extension Programme


At the heart of St Andrew’s College Cambridge is a commitment to help every student achieve their full potential.

Our most gifted and ambitious students are unsurprisingly aiming to progress on to the world’s best universities and most challenging careers. The Extension & Enrichment Programme is aimed at converting those ambitions into reality.

Over the last decade Oxford, Cambridge & the UK’s other Top Universities have changed their student recruitment process to focus on three key areas:

  • Academic Results
  • Depth of Knowledge 
  • Breadth of Knowledge

G5 Universities want to see that their students have the academic ability to succeed in their degrees, interest and knowledge in their chosen course, and a wider understanding of how that knowledge can be used logically and in practical situations.

The Extension & Enrichment Programme has been designed with the above in mind.

Over two years the Extension Programme builds on St Andrew’s world class teaching & Extra-Curricular Opportunities, providing the ‘polish’ required to not only gain entry to Oxford, Cambridge & other top universities but to succeed on those chosen courses and future careers. Every student has a unique Extension Programme, designed to nurture individual strengths and improve upon weaknesses.

The Enrichment Programme aims to widen students’ knowledge. Half termly seminars and lectures on a diverse range of academic, social, economic & political topics encourages students to think outside the box, widening their understanding of the world around them. The Enrichment Programme also provides opportunities for students to meet leading professionals in a wide array of careers and academic fields; helping students successfully plan for their futures.

Together the Extension & Enrichment Programme allows students to prepare at a sustainable pace for the challenges of UCAS Applications, Interviews, and Entry Tests.

Students who are invited to progress on to Entry Tests & Interviews (particularly for Oxbridge & Medicine) move on to The Extension Plus programme. Designed by Cambridge University Students & current Cambridge University Professors the programme provides students with all the tools needed to win a place at Oxford or Cambridge University.


Wayne Marshall

Principal, St Andrew’s College Cambridge


‘I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.’

Thomas Jefferson

Our Academic Ethos:

At the centre of St Andrew’s culture is our dedication to quality academic teaching. Classes are small, with individual attention directed at encouraging students’ strengths and improving upon any weakness. A sense of pace and purpose pervades academic life at St Andrew’s.

Our pupils and teachers love to challenge and be challenged. Every lesson comprises of the broadening of academic horizons; lessons buzz with discussion, debate and determination. The pace and quality of the academic experience and intellectual development make the St Andrew’s experience distinctive. Pupils with potential thrive on this challenge, and with our help and guidance go on to achieve extraordinary results.

Lessons & Syllabus:

The years spent at St Andrew’s form an important transition for students between the formal, directed learning of middle-school and the more liberal and individual experience of a university education. It is a time for growing maturity and independence within a guided framework of the school. All A-Level pupils are expected to take on more responsibility for their own progress and personal organisation and the opportunities of study and co-curricular activities also increase.

‘Our approach to learning is based on teaching in small groups:

On average A-level classes at St Andrew’s College consists of just four students.’

All students follow four academic courses in first year reducing to three courses in year two of A. Students wishing to take both Mathematics and Further Mathematics together with two other A Level subjects will be able to do so. In certain circumstances, there could be the opportunity for a student to take all four 1st year A Level subjects to the second year.

Each of the subjects offered is of equal status and validity and an extensive range of subject combinations is possible. Students are able to choose their subjects freely and there are no restrictions put on the combinations they choose. Students have the chance to specialise in subjects they particularly enjoy or begin afresh with a subject not studied before so the decision about the choices of A level subjects is very important. Students are offered extensive access to advice and materials to help them make realistic and achievable decisions and they are encouraged to make extensive use of these resources.

For most students the chance to specialise in those subjects they most enjoy or begin afresh with a subject they have not studied before, is a very exciting and positive one.

If people knew how hard I worked to achieve my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all’

Applying to Oxford or Cambridge (Oxbridge) is a considerable undertaking and can add significant pressure on to your last year of school. All students should be aware of the extra work load, and the distinct possibility of not gaining a place at Oxford or Cambridge.

Oxford and Cambridge are not the only universities that will lead to a successful career, nor are they the best universities for every subject. It is important that students keep an open and realistic mindset during the University Application process. Every year some of the best candidates fail to win places at Oxford or Cambridge University and still go on to achieve remarkable success in their chosen paths and careers.

