Frequently asked questions

I’ve decided to apply to Cambridge, what should I do first?

Find out everything you can about the department and the subject before choosing a college. The best way to choose a college is to visit Cambridge and take a look around. Don’t worry too much about statistics, getting into Cambridge is tough regardless of the College you choose.  Instead concentrate on what each College has to offer and whether it appeals to you as a place to live and work for three years.

What is a College?

The Colleges are responsible for students' education and welfare and organise the small group teaching (‘supervisions') that make Cambridge so distinctive. Colleges also provide accommodation and are a social focus for undergraduates.  The Colleges are part of the University which also includes Faculties and Departments. The University Faculties and Departments organise lectures, practicals and exams, and it is the University which awards degrees.

Do I need 10 A*s at GCSE to even think about applying?

No. Every year we will turn down some applicants with very good GCSE profiles and will make offers to others whose GCSE profile appears weaker. We make our decisions based on academic potential, which is different from previous achievements and so we look to see where applicants are on a learning curve.

How many subjects should I take?

Taking more than three A2s does not place you at any significant advantage over those applicants 'only' studying three subjects.  We generally look for depth, not simply breadth. This depth can be acquired in different ways. For example, a language, History, Philosophy or Theatre Studies would all provide useful background for an English applicant. However, extensive reading outside what is expected from you at school, rather than simply taking more and more exams, is also a good way to develop depth. 

What subjects should I take?

You should look at our individual subject factsheets and also consult the University Guidance.  Generally speaking, there is more flexibility about subject requirements for Arts degrees than for Science degrees.  Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, Maths, Medicine, Modern Languages and Veterinary Medicine and Natural Sciences all require particular subjects at A2.  We think Further Maths is a good subject to take, not just for Maths but for Engineering, Natural Sciences and Economics as well.

I'm not taking A2s. Does that matter?

We are used to dealing with a variety of qualifications and exam systems.  For IB, we usually set offers at 776 in HL subjects plus total points between 40 and 42 (including TOK and EE).  For Scottish Advanced Highers, we would usually ask for AAA, specifying A1 grades in up to two subjects.  We are also used to dealing with most major International exam systems and can provide details of likely offers on request. University guidance is also available. 

In terms of the necessary subjects, when a subject is listed as 'essential' at A2, we would normally accept the IB equivalent, provided that it is being studied at HL, rather than SL.  In other cases, please contact us to see if your qualifications meet the 'essential' requirements.

For US applicants, Queens' expect you to achieve 5 in at least 5 APs and our general feeling is that, while American applicants are suitably prepared for Arts courses, it's more difficult to acquire the detailed knowledge necessary for Science courses.  Generally speaking, we are looking for the top 1 or 2% in any examination system.

What grades will I need?

Queens' does not have a 'standard' offer.  We always take the individual circumstances of an applicant into consideration when determining offer levels. For candidates taking A-levels we usually make offers at the level of A*AA for Arts subjects (except Economics) and for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences and A*A*A for Science subjects (except Psychological and Behavioural Sciences and for Economics, although we sometimes make offers above this level if the choice is between a tough offer and no offer at all.  

If a candidate has already taken sufficient modules to complete a full A2 in Maths, whether certificated or not, at the point of application, we will normally exclude this from their offer.  This applies not just to applicants for Maths but in all subjects. 

For IB, we usually set offers at 776 in HL subjects plus a points total of 40 or 41 (including TOK and EE). Guidance about offer levels in other exam systems can be found on the Cambridge University website here.

What if English is not my first language?

We have a diverse student body and over 10% of our undergraduates received their secondary education outside the UK.  However, it’s important that all our students have a good standard of English in order to get the most from the fast-paced nature of our undergraduate courses.  Consequently, we need to see evidence of proficiency in English.  We assess this through interview and written work but we typically also ask for a formal English qualification as well. IELTS is our preferred option: we normally ask candidates to achieve a minimum overall grade of 7.5, usually with 7.0 or above in each element. We will not accept TOEFL. Those students who require a visa will need to meet immigration requirements in relation to English as well.  Again, IELTS is the easiest way to do this.

What if I am a student at another University?

