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English Admissions Assessment Guide

Everything you should know before taking the English Admissions Assessment and how to be successful!

WHAT IS THE English Admissions Assessment?

The English Admissions Assessment is a pre-interview test that applicants are asked to sit prior to their Cambridge interview. The test is not designed to assess any particular course content (since students have studied different exam boards and qualifications so will not have covered the same works in school), but rather measures certain skills that candidates will find useful in studying for this degree, such as literary analysis and essay writing abilities.

WHO NEEDS TO SIT THE English Admissions Assessment?

The English Admissions Assessment is set by Cambridge University for students shortlisted to interview for English degree courses at all Cambridge Colleges.

HOW IS THE English Admissions Assessment STRUCTURED?

The English Admissions Assessment is a 90-minute exam in which applicants answer a single, long-response essay question. Applicants are given five texts from which they are to select two passages to compare/contrast in any manner that they find interesting. Students are advised to spend 30 minutes reading the paper, and the remaining 60 minutes to write their answer.


Applicants cannot choose a question (they must compare/contrast two texts), however they are able to choose which passages they focus on from a given five sources.

HOW IS MY SCORE IN THE English Admissions Assessment USED?

As the English Admissions Assessment is a pre-interview test taken by applicants who have already been shortlisted for interview, it has perhaps a less important role in the selection process than other admissions tests taken prior to interview selection. Applicants taking the English Admissions Assessment 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.

WHAT IS A GOOD English Admissions Assessment SCORE?

Since the exam is by nature subjective, made up of a single essay response, it is near-impossible to say that any one score will guarantee acceptance onto the Cambridge English course. Since the English Admissions Assessment is used as an assessment tool among a wider context of factors, such as your academic grades and teacher reference, there is no fixed pass mark or automatic threshold. 


The English Admissions Assessment is a test of skills, namely essay-writing and technical drawing, rather than being a test of particular content knowledge.

Although the passages given are unlikely to be from a work that you have studied or even encountered before, the skills used in the paper are those which you should have obtained in your English studies thus far. We recommend that you spend some time looking at unseen passages under timed conditions in order to practise your rapid-response and essay-writing skills in a manner reflective of the Admissions Assessment itself.

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How to register for the English Admissions Assessment

WHEN IS THE ENGLISH Admissions Assessment IN 2023?

The English Admissions Assessment will be sat by students who have been invited to interview by a Cambridge college. 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 the English Admissions Assessment, 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!


The English Admissions Assessment is free of charge for shortlisted applicants.


Tips from a Successful Cambridge English Student



  1. Practice Regularly: Consistent practice is the key to success. Work through sample questions and past papers to improve your critical reading, writing, and analytical skills.
  2. Enhance Your Interpretation and Analytical Skills: The English Admissions Assessment relies heavily on your ability to read, interpret, and analyse unseen passages. Exercising this skill on unseen passages in advance of the paper is going to be crucial.
  3. Develop Writing Skills: Refine your essay writing abilities by practising different types of essays and seeking feedback from teachers or mentors.
  4. Time Management: During preparation, practice answering questions within the allocated time limits. Time management is crucial to completing all sections of the English Admissions Assessment effectively. The University website keeps 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 English Admissions Assessment admissions test course.
  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 English 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 English Admissions Assessment past and specimen papers on the Cambridge Website, we at Oxbridge Applications have written a series of additional mock papers. Our students have 33% more questions to practise with. Our mock English Admissions Assessment papers are included with our admissions test tuition. All of our English Admissions Assessment tutors are highly-trained Cambridge graduates who can share their personally 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 English Admissions Assessment?

The best advice we can offer to succeed in the English 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 English 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 the English Admissions Assessment, challenge yourself to begin working through past papers and familiarising yourself with the questions as soon as possible. Practising written responses to unseen text passages is also a great way to get prepared in advance of the paper itself.


Reflect on your personal strengths and weaknesses. No two students should have the same revision strategy for the English Admissions Assessment, since you all have varying abilities. Try to identify which aspect of the exam process - be it reading passages, analysing literary content, or writing the essay itself - 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 English 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 English Admissions Assessment tutors 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.

English 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.

English Admissions Assessment Private Tuition x6

Available: Year-Round and includes 6 private admissions test tuition sessions and six test papers which are marked by expert Oxbridge-graduate tutors.

Past English Admissions Assessment test papers

Prepare for your admissions test with our mock papers.

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