What is happening?
Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing has decided to stop running a series of university admissions tests with effect from 2024-2025. A few tests that had been integral parts of Oxbridge applications, including BMAT (Medicine), ENGAA (Engineering), NSAA (Natural Sciences), and TMUA (Mathematical Skills), are being cancelled.
What happens next?
These changes mainly affect applicants to Oxbridge, Imperial and specific medical schools, namely those requiring the BMAT, from 2024-2025 onwards. For those applying to the top universities in the UK, the admissions procedures are going to change significantly, but it is important to remember that these prestigious universities are still looking for quality students who can tackle problems systematically, think creatively, and have a deep interest in specific majors they are applying to. As a UK university specialist who has sent many kids to Oxbridge, my prediction is that the chance of students not needing to sit an alternative admissions test is low.
In fact, Cambridge and Imperial have already announced that applicants must take UCAT (instead of BMAT as before) if they are applying to medicine. It is very likely that most of the other four schools that used BMAT as part of their admissions process (Oxford, UCL, Lancaster, Brighton Sussex Medical School) will follow. This does change the admissions strategy regarding college list constructions for students who are interested in medicine, as there are now more available schools just by taking UCAT, but the uncertainty about each application has also increased due to a lack of information on previous admissions statistics and UCAT cut-off thresholds.
The same case goes for TMUA. Cambridge has announced that they are going to use Imperial College’s version of the TMUA for the upcoming application season (2024-2025). The test format, syllabus, and question styles are drastically different from Cambridge’s version of the TMUA. Cambridge candidates for Computer Science are very likely to gain more competition because most of the candidates applying to Imperial will now also apply to Cambridge. Students will need to start familiarising themselves with the TMUA earlier as compared to candidates from previous admissions seasons.
For applicants applying to Natural Science and Engineering at Cambridge, they now have to take a new test, ESAT (Engineering and Science Admissions Test), which is written by Imperial College London. The test format returns to a format similar to the pre-2020 NSAA, where you must answer multiple choice questions in Maths in section I and two sections of questions from 4 disciplines (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Further Maths) in section II. This means that the candidates must be well-versed in more than one area of science in order to perform well in this test. When I was training students to do the old style NSAA, it was proven that most students struggled to be good at more than one branch of science at the same time. The difficulty of the original NSAA is closer to an Olympiad-style paper than to the actual A-level exam, and I predict the ESAT will be no less difficult.
What do we do now?
The optimal strategy for each of the new papers depends on the syllabus and the difficulties of the tests, and we shall analyse the new sample papers when these changes go live in mid-February. In the meantime, prospective students must go through the relevant A-level syllabus, attempt challenging problems (e.g. those from Chemistry Olympiad, past NSAA/ENGAA/TMUA papers), and create a reading list for the relevant majors in order to remain competitive.
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By Anson Chung, Admissions Consulting Partner