Queens' will not normally consider applications from students already at university, whether in the UK or elsewhere, who wish to study the same, or a very similar, subject at Cambridge to that which they are already studying.  Applications from students wishing to  study a different subject will be considered, provided that the application is supported by a current university tutor.

Will I able to take a gap year and still get a place at Queens'?

Yes! We are happy to encourage applicants in all subjects (even Maths!) to either apply for deferred entry or to apply post-A2.  We think that time away from study between school and university offers students the chance to develop, mature and gain experience of the world.

What kind of things do you recommend that I do on a gap year?

We think that there is no one 'right' use of a year out - earning money is just as legitimate as going off to save the world!  We encourage Engineers to keep up their mathematical skills in various ways and to take advantage of the 'Year in Industry' scheme.

I won't be 18 by the time I start. Can I still apply?

We encourage all applicants, regardless of age, to think about the benefits of a year out. The vast majority of our students are 18 when they commence their Cambridge course. The College routinely accepts students who will be 18 by the end of their first term in Cambridge (in practice 1 December).  We are prepared to consider applicants who are younger. In all cases, however, one part of our assessment will be whether we consider that an applicant is mature enough and ready to commence a competitive degree course that involves self-motivated study and living away from home.

The application process

How do I make an application?

To apply to Queens' College you need to submit a UCAS application online by 15th October. Applicants living in countries outside of the EU are also asked to submit a Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA). Once you have submitted your UCAS application (and COPA if required) you will be asked to complete a Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ).

What should I put on my personal statement?

Your personal statement is your chance to sell yourself academically.  Tell us about why you are interested in the subject that you want to study at university and what you've done to explore that interest (such as through extra reading, projects and coursework, work experience).  We make our decisions on the basis of academic potential alone, so while we are interested in all your extra-curricular activities, they simply demonstrate time-management skills to us. Spend the majority of your statement (two-thirds to three-quarters) talking about academic interests and put your extra-curricular activities at the end.

If you are applying for a subject at university that you have not been able to study at school, then the personal statement is a very good way for us to assess your motivations and how much research you've done about your chosen course.  Don't be surprised if we ask you about your personal statement at interview - personal statements provide us with a good way to start a conversation. This means that you should remember to read through it before you come up for interview. You should also make sure everything on it is true! 

What do you think about the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)?

If you have the opportunity, then undertaking an EPQ is a good idea.  it develops your ability to study independently and helps make the transition from school to university.  As not everyone has the opportunity to do this, we won't make an EPQ part of a formal offer but it's undoubtedly of general educational value.  If you're applying for a subject at Queens' that you haven't studied at school, an EPQ is a good way to demonatrate your interest and commitment.

Do you have quotas for particular subjects?

There are fixed quotas of places for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine that are distributed amongst all Cambridge Colleges.  In addition, Architecture, History of Art, Music and Philosophy look very closely at undergraduate numbers across the University and Queens' is unlikely to be able to take more than a couple of students for each of these subjects.  In other subjects we have more flexibility and there is no fixed number of places: we look at the gathered field of those that apply and make our decisions accordingly.

How do you make admissions decisions?

We look at the whole range of information that we have available to us: how you've performed previously at school, what your predicted grades are, what your teachers say about you, your personal statement, either a pre-interview written assessment or an at-interview written assessment and any written work that is required for your subject (consult the details of subject-specific requirements on the website or the University Propectus). 

Do I have to take extra Cambridge examinations (STEPs)?

We only make systematic use of other examinations for Maths and Computer Science with Maths (not for the other CST options). We will normally include STEP requirements as part of an offer for Maths. Most of the offers that we have made in recent years have asked candidates to achieve 1, 1 in STEP II and STEP III.  We take the level of support that a school can provide into consideration when determining offer levels.  We provide all those holding Maths offers with detailed guidance about how best to prepare for STEP.  If you apply for Computer Science with Maths, then we'll ask you to take STEP too.

Will I have to sit a written assessment?

All subjects apart for Mathematics and Music will sit either a pre-interview written assessment or an at-interview assessment. Information on which subjects require which form of assessment can be found at http://www.cam.ac.uk/assessments. At interview assessments will take place during the December interview period, usually on the same day as the academic interview. Our pre-interview assessments will be taken in November. Most at interview assessments will be one hour in duration and pre-interview assessments will last no longer than two hours. No advanced preparation will be needed, other than revision of relevant recent subject knowledge where appropriate.

