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Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing
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by Andy Chamberlain, Head of Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing
What’s on your checklist for applying to university? Undoubtedly getting the right grades in the right qualifications, possibly passing an interview, and – sometimes – taking an admissions test.
Don’t think of an admissions test as ‘another exam’ but instead as your chance to shine. Admissions tests help universities choose applicants with the potential for success by assessing the skills they need to do well on a particular course. Admissions tests are mostly compulsory, but many students take one anyway to enhance their university application.
Admissions tests are designed to be fair and inclusive, so if you have to take a test (or are thinking about taking one), don’t worry! Think about the positives – and here are just a few:
A chance to stand out from the crowd
Admissions tests are often part of the application process for the most popular courses, so are a way to demonstrate your potential and to stand out from the crowd. Unlike A Levels or other school qualifications, admissions tests focus on the skills you need to do well at university – such as critical thinking, problem solving and how to apply your subject knowledge.
You don’t have to learn a lot of new material
Admissions tests are designed to be inclusive and so they draw on and ask you to apply the knowledge and skills you should have gained at school. But while you don’t need to do a lot of new learning, you do need to be prepared. This means test preparation is often revision of your subject knowledge, as well as familiarising yourself with test format and question types, and practising time management.
Preparation materials are all available online for free
Everything you need to prepare for your test is available on our website for free. There’s no need to pay for preparation courses or additional resources, especially as there’s no evidence that they can help you get a better score.
Preparation is good practice for university studies
Admissions tests bridge the gap between school and university studies. Some tests focus on the application of subject knowledge you’ve learned at school to solve problems – something which you will be expected to do once you’re on your course. Others focus directly on essential critical thinking and problem solving skills. So preparing for the test should give you a taster of the sort of thinking and reasoning you’ll be doing at university.
Non-compulsory admissions tests can get you a reduced university offer
The Test of Mathematics for University Admission (TMUA) is a good example – many students take TMUA to prove their mathematical thinking and reasoning abilities, and even though the test is not always compulsory, a good score can make an application stand out and could result in a reduced university offer.
Taking a non-compulsory test is risk-free
Sometimes, if the test isn’t compulsory, you don’t have to share your score with your target university unless you’re happy with it. This makes the test risk-free and a good opportunity to assess your skills before committing to a university course.
Don’t worry about test fees
Admissions tests are designed to be gateways – not barriers – to university, so affordability is very important. We aim to keep test costs as low as possible, and if you meet certain criteria (such as eligibility for free school meals, or you receive the Education Maintenance Allowance), then your test fees could be reimbursed (please note, this is available to UK/EU candidates only).
Remember, an admissions test gives you another opportunity to show your university what you can do. If you’ve got the knowledge and the skills and you’ve familiarised yourself with the test, then it will shine through on the test day.
For more information about our admissions tests, including details about test formats and our free preparation materials, please visit the test-takers section of our website.