Is Oxford or Cambridge the right University for me?

It is worth considering the following points before setting your sights on winning a place at Oxford or Cambridge:

Cambridge & Oxford will only accept students with top academic results:

  • Only 20% of applicants successfully obtain a place at Oxbridge
  • 90% of successful applicants to Oxford achieve a minimum of A*AA at A-Level
  • 40% of successful applicants to Oxford achieve A*A*A* or better at A-Level
  • 97% of successful applicants to Cambridge achieve a minimum of A*AA at A-Level
  • 60% of successful applicants to Cambridge achieve A*A*A* or better at A-Level

Students applying to Oxbridge will usually need to sit additional tests, submit written work, and attend an interview.

Studying at Oxford & Cambridge can be an intense, stressful and pressurised experience.

There is no set formula to gaining a place at Oxford or Cambridge University. Successful applications contain:

  • Hard-work
  • Determination
  • Excellent Grades
  • In depth subject knowledge
  • Luck

No school can promise you a place at Oxford or Cambridge, however at St Andrew’s we firmly believe that we provide all the support necessary for your application to stand out and impress.

Students who are aiming for admission to Oxbridge or G5 Universities are invited to join the Extension & Enrichment Programme. The Programme has been designed to maximise your chances of a successful application.

Understanding the application process is one of the most important aspects of successfully applying to Oxbridge & G5 Universities. Below is a detailed Timetable & Checklist of the key moments in the application process:

Year 11All yearWork hard to achieve the best possible GCSEs/ Equivalent – you need A/A* grades for Oxbridge
Year 11SummerFinalise your A level options, bearing in mind that you need to achieve high grades and that Oxbridge prefer the facilitating (traditional academic) subjects 
Year 12JanuaryChoose your degree course
Year 12January onwardsRead extensively about your chosen subject, making notes as you do so
Year 12January onwardsFor vocational courses in particular, organise relevant work experience
Year 12JuneSit AS examinations, or internal end of year 12 examinations  
Year 12JuneStart drafting personal statement  
Year 12  June/JulyAttend Oxford and Cambridge Open Days, decide where to apply  
Year 12August Start to complete UCAS form  
Year 13SeptemberFinalise personal statement and UCAS form
Year 13SeptemberRegister for admissions tests
Year 13OctoberSend application  
Year 13OctoberCambridge applicants only: complete supplementary application questionnaire  
Year 13October/NovemberPrepare for interviews and entrance tests  
Year 13NovemberReceive notification of invitation to interview
Year 13NovemberSubmit examples of written work, if required  
Year 13NovemberSit pre-interview admissions tests, if required  
Year 13DecemberAttend interview (including sitting at-interview admissions tests, if required)
Year 13JanuaryReceive decision from Oxbridge  
Year 13MarchReceive decision from all other universities  
Year 13MayRespond to universities on UCAS, indicating firm and insurance choices  
Year 13JuneTake A level examinations  

Though the above can look intimidating you will be guided and supported at every step of the application process. At St Andrew’s we understand that successful applications begin from the moment you join the college, allowing the maximum possible time to prepare and improve.

Before you join St Andrew’s have a look at the next tab ‘Early Preparation’ that offers advice on what you can be doing now. Starting early, at a manageable and sustainable pace, is one of the secrets to successful applications.

A Level students can select a subject from each column below to make their subject choices

For subjects marked * you need a minimum IELTS score of 6.0. If you plan to start a course in January, we recommend taking only 3 subjects and choosing those from the first 3 columns.

BusinessBusinessBusinessFurther Maths
Art (Fine Art)EconomicsEconomicsEconomics
PhysicsPsychology*PhysicsArt (Fine Art)
ChemistryHistory*ChemistryArt (Textiles/Fashion)
BiologyEnglish Literature*BiologyDigital Photography
Law*Digital PhotographyAccountingPhysics
English Literature*Film StudiesFurther MathsChemistry
SpanishItalianDigital PhotographyAccounting
ItalianRussianFilm StudiesLaw*
ChineseMedia StudiesGermanFrench

‘The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think’

Albert Einstein

Successful applicants to Oxford and Cambridge have a broadrange of knowledge across many subject areas. The Enrichment programme aims to:

  • Expose students to new ideas
  • Help students to understand their subjects in a wider context
  • Inform students about future careers and pathways

The Enrichment Programme is open to all students and is based on lectures given by eminent guests on a wide range of topics and includes discussion periods in mixed seminar groups.

