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Apply to Oxbridge Engineering: A Complete Guide

Table of Contents
Oxbridge Engineering Admissions: A Complete Guide
Table of Contents

I. Common Knowledge to Oxbridge Engineering Admissions

1. Choose Either Oxford or Cambridge

You can only apply to only one course of either Oxford or Cambridge in a same academic year, rather than applying to both the two universities.

2. Apply Through the UCAS

II. Timeline for Oxbridge Engineering Courses

Timeline for 2025 Entry


Preparing for the Application

Choosing Your Course

  • Oxford Engineering Science
  • Oxford Materials Science
  • Cambridge Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology
  • Cambridge Engineering

Writing Your Personal Statement

Preparing Your Academic Reference

Choosing Your College

Registration for ESAT Exam Begins
Cambridge engineering-related courses applicants
UCAS Application Opens
UE International Education Logo
UE International Education Ltd.
UCAS Registration Center Code: 42757
PAT Exam Registration Deadline

Oxford engineering-related courses applicants

ESAT Exam Registration Deadline
Cambridge engineering-related courses applicants

UCAS Application Submission Deadline

For all applicants to Oxbridge engineering

15 or 16
Cambridge ESAT Exam Day

Cambridge engineering-related courses applicants

Oxford PAT Exam Day

Oxford engineering-related courses applicants

Deadline for Submitting My Cambridge Application and Transcripts

Students applying for Cambridge

Receive interview invitations
first three weeks
Oxbridge Interview


Release of Oxford University Admission Offers
Release of Cambridge University Admission Offers
Deadline for Meeting Conditional Offer Requirements
Official Commencement of the Academic Year

III. How to Choose an Oxbridge Engineering Course?

The University of Oxford has two categories of engineering-related courses, Engineering Science and Materials Science, and six sub-divisions courses within the Engineering Science:

CoursesUCAS code
Engineering ScienceH100

Biomedical Engineering


Chemical Engineering


Civil Engineering


Electrical Engineering


Information Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


Materials Science


In 2022, the University of Cambridge discontinued the original Chemical Engineering (Natural Sciences) course with the UCAS code H813. They renamed the existing Chemical Engineering (Engineering) course to Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology while retaining the UCAS code H810. Therefore, Cambridge University still offers two courses related to engineering.

CoursesUCAS code
Chemical Engineering and BiotechnologyH810

IV. What Are the Oxbridge Engineering Admission Requirements?

1. General Admission Requirements

The general admission requirements for Oxbridge engineering courses are outlined in the table below:

Oxford Engineering
Cambridge Engineering
Language Proficiency:
  • IELTS: 7.5 (with a minimum of 7.0 in each component)
  • TOEFL: 110 (Listening 22, Speaking 25, Reading 24, Writing 24)
  • Cambridge English (C1 Advanced): 191 (minimum 185 per component)
  • Cambridge English (C2 Proficiency): 191 (minimum 185 per component)
  • English Language GCSE: Grade B/6, plus Merit in the separate Speaking endorsement
  • IELTS: 7.5 (with 7.0 or above in each element)
  • TOEFL: 110 (with a minimum of 25 in each element)
  • Cambridge English (C2 Proficiency): 200 (with a minimum of 185 in each element)
  • Cambridge English (C1 Advanced): 193 (with a minimum of 185 in each element, alongside other evidence of competence in English)
(including Mathematics and Physics, with an A* in either Mathematics, Physics or Chemistry)
IB Scores:
40 (including core points) with 766 at HL (with 7 in either Mathematics, Physics or Chemistry)41-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level
Requirements vary and are based on conditional offers.
Requirements vary and are based on conditional offers.
High School Exam (e.g., Gaokao):
Not accepted.Ranked in the top 0.1% of college entrance examination candidates in their province.
University Entrance Exam:

The admission requirements for materials science at Oxford are slightly lower than for engineering science:

  • A-Level requires A*AA.
  • IB score requires 766, but the total score remains 40.

2. Oxford’s Official Statement on Reference Criteria for Admission

 Expectations of the Oxford Engineering Department

Enthusiasm for engineering combined with high ability in mathematics and physics is essential for those wishing to study any engineering course. These qualities will be tested at the interview and combined with an assessment of your predicted and attained examination performance (especially in mathematics and physics, and your PAT score) to decide who will be offered places.

