New test for Cambridge admissions

Students looking to start university in 2017 will face new written tests in Cambridge applications

Cambridge University’s admissions director, Dr Sam Lucy, has announced the introduction of written tests to its application process.

The tests will affect those applying to a number of courses starting in September 2017 onwards, and will be taken at interviews or before.

In a letter on the university’s website, Dr Lucy says the new tests are intended to “harmonise and simplify our existing use of written assessments” and to maintain fairness of their admissions system “during ongoing qualification reform”.

A spokesman from the university told the BBC that the tests would not be a return to entrance exams of the 1980s, but would help replace the ‘key piece of evidence’ previously provided by AS levels. 

Johnny Luk, CEO of National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE), said the additional testing was a sign that the current exam system is ‘broken’.

“What I fear most is that we are encouraging even more tick box exercises for university applicants to deal with,” he said. “This is especially the case for students living far from Cambridge or have lots of other commitments such as caring duties. 

“Cambridge is a top institution, but we have to ensure it doesn’t just reward those who are good at writing essays. There needs to be opportunities for those who demonstrate imagination and a willingness to take risks and be different. 

“The key measure of success in this case would be whether the university manages to find the best talent – no matter who you are or where you come from.

“The question that needs to be asked is whether this new exam will actually help find talented individuals or whether it will just favour the top schools who have the resources to provide plenty of mock assessments.”

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