Before applying, you need to check that you have or are likely to achieve the right grades at the right level and in the right subjects for the course you have chosen.
Whatever system you're being educated in, Cambridge requires top grades in the highest level qualifications available for school/college students – most successful applicants ultimately exceed the conditions of their offer.
This website refers to typical offers. However, one of the strengths of the Cambridge admissions system is its ability to assess all applicants individually, and all Colleges modify offers to take account of individual circumstances. As such, some applicants will be set lower/more challenging offers than those listed below, and some offers may specify grades to be achieved in particular subjects.
If there have been particular difficulties that have had a significant effect on an applicant's education, it is important that the College's Admissions Tutor is made aware of the circumstances as early in the process as possible. In some cases, it may be appropriate for the school/college referee to complete and submit an Extenuating Circumstances Form.
Although this website mainly talks in terms of A Levels and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB), other school and national examinations at an equivalent level are equally acceptable.
For specific requirements and subject preferences for each course, see course requirements. See also the website of the College(s) you’re considering applying to for any particular subject preferences.*
If your first language isn't English, see also our English language requirements.
* Please note that although you may be considering a number of Colleges you can only submit one application to the University, either selecting a single preference College or selecting the open application option in your UCAS application. Applications to more than one College, or to one College and an open application are not allowed. In addition, once you have submitted your UCAS application, you cannot change this choice.
Students should choose a combination of AS and A Level subjects which gives a good preparation for their selected course at university.
Cambridge applicants are usually studying four or five AS Levels in Year 12 and we normally expect good A grades in relevant subjects. Admissions Tutors look at the average performance across an applicant’s three best/most relevant AS Level subjects (students aren’t required to achieve 90 per cent or above in all modules). Applicants taking five subjects won't be at an advantage compared with those taking four.
All applicants are asked to report (in the Supplementary Application Questionnaire) the results of all AS and A Level modules taken to date, whether certificated or not. Colleges won't make unconditional offers on the basis of AS Level grades alone.
Most applicants are studying three or four A Level subjects. This is usually sufficient to show breadth of interests and ability to manage a range of differing academic tasks. We’d rather applicants develop broader and deeper knowledge of the subjects most relevant/closest to their chosen course than accumulate additional A Levels. For advice about suitable subject choices see our course requirements section.
The typical conditional A Level offer for arts subjects and for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences for 2015 entry will be A*AA.
The typical conditional A Level offer for science subjects (excluding Psychological and Behavioural Sciences) for 2015 entry will be A*A*A.
Some applicants may be set lower offers or more challenging ones. Applicants may be required to achieve A* in a particular subject(s) depending on individual circumstances.
- Critical Thinking – please note that A Level Critical Thinking isn't considered an acceptable third A Level subject for any course at Cambridge. While it is regarded as a worthwhile addition to your portfolio of qualifications as a fourth AS or A Level subject, it's unlikely to be part of a conditional offer.
- Key Skills and General Studies are not required or included in academic assessment.
For further information read Cambridge AS/A Level Requirements - The Facts.
Attainment of an Access to HE Diploma – with distinction grades in all relevant subject units – can be acceptable preparation for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences and most arts subjects (excluding Economics) at the University of Cambridge. Some subjects may have additional academic requirements, see below and also check for any further requirements/preferences with the individual College(s) to which you are considering applying.
In most instances, an Access to HE Diploma alone is not sufficient preparation to study a science subject (excluding Psychological and Behavioural Sciences) or Economics at Cambridge.
In all cases, you should contact a College admissions office to discuss your individual circumstances.
Certain subject-specific requirements may be included in conditional offers for particular courses at Cambridge as well:
- Architecture – a good portfolio is required, and an ability to draw. An interest in the history of art is helpful. Mathematics is needed at least to good GCSE standard
- Computer Science: A Level Mathematics is required
- Economics – A Level Mathematics is required
- Engineering – A Level Mathematics is required
- Law – applicants should ensure they have studied a logic-based subject (eg Mathematics, a science, a modern or classical language) as well as a discursive subject (such as History)
- Mathematics – an Access to HE Diploma is not sufficient preparation.
- Music – at least grade 5 piano is required
- Natural Sciences – A Level Mathematics is required for the Physical Sciences and recommended for the Biological Sciences. (Although there are courses designed for those without A Level Mathematics, the better applicants' mathematical ability is before they come to Cambridge, the better they will get on)
- Applicants for the following subjects will need to demonstrate an aptitude for languages – Classics, History of Art, and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Applicants for History should note that an aptitude for languages opens up greater choices within the History course at Cambridge. Applicants for Theology and Religious Studies should be aware of the compulsory first-year scriptural language element.
