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?

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. 

About Queens’ College 

How big is Queens' College?
Queens' is one of the largest Cambridge colleges with approximately 950 students, 500 of whom are undergraduates. We admit around 150 undergraduates each year.

Why should I apply to Queens’?
You can make an initial decision of which college to apply to on the basis of size or location, and of course women have the choice of applying to an all-female college. Despite being an older established college, Queens’ is not necessarily more traditional than more recently founded colleges. 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.

How many applicants do you have per place?
This is a question that 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, how old it is and whether it offers accommodation on the main site for all your time in Cambridge.

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 and Music 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.

What is the accommodation like?
At the moment, 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 central heating and internet access. Many of them have en-suite shower rooms.

How far away is the sports ground?
The sports ground is about 1 mile away. It 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 football, 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 aerobics to tiddlywinks. In addition, Queens' has a number of its own subject societies (e.g. History, Law, and Medicine) which hold speaker meetings and arrange dinners and other social events. There is also the possibility for you to form your own society.

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 several 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.

How far is it to lectures?
Most lecture rooms are within half a mile of the college, which students usually cycle or walk to. Many of the less central university teaching sites are connected by the U bus service, which costs £1 per trip for students.

What are the welfare provisions like at Queens’?
At Queens’ we know that adjusting to university life and the intense academic environment of Cambridge can be tough, so we employ three trained and experienced Welfare Advisers and a College Nurse. Each student is also assigned a tutor to provide support in overcoming any difficulties which might affect their wellbeing and/or ability to study effectively, including health, welfare, financial or personal issues. Please see our dedicated page for more information.

Can I come and visit Queens’?
You are welcome to come and have a look around Queens’ during the day. Please come through the Porters’ Lodge on Silver Street. As a prospective student you won’t be charged for entry. The Admissions Office is currently shut due to the pandemic but you will be able to pick up a prospectus from the Porters Lodge. We also hold Open Days in July and September. Information on how to book on these days can be found on the Open Day section of our website.

Entry Requirements

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 foreign language, History, Philosophy or Theatre Studies would all provide useful background for an English applicant. Extensive reading outside of what is expected from you at school, rather than simply taking more exams, is also a good way to develop depth.

What grades will I need at A-level (or equivalent)?
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, Psychological and Behavioural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine and A*A*A for Science subjects and for Economics. We sometimes make offers above this level if the choice is between a tough offer and no offer at all. If an applicant has taken both Mathematics and Further Mathematics then we will normally exclude Mathematics 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 40-42 (including TOK and EE). Guidance about offer levels in other exam systems can be found on the Cambridge University website.

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 around subject requirements for Arts degrees than for Science degrees. Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, English, Maths, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Modern Languages, Music and Natural Sciences all require particular subjects at A2. Further Mathematics is an essential subject to take for Mathematics but we think it is also a good subject to take for Computer Science, Engineering, Natural Sciences and Economics.

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 a points total of 40-42 (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 major international exam systems and can provide details of likely offers on request. Guidance on this can also be found on the Cambridge University website. Generally speaking, we are looking for the top 1 or 2% in any acceptable examination system.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.

Do you consider resits?

Applications from students resitting entire qualifications will only be considered when there were significant extenuating circumstances during the initial teaching or examination period. Extenuating circumstances in relation to resits should be provided via the Extenuating Circumstances Form.

For those in a modular rather than linear examination system, a student's application is unlikely to be adversely affected by resitting one or two modules; any intention to resit such modules should be indicated in the SAQ.

Please note that written exams are the main form of assessment used for Cambridge courses. Most students will be examined at the end of each year. The University does not offer resits as part of its normal examining process.

Do you take into consideration Extra Curricular activities?

Our admissions decisions are based on academic criteria (ability and potential) and we expect to see evidence in your application of your wider engagement with areas of academic interest, such as reading and other explorations relevant to the course for which you have applied. Extra-curricular activities which are of no relevance to the course will not increase your chances of receiving an offer.

If, however, particular extra-curricular activities have enabled you to develop transferable skills, such as organisation or time management, then do include them in your personal statement. Such activites might include significant caring responsibilites or paid employment, which can help us fully contextualise your application, as well as sport, physical activity, music, drama and volunteering.

What if I am a student at another University?
Cambridge Colleges will only, as a matter of principle, consider applications from students enrolled in a degree course at other universities in very exceptional circumstances. Any application to study at Cambridge would need strong support from your Course Director or other academic tutor at your current university. A reference or letter of recommendation from that person to the Cambridge College would be required, and only then can a Cambridge College consider an application. All such applications are still subject to the same academic assessment as any other application to the University.

What if English is not my first language?
We have a diverse student body and more than 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 Academic 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. 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.

Gap Years

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 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.

Making an Application

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 1st 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.

How do I make an application?

To apply to Queens’ College you need to submit a UCAS application online by 15th October. Applicants will also need to complete an additional application for Cambridge.

What should I put in 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 extra reading, projects and coursework, work experience). 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, 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)?
We welcome the EPQ and would encourage applicants to undertake one as it helps to develop independent study and research skills valuable for higher education. However, we recognise that not all students have equal opportunity to access them and so completion of an EPQ will not normally be a requirement of any offer made.

Do I have to take STEP?
We will 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.

The admissions process

How do you make admissions decisions?
We look at the whole range of information that we have available to us: previous grades, predicted grades, references, your personal statement, pre-interview written assessments, at-interview written assessments, interview (if you are interviewed) and any written work that is required for your subject (consult the details of subject-specific requirements on the website or the University Prospectus). All this information is weighted equally.

Will I have to sit a written assessment?
Some subjects will have to sit a pre-interview written assessment or an at-interview assessment. Information on which subjects require which form of assessment can be found at 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. Pre-interview assessments will be taken in October or 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. Past papers for at-interview written assessments can be found at https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses on the relevant course page.

Will I be invited for interview?
We invite any candidate who has a realistic chance of being offered a place for interview.

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.  For a full list of those countries and the application details you will need to follow for a possible overseas interview in those countries see www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/international. This webpage will also give you details of scholarships available for international students.

When do interviews take place?
The vast majority of our interviews in Cambridge take place in the first three weeks of December, so please bear this in mind if you are planning travel during a year out. Some interviews will take place in the last week of November and overseas interviews may take place earlier.

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 in Cambridge are really like on our website. We will ask you some tough questions but we won't ask you 'trick' questions. We're interested in what you do know and how you 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. For more information about interviews at Queens', please see the relevant section of our 'Application Process’ webpages at www.queens.cam.ac.uk/admissions.

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 with an unfamiliar adult (somebody at school who has never taught you or one of your parents' colleagues who doesn't know you very well). You can find videos of mock interviews 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 2 interviews. 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.

Finance & Costs

What will it cost to study at Queens'?
The University Tuition Fees vary depending upon your fee status and, if you are an ‘Overseas’ student for fees, the course you are taking. For full details of all the financial costs involved in studying at Cambridge University see https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/.

I'm not sure what my fee status is - what should I do?
We assess students on their fee status at the point of application. 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. If you are an international student, or a UK national who has spent considerable time away from the UK, the situation is more complicates. For further details, see www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/international-students/fees/tuition-fee-status or www.ukcisa.org.uk.

What financial support is available?

Information on the financial support available at Queens'.