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Ask an Admissions Tutor XII (22 August - 22 September) Watch

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    Hello everyone and welcome to another Ask an Admissions Tutor Thread. I am the Admissions Tutor at Murray Edwards College, one of Cambridge's women's colleges, and have previously been Admissions Tutor at Christ's and Corpus Christi Colleges. I am here to answer any and all of your questions about Cambridge admissions as we move into the new applications round.

    Many colleges are having Open Days next month and I'd encourage you to go along to one if you are able in order to meet admissions staff, students and directors of studies as well as have a look round. Our own Open Day is on Saturday 9 September and can be booked here.

    Do please fire away and I look forward to answering your questions.
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    Thank you!

    Can I use the 'extenuating circumstances' form although a psychologist will explain which problems I had?

    In addition is it a problem if I say 'I haven't read anything about that' when the tutor asks me questions about a certain topic?
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    So i sat the AEA in maths this year but got a merit rather than a distinction. Would this hold me back or would it be overlooked as I took initiative etc.? I am somewhat worried it will be the former despite numerous people on here telling me otherwise.
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    (Original post by Murray Edwards Admissions)
    Hello everyone and welcome to another Ask an Admissions Tutor Thread. I am the Admissions Tutor at Murray Edwards College, one of Cambridge's women's colleges, and have previously been Admissions Tutor at Christ's and Corpus Christi Colleges. I am here to answer any and all of your questions about Cambridge admissions as we move into the new applications round.

    Many colleges are having Open Days next month and I'd encourage you to go along to one if you are able in order to meet admissions staff, students and directors of studies as well as have a look round. Our own Open Day is on Saturday 9 September and can be booked here.

    Do please fire away and I look forward to answering your questions.
    what kind of score was good on the NSAA last year and what maths UMS was the lowest/cut off point for physical natural sciences?
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    (Original post by themight)
    Thank you!

    Can I use the 'extenuating circumstances' form although a psychologist will explain which problems I had?

    In addition is it a problem if I say 'I haven't read anything about that' when the tutor asks me questions about a certain topic?
    Hello and thanks for your questions. Yes, the ECF can be filled in by a psychologist. It is usually submitted by your school but a doctor, social worker, or health professional is fine too.

    As for your other question, no it's not a problem for you to say that unless you've told us elsewhere (in your personal statement for istance) that you have read about it. What will usually happen in such a situation is that we would give you some more information to help you come to an answer or we'd simply move on to talk about something else. Interviews are not like University Challenge - it's not a general knowledge quiz but an academic conversation.
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    (Original post by tomahawker314)
    So i sat the AEA in maths this year but got a merit rather than a distinction. Would this hold me back or would it be overlooked as I took initiative etc.? I am somewhat worried it will be the former despite numerous people on here telling me otherwise.
    No, it won't hold you back. It's good that you've done it and done well. Sure, a distinction would be lovely but there are numerous ways we assess the strength of your mathematics (UMS, college maths test, interviews, school reference, competitions).
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    Hello sir. Thank you for taking out time to answer our questions. I scored 4A*s and 6 As in gcses. First question (although it's loosely related) is that I've heard that oxford gives more preference to GCSEs so with my gcse grades should I apply to oxford or cambridge. I am very much interested in my degree and have read a lot around it. What would be the suitable approach for my personal statement. Next, I scored 1 A* (chemistry) 2As in AS( A being the highest grade as I am doing cie board) in physics and maths and a B( in a subject which is not related to my field and I am not going to take it to full alevel). WIth these grades do you think I am going to be considered for an interview? How should I prepare for admission test?
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    I’m considering applying for 2019 graduate medicine entry. I’m currently a mature student (25) studying Law. I understand that you require a Chemistry A Level. I took my original A Levels back in 2010, would it be a problem that the Chemistry A Level would have to be taken separately?
    Also in terms of work experience I worked as a dispenser in a pharmacy attached to a medical centre for 4 years, learning about a range of medicine and working alongside the pharmacist predominantly, but also the medical centre staff, including doctors. I also had a lot of patient contact. Would this be sufficient or would I require hospital work experience too?
    Thank you!
    Chelsey
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    (Original post by IsaiahD)
    what kind of score was good on the NSAA last year and what maths UMS was the lowest/cut off point for physical natural sciences?
    Well, the NSAA is split into several different sections. The different parts of Section 1 were each given a scaled mark between 1.0 and 9.0. The average score for each element was around 4.0.

    In Section 2, candidates answered two questions, each worth 25 marks. High 20s and above were decent scores, the strongest candidates in this element were getting above 40.

