Saq Cambridge Additional Personal Statement

Please note that the SAQ Guide in the sidebar relates to applications for 2018 entry. The SAQ Guide for 2019 entry applications will be available from August 2018.

Shortly after submitting your UCAS application, you'll be asked via email to complete an online Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ). In order to make a valid application to the University of Cambridge, you must submit your SAQ by the deadline set. In the majority of cases this deadline will be 18.00 (UK time) on 22 October

If a different deadline applies to you, your College will notify you of the date. If you’re in any doubt about the deadline by which you must complete the SAQ, please contact the College as soon as possible to check.

The purpose of the SAQ is to ensure that we have complete and consistent information about all applicants. It also enables us to collect information that's not part of the UCAS application but is helpful when assessing applications, such as the topics you've covered as part of your AS/A Level (or equivalent) courses (which helps our interviewers decide which questions to ask).

What does the SAQ look like?

The SAQ is divided into eight sections. These sections make up the horizontal navigation displayed along the top of each page.

  1. Application Type
  2. Photograph
  3. Personal Details
  4. BMAT Number
  5. Education
  6. Qualifications
  7. Additional Information
  8. Submit

Each of the eight sections contains a number of pages with a series of questions to complete. Questions are accompanied by a ‘Help Text’ panel that provides guidance. Further help is available in the Guide to Completing the SAQ and a list of frequently asked questions is available on the SAQ FAQ page.

It is very important that you follow the instructions and use the personal log in details contained in your SAQ email. It will take a short time for your application to be processed, therefore you won't receive an email from us immediately after submitting your UCAS application – it can take up to 48 hours to receive your SAQ email from the time you submit your UCAS application. We recommend that you check the inbox and spam/junk folder of the email account used in your UCAS application on a regular basis.

If you're unable to complete the SAQ online (because you don't have a valid email address or as a result of a disability), please contact the Cambridge Admissions Office as soon as possible (telephone: 01223 333308; email: saqhelp@admin.cam.ac.uk).

Before applying, applicants need to check that they have, or are likely to achieve, the right grades at the right level and in the right subjects for the course they have chosen. Please see the Entrance Requirements for furher details.

Submitted work

For a number of our courses, mainly in the arts and social sciences, applicants may be asked to submit examples of their written work that they have written as part of a relevant A Level/IB (or equivalent) course. A discussion of this may then form part of the interview.

Such work must be as submitted to and marked by the teacher – schools/colleges are asked to complete a cover sheet confirming that it is the applicant’s own work and detailing the circumstances in which it was written.

Helping students with personal statements

Personal statements allow students to tell us about their subject interest, and the process of writing a personal statement can often help a student better understand their academic interests and intellectual motivations.

Admissions decisions at Cambridge are based solely on academic criteria (ability and potential). Personal statements are often used as a basis for discussion at interview. In a personal statement we are looking for applicants to:

  • explain their reasons for wanting to study the subject
  • demonstrate their enthusiasm for and commitment to their chosen course
  • express any particular interests within the field
  • outline how they have pursued their interest in the subject in their own time

How important are extra-curricular activities?

As our admissions decisions are based on academic criteria, we expect to see evidence of students’ super-curricular activities and wider engagement with their area(s) of academic interest, such as reading and other exploration relevant to the course applied for. 

In addition, we look at how these activities demonstrate other characteristics that will aid students' transition to life at university, such as how they balance their academic and personal commitments, and have developed particular skills or qualities such as perseverance, independence, leadership or team-working.

A student's participation (or not) in specific extra-curricular activities that are not relevant to the course applied for are not taken into account and do not affect their chances of being made an offer of a place at Cambridge.

Cambridge-specific comments

Applicants can make additional comments relevant to their Cambridge application in their SAQ, for instance to highlight particular features of the Cambridge course that attracted them.

This additional personal statement is optional, applicants will not be disadvantaged if they have nothing to add and should be advised not to repeat information they provided in their UCAS personal statement as we will have already received a copy of this.

Helping students prepare for interviews

Interviews are discussion-based, and predominantly academic and subject-related, so applicants will be asked questions:

  • that are relevant to the course they applied for
  • about the information provided in the written elements of their application

You can help students prepare by encouraging them to talk with confidence and enthusiasm about their subject and wider interests. A mock interview can be helpful to give the experience of expressing ideas and opinions in response to unknown questions. Students are not expected to have ready-prepared answers, over-rehearsed answers can be counterproductive if students are preoccupied with recalling set speeches on general topics rather than listening to the interviewers’ questions and responding accordingly.

Students should be encouraged to read broadly in the areas of their A Level/IB Higher Level (or equivalent) subjects and must be prepared to think quite hard in their interviews but should be reminded that often there are no right or wrong answers to the questions they are asked. It is the process of reaching their answer that is generally of most significance, rather than the answer itself.

It is important for applicants to realise that interviewers will not be trying to ‘catch them out’, but will be challenging them to think and show how they can apply their existing knowledge and skills laterally to less familiar problems.

It is also important for students to understand that their performance at interview alone does not determine the outcome of their application. Admissions decisions are made holistically, taking all available information into account.

HE+ website

The HE+ website is for students looking to expand their subject knowledge outside of the taught curriculum. The website is host to fascinating self-study resources written by Cambridge academics and postgraduates to give potential applicants an introduction to university level learning and independent study.

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