The Enrichment Programme Lecture Series is a well-established programme of talks, arranged especially for our students, designed to engage and inform their interest in a wide range of topics. It is a wonderful opportunity for students to be exposed to a range of highly prestigious speakers from a variety of backgrounds and academic disciplines. The Lecture Series allows students to engage with subject areas that they may no longer be studying and to have the opportunity to hear from academics and commentators of the highest calibre. Inspirational speakers are a wonderful way of allowing our students to see just what can be achieved in so many different fields and of encouraging them to think that anything is possible with enough passion and dedication. Inspiration and aspiration go hand in hand! 

‘An Investment in knowledge pays the best dividends.’

Benjamin Franklin

The Extension Programme is personally overseen by Mr. Marshall (Principal of St Andrew’s College Cambridge). The programme is a uniquely designed to help international students win places at Oxford, Cambridge & G5 Universities.

Designed by an array of Cambridge & Oxford Students, Professors & Admissions Staff the Extension Programme provides one-on-one tutorials focusing on five crucial aspects of your application:

  • Academic Performance
  • Subject knowledge
  • UCAS Applications
  • Entry Tests
  • Interview Preparation

Our Extension Programme tutors are all current Finalist or Graduate Students at Oxford & Cambridge University. Every tutor is carefully selected and goes through a rigorous interview process ensuring they are the perfect choice to be guiding St Andrew’s Students on their chosen paths.

Information about the Extension Programme Tutors & Subjects can be found in the next section.

Extension Programme – Year One

The Extension Programmes begins during your third-week (mid-September) of St Andrew’s. At the first meeting you’ll have the opportunity to listen and speak to all the Extension Tutors. The initial meeting provides the opportunity to make an informed choice about degree & university options.

After the initial open meeting you’ll be paired with an Extension Tutor and commence weekly one-on-one sessions and group seminars. Year One tutorials focus on expanding your chosen subject knowledge and understanding, as well as working on content for your UCAS Personal Statement.

Your Extension Tutor will provide guidance and support in a variety of areas to ensure that when it comes to applying to your chosen university you are in the strongest possible position:

  • Choosing your degree
  • Wider Reading
  • Essay Competition & Prizes
  • Work Experience
  • Extended Project
  • University & Oxbridge College Choice
  • Personal Statement
  • Academic Excellence

“We’re looking for students who are intelligent – very interested in their subject and who can demonstrate their interest”

Mike Nicholson – Oxford University, Head of Undergraduate Admissions

Choosing your degree:

When:Year 12
Do:Research the subject thoroughly, consider your plans or career post-university, ask for help & talk to your tutor, ensure that your A-Levels align with your degree choice.
Don’t:Allow your choice to be influenced by what your friends are taking, make decisions based on admissions statistics.

The first step in applying to university is to choose what you would like to read as an undergraduate. Subjects change a lot at different levels: GCSE is very different to A level and as you progress to university, what you learn and how you learn it will differ enormously again. Many careers and jobs do not require students to have completed a particular degree; simply being a graduate is sufficient. However, there are some roles that will require graduates from a specific discipline so if you have a future career in mind then ensure that your degree is going to enable you to work in this field. Never choose a degree based purely on how hard/ easy it is to get into Oxford or Cambridge.

During your first term at St Andrew’s your Personal Tutor & Extension Tutor will give you lots of advice to help you make an informed decision.

Wider Reading:

When: Year 12, January onwards (two years before you intend to begin university)
Do:Seek advice from tutors, be a reflective reader and make notes as you learn, enjoy the process and only read what interests you.
Don’t:Try to get through as many books as possible- quality is more important than quantity. Allow extended reading to distract from your grades.

Unlike other universities the admission decisions at Oxford & Cambridge are made by Academic Teaching Staff not a separate admissions department. Oxbridge are looking for intellectually curious students who are genuinely passionate about their area of interest. A way to demonstrate this to admissions tutors is by reading beyond the A level syllabus.

