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What are we looking for?

Are you one of the top-achieving students in your school, getting high exam marks?

Then please think about coming to Pembroke, if we offer a course that interests you. We can’t give you a place unless you apply!

We want to admit the brightest and best students, whatever your background. Pembroke is an open, friendly and diverse community, and that diversity plays a big part in making the College so strong academically.

We take a holistic approach, and consider all aspects of your application. We look at your exam record and predicted results, but also your school reference, your personal statement and written tests, and your performance at interview.

It all helps us build an overall impression that lets us rank your application in comparison with others we receive in the same year.


How can I improve my chances of getting a place?

There are four key elements to a successful application. We call them The Four Rs.

1. Right Course

At Cambridge you can choose from a huge variety of courses, taught by people doing research at the absolute cutting edge of their subject.

Think carefully. You’ll spend three or four years working independently. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, your motivation and performance will suffer. So if you choose a course at Pembroke, make sure it’s a subject you genuinely want to study.

This means it’s equally important that you choose the right subjects at A-level (or equivalent). And for some of our courses, it’s essential that you study certain subjects. Find out more in the courses section.

2. Results

Your exam results are a very good predictor of how well you’re likely to do at university.

We do however realise that some applicants’ exam results may be adversely affected by extenuating circumstances. You can tell us about these on the Supplementary Application Questionnaire.

While we do take GCSEs into account if you’ve had the opportunity to do them (and don’t worry if you haven’t), we place more emphasis on how you’re doing at age 16+. So when it comes to applying for a place here, your A-level (or equivalent) results are more important.

Our advice? Work hard to get the best possible results in your public exams.

3. Reading

Whatever subject you apply for, we want to see evidence that you’re committed to it beyond the limits of your school work.

So, do some extra reading or work related to your main interest. For example, read a history book or a novel that’s not on your syllabus. Or read The Economist, Nature, or another relevant magazine regularly.

If you’re applying for a highly quantitative subject, try some difficult maths problems. Cambridge’s Underground Mathematics and Nrich are great places to start.

Strong analytical skills are invaluable (especially for mathematical subjects) and these come with practice. So try to stay up-to-date with current developments in your subject where relevant. And when you read articles or books, think about them critically:

  • Can you summarise the argument?
  • What evidence are you being given to reinforce the argument/s?
  • What’s your own reaction to it?

4. Revision

We’re keen to build a true picture of your knowledge and your attitude to learning. The interviews are a part of this process, and revision can really help you here.

So, look back over your work from the last year or so before you come to see us. Your knowledge will be the foundation on which our interview questions can build.