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Cambridge College Admissions Assessment Guide

Everything you need to know before sitting an independent College admissions assessment for a Cambridge University Course.


Admissions Tests and Assessments are frequently used by top UK Universities, in particular Oxford and Cambridge, as a way to separate and directly compare otherwise similarly-qualified applicants to their highly competitive courses. At the University of Cambridge, many of these tests are sat in the form of at-interview assessments, meaning that applicants are shortlisted for interview on the basis of their UCAS application, and then are invited to take an admissions test as part of the interview process (this can take place a week or so before the interview, or on the day of the interview itself, on a case-by-case basis). Whilst many Cambridge subjects (Archaeology, Architecture, English, History, History of Art, Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Philosophy) have one single admissions test that all (or most) colleges require all candidates to sit, other subjects allow colleges to independently decide, firstly, if applicants are required to sit an admissions test as part of their interview and, secondly, what specific format that test will take. 

This high level of autonomy amongst the Cambridge colleges, despite being part of what makes a Cambridge education so exciting and interesting, means it can be difficult to catalogue these admissions tests and advise across the board. As such, this guide takes you through the various Cambridge courses that may require an admissions test, as well as the specific colleges that set tests. This guide is intended to keep you up to date with whether you are likely to take an admissions test so that you can head over to the particular subject or college website to check the specifics of the admissions test, as well as giving some general best-practice advice on preparing for admissions tests such as these.


Below is a table of the courses that use independent college admissions assessments, as well as the colleges at which these tests are currently enacted:

Course/Subject College(s)
Classics All colleges.
Education Wolfson.
Human, Social, and Political Sciences Hughes Hall, King’s, Murray Edwards, Newnham, Peterhouse, St Edmund’s, Wolfson.
Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Gonville & Caius, Homerton, Hughes Hall, Murray Edwards, Newnham, Selwyn, Wolfson.
Mathematics Churchill, King’s, Magdalene, St Edmund’s.
Music Clare, Girton, Homerton, Jesus, Magdalene, Murray Edwards, Newnham, Peterhouse, Queens’, Robinson, Selwyn, St Edmund’s, St John’s, Trinity, Trinity Hall



As the Cambridge College Admissions Assessment are pre-interview tests taken by applicants who have already been shortlisted for interview, they have a slightly different role  in the selection process compared to other admissions tests taken prior to interview selection. Applicants taking the College Admissions Assessments in question will have their test results and scripts considered by admissions tutors alongside their interview performance, meaning that an impressive performance in the test could help bolster a less impressive interview performance, and vice versa.


The vast majority of admissions tests are skills-based rather than content-heavy, and do not require applicants to know any specific subject knowledge for the exam. Naturally, some content knowledge can be useful in helping you to adapt to the questions asked of you in the test, but we don’t recommend getting bogged down in revising specific facts and figures from your A-Level courses as preparation for these tests. Instead, we recommend using your school studies as an example from which to practise the skills that are relevant to your chosen course, such as critical thinking, essay writing, music performance, or mathematical logic. It can be difficult to identify tasks and exercises to practise these skills; our specialist tutors who have experience of advising students taking other qualifications and help them fill in knowledge gaps.

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How to register for the a College Admissions Assessment

WHEN ARE THE COLLEGE Admissions Assessment IN 2023?

College Admissions Assessments are usually sat by students at some point between two weeks prior to their interview, all the way up to the day of the interview itself. There is no specific date published for the test, and colleges will reach out to shortlisted applicants via email to inform them of the test date and arrangements when they are invited to interview. Cambridge Interviews mostly take place in the first three weeks of December.


If you are invited to take a College Admissions Assessment as part of your interviews, all the information you require to attend and sit the test will be included in an email from the college you have applied to; there is no need to worry about finding information or make arrangements beforehand!


Cambridge College Admissions Assessments are free of charge for shortlisted applicants.


Tips from a Successful Cambridge StudentS

HOW CAN I PREPARE FOR A COLLEGE Admissions Assessment?