Your Extension Tutor will provide you with weekly reading and other sources of inspiration. Before each Extension Tutorial you will be asked to read a number of different texts to discuss in your tutorial. Your Extension Tutor will also provide you with a comprehensive reading list. You should manage this reading list at your own pace. Many students make the mistake of trying to read ‘everything’ rather than picking and choosing and gaining an understating of what they are reading. Alongside more academic reading all serious A-level students should also be reading a ‘good quality’ daily newspaper such as the Times, Telegraph or Guardian.

Over the course of Year One you’ll be taught how to approach academic material, to read reflectively, and to formulate your own opinions.

Essay Competitions & Prizes:

When: Year 12, January onwards (two years before you intend to begin university)
Why: Essay Competitions offer a great way to stand out on your personal statement, as well as providing good talking points for your interview.

Universities, Oxbridge Colleges, and other institutions run Essay Prizes. Your Extension Tutor will help you select several different competitions to enter. Competitions provide excellent platforms to focus your further reading, and to provide talking points at interview.

Work Experience

When:Throughout the year before you apply to university (usually during year 12)
Do:Try to get varied experience in more than one place especially if you are applying for a vocational course, keep notes about the experience 
Don’t:Dismiss anything as “irrelevant”: there will be transferrable skills from everything you do

For some courses, such as law or medicine, relevant work experience is essential. Try to shadow a professional in your field of interest, learning more from them about what their job involves and taking the opportunity to develop your understanding of that line of work. Other types of work experience can also be very valuable to an application, even if at first glance they appear less impressive. Shadowing a surgeon would certainly be a glamorous way for a prospective doctor to spend a week but just as important would be the two months over summer that student spent working in a home for the elderly, demonstrating patience, care and a willingness to ‘get their hands dirty’. Students who have a part time job in a shop during their A levels show reliability, capacity for organisation and time-management.  Consider the key skills required for undergraduate success against the work you have done and, when it comes to writing your personal statement or explaining more at interview, you will be able to explain the relevant attributes you have through concrete examples.

College & University Choices

When: in the summer of year 12 (to attend an Open Day) 
Do: attend open days, research thoroughly
Don’t: form opinions based on hearsay

Undergraduates cannot apply to Oxford and Cambridge at the same time so you will need to choose between the two; you may find our advice article how to choose between Oxford and Cambridge helpful. Students are strongly advised to attend Open Days to learn more about all of the universities they are considering, where this is feasible. Cambridge Open Days are in July and Oxford in June or September. Students who intend to progress directly to university after school (or apply for deferred entry) will need to attend an Open Day in the summer of year 12, allowing them to make a decision about where to apply in advance of the UCAS deadline in October.

Oxford and Cambridge are unusual in that they are collegiate universities. This means that, as well as choosing which university you would like to apply to, you also need to pick a college at that university. Different colleges have different characteristics so it is worth investigating which might suit you best (again, visit where possible). Some are located nearer to particular university faculty buildings than others, some are renowned for a particular subject or sport and some are women-only. If you cannot decide which college to apply to then it is possible to submit an open application, meaning that the admissions board will allocate you a college.

Personal Statement

When: submit a year before you intend to start university, start drafting personal statement in June
Do: plan it carefully and seek advice
Don’t: copy something you have found online

Your personal statement needs to convince an Oxford or Cambridge admissions tutor that you are worth meeting for an interview. Start working on it in the summer between years 12 and 13 (if you plan to go to university straight after year 13). You only have 4,000 characters so you need to take the time to plan carefully what to include and how to include it as concisely as possible. Inevitably, the first draft of your personal statement will be too long! Once you have this draft, it is a good idea to seek advice from others about what reads well, what could be cut without detriment to your application, what should be expanded upon and whether anything is missing. Continue to re-draft your personal statement as many times as you need to until it is perfect. It is a good idea as a final step to ask someone to proof it for spelling or grammar errors, which you may find hard to spot yourself due to your familiarity with the work. Bear in mind that although the official UCAS deadline for Oxbridge applicants is 15th October, in practice you will be required to submit your application earlier as your school needs time to complete your reference and grade predictions before sending it on.

