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Changes to the face of Oxbridge applications for the 2024 application cycle

There are some big changes coming this year in the way that students apply for universities in the UK across the board, in particular for those applying to Oxbridge and Cambridge. We know that these changes can be difficult to keep track of, especially when the news of them are released at different times and in different places. Well, we’re here to do the work for you! This article is a roundup of all the big changes coming to the university applications process for the 2024 application cycle – keep checking back as time goes by as we’re going to keep updating this page as the situation develops.

Included in this article:

  1. Changes to the UCAS Personal Statement (from 2024)

  2. Changes to the UCAS Reference (from 2023)

  3. Oxford admissions tests (from 2023)

  4. BMAT testing arrangements (from 2024)

  5. Cambridge ENGAA, NSAA, and TMUA tests (from 2024)



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Change: UCAS Personal Statement

Who does this affect? Applicants for undergraduate courses at UK universities

For years, the UCAS Personal Statement has been a thorn in the side of applicants to UK universities everywhere - requiring students to spend the best part of several months reading, planning, and writing their magnum opus to impress their chosen universities. This year, however, brings the news that as of 2024 UCAS are no longer going to require applicants to write a personal statement when applying for university.

Rather than having an open response box in which to fill in their own, self-constructed Personal Statement of 4,000 characters, students will instead be asked to respond to a series of structured questions which focus on six key areas:


  • Motivation for the course - why do you want to study these courses?

  • Preparedness for the course - how has your learning so far helped you to be ready to succeed on these courses?

  • Preparation through other experience - What else have you done to help you prepare, and why are these experiences useful?

  • Extenuating circumstances - Is there anything that the universities and colleges need to know about, to help them put your achievements and experiences so far into context?

  • Preparedness for study - What have you done to prepare yourself for student life?

  • Preferred learning styles - Which learning and assessment style best suit you, and how do your course choices match that?


This change has been made in light of arguments by some that the existing Personal Statement system affords an advantage to more privileged students who have greater access to expert guidance and advice. With students from a greater variety of backgrounds attending university at a higher and higher rate every year, UCAS have felt the need to reform the application process with the aim of widening access for all students, irrespective of their knowledge regarding the application process or whether they know someone who has made a successful application before.

Change: The UCAS Reference

Who does this affect? All referees of applicants for undergraduate courses at UK universities from 2023.

UCAS have undertaken an extensive review of the way they run references for undergraduate applications. Universities have reported back that it’s “becoming challenging to meaningfully compare applicants’ academic references” since content varies too much across referees. As a result, they are going to make the reference itself more prescriptive, meaning that it is easier for both universities and referees to make sure they’re getting all the information they need to compare applicants properly. This will come into effect for 2024 applications (i.e. those being submitted from the autumn of 2023) alongside a series of other reforms to the application process (namely the Personal Statement).

References are now going to be made up of three different sections, which will replace the current free text format. These sections will be:

  • Enter a general statement about your school/college

  • Enter any information about extenuating circumstances which may affect this applicant’s performance in examinations or other assessments (optional)

  • Outline any other circumstances specific to the applicant that you think universities/colleges should be aware of (optional)

This new format is intended to benefit applicants since it gives referees more clarity in the information they are meant to be providing, as well as giving universities more signposting to help them find particular pieces of information to make decisions.

Change: Oxford Admissions Tests

Who does this affect?: Applicants for Classics, English, History, Maths, Languages, Asian and Middle Eastern studies, Physics, and Philosophy (and related subjects) at Oxford university.

Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing, the company that delivers various admissions tests on behalf of both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford (confusing, we know!), have recently released a statement saying that they have “changed the way [they ] work with the University of Oxford to deliver admissions tests”.

From 2023, they have announced that they will no longer be delivering the following tests for the University of Oxford:

  • CAT (Classics Admissions Test)

  • ELAT (English Literature Admissions Test)

  • HAT (History Aptitude Test)

  • MAT (Mathematics Admissions Test

  • MLAT (Modern Languages Admissions Test)

  • OLAT (Oriental Languages Aptitude Test)

  • PAT (Physics Aptitude Test)

  • Philosophy Test

Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing have confirmed, however, that they will continue to deliver the BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test) and TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment), which are used by applicants for Biomedical Sciences or Medicine, and Economics and Management, History and Economics, Geography, Human Sciences, PPE, Psychology, or PPL, respectively. These tests should largely remain unchanged compared to in previous years.

As for the tests that CAAT are no longer running, Oxford University have recently announced that Tata Consulting Services (TCS) will take over in managing the delivery of most of their admissions tests from the coming year. They have confirmed that the test registration deadline will be on the 29th of September 2023, with the test dates being the following:

  • 19th October 2023: CAT, ELAT, GAT, MAT, and AMELAT

  • 20th October 2023: HAT, MLAT, PAT, and Philosophy Test

For more details on admissions tests and how to prepare for them, head to the Admissions Test Preparation section, or contact our consultants to find out how we can help.

Change: BMAT Testing Arrangements

Who does this affect?: Applicants for medicine at Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton and Sussex, Imperial, Lancaster, UCL, and Leeds.

Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing has also announced that they are withdrawing the BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test) as of the 2024-25 application cycle. It is expected that, from 2024 onwards, the medical schools currently using the BMAT (Cambridge, Oxford, Brighton and Sussex, Imperial, Lancaster, UCL, and Leeds) will be making alternative arrangements. According to the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing website, this change is being made because “The bespoke tests are operationally unsustainable over the medium term, given their significant complexity and the need to deliver them affordably to students and higher education institutions”.

Change: Cambridge ENGAA, NSAA, and TMUA tests

Who does this affect? Applicants for Engineering, Natural Sciences, and Maths (and related subjects) at Cambridge

In a third big announcement, Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing also announced that they are going to stop delivering the ENGAA (engineering), NSAA (natural sciences), and TMUA (mathematics) admissions tests on behalf of Cambridge university. This will come into effect for the 2024-25 application cycle, and we are informed that Cambridge are currently considering alternatives to these tests.

Cambridge university have stressed that their focus is on making sure that the transition from the current admissions testing system to whatever is going to replace it. A spokesperson has also said that “We are constantly working to ensure that admissions are fair and transparent and we will continue to strengthen our efforts to encourage students from all backgrounds to apply for and secure places at Cambridge”, so you can be safe in the knowledge that the university are going to keep us in the loop as plans develop. Be sure to check back in with us as we keep you up to date with the latest news as the situation changes!

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