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Academic Requirements

Admission to the Engineering course at Cambridge is highly competitive, both in terms of the numbers and quality of applicants. In considering applicants, Colleges look for evidence both of academic ability and of motivation towards Engineering. There are no absolute standards required of A Level achievement, but it should be noted that the average entrant to the Department has three A* grades.

The standard minimum A Level offer for engineering is A*A*A but Colleges can and will make different offers, occasionally including offers on 4 A-Levels depending on an applicant's individual circumstances.

Although academic requirements are expressed here in terms of A Levels, equivalent qualifications in other school, national and international examinations are acceptable to all Colleges and offers of places are regularly made to applicants sitting such examinations. Some equivalences are given in the Other Examination Systems section below.

If you are taking examinations other than A Levels or the ones detailed in the Other Examination Systems section below, you should check our Country-specific Information to establish whether the qualifications you are taking are acceptable. If you have further questions about the acceptability of your qualifications, contact the Cambridge Admissions Office.

There are four Colleges (Hughes Hall, Lucy Cavendish, St Edmund’s and Wolfson) that admit only mature students (those over the age of 21). These Colleges tend to be more flexible about admissions requirements, so unconventional educational profiles are not necessarily discounted. They aim to make a careful assessment to ensure that the mathematical ability and vocational goals of their applicants give them the opportunity to do well in the Engineering Tripos. 

Essentials

The only absolute requirements to study Engineering in Cambridge are Maths and Physics at A Level (or equivalent in other systems). If you have a choice of topics within your Maths (and/or Further Maths) course, you will find mechanics and pure mathematics most immediately relevant to our Engineering course.

Taking STEP papers is not normally required to study Engineering in Cambridge, of the Colleges only Christ’s and Peterhouse make regular use of STEP conditions in offers for Engineering.

Chemistry is also required for admission to read Chemical Engineering via the Engineering route. (There is an alternative route to Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences.)

Maths for Engineering: Notes for School Teachers gives advice to help applicants choose a suitable A Level Maths course and options within that course.

Third A Levels and Further Maths

All Colleges strongly prefer applicants for Engineering to be taking a third subject that is relevant to Engineering. If your school or college is able to offer Further Maths or you can access it through the Further Mathematics Support Programme, you are very strongly encouraged to study this. Other suitable subjects for your third A Level include (in alphabetical order) Chemistry, Computing, Design Technology, and Electronics.

Fourth A-Levels

There is no requirement to offer more than three A Levels, and it is recognised that not all schools are able to accommodate students taking four A Levels. Excelling in three A Levels relevant to Engineering is almost always preferable to performing well but not as highly in more than three A Levels.

It is worth noting, however, that there is a high level of synergy between Maths, Further Maths and Physics. This means that, for students who are taking this combination, offering a fourth A Level allows an applicant to demonstrate both high achievement in Maths and the ability to cope with a demanding workload.

Vocational Qualifications 

All Colleges, except Trinity College, welcome applications from students taking A Level Mathematics and a suitable vocational qualification, e.g. a BTEC Higher National Diploma, in an engineering discipline. Applicants are expected to achieve the highest possible grades in A Level Mathematics and the vocational qualification. Those taking the Single Award Applied A Level in Engineering or the Principal Learning components of the Advanced Diploma in Engineering must also be taking A Levels in Mathematics and Physics.

You are encouraged to discuss the suitablility of your qualifications at an early stage with the admissions office of the College you intend to apply to.

Other Examinations Systems

For students studying in the Scottish system, Advanced Highers can be regarded as equivalent to A Levels and Highers as equivalent to AS Levels for the purposes of our academic requirements.

For students studying the International Baccalaureate, Higher Level subjects can be regarded as equivalent to A Levels and Standard Level subjects as equivalent to AS Levels for the purposes of our academic requirements. Consequently, IB students must offer Maths and Physics at Higher Level. The standard IB offer is 42 points with 7,7,7 or 7,7,6 at HL.

For students studying the Cambridge Pre-U, Principal Subjects can be regarded as equivalent to A Levels for the purposes of our academic requirements.

Information on typical offer levels in these and other examination systems can be found in the Entrance Requirements section of the University's Undergraduate Study website.

Information on typical offer levels in international qualifications can be found in the Country-specific Information section of the University's Undergraduate Study website.