How long do my essays need to be?

We have no standard length that we require.  Most essays that we receive are 1000-3000 words. We are happy to look at versions of the IB extended essays and EPQs. Providing a piece of handwritten work can be useful in showing us how you perform under exam conditions. Providing source-based material without the sources is less helpful.  We want to see extended prose if at all possible.

What should I do if I haven't written any essays at school?

Providing other examples of written work (lab reports, independent research) is acceptable. If your teachers can set you an appropriate essay-writing task that is relevant to the subject for which you have applied, that would also be suitable material to submit to us.

What if I don't have my essays anymore?

Queens' is looking for committed candidates who enjoy learning and have made a well-researched and considered application.  If your school is willing, we are prepared to accept work produced post-A2 and marked by your teachers.



Will I be invited for interview?

Queens' currently interviews around 80% and 90% of our applicants.  We ask most applicants from within the EU to attend interviews and also invite many overseas students to come for interview.  However, we look very carefully at all applicants to determine whether they have a realistic chance of success and make decisions about who to invite to interview accordingly.

I'm studying abroad. Will I have to come to Cambridge for the interview?

The Cambridge Colleges operate a collective interview scheme in many countries outside Europe.  A full list of those countries and the application details you will need to follow for a possible overseas interview is available - this website will also give you details of scholarships available for those countries.

When do interviews take place?

The vast majority of our interviews in Cambridge take place in the first two weeks of December so please bear this in mind if you are planning travel during a year out.

I've heard interviews are really scary. Is that true?

There are many myths about Cambridge interviews. You can find some information about what interviews are really like on our website here. We will ask you some tough questions but we won't ask you 'trick' questions. We are interested in what you do know and how you then cope when we ask you to tackle a problem from a different angle or give you new bits of information.  We're also interested in how you think, so tell us why you're approaching a problem in a particular way.  Interviews take many different forms. You may be asked to write things down and work through problems with your interviewers (very common in science subjects). On the arts side, questions tend to be more open-ended and designed to explore how you think.

How should I prepare for interviews?

You don't need to go on an expensive course or have a specific 'mock interview' to do well in a Cambridge interview.  All our interviewers are trained, and can easily spot 'prepared' answers.  Instead, try talking about your academic interests to an unfamiliar adult (somebody at school who has never taught you or one of your parents' colleagues who doesn't know you very well).  Lots of useful information about preparing for interviews can be found on the University website here.

How many interviews will I have?

Cambridge guarantees that you will be seen by at least two academic interviewers.  This can be in the form of a single interview or through several interviews with one or more interviewers.  Practice in Queens' varies from subject to subject but we will always let you know in advance how many interviews you will have, when they'll be and with whom.

Here is some more information about interviews at Queens'.


Life at Queens'

How big is Queens' College?

Queens' is one of the largest Cambridge Colleges with approximately 950 students, about 500 of whom are Undergraduates.

How many undergraduates do you admit a year?

We take around 150 undergraduates, the majority of whom will be Home/EU students.

How many applicants do you have per place?

This is a question which seems to worry many people. The straight answer is that Queens' is slightly above the University average of 5 applicants per place. However, we would like to stress that applying simply on the basis of the statistics is not a good idea. First of all (and contrary to popular perception) applying to a college with a 'lower' ratio will not increase your chances of getting an offer.  We have sophisticated moderation procedures to ensure that the best applicants get into Cambridge, regardless of the College that they apply to initially.  Good applicants who cannot be offered places at their first-choice College are re-distributed via the Pool

Perhaps more importantly, we believe that making a choice about a College should be based on more than just statistics.  After all, you have to live in a place for 3 or 4 years of a degree so it's worth thinking about what the other facilities are like, how large it is, is it old or new and does it offer accommodation on the main site for all your time in Cambridge.

What facilities does Queens' have?

You should explore the rest of our website to find out more. The JCR website has lots of information too (JCR stands for 'Junior Combination Room'. It's similar to a Student Union).

What is the accommodation like?

Queens' can accommodate all its undergraduates on the main site for 3 years.  First years tend to live in the Cripps Building, Second Years in Fisher and Third Years all over the place!  Our oldest rooms date from the foundation of the College in 1448 and the newest were finished in 2007.  All rooms have telephone and internet access. Many of them have en-suite shower rooms.  For more details see the Undergraduate Accommodation pages.

