Undergraduate Admissions Handbook 2012-13
1.5 Written work and tests
1.5.1 Written work
Colleges must state on the Undergraduate Admissions website (www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/apply/tests/) whether they will be asking for school/college written work to be submitted.
The Forum has agreed that a standard coversheet be used for written work submitted by applicants. A copy of this coversheet is included in Forms and letters.
1.5.2 Written tests
Colleges must state on the Undergraduate Admissions website whether they will be setting a subject-specific written test at interview.
The Forum has agreed that any College-specific written test should last no longer than one hour. Currently, the two agreed exceptions are:
- the BMAT, taken by all applicants applying for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. This is taken in the applicant’s school/college and is a two-hour test.
- the Cambridge Assessment Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) test, which is used by many Colleges for various subjects, and is a 90-minute test.
Disabled applicants, or those with health problems or requiring extra support, who will be taking a written test should be given additional support, time etc. as appropriate. For further information, see Section 2.1.
In addition to these tests, some Colleges may also as part of conditional offers require applicants to take STEP (Sixth Term Examination Paper) or the Advanced Extension Award (AEA) in Mathematics. The STEP and AEA examinations are taken during the summer examination period, in the applicant’s school/college, and are three hours in length.
1.5.3 Cambridge Law Test
Between 2004 and 2008 Cambridge trialled use of the National Admissions Test in Law (LNAT). Use of the LNAT was discontinued for the 2010 entry admissions round. Instead, most Colleges will ask their Law applicants to sit the Cambridge Law Test (CLT) when they attend for interview. Applicants who sit the test in Cambridge will be required to answer one question in one hour.
Further information about the CLT can be found at: www.law.cam.ac.uk/admissions/cambridge-law-test.php.
1.5.4 Biomedical Admissions Test
More information about the BMAT is available at: www.admissionstests.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/adt/bmat
1.5.5 Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA Cambridge)
Applicants do not need to register to take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) as it is taken (either online or on paper) when in Cambridge for interview. Instead, Colleges register applicants via the TSA Admin and Information website (www.tsacambridge.org.uk).
Colleges will inform applicants if they are required to take the TSA. Overseas applicants will only be required to take the test if they are attending a College interview, or are being interviewed overseas.
The TSA provides an assessment of two kinds of thinking:
- Problem solving – reasoning using numerical and spatial skills.
Many of the problems encountered in academic and professional work are novel. No ready ‘off-the-peg solution’ is available. The task is to find or create a solution.
- Critical thinking – reasoning using everyday written language.
The skill of assessing argument is the basis of any academic study. Historians use argument when reasoning about records of events in the past, and scientists use argument when reasoning about the evidence from their experiments. Whatever the subject of study, it is necessary to understand the arguments presented by others and to be able to assess whether the arguments establish their claims.
Both problem-solving and critical thinking are tested by multiple-choice questions. In each case a stimulus is presented, followed by the question and five options. In the case of critical thinking questions, the stimulus is a passage of text, but in problem-solving the stimulus may include a diagram, a table of information (a railway timetable for example) or a graph. The options may also be in the form of graphs or diagrams. These are skills that are considered to be important in higher education, and it will be noted that they include reasoning using numerical and spatial skills and everyday written language.
There are 50 questions all carrying the same weight, and each can only be right (full marks) or wrong (no marks). Scores are expressed as a percentage, then adjusted statistically to a common scale. There is no concept of ‘grade boundaries’ as in A Level or GCSE, and scores are meaningful only comparatively.
Candidates who do the online version of the TSA have their tests marked automatically almost instantaneously. The answer papers of those doing the paper version are returned to Cambridge Assessment for scanning and marking. The marks of all TSA candidates for a given College can be downloaded from the TSA Admin and Information website as soon as they are available. Anonymised results for all other TSA candidates applying for a given subject, and collectively for all subjects across all Colleges, can also be viewed for purposes of comparison.
The TSA has been extensively trialled by many Colleges in the subjects named above.
For more information about the TSA, please see: www.admissionstests.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/adt/tsacambridge.
1.5.6 Sixth Term Examination Paper (STEP)
At Cambridge we normally include STEP Mathematics as part of the offer to applicants for Mathematics. Some Colleges also ask applicants for subjects for which mathematical ability is important (such as Computer Science or Engineering) to take STEP. This is most commonly done when the student is not taking Further Mathematics, so STEP is used to provide an assessment of their ability beyond that given by Mathematics A Level.
There are three STEP Mathematics papers: Mathematics I, Mathematics II and Mathematics III.
- Mathematics I and II are based on the specifications for A Level Mathematics, with Mathematics II being more challenging than Mathematics I.
- Mathematics III is wider in scope and is only really suitable for candidates studying for A Level Further Mathematics.
Applicants usually take two of the three papers. It is impossible to take all three, as papers I and III are scheduled at the same time. Some conditional offers only require an applicant to take one STEP paper.
Each paper is three hours long and is divided into three sections: Pure Mathematics, Mechanics, and Probability and Statistics. All questions carry equal weight and candidates are assessed on the six questions best answered. There is no restriction on choice of questions. Calculators are not allowed.
The examination is taken in the applicant’s school/college and it is their (the school’s/college’s) responsibility to register candidates with the examination board. The STEP examination is administered by Cambridge Assessment.
Once the examination is completed, Cambridge Assessment provides CAO with a copy of all of the results for every student who took a STEP paper. This may include students who did not even apply to the University of Cambridge (Warwick and Imperial College are the only other institutions that currently include STEP in conditional offers, while Bristol and Oxford encourage offer holders to take STEP for the educational benefit). CAO will then match these results against their own data and distribute the results, in an Excel spreadsheet, to each College.
Copies of the examination scripts for STEP, where available from Cambridge Assessment, will be set out at the Summer Pool for reading. CAO will also provide rank order lists of all applicants who took STEP papers at the Summer Pool.
For more information about STEP, please see: www.admissionstests.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/adt/step.