    I don't think there was a specific cut off point for Maths UMS in Physical natural Sciences. We were cautious about using UMS from one subject alone and one also needed to think about the number and difficulty of the modules that had been taken. I was concerned by anything below 90 but not to the extent that this alone would make me not interview/not offer to someone.
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    (Original post by Jon1999)
    Hello sir. Thank you for taking out time to answer our questions. I scored 4A*s and 6 As in gcses. First question (although it's loosely related) is that I've heard that oxford gives more preference to GCSEs so with my gcse grades should I apply to oxford or cambridge. I am very much interested in my degree and have read a lot around it. What would be the suitable approach for my personal statement. Next, I scored 1 A* (chemistry) 2As in AS( A being the highest grade as I am doing cie board) in physics and maths and a B( in a subject which is not related to my field and I am not going to take it to full alevel). WIth these grades do you think I am going to be considered for an interview? How should I prepare for admission test?
    Hello and thanks for your questions. First, you haven't actually said which subject you wish to apply for but I am guessing Natural Sciences. Regardless, your application to either Oxford or to Cambridge should be based on which course is best suited to you rather than which university is going to like your GCSEs more. Natural Sciences at Cambridge is a very different experience from single science at Oxford.

    Secondly, you can't get an A* in AS Chemistry, A is the highest grade for any AS (no matter which board). Do you mean you got above 90% in your Chemistry AS or have you taken the full A Level.

    There's nothing about your grade profile thus far that would make me think it is unlikely that you would get an interview at Cambridge - it seems perfectly solid, if not spectacular.

    The best way to prepare for the Admissions Assessment is to look at the specification and to do some practice papers.
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    (Original post by ChelseyRoxberry)
    I’m considering applying for 2019 graduate medicine entry. I’m currently a mature student (25) studying Law. I understand that you require a Chemistry A Level. I took my original A Levels back in 2010, would it be a problem that the Chemistry A Level would have to be taken separately?
    Also in terms of work experience I worked as a dispenser in a pharmacy attached to a medical centre for 4 years, learning about a range of medicine and working alongside the pharmacist predominantly, but also the medical centre staff, including doctors. I also had a lot of patient contact. Would this be sufficient or would I require hospital work experience too?
    Thank you!
    Chelsey
    Hello and thanks for your questions. It wouldn't be a problem taking your Chemistry separately from your other A Levels. I suspect that your work experience would be considered sufficient but you would be best off checking with one of the graduate colleges to make sure. As an undergraduate admissions tutor, I don't deal with the graduate course in medicine.
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    (Original post by Murray Edwards Admissions)
    Hello and thanks for your questions. It wouldn't be a problem taking your Chemistry separately from your other A Levels. I suspect that your work experience would be considered sufficient but you would be best off checking with one of the graduate colleges to make sure. As an undergraduate admissions tutor, I don't deal with the graduate course in medicine.
    That’s great, thank you for your reply. I’ll make sure to speak to them prior to my application.
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    (Original post by ChelseyRoxberry)
    That’s great, thank you for your reply. I’ll make sure to speak to them prior to my application.
    No problem, you're welcome and best of luck!
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    (Original post by GausIsTheBoss)
    Can you please not quote this as I intend on deleting it after
    It would be really good if you didn't. It's extremely helpful for others to see people's profiles and the replies they get. - obviously it's your decision though
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    Hi there, thank you very much for doing this .

    I'm looking to study medicine for 2018 entry and I know that Cambridge places a big emphasis on academic and scientific interests. My question is, how much of my personal statement should I be using to demonstrate this? I've currently dedicated about half of it to my extra reading and my EPQ and how these inform my decision to apply for medicine and i'm afraid that this may put me at a disadvantage whilst applying to other universities that may put a greater emphasis on work experience or my personal qualities.
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    (Original post by Murray Edwards Admissions)
    Hello everyone and welcome to another Ask an Admissions Tutor Thread. I am the Admissions Tutor at Murray Edwards College, one of Cambridge's women's colleges, and have previously been Admissions Tutor at Christ's and Corpus Christi Colleges. I am here to answer any and all of your questions about Cambridge admissions as we move into the new applications round.

    Many colleges are having Open Days next month and I'd encourage you to go along to one if you are able in order to meet admissions staff, students and directors of studies as well as have a look round. Our own Open Day is on Saturday 9 September and can be booked here.

    Do please fire away and I look forward to answering your questions.
    Hi, thanks for doing this!

    My (first) question is, if you take the Maths A Level early in year 12, because your school makes you do maths first year and then further maths second year, will the grade you have already achieved in maths by the time you apply for Cambridge, be used in the decision making of your application? As in, can an A* grade already achieved help strengthen an application?

    Secondly, if you take the reformed AS Levels, will these likewise be used in the decision making of your application? Again, can they help strengthen an application? What is the significance of not taking reformed AS levels, compared to if you did take them - as in, will you be 'better of' if you have A grades in 2 reformed AS subjects, compared to if you didn't have these (due to your school not offering them)?

    And lastly, are the number of A* grades at GCSE that one has achieved, directly compared to other candidates? E.g. "So this applicant got 6 A*s at GCSE, but this other applicant got 10 A* grades at GCSE". Would they accept the person with 10 A*s? Would this be used initially in the decision making, or would it be used if it is a sort of 'borderline' decision?