For further information contact the Access Officer at the Cambridge Admissions Office (T 01223 768675; E firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Advanced Diploma in Environmental and Land-based Studies is acceptable for Geography and Natural Sciences (Biological), as long as you have taken two appropriate A Levels within the Additional Specialist Learning component. In the case of Natural Sciences (Biological), these should be A Level Chemistry and either Biology, Mathematics or Physics A Level. The requirements for Geography are more flexible.
The Principal Learning components of the Advanced Diploma in Engineering are acceptable for Engineering, providing you’re also taking A Levels in Physics and Mathematics (the Level 3 Certificate in Mathematics for Engineering is a suitable alternative to A Level Mathematics for these purposes). See the Department of Engineering website for further guidance and contact the admissions office of the College(s) to which you’re considering applying for advice.
Offers are conditional on achievement in the A Levels within the qualification, rather than the overall Baccalaureate award.
Offers are conditional on achievement in the A Levels within the qualification rather than the overall Diploma award.
GCSE results are looked at as a performance indicator, but within the context of the school/college performance.
Applicants have generally achieved high grades in subjects relevant to their chosen course, and most students who apply have at least four or five As or A*s at GCSE. However, there are always exceptions and one of the strengths of the Cambridge admissions system is its ability to assess all applicants individually.
Offers usually require scores between 40 and 41 points out of 45, with 776 in Higher Level subjects. Applicants may be required to achieve 7 in a particular subject(s), depending on individual circumstances.
For advice about suitable subject choices see course requirements.
Please note that for these purposes, Standard Level subjects will satisfy AS Level subject requirements, and Higher Level subjects will satisfy A Level subject requirements.
A typical offer for the Irish Leaving Certificate is AAAAA at Higher Level. Applicants may be required to achieve A1 in the subjects most relevant to the course applied for.
Applicants for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine may be asked to take an IGCSE (or equivalent) in the science subject not taken within the Irish Leaving Certificate.
Prospective applicants from Canada and the USA taking SATs and Advanced Placement Tests should note that offers are usually made on an individual basis. In addition to high passes in the High School Diploma and the SAT, successful applicants have normally achieved 5s in at least five Advanced Placement Tests in appropriate subjects.
Offers usually require AAA at Advanced Higher Grade.
NB: We recognise that the Scottish secondary school sector is undergoing significant curriculum reform. Please see the University's admissions policy statement on Curriculum for Excellence for information.
In some cases, two Advanced Highers and an additional Higher may be acceptable (eg 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 seek advice from the College to which they are considering applying as early as possible.
For advice about suitable subject choices see course requirements. Please note that for these purposes, Highers will satisfy AS Level subject requirements, and Advanced Highers will satisfy A Level subject requirements.
If you're studying towards a Scottish Baccalaureate qualification, you're expected to offer three Advanced Highers as part of it.
Sixth Term Examination Papers in Mathematics (STEP)
STEP Mathematics is used as part of almost all conditional offers for Mathematics and Computer Science with Mathematics. Some Colleges also include STEP in conditional offers for other courses which require strong mathematical ability.
Taken immediately after the A Level examination period (in June), STEP is used to assess applicants' aptitude for university study in mathematical subjects. The papers are based on material that is common to the core syllabus of A Level Mathematics and so require no further knowledge. The questions are designed to test qualities such as insight, originality, and the ability to use standard techniques in unusual ways and situations.
Further information and guidance is given on the STEP page.
VCE A Levels, Applied A Levels, GNVQs and BTECs do not provide an appropriate preparation for most Cambridge courses, where the emphasis is more academic than vocational. As such, these qualifications cannot, unless otherwise stated, be used to replace the 'essential' and 'highly desirable' A Level subjects listed for each course.
However, if the 'essential' and 'highly desirable' subjects are covered, a six unit VCE or Applied A Level could be taken instead of a third A Level or as an additional fourth broadening subject. This combination of A Levels and VCE or other qualifications may be acceptable for some courses.
Potential applicants taking these qualifications are advised to seek further advice from a College Admissions Tutor as early as possible.
Applicants taking the Advanced Diploma in the Welsh Baccalaureate are expected to have studied three subjects at A Level as part of their qualification. Offers are conditional on achievement in the A Levels within the qualification rather than the overall Baccalaureate award (see AS and A Levels guidance above).
We're happy to consider applicants who are taking a combination of qualifications from different examination systems, such as Scottish Advanced Highers and A Levels, providing that the individual qualifications are acceptable and any subject requirements are met.
Conditional offers are made on a case-by-case basis but will normally be in line with the typical offers made when the qualifications are taken on their own.
If the qualification you're taking isn't listed here, please see our international students section for country-specific information. Whatever system you’re being educated in, Cambridge requires top grades in the highest level qualifications available for school/college students.
It’s a good idea to contact the admissions office of the College(s) you're considering applying to (or the Cambridge Admissions Office) at an early stage to check that the qualification you’re taking provides an appropriate preparation for the course you hope to study.