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How do we assess our applicants in the light of curriculum reform? Dr Sam Lucy, Admissions Tutor, Newnham College, University of Cambridge.

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Presentation on theme: "How do we assess our applicants in the light of curriculum reform? Dr Sam Lucy, Admissions Tutor, Newnham College, University of Cambridge."— Presentation transcript:

1 How do we assess our applicants in the light of curriculum reform? Dr Sam Lucy, Admissions Tutor, Newnham College, University of Cambridge

2 What are we looking for? Interest in and aptitude for the chosen subject Ability to think independently, critically and analytically Enthusiasm for complex and challenging ideas Motivation, commitment and organisation Intellectual flexibility Vocational or professional commitment, where appropriate (e.g. Medicine, Architecture)

3 How we make decisions Academic record (e.g. GCSEs, AS Levels and A Levels) School or college reference and predictions Personal statement Submitted work, where requested Test results (e.g. BMAT, TSA), where tests form part of our assessment Performance at interview Intensive moderation and the pool

4 Personal statements Personal A starting point for interview discussion Reflect rather than list Less can be more Focus on the chosen course(s) ‘Why you should choose me for your course’ Care and attention to detail Beware Googled quotations, ‘I have always’

5 References Most references describe excellent students but few describe exceptional ones Contextualise the student Explain anything that might feature in a January plea Extra information is welcome Remember our Extenuating Circumstances Form

6 In particular The most helpful references: are consistent and specific, indicating where an applicant lies in relation to his/her peers emphasise the academic and the subject-related tell us about organisation and focus Back the genuinely exceptional to the hilt but be realistic Trust us to read between the lines Ensure a ‘fit’ between what you say and the grades achieved and what the student tells us

7 Sample 1 “She is extremely well motivated and conscientious, with outstanding intellectual ability and great personal charm. An exceptionally well rounded student, she has contributed much to the life of the school. She is an outstanding geographer with the potential to succeed at university. She has developed excellent cartographic, graphical and statistical skills. She contributes well to discussion and has made good presentations to the group. She is highly organised and expresses herself well in both oral and written and English … She is an exemplary student with an excellent academic record and impressive commitment to the school, as Deputy Head Girl, as well as to the wider community”. GCSE: 10A*

8 Sample 2 “She is an exceptionally gifted student – one of the most erudite and cerebral to have passed through this school. Her decision to study History at university is eminently appropriate given her long-held fascination with, and insatiable appetite for, the subject. She is a scholarly and forensic historian who responds to primary and secondary sources alike with incredible enthusiasm and commitment. Her analytical and evaluative skills are acute and her knowledge – built through reading – extensive. She has in abundance the clarity of thought and meticulousness that are needed for her intended degree … She also has a laconic sense of humour, a product of her intellectualism no doubt, and esoteric, discriminatory musical taste … It is easy to trot out platitudes in a UCAS reference but she is a superb student of immense potential, easily capable of obtaining a First at university”. GCSE: 10 A*

9 Extenuating Circumstances Scheme To be used where an applicant's education has been significantly disrupted or disadvantaged through health or personal problems, disability or difficulties with schooling e.g. a serious, acute or chronic medical condition (especially since the age of 14) which caused significant educational disruption significant caring responsibilities, or recent bereavement or serious illness within close family serious disruption to educational provision at school/college other circumstances where serious disruption has occurred – schools/colleges are welcome to contact a College admissions office to discuss an applicant's particular circumstances

10 A Cambridge ‘type’? Forget the stereotypes Do not obsess about College choice Scholarly habits – reading, thinking, analysis Ensure subject ‘fit’ with the student The right course is crucial Exam record is crucial

11 Contextual data 80%+ of our home applicants are interviewed Decisions are based on academic record and individual context. Flags: Care 2 x Postcode data, one linked to OFFA Target Extenuating Circumstances Form (ECF) GCSE school performance Cambridge/Oxford success This data is used to fairly assess disadvantaged candidates, not to discriminate against those who have not experienced disadvantage.

12 The findings Performance by school type

13 SAQ address from UCAS form: check your junk mail! UMS scores (where these exist) Topics covered within A-level units Cambridge-specific personal statement Options within certain courses

14 Written work Depends on subject (Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) and College – list on university website Most commonly a piece of work completed as part of sixth form studies (some Colleges set a question) Encourage applicants to think about the marker’s comments The most effective submitted work tends to be that which applicants are likely to enjoy discussing and which has been completed relatively recently

15 Tests Medicine and Veterinary Medicine BMAT (all Colleges) Registration deadline 1 st October 2015, test takes place 4 th November 2015 Law Cambridge Law Test (most Colleges) Taken at interview Mathematics STEP (all Colleges) Forms part of conditional offers and is taken with A2-levels Other subjects TSA – Economics, Engineering, Natural Sciences (depends on College) Some other subjects have short additional tests at interview

16 Preparing for tests

17 Mean Tripos performance: Second year Sciences and Technology

18 Mean Tripos performance: Second year Social Sciences

19 Mean Tripos performance: Second year Arts

20 Why interview? How do applicants who look very similar on paper differ from one another? Are the applicant’s aptitudes and interests suitable for the course to which they have applied? Does the applicant have the potential to study their chosen subject at a high level? Can the applicant think independently, flexibly and critically and assimilate new ideas or apply existing concepts to challenging new questions? Does the ‘supervision’ style of learning suit the applicant? Does the applicant display vocation/professional commitment (where appropriate)?

21 Interviews: what to expect SUBJECT-SPECIFIC INTERVIEW Discussion based on academic interests mentioned in personal statement Assess knowledge and understanding of subject and flexibility of thought Challenging questions relating to A- level courses Sample teaching session – like a supervision Application of existing knowledge to new situations Sciences: problems to work through Arts: perhaps a text to discuss Discussion of any submitted essays Sciences: a specimen to discuss

22 Interviews: what to expect NOTE: some Colleges/subjects do not have a more general interview May not be with someone who teaches subject applied for …but may include further subject-based discussion Why this course? IT IS STILL AN ACADEMIC INTERVIEW, DESIGNED TO TEST ACADEMIC POTENTIAL Discussion of your personal statement The future (if career plans mentioned or application for deferred entry) Wider academic interests and reading GENERAL ACADEMIC INTERVIEW

23 Preparation Reading and super-curricular engagement Getting beyond the specifications Commitment and thoughtfulness Depth over breadth Subject combinations and number Knowledge and skill Logic and clarity of thought Intellectual flexibility

24 Supporting Applicants: Mock Interviews Unfamiliar teacher – consider co-operating with local schools Challenging but not aggressive Academic questions: A-levels, personal statement, prompt material Prompting and follow-up questions

25 Moderation and the Pool(s) Spreadsheets allow for consideration of the gathered field Intensive December discussion Extensive transfers of students in January Further limited transfers in August

26 Successful Applications Key points for success Strong exam results Choice of subject Wider reading Revision in advance of interview Common pitfalls Wrong degree subject chosen Unsuitable A-level choices, too many subjects in Year 12 or low grades Inconsistent reference Lack of wider reading and critical engagement Lack of revision before interview Rehearsed answers at interview, lack of clarity or flexibility of thought

27 Feedback We prefer to feed back to the school referee Do ask for detailed accounts Be aware the student may have done nothing badly and still have been rejected We hope to inform your future guidance, as well as explaining specific decisions


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