Tuesday, 29 June 2010

What GCSE grades do I need?

One thing you might be wondering when you are thinking about applying to Cambridge is what GCSE grades you need to have a chance of getting in. The first thing to say is that good GCSE grades are an important prerequisite for getting into Cambridge, but they are not usually a deciding factor. A level results are much more important but that does not mean GCSE grades don't matter. If you are thinking about applying to Cambridge, you probably already have GCSEs that are good enough to apply. However Cambridge are very unlikely to use GCSEs as a deciding factor when making admissions decisions.

Now onto what exactly "good" GCSEs are. To be seriously considered when applying, for most subjects you want to have at least about 5 A*s at GCSE, with the rest at mostly A grade level. You can get away with the odd worse grade, for example one B is not going to rule you out. I also know of someone who got into Oxford for physics with 3 A*s at GCSE. However the more A*s you have, the better. Medicine is notoriously difficult to get in for and the AVERAGE student has 8 A*s at GCSE, which means you really cannot have much less than this if you want to do medicine or veterinary medicine. Emmanuel only took 2 people out of 30 who they interviewed in 2006 for veterinary medicine and so the competition for these subjects can be fierce.

The grades I've given here (4/5 A*s for most subjects, 8 A*s for medicine) are really just enough to get your application to be considered. If you only just meet these, you'll need to make you application stand out in other respects. If you want your GCSEs to be a big plus, you'll need to be doing better than the average admitted student.

How high your GCSEs can go will largely be determined by your school. If you go to a comprehensive, you'll be doing well to get 8 A*s but if you go to selective state (grammar) or private school you might well be able to do a lot better. For example I know someone who got in for law with 12 A*s and 2 As at GCSE. However I also know of someone who got rejected with 11 A*s and 2 As at GCSE for economics so GCSEs are not really used as a deciding factor.

If you don't have amazing GCSEs, for example no A*s then Cambridge may ask questions as to why this is but so long as you've got several A*s and As, it doesn't make much difference as to whether you've got 6 A*s or 10 A*s. At this point the decision will probably be made more on other factors, such as the interview and personal statement. Different colleges may also give different weightings to GCSEs.

In summary, so long as you can get several A*s and the rest mainly As, you'll have good enough GCSEs to be seriously considered for a place at Cambridge.


  1. I have always wanted to go to cambridge and expected that i would get the grades i had wanted at GCSE - but, i didn't. I do not think that this was because i was not clever enough, perhaps i was using wrong methods of revision. Instead, i got 3 A*'s and 8 A's. Now however, having started A levels, i am taking 4 AS subjects, the extended project and completing an A level in Maths by the end of yr 12. Assuming i get very good grades this year with good extra curriculars, do you think my application will be considerably diminished by less than remarkable GCSE grades.

  2. Hey! I do not think that your GCSEs are too bad to stop you getting into Cambridge. I know of other people who have gotten in with similar grades (I think maybe 3 or 4 A*s 6 As and a B or C, not exactly sure on them) but the GCSEs are really not a deciding factor in the admissions process.

    The A levels are more important than GCSEs. Basically GCSEs are just a kind of thing that needs to be checked off, and yours are good enough for that. They are not going to be a deciding factor in admissions.

    It is good you're doing A level maths in yr 12. I would also focus on preparing for the interview as that is extremely important. Also if you have some good extra curriculars, that helps with your personal statement. Basically the main thing to focus on at the moment is making sure you get very good A level grades and trying to work out what sort of applicant they are looking for for your subject.

  3. I say! That's a lot of A*s you need, I would be lucky if I get one A* in Biology!
    Most of my expected grades are Cs, this is a 'real down putter'-Cor' Blimey-you don't have to be a pysic to know I won't get in!

  4. I am predicted to get 4-5 A*s and around 6-5 As is this good enough to get into cambridge. Also if i get 3-2 A*s will that mean i will not have good chances in getting into oxbridge? please reply back.

  5. this is what cambridge have actually said about gcse's

    "As our research shows that post-16 examination performance is a much better predictor of degree success at Cambridge, we do not have any hard and fast GCSE requirements: there is no minimum number of A* grades required for any of our courses. Strong performance in Years 12 and 13 can make up for less stellar performance at GCSE."

  6. Hi, I am predicted 5 A* and 2 A’s at A level, however due to complex circumstances involving ridicule an bullying from school my GCSE grades stand at 1 A*,4 A's, 1 B, and the rest are C grades. My question is do I have a chance? Does Cambridge consider any unorthodox GCSE grades, and do they consider the psychological factors that lead to a student’s decline in academic performance. I am applying for Architecture at Cambridge and my strongest GCSE grades for constructional studies A*, Maths A, Physics A. I would imagine that I would need more than hope to resurrect my grades, and my integrity within their admissions system. This may be but a rife question do I have any chance?

  7. Can you please tell me if the sixth form I attend will affect me chances of being accepted for medicine. I have an offer both from a very good grammar school and own schools sixth form which is new and not that established- which would should I go to?

  8. My niece got 10A*s and 1 A today - but the 1 A is the subject she wants to study at Cambridge....problem?

  9. would I still be able to get in with 2A*s 5Bs and 2Cs (gcses) an for a levels all a*s