to carefully review each application and make informed decisions. 

Prospective students are encouraged to meticulously adhere to these deadlines, enabling themselves the best opportunity to showcase their potential and secure a place within the university's distinguished academic landscape.

Tips to Increase Your Chances of Getting Into Cambridge

Here are a few tips to increase your chances of getting into Cambridge:

  • Academic Excellence: Maintain consistently high grades throughout your academic career.
  • Subject Relevance: Choose subjects aligned with your desired course of study.
  • Personal Statement: Craft a compelling personal statement showcasing your passion, motivation, and suitability for the chosen field.
  • Admissions Tests: Prepare thoroughly for any required admissions tests, showcasing your subject-specific skills and analytical thinking.
  • Written Work: If applicable, submit well-crafted written work that highlights your academic abilities and research skills.
  • Contextual Data: Provide contextual information that helps the admissions committee understand your achievements in light of your circumstances.
  • Teacher References: Secure strong and supportive references from teachers who know you well.
  • Interview Preparation: Prepare thoroughly for interviews, demonstrating your analytical abilities and enthusiasm for your chosen subject.
  • Holistic Approach: Showcase a well-rounded profile by engaging in extracurricular activities, community service, or relevant work experiences.
  • Passion for Learning: Convey your genuine passion for learning and intellectual curiosity.
  • Research the Course: Show a deep understanding of your chosen course and how it aligns with your academic goals.
  • College Choice: Research different colleges within Cambridge and choose one that aligns with your interests and strengths.
  • Application Deadlines: Submit your application well before the deadline to avoid last-minute rush.
  • Attention to Detail: Double-check your application for accuracy and completeness.
  • Stay Authentic: Be genuine and authentic in your application, interviews, and interactions.
  • Perseverance: If you're not accepted on the first attempt, consider reapplying or exploring other pathways to reach your goals.

These tips will help give you a step up for your Cambridge application.

Should I Apply to Cambridge?

Deciding whether to apply to Cambridge should be a decision that resonates with your academic and personal ambitions. Cambridge offers a world-class education and unparalleled academic opportunities, but it's essential to consider various factors before making your decision. 

Reflect on your academic strengths, passions, and long-term goals to ensure that Cambridge's programs align with your aspirations. Consider the intensity of the coursework, the academic environment, and the university's reputation in your chosen field of study. 

Research the specific course requirements, admissions process, and deadlines to understand if your profile matches their expectations. Reflect on your readiness to thrive in a challenging academic environment and engage in rigorous intellectual pursuits. Also, think about the college system and its impact on your experience. 

Finally, evaluate if Cambridge's location and extracurricular offerings align with your personal preferences and lifestyle.

Seek The Help of an Admissions Consultant 

Engaging an admission consultant to navigate the complex process of getting into Cambridge can be a strategic decision for certain applicants. These professionals offer specialized expertise and insights into the university's application requirements, helping candidates present the strongest possible application. 

Admission consultants can provide guidance on crafting compelling personal statements, preparing for admissions tests and interviews, and tailoring application materials to align with the specific course and college. 

They can also offer a valuable outside perspective, helping applicants highlight their unique strengths and experiences. However, it's crucial to approach this option with caution and research, ensuring that the consultant's services are reputable and ethical. 

While consultants can offer valuable assistance, applicants should still maintain authenticity, take ownership of their applications, and ensure that their individual voice shines through in the process.

Cambridge University Admission FAQs:

Here are a few common questions about Cambridge University. 

1. How Many Colleges Are in Cambridge?

The University of Cambridge comprises a diverse and rich tapestry of 31 constituent colleges. Each of these colleges operates as an independent academic institution within the larger university framework, offering a distinctive academic and social community to its students.

From the historic and renowned Trinity College to the more contemporary and innovative Wolfson College, each institution contributes to Cambridge's vibrant academic environment, ensuring that students from all walks of life find a space that resonates with their aspirations and preferences.

2. What Grades Do You Need to Get Into Cambridge?

The grades required to secure admission to the University of Cambridge vary depending on the chosen course of study and the specific college within the university. Generally, Cambridge seeks applicants with exceptional academic achievements, often looking for top grades at the A-levels, International Baccalaureate (IB), or equivalent qualifications. 

While there is no fixed "cut-off" point, successful applicants typically demonstrate a strong track record of academic excellence in subjects closely related to their intended course. Additionally, Cambridge considers holistic aspects of an application, including personal statements, references, admissions tests, and interviews.

3. How Many Students Are at Cambridge University?

The University of Cambridge has an approximate student population of around 21,656. This number includes both undergraduate and postgraduate students pursuing a wide range of academic disciplines across the university's various colleges and departments. 

4. How Much Does Cambridge University Cost for International Students?

On average, undergraduate international students could expect to pay between £24,507 and £63,990. The tuition fees for international students at the University of Cambridge vary depending on the course and level of study. 

Prospective students should also consider the cost of living expenses. Cambridge gives a minimum estimate of £14,600 per year to cover all of your living expenses, though this number can vary greatly depending on your lifestyle. 

5. How Many UCAS Points Do You Need for Cambridge?

The University of Cambridge typically does not use the UCAS points system as the primary basis for admission. Instead, Cambridge assesses applicants based on their academic achievements, potential, and suitability for their chosen course. 

While UCAS points may be used by some universities to standardize offers, Cambridge's admissions process tends to focus more on academic grades, personal statements, references, admissions tests, and interviews. 

Meeting or exceeding the entry requirements for your chosen course is important, but the university places a strong emphasis on a holistic assessment of applicants. It's recommended to research the specific requirements for the course you're interested in and reach out to the university's admissions office for the most accurate and relevant information.

6. When Do Cambridge Interview Offers Come Out?

Cambridge interview offers are typically sent out in early to mid-December. These offers are extended to candidates who have been shortlisted after the initial assessment of their applications. 

The exact timing may vary slightly from year to year, and it's important to note that different colleges and courses within Cambridge may have slightly different timelines. If you're applying to Cambridge, it's recommended to keep a close eye on your email and any communication from the university during this period.

7. What Is Cambridge University Known for?

Cambridge University is renowned worldwide for its storied history, academic excellence, and contributions to various fields. Founded in 1209, it stands as one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions in the world, setting a benchmark for higher education. 

Cambridge is particularly renowned for its groundbreaking research and intellectual innovations across a wide array of disciplines, including science, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences.

The university's exceptional faculty and facilities have produced numerous Nobel laureates, groundbreaking scientific discoveries, and revolutionary advancements in literature, philosophy, and technology. The unique college system fosters an environment of personalized learning, encouraging students to engage in critical thinking, collaboration, and interdisciplinary exploration. 

Additionally, Cambridge's illustrious alumni network, which includes luminaries like Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking, further solidifies its reputation as a bastion of intellectual brilliance and innovation.

Final Thoughts

In the intricate tapestry of higher education, the journey toward applying to Cambridge University emerges as a path rich in challenges, opportunities, and transformative growth. 

Aspiring to join the ranks of this venerable institution demands not only exceptional academic achievements but also a profound passion for learning, an insatiable curiosity, and a dedication to personal and intellectual development. 

Throughout this article, we've shown you how to get into Cambridge University, from academic requirements and personal statements to admissions tests and interviews. 

While the road to securing a place at Cambridge may be arduous, it is precisely this journey that cultivates resilience, determination and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. With each application, a unique narrative is woven, reflecting the aspirations, experiences, and dreams of those who seek to become part of Cambridge's legacy. 

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