Personal statements are a key part of UCAS applications. At St Andrew’s we aim to ensure that students are given every means of support possible throughout the application process resulting in applications that impress prospective universities.

Personal statements are a chance for students to show Oxford & Cambridge University their ability and enthusiasm for their chosen course. They also form an important part of the interview process. It should be expected that an interviewer will ask several questions related to the personal statement. Students should aim to be writing about topics they will be comfortable discussing at interview.

The Extension Programme provides this support from the start of a student’s time at St Andrew’s. Building their subject knowledge, wider reading, and academic rigour. This allows a student (by the time of applications) to have a wide variety of in-depth academic knowledge to draw upon for their personal statement, and subsequent interviews.

Below is an example personal statement first draft from a student applying to Oxford for Politics, Philosophy, & Economics. The student’s Extension Tutors (Third Year Cambridge Economics student & Third Year Oxford PPE student) & St Andrew’s Personal Statement Tutor have guided the student in several key areas:

  • Academic Knowledge
  • Depth of Knowledge in Philosophy, Politics & Economics
  • Breadth of Knowledge in how & why this subject is important
  • Corrected use of English

A student’s personal statement is their own work! However, you will notice the difference between the two drafts; highlighting that with a little extra guidance the student’s ability, enthusiasm and academic knowledge is more precise and clearer to a prospective university.

Comparing First & Final Drafts

First Draft &Comments

I am passionate about Politics. Philosophy & Economics and have wanted to study the subject from an early age. What fascinates me about PPE is that it takes an interdisciplinary approach to looking at the world. It is only through such an approach that the most salient and controversial issues of our times can be analysed and indeed solved.

This is ok for an opening section, however there is nothing that stands out about the opening section. Students should also be careful about using ‘generic’ words. Phrases such as ‘I’m passionate about economics’ weakens personal statements. Students should concentrate on their individual experiences and personal reasons for wanting to study a subject.

It was my passion for Economics that led me to look into the course. I realised that Economics and Politics are closely-intertwined in action from study of government interventions in markets, global trade etc. Hence, I think in order to implement economic theories and models in the real word, it is necessary to establish a good understanding of Politics.

This second paragraph is a good starting point but fails to develop into anything more. Although the student gives examples e.g., ‘government interventions in markets’, there is no elaboration. The student fails to show that they have broader academic knowledge. In this paragraph examples of current events & economic models would improve the paragraph.

Also, I am interested in thought-provoking philosophical issues such as the logic behind Buddhism. Therefore, PPE is the ideal course for my pursuit.

This is one of the weakest sections of the personal statement. Once again there is no development of ideas or examples. Personal Statements should be viewed as an opportunity to showcase strengths not to cover weaknesses.

Final Draft

‘What fascinates me about PPE is that it takes an interdisciplinary approach to looking at the world. It is only through such a comprehensive approach that the most salient and controversial issues can be analysed and solved. It was my interest in Economics that led me to investigate the course. I am particularly intrigued by behavioural economics. I have come to realise – particularly from studies of government interventions in markets – that in practice, economics and politics are closely intertwined. Moreover, I believe that philosophy plays a significant role in shaping people’s mindsets in different societies. Hence it is necessary to establish a good understanding of each of philosophy, politics and economics in order to better understand all three disciplines.’

My selection of A-Level subjects, which are Economics, History and Mathematics, will aid me in the future study of PPE.

 My proficiency in Maths enables me to grasp the key information from quantitative data rapidly. My writing skills, critical thinking and the ability to construct arguments have been honed through History study. Meanwhile, I keep up to date about what’s going on in the world. News and discussion stimulate me to listen to others’ perspectives while building up my own point of view.

I believe that my international background is a real strength and gives me an open, objective outlook much suited to the PPE course. My experience in two very different societies under two very different systems is readily applicable in a social setting.

Learning should not exclusively be confined to what is taught at school. Observation of the surrounding environment and experience gained through extracurricular activities are also important sources of learning for me. I volunteered in the Liangshan Yi Prefecture, one of the poorest regions in China, for ten days in July. Here I encountered families of more than five people living in shacks made of clay and yet also witnessed how so many underprivileged children have been transformed by schooling. It helped cement in my mind the critical economic link between infrastructure, namely education, and development.

