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General UK University applicant

What is UCAS?

Students apply to UK universities through a centralised system, UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). There are two major application deadlines for UCAS application: 15th October for applicants to Oxbridge and medical-related subjects (medicine, veterinary science, dentistry), and 15th January for other applicants.

When you submit your UCAS application, you will be asked for your programme choice, academic background and grades (existing and/or predicted grades), personal statement, school reference, etc.

How many university programmes can I choose?

You can choose at least 1 programme, and up to 5 programmes via your UCAS application. Exceptions are that you can only apply to a maximum of four medical-related programmes (medicine, veterinary science, dentistry), and that you can only apply to Oxford or Cambridge.

When you choose the 5 programmes you are interested in, remember that you can only submit one personal statement in your application. Thus, we generally advise students to focus on one subject area (e.g. Economics programmes from different universities), or related subjects (e.g. Economics from LSE, together with Economics and Management from King’s College London).

What are the key tasks involved in the application process? When should I start the preparation?

Key tasks involved:

  • Exploring potential subjects and Building subject-related experiences
  • Personal statement writing
  • Admissions test (for some universities and specific disciplines)
  • Interview (for all Oxbridge, medicine, dentistry and veterinary courses, and some sciences / engineering courses at Imperial College)
  • Predicted grades (provided by your school)
  • Reference letter (provided by your school)

Exploring potential subjects and Building subject-related experiences:

It is never too early to start considering which subject area you would like to pursue at university. We encourage students to start exploring potential subjects 2-3 years before they graduate high school. After you have decided which subject area to focus on, you can start building your profile by accumulating readings and subject-related experiences.

Personal statement:

For personal statement writing, the ideal time to write is during summer holiday before your final year in high school. We find that during summer holiday, students are usually less distracted by school work and thus most efficient in tackling the personal statement.

If you are unable to do it during the summer holiday, we recommend you to buffer two months to write the statement, as it involves reading about the subject, reflecting on your learnings, and revising your drafts. Most students write three to four drafts before finalizing their statements.

Admissions test:

Certain subjects or universities may require students to take an admissions test. For instance, the Law programmes from LSE and UCL require students to take the LNAT admissions test.

We recommend starting your preparation during summer holiday, and you can see more details on the LNAT below.

Interview:

While most non-Oxbridge programmes do not include an interview in the admissions process, Imperial College includes interviews for some of their Engineering and Sciences programmes. Remember to double check if the programmes you are aiming for require interviews.

In addition, medical-related programmes such as Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Physiotherapy usually interview their candidates as these programmes involve frequent interaction with patients. For Medicine or the MMI interviews, please visit our Medicine page.

Interviews usually take place from November to March, so start preparing in around August - September.

How to prepare for my Personal Statement

The Personal Statement is an important opportunity to showcase your academic commitment to the subject that you want to study, and your academic potential. For a non-Oxbridge application, around 75-80% of your Personal Statement should be devoted to academics, and only around 15-20% should cover your extra-curricular activities (ECAs).

The Personal Statement should demonstrate how you have already engaged with your subject, above and beyond your studies at school, and how you have developed your interest in that subject. For example, you could talk about a research project that you undertook, independent reading and study that you have carried out, or essay competitions that you have entered.

Tutors are looking for intellectual curiosity and personal reflection, so rather than listing out everything that you have read or done, pick the most relevant and important experiences that you have, and reflect on your learnings from them.

For more information about the personal statement, please contact us for a 30-minute free consultation.

How should I prepare for the interview?

If you are applying for medical-related programmes such as Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Physiotherapy, most schools either use MMIs or traditional panel style in their interview process. In MMI (Multiple Mini Interviews), your interview will be divided into several interview stations, each of which has a different interviewer assessing you on a different quality, for example your communication skills or analytical skills. In traditional panel interviews, you will likely meet two or three faculty members, who will ask you a number of questions about yourself and the subject you are applying for.

Imperial College also includes interviews for some of their Engineering and Sciences programmes, and the interviews are usually in traditional panel style. Before the interview, make sure you do research on the subject area, especially topics areas that you have discussed in your personal statement.

Interviews usually take place from November to March, so start preparing in around August - September. Practice speaking your answers aloud, and try doing so in front of a mirror or with a friend. At Cana, our consultants are experienced in coaching interviews, and conducting mock interviews for you to get familiarised with the interview process.

Interested in Law: What is the LNAT?

LNAT (Law National Aptitude test) is a test used by UK universities as part of their criteria to determine if a candidate is suitable for their Law programmes. While not every Law programme requires the LNAT, many of the top schools, such as Oxford, LSE, King’s College London, include the LNAT as part of their admissions process.

The test takes 135 minutes and comprises two major parts: Section A, which consists of 42 multiple-choice questions, based on 12 argumentative passages; and Section B, which requires the student to write an essay on one of the three given topics. The LNAT is not testing your knowledge of law, but rather your ability to express your views, as well as analyse, interpret, and comprehend information.

The LNAT testing begins from September and ends in January. If you are applying to Oxford, you should take the test by mid October. Please note that you can only take the LNAT once in each academic cycle, so make sure you prepare well in advance.

If you are interested to know more about the LNAT, please visit our LNAT page.

Interested in Dentistry: What is the UCAT?

UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) is an admissions test used by a consortium of universities in the UK, Australian and New Zealand for their medical and dental degree programmes.

The UCAT is a two-hour, computer-based test which assesses a range of mental abilities identified by universities as important to practicing in the fields of medicine and dentistry. It consists of five separately timed subtests with each containing a number of questions in a multiple-choice format. The five subtests include Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Situational Judgement.

The UCAT testing begins from July and ends in September/October (the dates are updated every year). Please note that you can only take the UCAT once each year, so make sure you prepare well in advance.

If you are interested to know more about the UCAT, please visit our Medicine page and UCAT page.

Interested in Art-related disciples (e.g. Fine Arts, Architecture): Are there additional documents to submit?

If you are applying for art-related disciplines, such as Fine Arts and Architecture, you need to submit your art portfolio according to the university’s requirements.

Apart from the portfolio, universities may ask you to complete assessment tasks upon your application. For example, UCL Architecture asks students to submit a task responding to a brief, which changes every year.

Interested in Performing Arts (e.g. music, dance, drama or musical theatre): How should I apply to these programmes in the UK?

If you are interested in performance-based music, dance, drama or musical theatre, you should apply to UCAS Conservatoires. The deadlines for UCAS Conservatories can be different from the regular UCAS system, so make sure you check the latest date on the official UCAS website.

For performance-based subjects, you are likely to be asked to do an audition. The conservatoire will contact you about the details after you have submitted your application.

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