  1. Practice Regularly: Consistent practice is the key to success. Work through sample questions and past papers available on the college website to improve your critical reading, writing, and analytical skills, as well as familiarising yourself with the likely content or format of the test itself. 
  2. Enhance Your Wider Reading: Although these tests are skills-based, having a solid background in your subject in terms of content is never going to go amiss in the exam. Using existing materials to practise your adaptability, looking at how skills can be applied to different content areas within your subject (such as different psychological conditions or musical styles) is a great way to prepare for the unknown aspects of the exam. 
  3. Develop Key Skills: Think about the skills that are most important to your subject? As a mathematician, logic and the application of formulae to new situations might be an important area of development; as a musician, applying harmony to new musical pieces could be a crucial part of your skillset; as a classicist, the interpretation of historical sources and essay-writing skills could be make-or-break for your application. Identify the skills you will need and seek out varied ways to rehearse these skills and apply them to unseen situations. 
  4. Time Management: During preparation, practice answering questions within the allocated time limits. Time management is crucial to completing a College Admissions Assessment comfortably and to the best of your abilities. The respective college websites often past papers available so that applicants can test themselves in timed conditions. If you’ve worked your way through these, we at Oxbridge Applications keep a bespoke bank of true-to-reality mock tests which are made available to all students on our Admissions Assessment Courses
  5. Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated with the latest news and developments in your chosen field. This will not only enhance your essay writing but also prepare you for potential interview questions. On our blog we endeavour to keep potential applicants up to date on everything admissions-test, so be sure to check in there for more news!\
  6. Ask expert advice: Request feedback on your practice essays and responses from teachers, mentors, or peers. Constructive criticism will help you identify areas for improvement and refine your approach. Previous Cambridge graduates, such as our mentors here at Oxbridge Applications, are also a great source of knowledge to draw on, as they can give you an accurate picture of what it means to perform like a successful Cambridge applicant!


In addition to official specimen papers on the relevant Cambridge course and college webpages (linked in the table above), we at Oxbridge Applications have written a series of additional mock papers. Our students have 33% more questions to practise with. Our mock Cambridge Admissions Assessment papers are included with our admissions test tuition. All of our Admissions Assessment tutors are highly-trained Cambridge graduates who can share their personal insights of having sat the test. You can contact our Oxbridge-graduate Consultants on +44 (0) 20 7499 2394 or email [email protected] to discuss which of our test training would suit you best. We also have an online testing portal for students who want to sit the exam in timed, test conditions.


At Oxbridge Applications, we pride ourselves in providing up-to-date advice and unrivalled expertise. As well as collating information from publicly available sources, we also conduct our own research into the application process; for example, by surveying the thousands of students we support each year. Speak to an Oxbridge Applications expert today for advice on your specific situation!


How to Pass the a Cambridge College Admissions Assessment?

The best advice we can offer to succeed in a Cambridge College Admissions Assessment exam is to begin exam preparation early and practise often.

Most students who don’t make it through the interview stages and feel their Admissions Assessment results let them down tell us that they didn’t spend enough time familiarising themselves with the type of questions that can arise. They typically say that they were caught off guard by a particular question and it put their timings off for the rest of the test.


Since no subject-specific knowledge is required for most College Admissions Assessments, challenge yourself to begin working through past papers where possible and familiarise yourself with the questions as soon as possible. Practising adapting key skills to unseen content or stimuli is a great way to get prepared for the test. 


Reflect on your personal strengths and weaknesses. No two students should have the same revision strategy for these assessments, since you all have varying abilities. Try to identify which aspect of the test process is the greatest challenge and tailor your preparation accordingly.


Don’t restrict your practice materials: Once you have tried all of the real past papers, and have moved on to additional materials like our bespoke College Admissions Assessment papers, you should then look wider at similar materials. For example, look beyond past papers and your current exam syllabus to other qualifications and exam boards’ unseen analysis questions to give you a wider breadth of options.


Work with a friend or teacher to discuss questions and identify your own personal preparation goals. Working with others can be a huge motivation and keep you on track in the weeks and months leading up to the test. We have specialist Cambridge Admissions Assessment tutors in every subject who can work with you one-to-one to refine your test technique.


Strategic Guidance

Unsure about your Oxbridge application? In our one-hour consultation, our experts strategise your application, assess your potential, and resolve queries to maximise your success. Contact us at [email protected] or +44 (0) 20 7499 2394.

Cambridge College Admissions Assessment Private Tuition x4

Available all year-round and includes 4 private admissions test tuition sessions and four test papers, which are marked by expert Oxbridge-graduate tutors.

Cambridge College Admissions Assessment Private Tuition x6

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Past Cambridge College Admissions Assessment test papers

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