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.
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. Whatever system you're being educated in, Cambridge requires top grades in the highest level qualifications available for school students.
For specific requirements and subject preferences for each course, see course requirements.
If your first language isn't English, see also our English language requirements.
Cambridge applicants are usually studying four or five AS Levels in Year 12 and we normally expect good A grades in relevant subjects. 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 go on to study three or four A Level subjects. For advice about suitable subject choices see our course requirements section.
The typical conditional A Level offer for 2014 entry will be A*AA (some applicants may be set lower offers or more challenging ones, eg to achieve more than one A*). Applicants may be required to achieve the A* in a particular subject 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. Similarly Key Skills and General Studies are not required or included in academic assessment.
For further information read our facts about GCSE and AS/A Level requirement.
Applicants are expected to achieve the Access to HE Diploma with Distinctions in all relevant subject units. In most instances, an Access to HE Diploma alone is not sufficient preparation to study a Science subject at the University of Cambridge. If you are taking, or planning to take, an Access course with a view to applying to Cambridge to study a Science subject we encourage you to make contact with your College of choice to further discuss. An Access to HE Diploma – with distinction grades in all units – can be acceptable preparation for most Arts subjects at the University of Cambridge. Some subjects may have additional academic requirements, and we would again encourage you to 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 & 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 (telephone: 01223 333315; email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Only the Advanced Diplomas in Engineering, in Manufacturing and Product Design, and in Environmental and Land-based Studies provide appropriate preparation for certain Cambridge courses, and are acceptable for entry as detailed below:
- the Advanced Diplomas in Engineering and in Manufacturing and Product Design are acceptable for Engineering as long as you have taken specified options within the Additional Specialist Learning component.
- the Advanced Diploma in Environmental and Land-based Studies is acceptable for Geography, Land Economy 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 and Land Economy are more flexible.
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.
We welcome the introduction of the Extended Project and would encourage applicants to undertake one, as it will help to develop independent study and research skills, which will ease the transition from school/college to higher education. However, completion of an Extended Project won't be a requirement of any offer made.
GCSE results are looked at as a performance indicator, but within the context of the school/college performance.
It is generally expected that applicants will have 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 the Higher Level subjects. For advice about suitable subject choices see course requirements.
Please note that for these purposes, Standard Level subjects are broadly comparable to AS Levels, and Higher Level subjects to A Levels.
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 will usually require AAA at Advanced Higher Grade. 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.
Please note that for these purposes, Highers are broadly comparable to AS Level subjects, and Advanced Highers to A Levels.
If you're studying towards a Scottish Baccalaureate qualification you're expected to offer three Advanced Highers as part of it.
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. 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/or BTECs are not 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.
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/A Levels guidance above).
Other international qualifications entrance requirements
If the qualification you're taking isn't listed here, please see our international students section for country-specific information.
If you are taking any other examination system, it is a good idea to contact the admissions office of the College you're considering applying to (or the Cambridge Admissions Office) at an early stage to check that it provides an appropriate preparation for the course you hope to study.
Applicants studying for a mixture of qualifications
We're happy to consider applicants 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.