Teacher FAQ

My school/college is in your link area, what opportunities are available to us?

Trinity’s link areas are Hampshire, Milton Keynes and the Isle of Wight. All of our outreach events are available to state schools in those areas. You can, of course, participate in any of the other opportunities available at Trinity as well, such as our residentials, essay prizes, Litmus Project and the Open Days. All schools in our link areas are welcome to request a visit as part of our schools tours.

In addition, HE+ Hampshire is a collaborative project set up by the University of Cambridge in several regions of the UK. It is designed to help schools and colleges to share best practice in supporting and challenging their brightest Year 12 students with extension activities and materials, and to create an atmosphere in which students can support each other in raising their academic attainment and aspirations. You can find out more about HE+ Hampshire here.


My school/college is not in your link area – what opportunities are available to us?

You can apply to any of our outreach programmes  – we are delighted to make links with as many schools as possible, so please do contact us and get involved with our events, regardless of where you are in the country. Alternatively, you can contact your link college to see if they offer anything specific for your part of the UK. Do get in touch if you would like to subscribe to our twice-termly newsletter promoting events and opportunities relating to the University of Cambridge.

I am new to advising Oxbridge applications – how do I find out more?

The University of Cambridge offers a number of events aimed specifically at advising teachers. If you have any questions about Cambridge, Trinity, our courses or the application process, our Admissions Team are here to help.

What age groups does Trinity work with?

Most of our work is done with KS4 and KS5 students. However, you know your students better than we do, and we work with KS3 students from time to time too.

I advise year 11s on A level choices – how do I help them make the right decisions for them?

Every student is different, and it’s important that they take their time to make the right decision for them. The most important decision they will make in their University career is which subject they will study at University, and in some cases the decisions they make at the end of GCSE can affect which opportunities are left open to them when they reach the end of sixth-form. The Subject Matters events and resources provide guidance on advising prospective Cambridge students, and the Russell Group have created a website which provides more general advice on A level choices for competitive university applications. We at Trinity are happy to help in any way we can – please do get in touch if you have any questions.

What type of students should I be encouraging to apply to Cambridge?

At Cambridge we are looking for academically able students who are passionate about their subject with the potential to excel in the teaching environment we offer. Our typical offers (depending on the course applied for) are A*AA/A*A*A, so if you have a student who looks like they might achieve this, we want to hear from them! We are looking for students with the potential to flourish at Cambridge and who have a strong interest in their subject. There is no particular ‘type’ of student we are looking for and we are not looking for ‘well-rounded’ applicants (irrelevant extracurricular activities are not considered in our application process).

Be careful not to exclude from your cohort of Cambridge candidates those who have not performed that well in their GCSEs. Here at Cambridge, we don’t have any GCSE requirements and some of our best students are those who didn’t show their full potential until they reached A level/IB age. Students on an upward trajectory should be encouraged to think about Cambridge as much as the high-fliers who have been excelling at school from a young age – remember, it is potential that we are looking for, as much as academic achievement.

If you have an applicant whose paper application does not match their potential for reasons beyond their control, we also want to hear about that through our Extenuating Circumstances Form, so we can put their application in the proper context.

What can I do to stretch my academically able students?

In terms of extra-curricular activities, we are only interested in those that are relevant to the subject your student is applying to study with us. However, super-curricular activities are really helpful for prospective students – largely so they can confirm their own interest in their subject, and find out what really fascinates and excites them. This includes reading beyond the A Level curriculum, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, undertaking relevant projects or visiting places of interest connected to their chosen field of study. Super-curricular exploration should therefore be led by your students’ own interests, but there are a number of ways you can help them with this. Cambridge University runs a number of Summer Schools, Challenge Days and HE events, and Trinity offers a number of essay competitions, all of which are great ways of encouraging supra-curricular explorations with a bit of structure. A number of Cambridge colleges tweet super-curricular resources under the #ExploreYourSubject hashtag. Year 12s may also make use of the University of Cambridge bank of super-curricular resources.

Which is better – A levels or the IB?

The answer to this really depends on the student in question. Some students prefer the breadth of the IB, and others prefer the depth offered by A levels – here at Cambridge, we don’t have a preference, and consider applicants from both qualification systems equally, on their own merits. The typical conditional offers for students taking A levels (A*AA-A*A*A) and the IB (42, with marks of 7 in relevant Higher Level subjects) are set following research by the University which indicates that students who achieve these typical offers go on to perform similarly at Cambridge. Most people who are set an offer go on to meet, and indeed exceed it. It is also worth pointing out that these are only typical offers and all offers are set on a case-by-case basis, in light of the candidate’s circumstances, performance and academic profile. Some people may receive less strict offer and others may receive stiffer offers.

Should my students take the EPQ?

The EPQ is not currently typically used as part of a conditional offer at Cambridge, but this isn’t to say it’s not useful and we don’t notice it. The EPQ is a great opportunity for students to explore something about their favourite subject in depth, to foster their own passion for that subject and to practise the kind of independent study they would be expected to undertake at university. It can also be a topic for discussion during interviews, giving us the chance to have an academic discussion with your student about a topic they are familiar with and excited about.

What is STEP? How can I help my students prepare?

The Sixth Term Examination Paper in mathematics is used as part of conditional offers in Mathematics (including Mathematics with Physics). The papers are designed to be substantially more challenging than A levels. Candidates are advised to obtain past papers for practice, and it is hoped they will be able to obtain assistance from their teachers or the AMSP. We do not expect candidates to receive extensive additional teaching for STEP, and ask applicants to indicate how much additional support their school is able to give on the SAQ, so we can allocate support appropriately. The Faculty of Mathematics offers a range of resources to help students prepare for STEP.

Additionally, the Mathematics interview is preceded by a one-hour written test and the candidate’s attempts at the problems in the test form the basis of much of the discussion in the interview itself. Some specimen questions are available here:

Is there a similar FAQ for students?

FAQs for applicants and offer-holders can be found on our applicant FAQ page.