    Thanks in advance.
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    Hello and thanks for your questions, I'll do my best to answer them.

    1) A2 Economics will be of no relevance to your application for Engineering and would likely be excluded from any offer which would probably be on Maths, FM and Physics.

    2) The EPQ is a good thing, it shows super-curricular engagement and gives you something to talk about in your PS and at interview. i think it tends to be more helpful in the Humanities than in the Sciences but it's not a pre-requisite either way. If you have something in mind and have the time and space to do it then you should do it regardless of whether it's going to help your application.

    3/4) Your Maths UMS is decent, there's no outstanding scores in there which is a shame but aside from the S2, there are no poor results and most are around the mid 90s. It's a shame that there aren't any Mechanics modules yet given you're applying for Engineering but you'll be doing those next year. I wouldn't worry massively about the S2 result as it's largely an outlier and in a module that's no especially relevant to Engineering.

    5) Chemistry is a better A Level for Engineering than Economics but you have the three most important ones. Doing Chemistry is an advantage for Engineering but in and of itself it's not going to make a massive difference.

    6) The old UMS averages were taken across 3 Science/Maths A Levels so one simply cannot read across as you are not dealing with like information. Your UMS in Maths is perfectly fine and well within the normal range that one would expect to see for a competitive candidate.

    7) They are all decent things and it would be great to see you talk about one or more of them in a little detail in the PS rather than simply listing them. We would't care about the rugby (but well done!) and some universities might be interested in this.

    I hope that helps and best of luck.
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    (Original post by Ftpmoj)
    Hi there, thank you very much for doing this .

    I'm looking to study medicine for 2018 entry and I know that Cambridge places a big emphasis on academic and scientific interests. My question is, how much of my personal statement should I be using to demonstrate this? I've currently dedicated about half of it to my extra reading and my EPQ and how these inform my decision to apply for medicine and i'm afraid that this may put me at a disadvantage whilst applying to other universities that may put a greater emphasis on work experience or my personal qualities.
    Hello and thanks for your question. Don't tailor your UCAS personal statement to Cambridge - there is an additional box in the Cambridge SAQ form that allows for a Cambridge-specific personal statement. You can discuss more about your academic interests there. It's important to make your UCAS personal statement work to maximise your chances of getting offers from as many universities as possible.

    The two elements don't need, necessarily, to be mutually exclusive. You can discuss your work experience in an academic way - the cases that you came across while doing it and what you learnt about them allows you to show both your academic interests while showcasing the work experience you have done.
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    (Original post by Einsteinium*)
    Hi, thanks for doing this!

    My (first) question is, if you take the Maths A Level early in year 12, because your school makes you do maths first year and then further maths second year, will the grade you have already achieved in maths by the time you apply for Cambridge, be used in the decision making of your application? As in, can an A* grade already achieved help strengthen an application?

    Secondly, if you take the reformed AS Levels, will these likewise be used in the decision making of your application? Again, can they help strengthen an application? What is the significance of not taking reformed AS levels, compared to if you did take them - as in, will you be 'better of' if you have A grades in 2 reformed AS subjects, compared to if you didn't have these (due to your school not offering them)?

    And lastly, are the number of A* grades at GCSE that one has achieved, directly compared to other candidates? E.g. "So this applicant got 6 A*s at GCSE, but this other applicant got 10 A* grades at GCSE". Would they accept the person with 10 A*s? Would this be used initially in the decision making, or would it be used if it is a sort of 'borderline' decision?

    Thanks in advance.
    Thanks for your questions. 1) Yes, any Maths result you have achieved in Year 12 (or indeed, any A Level taken early) will be considered as part of the decision-making process and an A* in Maths will certainly be considered a good thing (especially in subjects where Maths is particularly relevant/important). As to whether it would be allowed to be counted towards the offer, that would be a decision taken on an individual basis.

    2) Yes, we will look at any AS results that you have in reformed subjects - it's a national exam taken very recently, so it's helpful to us. Students will not be disadvantaged by not taking AS Levels and students will not be advantaged simply by taking them. Students who have taken them an done well will be at an advantage, those who take them and do poorly will be at a disadvantage.

    3) We're never going to say simply that A has more A*s at GCSE than B and therefore we give the place to A. In judging GCSE performance we will look at relative school performance for one - 10 A*s may be a standard performance at some schools, whereas 6 A*s may be exceptional at another. We will also, however, be looking at the whole application and the 10 A*s person may be significantly weaker in other areas than the 6 A*s candidate. We try to build as rounded a picture as we can before we make decisions about candidates.
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    Hi, I just finished year 12 and planning to apply for mathematics at Cambridge. In year 12, I studied 4 subjects (Maths, further maths, geography and economics).
    GCSEs: 5A*s 5As 3Bs
    AS: AAA (Maths, further maths and geography)
    C1 - 98
    C2 - 98
    D1 - 100
    FP1 - 94
    S1 - 98
    D2 - 99

    Predicted grades: A*A*B (maths, further maths and economics)
 
 
 
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