Three points are important:

First, the student should have a strong interest and curiosity in engineering science.

Second, they must have a solid foundation in mathematics and physics, which is the premise for studying engineering.

Third, and most importantly, the PAT scores significantly determine whether a student will be offered a place.

3. Oxford’s Official Statement on Reference Criteria for Admission

Expectations of the Oxford Engineering Department

Colleges organise their assessment procedures in slightly different ways, but, in broad terms, all are looking for students who show:
A sound knowledge base and confidence in a range of skills. This includes not just the capacity to do well at A Levels, but the potential to go beyond the A Level syllabus and to use this knowledge in less familiar situations;
A wider engagement with the subject, expressed through an interest in new ideas and an enthusiasm for reading round the subject;
Self-discipline, self-motivation and commitment;
Capacity to learn.
For Engineering, evidence of motivation and commitment might be shown in a number of ways that could include:
Relevant hobbies and interests;
Participation in
STEMNET events and activities,
Engineering Education Scheme projects,
a Headstart course,
the Arkwright Scholarship scheme,
Smallpeice Trust courses,
Young Engineers activities,
and other similar courses or activities;
Relevant work experience placements;
Applying for deferred entry in order to participate in schemes such as the Year In Industry;
The seeking of industrial sponsorship.

Compared to Oxford, Cambridge’s description is more detailed, but the requirements are generally similar:

First, the grades must be good; only learning A Level is far from enough; students need to explore knowledge beyond the A Level syllabus extensively.

Second, students need to read more advanced and recent content related to engineering extensively.

Third, students should have a strong sense of self-drive and responsibility, which can be demonstrated by participating in various engineering-related extracurricular activities.

Fourth, students should have strong learning abilities and talents.

Key data provided by the Cambridge Engineering Department

Typical Engineering entrants
(A Level and IB)
For 2017, 2018 and 2019 entry, the majority of entrants from an A Level background achieved at least grades A*A*A* (87% of entrants). All of these successful applicants took Mathematics, 95% took Further Mathematics, 98% took Physics and 62% took Chemistry. For the same period, the majority of IB entrants achieved at least 43 points overall and/or grades 777 at Higher Level.
This information is intended to give you a sense of the academic standard of our typical A Level entrants. We welcome applicants from a range of qualification backgrounds.

The conclusion of the above data is as follows:

87% of students studying A Level achieved A*A*A* or above. The percentage of students taking respective courses is 100% for Mathematics, 95% for Further Mathematics, 98% for Physics, and 62% for Chemistry. Meanwhile, the majority of IB students scored at least 43 points (HL 777) or above.

Therefore, it is recommended and essential to look at the statistics and information provided by the Univerisity of Cambridge rather than relying on general admission requirements.

Which is easier to apply for, engineering at Oxford or Cambridge? Let’s analyze the admission statistics from previous years.

Engineering at Oxford vs Cambridge - Which is easier to get into

V. Application Process and Required Materials

The application process of applying to Oxbridge engineering is not complicated. However, there are some important details you need to know and materials to prepare before applying.

1. Materials Required for UCAS Application

When applying to Oxford or Cambridge through UCAS, you must confirm or submit the following information:

  • The specific course and its UCAS code at either Oxford or Cambridge.
  • Choose a particular college or open application.
  • Your personal information, including your email address.
  • Your educational history and your academic achievements to date.
  • Your Oxbridge engineering personal statement.
  • Your academic reference.

2. Differences between the Application Processes for Oxford, Cambridge, and Other UK Universities

The application process of applying to Oxbridge engineering through UCAS is similar to other universities in the UK, with the exception of certain courses and circumstances. However, there are a few important points to know:

  • Early Application Deadline: The application deadline for Oxford and Cambridge is October 15th, earlier than most other universities.
  • Selection of College or Open Application: Unlike many other universities, applicants to Oxford and Cambridge must choose a particular college or opt for an open application.
  • Single Course Application: Unless under extremely rare circumstances, Oxford and Cambridge allow applicants to apply for only one course.
  • Transcript Requirement: Cambridge University may request transcripts from some applicants covering their secondary school academic records.