What will it cost to study at Queens'?

Students at Cambridge benefit from the fact that the terms are relatively short and they only have to pay for their rooms while they are occupying them.  This means that accommodation costs at Cambridge are relatively low (when you're not in your room, we use it for conference delegates to keep the costs for students down). Cambridge also has an extensive bursary scheme and we offer various kinds of support within Queens'.  Taken together, this means that Cambridge is not a particularly expensive university to attend (contrary to popular perceptions!).

The University Tuition Fees vary depending upon your fee status and, if you are an 'Overseas' student for fees, the course you are taking.  See here for full details of all the financial costs involved in studying at Cambridge University.

I'm not sure what my fee-status is - what should I do?

We send all applicants a  "Fee Assessment Form" after we have and this helps us to determine your fee status.  As a rough guide, if you are a UK national who has always lived in the UK, then you will count as a 'Home' student. The same applies to EU nationals who have always been resident within the EU.  If you are an international student, or a UK national who has spent considerable time away from the UK, the situation is more difficult. Information for international students may be found here. If you are in any doubt, please contact us.

How far away is the sports ground?

The sports ground is about a mile away and has pitches for football, rugby, cricket and hockey and three hard courts for tennis and netball. The boathouse is about the same distance away in the opposite direction.

Is there a club or society for me?

Most popular sports and clubs are organised on an inter-college basis so that there is at least one competitive soccer, tennis, cricket, rugby or hockey team. Sport is also played at a more informal, less competitive level. Many sports, such as squash, are played just for fun at all levels of proficiency. The University has societies for almost every interest and activity from uni-cycling to tiddlywinks. In addition, Queens' has a number of its own subject societies (e.g. History, Law, Medicine) which hold speaker meetings and arrange dinners and other social events.

Are music and drama strong in Queens’?

Music goes on at many levels in Queens'. We have an active Music Society that puts on several concerts and recitals each term. The Drama Society puts on nine plays a year and has access to the Fitzpatrick Hall, one of the best small theatres in Cambridge. We have a Dancer in Residence too.  Look at the College website for more information about what's going on at the moment.

How far is it to lectures?

Most lecture rooms are within a maximum half a mile of the College. The only exception is the Cavendish Laboratory which lies about a mile away from the centre (but in the first two years lectures in Physics are given in the city centre so you only need to make the trip at most once a week for practicals).

Queens' has no Fellow in my subject. Should I apply?

For many of the smaller subjects the number of teaching staff is smaller than the number of Colleges. What usually happens in these cases is that the University takes a much more important role, and supervision is organised by the individual departments. Colleges share their teaching staff, exchanging teaching as the need arises. There is no real problem in applying to a College which does not have a Fellow teaching in that subject, but Queens’ is fortunate in having Fellows in most of the subjects offered by the University.

Why should I apply to Queens’?

You can make an initial decision on the basis of size or location and of course women have the choice of applying to an all female College. Being able to live in College for all three years attracts many applicants to us. Some Colleges have been founded fairly recently but the older established Colleges are not necessarily more traditional. Queens' is a large, diverse and open community with top-class facilities and a commitment to ensuring that all our students achieve their full potential. We would encourage you to visit Cambridge, if possible on a College Open Day, when you would be able to talk to current students about their courses and their College. 

Can I come and visit Queens'?

You are welcome to come and look around Queens' during the day. Please come through the Porters Lodge on Silver Street. As a propective student they won't charge you for entry. The Admissions Office is open Monday-Friday from 09:00-15:00. You will be able to pick up a prospectus and we will be happy to answer any questions you have. If you are visiting at the weekend the admissions staff won't be available to speak to you but you are welcome to come up to the Admissions Office in the Essex Building and collect a Queens' prospectus from our door. We also hold Open Days in April and July. Information on how to book on either of these days can be found on the Open Day section of our website.

Where can I get more information?

You can visit our website on: www.queens.cam.ac.uk where you can view the full prospectus, see loads of photographs and see what our students have to say. Every Department and Faculty has a website and you can either access them via our website or through the University's main website (www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate).