The Student Room Group

HSPS at Cambridge: What are the chances of making it?

LONG POST WARNING!!!

Dear all who are doing / have done this course:
I am a sixth form student in Year 12, who wants to apply for Human, Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge. However, I have serious lingering doubts as to whether I could feasibly be eligible, although I am very aware that applying to Cambridge is a gamble for every single applicant, no matter their background, no matter their studies. It's worth admitting my main focus is the Politics so I would focus on that if I took the course.
A huge problem is that I'm not studying English Language/Literature or History, which 84% of successful applicants took. Typical applicants may have alternatively taken a language such as French (which I'm doing at A level). However all remaining applicants took Maths (which I'm doing at A level) or a "good choice subject". These subjects include Politics (doing at AS level) and a science such as Physics (A level). That being said this is data from 2017-19 so it may have changed since then.
To further help, I'm doing an EPQ which I know does not lower grade requirements but can help when choosing who gets an offer. As an AS and EPQ are both equivalent to half an A level I am doing the equivalent of 4 A levels. Might be worth mentioning my Politics AS tutor is also my EPQ supervisor and he's the head of the History Department, might that be any use in respect to History?
My sixth form does not offer Psychology, Philosophy (closest is Religious Studies) or Sociology at all, nor Politics as a full A level only AS, but maybe that could help as I might be expected to do one of those had I gone to a sixth form which could. Notably I'm the only student in the whole year doing the Politics AS so it's not something I can discuss or ask for help with any other students.
As it stands (very beginning of June) I'm told it is quite possible to raise UCAS grades between now and the deadline near the end of this calendar year. I'm currently looking at A* in French, A in Physics, B in Maths, so if I raise an A to A* and a B to A I should be able to secure A*A*A, as 71% of successful applicants achieved. For Politics and EPQ no predicted grades given yet. I'm told most of my work on EPQ and AS will be in summer holidays so I guess I can get predictions afterwards. As you may notice Maths is my worst, which is why I'm not interested in PPE at Oxford.
So to summarise 3 A levels, plus 1 AS, plus 1 EPQ, totalling the equivalent of 4.
Of course most applicants aren't successful for every single course at Cambridge, but HSPS is very competitive and I'm afraid it might not be worth trying, due to 5 applications max, if I'm not up to the job. On the other hand my sixth form does have great success rates, with Oxbridge offers in 2021 being over a quarter of students in that particular year (if my calculations are correct). If you are doing HSPS at Cambridge please give feedback and advice on my situation!
Thanks for taking the time to read this very long post.
Original post by Anonymous
LONG POST WARNING!!!

Dear all who are doing / have done this course:
I am a sixth form student in Year 12, who wants to apply for Human, Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge. However, I have serious lingering doubts as to whether I could feasibly be eligible, although I am very aware that applying to Cambridge is a gamble for every single applicant, no matter their background, no matter their studies. It's worth admitting my main focus is the Politics so I would focus on that if I took the course.
A huge problem is that I'm not studying English Language/Literature or History, which 84% of successful applicants took. Typical applicants may have alternatively taken a language such as French (which I'm doing at A level). However all remaining applicants took Maths (which I'm doing at A level) or a "good choice subject". These subjects include Politics (doing at AS level) and a science such as Physics (A level). That being said this is data from 2017-19 so it may have changed since then.
To further help, I'm doing an EPQ which I know does not lower grade requirements but can help when choosing who gets an offer. As an AS and EPQ are both equivalent to half an A level I am doing the equivalent of 4 A levels. Might be worth mentioning my Politics AS tutor is also my EPQ supervisor and he's the head of the History Department, might that be any use in respect to History?
My sixth form does not offer Psychology, Philosophy (closest is Religious Studies) or Sociology at all, nor Politics as a full A level only AS, but maybe that could help as I might be expected to do one of those had I gone to a sixth form which could. Notably I'm the only student in the whole year doing the Politics AS so it's not something I can discuss or ask for help with any other students.
As it stands (very beginning of June) I'm told it is quite possible to raise UCAS grades between now and the deadline near the end of this calendar year. I'm currently looking at A* in French, A in Physics, B in Maths, so if I raise an A to A* and a B to A I should be able to secure A*A*A, as 71% of successful applicants achieved. For Politics and EPQ no predicted grades given yet. I'm told most of my work on EPQ and AS will be in summer holidays so I guess I can get predictions afterwards. As you may notice Maths is my worst, which is why I'm not interested in PPE at Oxford.
So to summarise 3 A levels, plus 1 AS, plus 1 EPQ, totalling the equivalent of 4.
Of course most applicants aren't successful for every single course at Cambridge, but HSPS is very competitive and I'm afraid it might not be worth trying, due to 5 applications max, if I'm not up to the job. On the other hand my sixth form does have great success rates, with Oxbridge offers in 2021 being over a quarter of students in that particular year (if my calculations are correct). If you are doing HSPS at Cambridge please give feedback and advice on my situation!
Thanks for taking the time to read this very long post.

HSPS is not easy to get admission to Cambridge University but perhaps you should consider PPE at Oxford? :smile: Because you could choose to do Politics only after the first year exams at Oxford University. :wink:

The Maths in Oxford's PPE degree is not much more difficult than A-Level Maths. Also you might enjoy Politics more at Oxford.

Here are the latest Statistics for HSPS: https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/apply/statistics
Reply 2
Original post by thegeek888
HSPS is not easy to get admission to Cambridge University but perhaps you should consider PPE at Oxford? :smile: Because you could choose to do Politics only after the first year exams at Oxford University. :wink:

The Maths in Oxford's PPE degree is not much more difficult than A-Level Maths. Also you might enjoy Politics more at Oxford.

Here are the latest Statistics for HSPS: https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/apply/statistics


Please forgive me for making what might be a baseless assumption, but is it correct to guess you are studying / have studied at Oxford? :wink: If so, is there perhaps a chance that the slightest bias might be present in your answer? :wink::wink: In all seriousness, correct me if I'm wrong, I thought PPE at Oxford actually has a lower acceptance rate than HSPS at Cambridge (at about 1/9 as opposed to over 1/7). And I'm told PPE has a strong emphasis on maths / economics which isn't my real focus. In particular the philosophy aspect isn't as appealing. Yes, I could focus on politics after one year, but I am informed it's actually not as easy to get into PPE than HSPS. What's more HSPS fits more with my general university plan.
Original post by Anonymous
Please forgive me for making what might be a baseless assumption, but is it correct to guess you are studying / have studied at Oxford? :wink: If so, is there perhaps a chance that the slightest bias might be present in your answer? :wink::wink: In all seriousness, correct me if I'm wrong, I thought PPE at Oxford actually has a lower acceptance rate than HSPS at Cambridge (at about 1/9 as opposed to over 1/7). And I'm told PPE has a strong emphasis on maths / economics which isn't my real focus. In particular the philosophy aspect isn't as appealing. Yes, I could focus on politics after one year, but I am informed it's actually not as easy to get into PPE than HSPS. What's more HSPS fits more with my general university plan.

HSPS is not easy to get into at Cambridge University. The most successful applicants achieve A*A*A or A*A*A*. Where as at PPE Oxford you can be accepted with just A*AA and a high score in the TSA.

But if I was in your circumstances, then HSPS would be the best choice of course.

Which College have you chosen at Cambridge University?

Would you be happy studying Sociology based papers at Cambridge University or would you rather study some Economics and Philosophy for one year at Oxford? :wink: lol

Here are the papers choices in Year 1 of Cambridge University HSPS:

https://www.hsps.cam.ac.uk/part-i

Typical HSPS entrants (A Level and IB)
For 2017, 2018 and 2019 entry, the majority of applicants from an A Level background achieved at least grades A*A*A (71% of entrants). These successful applicants typically took at least one of English (Language, Language & Literature, or Literature, 84%), History, or a language. All remaining entrants took at least one of Mathematics or the ‘good choice combination subjects’ recommended by Subject Matters.* For the same period, the majority of IB entrants achieved at least 44 points overall and/or grades 777 at Higher Level.

This information is intended to give you a sense of the academic standard of our typical A Level entrants. We welcome applicants from a range of qualification backgrounds.

* Ancient History, Classical Civilisation, Economics, Further Mathematics, Geography, Politics, History of Art, Law, Music, Philosophy, Psychology, Religious Studies, sciences (Biology, Chemistry or Physics) or Sociology.
(edited 8 months ago)
Reply 4
Original post by Anonymous
Please forgive me for making what might be a baseless assumption, but is it correct to guess you are studying / have studied at Oxford? :wink: If so, is there perhaps a chance that the slightest bias might be present in your answer? :wink::wink: I

The person giving you "advice" hasn't even taken their A levels yet :smile: However you will note that they are very active in this forum (and other university forums) "helping" uni applicants, undergraduates and even postgraduates on a variety of topics. You can draw whatever conclusions you wish from that :biggrin:
Original post by davros
The person giving you "advice" hasn't even taken their A levels yet :smile: However you will note that they are very active in this forum (and other university forums) "helping" uni applicants, undergraduates and even postgraduates on a variety of topics. You can draw whatever conclusions you wish from that :biggrin:

I have taken them more than a decade ago, but now I am free from difficulties and will achieve high grades in all subjects. :biggrin:
Reply 6
Original post by thegeek888
I have taken them more than a decade ago, but now I am free from difficulties and will achieve high grades in all subjects. :biggrin:


According to this thread https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=7352114#post98426447 you're in Year 12 and not taken A levels yet!

So have you taken them or not? You seem to be dishing out advice on every university subject / course under the sun, despite not having studied any of them beyond A level!
Original post by davros
According to this thread https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=7352114#post98426447 you're in Year 12 and not taken A levels yet!

So have you taken them or not? You seem to be dishing out advice on every university subject / course under the sun, despite not having studied any of them beyond A level!

I have taken A-Levels in my teens but now in my twenties I am regarded as a mature student. Also, I have read almost every A-Level textbook at Waterstones in Gower Street and Jermyn Street in Piccadilly Circus. :biggrin: lol Because I could not believe the range of subjects offered at those two locations here in LONDON!!! :wink:

But now I am focused on my strengths in Maths and Languages. :smile:

I have helped a lot of my cousins, brothers, nieces and nephews, neighbours and friends with their exams, which includes almost every subject at GCSE and A-Level and whilst gathering the past papers, I have looked at the mark schemes and even read some of the examiners reports, as they asked for my help.
(edited 8 months ago)
Reply 8
Original post by thegeek888
I have taken A-Levels in my teens but now in my twenties I am regarded as a mature student. Also, I have read almost every A-Level textbook at Waterstones in Gower Street and Jermyn Street in Piccadilly Circus. :biggrin: lol Because I could not believe the range of subjects offered at those two locations here in LONDON!!! :wink:

But now I am focused on my strengths in Maths and Languages. :smile:

I have helped a lot of my cousins, brothers, nieces and nephews, neighbours and friends with their exams, which includes almost every subject at GCSE and A-Level and whilst gathering the past papers, I have looked at the mark schemes and even read some of the examiners reports, as they asked for my help.

So given your undoubted wide-ranging expertise in all these subjects, why are you now taking A levels again?
Original post by davros
So given your undoubted wide-ranging expertise in all these subjects, why are you now taking A levels again?

Do you even read? :s-smilie: I already said I had problems beyond my control. So now I can take them again and succeed.
Reply 10
Original post by thegeek888
Do you even read? :s-smilie: I already said I had problems beyond my control. So now I can take them again and succeed.