During the summer, I participated in an essay competition held by the John Locke Institute under the Economics category. I wrote on the topic of US trade, arguing that President Donald Trump should reform US trade policy because the adoption of protectionist measures would hurt the US economy more than its counterparts in this world of globalisation. The process of doing my own research and writing an extended essay allowed me to develop my evaluative skills and work on presenting a clear argument.

Final Version

What fascinates me about PPE is that it takes an interdisciplinary approach to looking at the world. It is only through such a comprehensive approach that the most salient and controversial issues can be analysed and solved. It was my interest in Economics that led me to investigate the course. I am particularly intrigued by behavioural economics. I have come to realise – particularly from studies of government interventions in markets – that in practice, economics and politics are closely intertwined. Moreover, I believe that philosophy plays a significant role in shaping people’s mindsets in different societies. Hence it is necessary to establish a good understanding of each of philosophy, politics and economics in order to better understand all three disciplines.

I keep a close eye on economic and political issues. During the summer, I participated in an economics essay competition on US trade policy held by the John Locke Institute. I argued that the trend of globalisation is unstoppable hence President Trump’s protectionist ‘tariff war’ to reduce the US trade deficit with China would hurt the US economy more than its counterparts, sowing uncertainty in the global market. Tariffs imposed on Chinese exports to America, including daily necessities, will be passed on to American consumers and they will suffer from the increased financial burden of higher prices. Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs have hurt American farmers who export agricultural products, especially soybeans. The hit on US farmers who helped vote in Trump as president will potentially negatively impact on his 2020 election. In order to help see the bigger picture, I constructed my argument by reading articles and journals from both sides, such as The Wall Street Journal and China Daily. My overarching conclusion was that political motives outweigh economic triggers in this area.

The ongoing protests in Hong Kong (HK) are of great interest. Escalating violent protests have a negative impact on the HK economy, particularly in the areas of finance and tourism. The unstable situation has prevented many tourists and investors from conducting economic activities there. Tim Harford argued in The Undercover Economist that connections between mainland China and Hong Kong had made China’s international economic engagement smoother and more effective in the 1980s, the period of China’s economic reforms. However, with the rise of its immediate neighbour, Shenzhen, Hong Kong has arguably become a less strategically important place for China. I found that the West has questioned the effectiveness of ‘one country, two systems’ and focused on discussing the independence of HK, while the Chinese media emphasises the foreign influence in Hong Kong and detrimental effects of some violent protesters’ breach of law and order.

To broaden my knowledge of Philosophy, I attended a talk on the topic of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem. Although it was for people who already have a philosophical foundation, the talk piqued my curiosity in the subject. I look forward to exploring many more such complex ideas alongside learning about logic, for example. Experience gained through extracurricular activities is also an important source of learning for me. I volunteered in the Liangshan Yi Prefecture, one of the poorest regions in China, for ten days in July. Here, I encountered large families living in shacks made of clay and yet also witnessed how so many underprivileged children have been transformed by schooling. It helped cement in my mind the critical economic link between infrastructure, education and development.

I look forward to studying PPE at university. I believe that my international background is a real strength and gives me an open, objective outlook suited to the course. Later, I hope to become a diplomat, using what I have learnt to make positive contributions to the global community. I believe studying PPE at university is the first step towards making this goal a reality.

Academic Excellence & Year 12 Results:

The recent UK educational reform has changed the nature of AS levels. Previously taken halfway through a two-year A level course, they were a useful indicator to university admissions tutors about student aptitude. The reform has meant that students are not required to take any examinations until the end of year 13 but does not mean that performance in year 12 is now irrelevant to an application. Dr Sam Lucy, Director of Admissions for the Cambridge Colleges, has specifically stated that the university will consider information about student performance in year 12 when reviewing a student’s application as a whole. Students will either submit their UCAS form with AS level grades or, if no AS level has been taken, the student’s referee is asked to include detail about performance in internal examinations as part of their reference. It is very important, therefore, that you work hard and achieve your potential in whatever assessments you face for the full duration of your A level study.

