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Millie’s UK University Spotlight: Next Stop, Cambridge!

Millie’s UK University Spotlight: Next Stop, Cambridge!

Article written and edited by Yadavi Madani.

Whether you’re drawn to Cambridge for its academic rigour, stunning architecture, or simply because you’re longing to take a punt along the River Cam, the University of Cambridge is one of the most prestigious and sought-after universities in the world.

General Information

The University of Cambridge is situated on the River Cam in the southeast of England and boasts incredible scenery enjoyed by students and tourists alike. Cambridge ranks second in the UK (Complete University Guide) and third worldwide (Top Universities), making it an exceptional choice for top students. This is evidenced by its impressive list of alumni, which includes Sir Isaac Newton, Zadie Smith, Ian McKellen, and Diane Abbott. Founded in 1209, the University of Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world. Like the University of Oxford, Cambridge offers a more personalised teaching style, with each student attending “supervisions” – small discussion groups of between one to three students – to more deeply explore lecture subjects. The university also uses a collegiate system, which helps to create a sense of family while students are away from home.

Cambridge offers 30 undergraduate courses, ranging from Architecture to Veterinary Medicine. Below is some further information about three of its top-ranked majors, and the grade requirements for each:

Engineering – Ranked #1

  • IB: 40-42 points with 776 at Higher Level including Maths (Analysis and Approaches) and Physics
  • A-Levels: A*A*A including Maths and Physics
  • AP: 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 including Calculus BC and Physics C

Law – Ranked #2

  • IB: 40-42 points with 776 at Higher Level (one Higher Level in an essay-based subject))
  • A-Levels: A*AA (one in an essay-based subject)
  • AP: 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 or more

Natural Sciences – Ranked #1

  • IB: 40-42 points with 776 at Higher Level including Maths (Analysis and Approaches) and Biology, Chemistry or Physics
  • A-Levels: A*A*A including Maths and Biology, Chemistry or Physics
  • AP: 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 including Calculus BC and a Natural Science

Only at Cambridge

Like what you’ve heard so far about the University of Cambridge? Fantastic! Read on for some more things that make it truly unique.

#1 – Colleges

Cambridge uses a collegiate system. It has 31 colleges, each with its own distinct atmosphere and quirks, including hosting the famous May Ball with themes ranging from “The Roaring Twenties” to “A Midsummer Dream”.

Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find your perfect college! Here’s a quick taster on a few of the colleges:

  • Christ’s College: Established in 1437, Christ’s College is the Goldilocks of colleges - not too big, not too small, but just right with a capacity of around 450 undergraduate students! It's sociable without being overwhelming. Academically, it ranks first on the Tompkins Table, a system used to rank the performance of undergraduate students in each college. While this added pressure can make the exam period a bit intense, the college's quaint gardens and central location provide more than enough places to relax with friends.
  • King’s College: If you've ever seen a picture of Cambridge, chances are it was of the iconic King’s College chapel. Established in 1441, the college accommodates approximately 400 undergraduate students and ranks twelfth on the Tompkins Table. One downside is that many tourists are attracted to the picturesque chapel, but the college boasts a friendly atmosphere and plenty of options for you to meet up with friends close to your accommodation.
  • Trinity College: This college, established in 1546, houses about 600 undergraduate students. It can be a bit overwhelming due to its size, but it means you will have ample opportunities to find like-minded friends. Trinity also ranks highly on the Tompkins Table, coming in second, which can make the environment quite competitive during the exam period. However, the college hosts the largest May Ball, so once you survive the stress of exams, there's a fantastic treat waiting for you!

Whether you want a college large or small, competitive or sociable, you’ll be sure to find your dream college! Use this Cambridge College Finder to see which college is right for you.

#2 – Your personal statement

"There’s no blueprint for an ideal Cambridge student."

When applying to Cambridge or Oxford, your personal statement will look very different from those of students applying to non-Oxbridge universities. Around 80% of your personal statement should focus on extracurricular reading you've undertaken related to your chosen major and the impact it had on you. However, merely listing 20 books you've read won't suffice. You should delve deeply into about three books that truly enlightened you and provided a fresh perspective, demonstrating to the admissions team your genuine passion for the subject and your keenness to learn more – precisely what Cambridge seeks! Remember, there's no blueprint for an ideal Cambridge student.

#3 – Cambridge Assessment

The Cambridge Assessment is the first step in the application process. This test allows students to demonstrate their potential for success in an equitable manner. Depending on the major you choose, you may need to complete one or more entry examinations, either before the interview or during it. Some of the pre-interview admissions tests and their corresponding courses include:

  • ECAA (Economics Admissions Assessment) - Economics
  • ELAT (English Literature Admissions Test) - English
  • TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment) - Land Economy
  • BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) - Medicine
  • NSAA (Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment) - Natural Sciences
  • TMUA (Test of Mathematics for University Admission) - Computer Science

“The test allows students to demonstrate their potential for success in an equitable manner.”

Additionally, all colleges will require an admissions test at the interview stage for the following courses:

  • Archaeology
  • Architecture
  • Classics
  • History and Modern Languages
  • History of Art
  • Law
  • Linguistics
  • Modern and Medieval Languages (MML)
  • Philosophy
  • Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion

You can find more information about the Cambridge Assessment in our Millie’s Guide!

#4 – The Interview

Finally... the interview (panic intensifies). While the Cambridge Interview may seem daunting, it's there to assess your academic potential and determine if you'll benefit from Cambridge's more hands-on, personalised learning environment. If you're the right fit, then you have nothing to worry about! Remember, the interviewer is NOT trying to catch you out; they simply want you to apply your existing knowledge to an unfamiliar situation. Interviews usually take place during the first three weeks of December, so you'll have plenty of time to prepare by practicing discussing your major with friends or family and answering questions on the spot. The interview aims to see if you'll excel at Cambridge; you might be a better fit for a different learning environment, and that's okay too!

"Remember, the interviewer is NOT trying to catch you out; all they want you to do is apply your existing knowledge to an unfamiliar situation."

No way… that can’t be true!

Aside from its impressive architecture and prestigious standing, there are lots of quirks that make the University of Cambridge truly special!

Did you know...

  • Many Cambridge students enjoy punting? And before you ask, not the Superbowl kind! Punting is a type of boating where you push a small boat along a river using a long pole – a slightly eccentric and much-loved hobby of Cambridge students!
  • Lord Byron kept a live bear in his room during his stay at Cambridge in retaliation for not being allowed to keep a dog in his accommodation? Talk about noisy pets!
  • The head of Oliver Cromwell, the English general who helped overthrow the Stuart monarchy in the 17th Century, is buried in a secret location at Cambridge?
  • Football/soccer as we know it today has its origins in Cambridge? The first official game of football using the “Cambridge Rules” was played in 1848 on Parker’s Piece, and formed the basis of the Football Association’s rules created in 1863!

So, fancy a lazy river punt or a magical night at the May Ball? Maybe the University of Cambridge is the one for you! Don’t forget to sign yourself up for a free Millie consultation to plan your next steps!