Ok, so you're basically trolling in this forum (and others in the Universities section), dishing out "advice" to uni applicants, undergraduates, postgraduates and others on courses you've never studied, institutions you've never attended, and subjects you are yet to complete at A level? That's all I wanted to establish :smile:
Original post by Anonymous
Actually, after the first year, you can choose one of 3 "single tracks" or one of 5 "joint tracks". One of the 3 single tracks is Politics and International Relations, which is what I would definitely choose after Year 1.
However I simply don't know what college to choose. The websites for each college tell me absolutely nothing as they all say they are great, fancy and full of intelligent people. Really I need to find out which one would be best for HSPS, as it is offered at every single college. Would you have any suggestions?

Explore this: "THE CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY ALTERNATIVE PROSPECTUS" :smile:

https://www.applytocambridge.com/colleges
Reply 12
Original post by davros
Ok, so you're basically trolling in this forum (and others in the Universities section), dishing out "advice" to uni applicants, undergraduates, postgraduates and others on courses you've never studied, institutions you've never attended, and subjects you are yet to complete at A level? That's all I wanted to establish :smile:

Davros, if this is true could you (if possible) please give any advice on colleges to apply to for HSPS at Cambridge? I need to decide and not forget about it, and the colleges' information about themselves isn't useful at all as they all say they're great! Thanks for your help
Original post by Anonymous
Davros, if this is true could you (if possible) please give any advice on colleges to apply to for HSPS at Cambridge? I need to decide and not forget about it, and the colleges' information about themselves isn't useful at all as they all say they're great! Thanks for your help

I know some cousins friends got into Economics and Maths with average grades for Cambridge University standards at Homerton College and St. Catherine's College.
Reply 14
Original post by Anonymous
Davros, if this is true could you (if possible) please give any advice on colleges to apply to for HSPS at Cambridge? I need to decide and not forget about it, and the colleges' information about themselves isn't useful at all as they all say they're great! Thanks for your help

I wouldn't like to suggest any current preferences, because although I studied at Cambridge it was many years ago, so it would be better if a current or recent student could advise - just be a bit wary of anyone who offers seemingly-plausible advice on here!

In a sense the colleges are all "great" since teaching is organized by the Department rather than by college so there shouldn't be any major differences in your college experience, so my personal advice would be to look at other factors which may sway your decision - would you prefer a larger or smaller college? One that takes more or fewer HSPS students each year so you have others on your course to talk to? One near the river or near lectures / seminar rooms for your course? One with particular sporting facilities or social clubs? Are the entrance requirements slightly different for one college over another? Are there any differences in accommodation that may influence you - room size, facilities etc?

I'm being deliberately vague here because the differences between colleges really are small, excepting the obvious such as female-only colleges and the ones that are a bit more remote. Hope some of my suggestions give you something to think about :smile:
Original post by Anonymous
LONG POST WARNING!!!

Dear all who are doing / have done this course:
I am a sixth form student in Year 12, who wants to apply for Human, Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge. However, I have serious lingering doubts as to whether I could feasibly be eligible, although I am very aware that applying to Cambridge is a gamble for every single applicant, no matter their background, no matter their studies. It's worth admitting my main focus is the Politics so I would focus on that if I took the course.
A huge problem is that I'm not studying English Language/Literature or History, which 84% of successful applicants took. Typical applicants may have alternatively taken a language such as French (which I'm doing at A level). However all remaining applicants took Maths (which I'm doing at A level) or a "good choice subject". These subjects include Politics (doing at AS level) and a science such as Physics (A level). That being said this is data from 2017-19 so it may have changed since then.
To further help, I'm doing an EPQ which I know does not lower grade requirements but can help when choosing who gets an offer. As an AS and EPQ are both equivalent to half an A level I am doing the equivalent of 4 A levels. Might be worth mentioning my Politics AS tutor is also my EPQ supervisor and he's the head of the History Department, might that be any use in respect to History?
My sixth form does not offer Psychology, Philosophy (closest is Religious Studies) or Sociology at all, nor Politics as a full A level only AS, but maybe that could help as I might be expected to do one of those had I gone to a sixth form which could. Notably I'm the only student in the whole year doing the Politics AS so it's not something I can discuss or ask for help with any other students.
As it stands (very beginning of June) I'm told it is quite possible to raise UCAS grades between now and the deadline near the end of this calendar year. I'm currently looking at A* in French, A in Physics, B in Maths, so if I raise an A to A* and a B to A I should be able to secure A*A*A, as 71% of successful applicants achieved. For Politics and EPQ no predicted grades given yet. I'm told most of my work on EPQ and AS will be in summer holidays so I guess I can get predictions afterwards. As you may notice Maths is my worst, which is why I'm not interested in PPE at Oxford.
So to summarise 3 A levels, plus 1 AS, plus 1 EPQ, totalling the equivalent of 4.
Of course most applicants aren't successful for every single course at Cambridge, but HSPS is very competitive and I'm afraid it might not be worth trying, due to 5 applications max, if I'm not up to the job. On the other hand my sixth form does have great success rates, with Oxbridge offers in 2021 being over a quarter of students in that particular year (if my calculations are correct). If you are doing HSPS at Cambridge please give feedback and advice on my situation!
Thanks for taking the time to read this very long post.