St Andrew’s provides world-class teaching, Extension Programme students receive extra tuition in their weakest subject from their A-Level Teachers as well as opportunities to ask their Extension Tutors for any help regarding topics they are struggling with.

  • Average Class Size: 4 Students
  • Extra Tuition in weak subjects from your teachers
  • Concentrated help in weak topics from Extension Tutors

Remember, the first, and most important aspect of gaining entry into Oxford, Cambridge & G5 Universities are your exam results.

Year Two

 ‘Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.’

Malcolm X

Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ)

When: Submit the SAQ by 22nd October (Cambridge applicants only)
Do: Take the questionnaire as seriously as you took your UCAS form
Don’t: panic

The University of Cambridge require applicants to complete a supplementary application questionnaire (SAQ) to allow them to learn more about students than the UCAS form will allow. If you apply to Cambridge, then once your UCAS application is submitted you will receive an email with further details about the SAQ, which you must submit by 22nd October. Although this does not seem like long, it is sufficient as long as you get to work straight away and allow enough time to seek advice and re-draft, just like you did with your personal statement. Remember that every Cambridge applicant that year is subject to the same time constraints and do not worry.


‘The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.’

Brian Herbert

When: Register the pre-interview admission tests by 15 October
Do: Register in good time
Don’t: Think you cannot prepare

Oxford and Cambridge require many students to take admissions tests as part of the application process. You must register to take these tests by 15 October at the latest (earlier for some). Usually, you will sit these tests at your school in very early November or late October. For more details about the tests at Oxford, visit this page. For more details about the Cambridge tests, visit this page. There are example tests online and your school might also be able to give you some tips on what to expect and how to prepare. 

Written work

When: Submit examples of written work (if required) in November
Do: Ask your school for help, keep a copy of what you submit
Don’t: Leave this to the last minute

For some courses, usually the arts/humanities/social science subjects, Oxford and Cambridge will ask applicants to submit examples of their written work. If this is required then once your UCAS application has been received, they will contact you directly to explain what they would like and how to submit it. The work will usually be one or two pieces of school work, usually up to a maximum of about 2,000 words long. Oxford requires students to submit this work by 10th November and Cambridge by 3rd November.

If you are asked to submit work, do so in consultation with your tutors who will help you to select work which best demonstrates your strengths. If you are invited to interview, it is likely that your interviewers will discuss this work with you so be prepared to talk about it (and make sure you keep a copy that you can re-read prior to interview).


‘I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.’

Thomas Jefferson


When: Interviews take place in December, after the universities’ first terms
Do: Prepare thoroughly
Don’t: Be intimidated

If your application thus far demonstrates you to be a potential Oxbridge student, you will be invited to interview. The exact format of the interview will depend on the subject. Some students (usually those who have not taken a pre-interview test) will be required to sit a test at interview. As with the pre-interview tests, there are often past papers online or guidelines about what to expect. Do your research before you go and make sure you prepare thoroughly.

Oxford and Cambridge are known for their tutorial approach to teaching, which means that during their degree students will prepare work and will then spend an hour discussing that work with a university academic. At interview, admissions tutors are looking for students who will learn well in this environment, which usually means that students will be engaged with the topic and will try to think deeply about what they are learning, drawing logical conclusions based on what they know. It is possible to practise for an admissions interview at Oxford and Cambridge. The wider reading that you have been doing will have furnished you with information about your chosen subject and you now need to be able to articulate this information as well as your (evidenced) opinion on this. If your school will help arrange a practice interview, then take advantage of this and spend time simply speaking out loud about your subject and becoming more comfortable in discussing it.

Tutors are looking for the best-qualified candidates; people whom they will enjoy teaching and who will make a contribution to their academic department. It’s worth reminding yourself what qualities they are looking for in a student.

Dr Séan Buckley, Oxford graduate and author of Getting into Oxford and Cambridge (2017 Entry)


“The most important investment you can make is in yourself.”

Warren Buffett

‘Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.’



 ‘If I were again beginning my studies, I would follow the advice of Plato and start with Mathematics’

Galelio Galilei


 ‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants’

Isaac Newton


 ‘I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took an excuse’

Florence Nightingale


‘I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.’

Thomas Jefferson