Education Blog

Question: What should our son be doing to win a place at Cambridge University?

The Telegraph, 21 June 2016 – Read the article in full here.

Kate Shand: Your son must achieve the highest grades possible at A-level 

Your son is certainly making the most of his time at school and excelling in so many ways – congratulations.  


The range of activities you’ve mentioned will ensure that he is developing into a well-rounded individual, able to take on new challenges with confidence. However, although it is excellent to have this extracurricular experience, it is worth noting that a highly academic university such as Cambridge will be focusing primarily on your son’s academic results and intellectual interests.  


  • It is essential that your son achieves the highest grades possible at A-level and reads widely around his subject, not just focusing on texts he is studying as part of the curriculum but going beyond these to delve into new genres of literature. 
  • It is important that your son is able to discuss his personal interests in English.  Cambridge looks for students who are passionate about their subject so it’s wonderful to hear that your son spends his spare time writing both for school and for his own pleasure. 
  • At interview, it is important that your son is able to discuss his personal interests in English and he will also need to engage with texts he may never have seen before. 
  • My biggest piece of advice would be to read, read and read some more.  And then be ready to have a robust discussion.  


You may be aware that Cambridge recently changed their admissions policy and are reintroducing their own test as part of the process. All students are required to take the English Literature Aptitude Test (ELAT) and depending on his choice of college, your son may have to submit one or two essays prior to interview. 


Do take a look at the Cambridge University website which has a wealth of information about the application process and also their open days. You will be able to find examples of the aptitude tests on the College websites and companies such as Enjoy Education will be able to provide further support and guidance about the interview. 

Kate Shand, founder and MD of Enjoy Education 


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