3. Official Undergraduate Application Process for the University of Cambridge

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4. Official Undergraduate Application Process for the University of Oxford

Part 1: What Oxford is Like

Play Video

 Part 2: How to Apply

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Part 3: Preparing

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5. Language Proficiency and High School Grades

Language proficiency does not need to meet the admissions requirements before the UCAS application deadline of October 15, 2024, but only the admissions requirements of the relevant courses before August 31, 2025.

Predicted high school grades need to be submitted before October 15th. This score is one of the critical factors for Oxbridge admissions reference.

6. Open Application (Choosing a College)

It can be difficult for you to choose a college from the pool of 30 colleges at both Oxford and Cambridge. If you are not that confident or do not care which college to apply to, you can choose an open application on UCAS.

  • After the application deadline, students who choose an open application will be randomly assigned to a college via a computer program.
  • The random allocation aims to balance the number of applicants across various colleges and courses.
  • Once assigned to a college, the application process proceeds like other students.
  • For students who meet all the application requirements, the likelihood of being admitted is the same whether they choose a specific college or opt for an open application.

Click the link below to view our blogs about Oxbridge colleges and how to choose a college in Oxbridge.

How to Choose Colleges at Oxford University
How to Choose Colleges at Cambridge University

7. Personal Statements

As a part of the UCAS application process, every student is required to submit an application essay, also known as a personal statement (PS). The Oxbridge engineering personal statement serves as a tool for universities to better understand students’ interests in the subject and course, which also allows students to better understand their academic interests and motivations.

Typically, the personal statement should encompass the following aspects:

  • Explain the reasons for wanting to study the relevant course at the university.
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm and dedication to the chosen course.
  • Express specific interests within the relevant field of study.
  • Articulate how one is committed to researching the subjects of interest.

Click on the link below for more guidance on composing an engineering personal statement and official suggestions from Oxford, Cambridge, and UCAS.

8. Academic References

Academic references (academic references at Oxford and school/college references at Cambridge) provide universities with a better understanding of a student’s abilities and potential. What’s more, admissions officers use these references to assess whether a student’s academic capabilities are suited for the chosen course and if they can adapt to the university’s learning environment.

As a crucial component of the UCAS application, universities typically prefer academic references submitted by school teachers or individuals who can provide authoritative insights into a student’s academic background.

Please note that academic references must also be submitted before the application deadline on October 15th.

9. Transcripts

To find out if you need to submit the transcript when applying to the University of Cambridge, you should check the official Cambridge guidelines in the section “Completing My Cambridge Application“.

VI. What Preparation is Needed for Applying to Oxbridge Engineering?

1. Preparing for the Oxford PAT

Students applying for physics-related courses at Oxford must take the PAT exam. Before 2019, the PAT score was not only a crucial basis for issuing interview invitations but also an important reference for conditional offers.

Since 2019, the PAT score combined with the weighted cGCSE scores to form the R-score. The likelihood of receiving an interview invitation largely depends on the R-score. Due to the pandemic, the 2021 PAT score significantly impacted the chances of progressing to the interview stage. After the interview, the student’s PAT score and weighted interview score are combined to form the C-score, which is one of the important factors affecting admission. Oxford officials point out that typically students who are ranked in the top 100 by C-score are admitted. According to the PAT report given by Oxford officials at the end of 2022, Oxford hopes to continue using the R-score as a basis for pre-interview screening of candidates. If all goes as expected, the R-score will be an important basis for whether applicants for entry in 2024 will receive an interview invitation.

Please refer to the blog for comprehensive understanding and preparation suggestions for Oxford PAT exams.

Oxford PAT Exam - A Comprehensive Guide

2. Preparing for the Cambridge ESAT

The ESAT is a computer-based assessment, and it’s made up of individual multiple-choice assessments that last 40 minutes each. Students will sit these back-to-back on the day of the test.

Mathematics 1 is compulsory for all candidates. And the remaining assessments will depend on the Cambridge course students are applying to. When applying for Natural Sciences, you will complete Mathematics 1 and two additional multiple-choice assessments from Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Mathematics 2, making the test 120 minutes in total.

The final scores are based on the number of correct answers you give, and you do not lose marks for wrong answers, so there is no pass or fail for ESAT. It would help if you aimed to do the best you can.

Please refer to the blog for comprehensive understanding and preparation suggestions for Cambridge ESAT exams.