No knowledge of HSPS but can help with one thing.

Go with what the website says about subjects.
When I applied to Cambridge, there was a form I filled out which asked if there was any subject I wanted to take but couldn’t (eg because my school didn’t offer it). You could talk about Politics here. It seems that you have a lot of drive, especially being the only one in your class.

I’m confused about this EPQ supervisor thing. Is your EPQ on a historical subject? The content and the skills learnt are the important bits.

I don’t think you should worry about your school’s success rates. A quarter is still decent and of course will fluctuate depending on the students themselves.
Reply 16
Original post by Anonymous
No knowledge of HSPS but can help with one thing.

Go with what the website says about subjects.
When I applied to Cambridge, there was a form I filled out which asked if there was any subject I wanted to take but couldn’t (eg because my school didn’t offer it). You could talk about Politics here. It seems that you have a lot of drive, especially being the only one in your class.

I’m confused about this EPQ supervisor thing. Is your EPQ on a historical subject? The content and the skills learnt are the important bits.

I don’t think you should worry about your school’s success rates. A quarter is still decent and of course will fluctuate depending on the students themselves.


Well they only require an essay based subject and a language counts so that's covered. Actually it turns out someone else in the Government and Politics society wants to do HSPS but I don't think he's doing Politics AS, pretty sure History or something instead. As for my supervisor I'm saying it's just more convenient that I chose my EPQ supervisor to be the same teacher overviewing the AS. My EPQ is personally relevant to my life experience so it gives me a more authentic show of dedication there. It's relevant to both politics and social sciences though maybe not absolutely directly. I would say success rates should be taken into account because to some extent you can only do as well as your school can help you to. And apparently my maths was a bit wrong so probably lower.
Reply 17
I’m applying this year. I don’t think they count AS levels or much about the EPQ unless directly related to the degree subjects. They offer on three A levels. They will see what you have done on your form though, but I don’t think you should be mentioning anything about your supervisor being a history teacher (or whatever) as that is irrelevant. I think your concern that you not doing an essay subject is justified as that is stipulated I believe.
I did Art, History and Psychology. Im not interested in Politics (wasn’t offered at my school anyway). I’m interested in the Sociology/Anthropology part of HSPS, and from what I’ve seen it’s fine to not be knowledgeable about all three as you can choose one or two to concentrate on in your second and third years.
As for college I looked at the size, location, the buildings, the vibe. A bit on the stats - I want a decent amount of HSPS students at the college. Also looked at how many apply compared to how many offered. My last factor is some require an entrance assessment, some don’t.
Lastly you do need to get those grades up. But also look at what other unis are looking for - the other ones for me (Bath for Sociology and Exeter for Sociology/Anthropology), both say AAB, but the reality is successful applicants tend to have higher. I have grades in hand (all A star) so fairly confident with those two, but you never know!
As your school sends a fair few to Oxbridge then they must offer good support and they should be your first port of call.

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