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Application and Interview

Photo by Dominika Tomarek

Applying to Cambridge

You are advised to put only one subject (i.e. Chinese Studies) on your application form. 

The process of applying to Cambridge is much the same as that for other universities. However, there are two key differences that you should be aware of. At Cambridge, the application process starts earlier to allow time for interviews to be organised. You will also be asked to specify a College as well as naming your chosen degree subject in the application.

While most of our students are UK nationals, we strongly encourage young people from other countries to also apply to us. In the past few years some of our students have hailed from Ireland and continental Europe (e.g. Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, the Netherlands) as well as farther afield (Australia and the USA).

Please note that Brexit will not affect the tuition fees (during the whole course of their studies) of those EU applicants who apply for 2018 entry. [Here on tuition fees]

All undergraduate admissions decisions are the responsibility of the Cambridge Colleges so check College websites for College-specific requirements (please check section below on how to choose colleges). 

Typical offers require: A-Level: A*AA; IB: 40-41 points, with 776 at Higher Level

Note: Chinese can be one of the three A-level subjects, but the A* can be in any of the three subjects.

[We understand that some applicants might feel apprehensive about the A-Level A*AA requirement, which is a Cambridge-wide requirement, but we hope that you will work hard to make the required grades rather than turn away from a course that you really want to pursue.]

Admissions Assessments

Starting with the 2016 round of applications, all applicants are required to take the pre-interview written assessment for AMES at an authorised centre local to them (for a lot of applicants, this will be their school/college).

Assessment format

Section 1 Reading Comprehension (60 minutes)

Section 2 Essay/text response element (60 minutes)

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Admissions Assessment Specification

You must be registered in advance (separately to your UCAS application) to take the assessment – the registration deadline for the 2018 admissions round is 15 October, 2017. Your assessment centre must register you for the pre-interview assessment; you’re not able to register yourself.

The pre-interview written assessment for AMES will be taken on 2 November, 2017 (Thursday). Please check the Admissions Testing Service website for scheduled start times.

Please note that your performance in the pre-interview assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application. 

Specimen Papers

A specimen paper has been produced to allow you to sample the written assessment format and practice under timed conditions. It is not expected that you will answer every question correctly; the written assessment is designed to be challenging. Even some strong candidates may not  complete the paper in the time allowed; it is designed to distinguish across our field of high-calibre applicants.

Experience with similar assessments and from trials indicates that, on average, typical applicants to the most highly selective undergraduate courses (who are by definition academically very able) will gain approximately half of the available marks. The best applicants will score more highly, but only relatively few are expected to gain more than 80% of the available marks.

Written assessments help admissions tutors to assess whether candidates have the skills, aptitudes and any required subject knowledge and understanding required to study the relevant course at Cambridge. They are only one of the elements used in the admissions process. Others include a candidate’s academic record and forecast grades in school-leaving examinations; UCAS application form; examples of recent written work submitted to the College to which they are applying; and performance at interview, if invited to attend.

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Admissions Assessment Specimen Paper Section 1

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Admissions Assessment Specimen Paper Section 1 Text Booklet

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Admissions Assessment Specimen Paper Section 1 Answer Sheet

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Admissions Assessment Specimen Paper Section 1 Answer Key

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Admissions Assessment Specimen Paper Section 1 Explained Answers

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Admissions Assessment Specimen Paper Section 2

More information on admissions requirements can be found here.

Choosing a College

In your College you will have a Director of Studies who will be responsible for your academic welfare and for your progress. In most other subjects your Director of Studies also arranges your supervisions, but in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies supervisions are arranged by your teachers in the Faculty.

Students choosing Chinese Studies and wondering which College to apply to should be aware that members of the Chinese Studies academic staff are Fellows of the following Colleges. In most cases they act as Director of Studies (DoS) for all students in their Colleges doing Chinese Studies as well as other subjects within Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. In other colleges your Director of Studies is likely to be a specialist in Middle Eastern Studies, Japanese or South Asian Studies. Having a Chinese Studies DoS in your own college would mean that you will have much readier access to help and advice if needed.

Preparing for your interview

In addition to talking to you about your personal statement, interviewers will want to know why you want to study the language and culture on which you will be spending the next four years of your life (and even beyond Cambridge). Before your interview you will need to do some exploratory reading about China and to be prepared to talk about your reading in the interview. This can include general history, literature in translation and other reading that relates to your main interest in China. Wikipedia (which is not always a trustworthy source) and other internet sources alone are not good enough, though they can often serve as convenient entry points to more proper and scholarly sources.

You will find some reading recommendations in our section on 'Preparatory Reading'. You will impress the interviewers positively if you can demonstrate your commitment to pursuing Chinese Studies by having done some relevant readings and having watched some Chinese films.

Each applicant will have two interview sessions, each lasting approximately 25-30 minutes. The 'general interview' is often conducted by the College admissions tutor and another Fellow of the College, both of whom are most likely non-China specialists. This interview's aim is to assess the applicant's general academic and intellectual aptitudes. The 'subject interview' is usually conducted by two members of the Chinese Studies staff, one of whom can be the Director of Studies for AMES subjects for the College. This interview's aim is to assess the applicant's suitability for the Chinese Studies course. The interviewers will write up reports on the interviews that will serve as an important basis for the admissions decisions at the College to which the applicant has applied and/or at the admissions pool in the event that the applicant is considered suitable for the course but the College in question does not have enough space for the applicant. All highly-qualified and suitable applicants will have a fair chance of getting admitted no matter which college they have applied to (though we suggest you consider first and foremost those colleges with Chinese Studies staff members as fellows and/or directors of studies for AMES subjects).

No one should be intimidated by the interview. There are many resources to help you familiarise yourself with the interview process. Here are some videos about the admissions interview:

Preparing for the Cambridge admissions interview

More on preparing for the Cambridge admissions interview