ESAT Exam - A Comprehensive Guide

3. Should I Prepare for the Cambridge STEP in Advance?

Some colleges at Cambridge include STEP scores as part of their admission requirements for engineering courses, such as Peterhouse College. In the past few years, UE has had students who received conditional offers with STEP scores from Cambridge, but this was an isolated case.

Students and parents often ask whether they should prepare for the Cambridge STEP exam in advance. The concerns mainly focus on two points:

  • STEP is challenging to learn, and they are afraid they will be unable to understand it and waste time.
  • It will be in vain if they learn it but are not admitted to Oxbridge.

Here are few points that Professor Xie Tao frequently shares in his seminars for students and parents:

  1. Students who prepare for STEP in advance find it easier to prepare for the PAT or ESAT and tend to achieve higher scores. In the months before the application deadline, students often have limited time for preparation, and the time saved can be used to improve the quality of application materials.
  2. Students who have studied STEP for over six months may have an advantage during the interview stage. The interview questions at Oxford and Cambridge are significantly more challenging than those in PAT and ESAT, often approaching or surpassing the difficulty level of STEP questions.
  3. Students taking the STEP exam start thinking more dynamically than those who have only studied regular A-level mathematics or AP Calculus courses. During the interview process, the interviewer can easily detect those with unique thinking styles. So appearing for STEP not only helps in exams but also gives them the urge to stand out in the crowd.
  4. Preparing for the STEP exam benefits students by giving them a new way of learning. It may not be seen in PAT or ESAT but is quite prominent during the interview. Students with a foundation in STEP tend to excel in interviews by better following the interviewer’s guidance and engaging in interactive discussions, thus earning higher interview scores.
  5. Students who start preparing for STEP after receiving conditional offers in January have a relatively low success rate in achieving the required STEP grades. Cambridge’s mathematics courses offer around 500 places each year, but only about 250 students meet the requirements. Most of those who do not meet the requirements typically fall short due to their STEP grades.
  6. Studying STEP also pays off because once you get to university, you’ll find that higher-level mathematics courses are not as challenging.

Please refer to the blog for comprehensive understanding and preparation suggestions for Cambridge STEP exams.

Cambridge STEP Exam - A Comprehensive Guide

4. Interview Preparation

It is advisable to start a mock interview before receiving the invitation. Conduct at least six mock interviews covering various possible question types, scenarios, and topics, which will help improve your on-the-spot response speed and achieve the best interview results.

Check our blog about Oxbridge interview preparation.

5. Academic Research Projects

More and more students have been participating in university academic research projects in recent years. Experience engaging in academic research and excellent academic achievements can significantly enhance your personal statement and boost your competitiveness when applying to Oxbridge engineering courses.

Online research project topics are continuously updated. For more details, please refer to the following page.

6. Extracurricular Reading

While preparing for exams and personal statement can take up a significant amount of time, it is still advisable for you to engage in extracurricular reading. Typically, you are encouraged to read two deeply and broadly read more than ten books related to the field of Oxbridge engineering. Extracurricular reading can enrich the material for writing your personal statement, making it more appealing.

7. Oxford and Cambridge Summer Schools

Many summer schools have unique selling points, but not all are worth it, especially regarding teaching staff. It is recommended for students to attend summer school with reasonable fees because the purpose is to enhance and get a taste of learning methods at Oxbridge.

You can refer to our blog about the summer school of Brasenose College from Oxford.

8. Oxford and Cambridge Open Days

Both Oxford and Cambridge Universities have open days for students to learn about and visit their preferred universities and colleges in advance.

For Oxford University, 2024 undergraduate Open Days will be held on 26 and 27 June and 20 September. And for Cambridge University, currently published undergraduate Open Days will take place on Thursday 4 July and Friday 5 July 2024.

For more about the open days and other related events, please check the official websites of Oxford and Cambridge for detailed information.

Please refer to the following resources for more information on applying to maths courses at Oxford and Cambridge.

Attached: Recommended Readings for Oxbridge Engineering Courses

The Department of Engineering at Cambridge officially recommends 33 readings. These readings have been selected by former engineering students to broaden their perspective in the field of engineering rather than being mandatory readings for engineering courses. Therefore, purchasing these books is unnecessary before entering the University of Cambridge.

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