Year 12 Oxbridge Programmes / New Year 13 Interview Programmes
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If you’re applying to Cambridge for Computer Science, you’ll need to sit the CSAT. If you hadn’t heard of this before now, take a look at our complete guide to the CSAT. Unlike most other admissions tests, you don’t take this before an invitation to interview, but instead at the time of interview. It’s another chance to impress admissions tutors, outside of the potentially stressful situation of a face-to-face interview. So, how can you ace the CSAT?

  1. Remember, you are only marked on your best ten answers in this exam: five from each section. There is no point in beginning loads of questions, or roughly sketching solutions to a few. It is a lot more worthwhile to focus on the ten questions, and try and answer them as completely as you can. 
  2. You have 120 minutes to answer 10 questions, so although the natural allocation would be 12 minutes per question, remember that the second section will be harder, and will include more content that will take longer to get your head around. It is worth starting with the questions you feel confident with. These are likely to be in Section 1, as it is designed to act as preliminary for Section 2, and so is less challenging. Ideally, you want to reserve more time for the more challenging section. Try and answer five questions, or as much of the five questions as you can, as quickly as possible. If you get stuck on a question for a long amount of time (probably over eight minutes), move on. There are valuable marks to be had later on.
  3. In the second section, it is likely to be harder to pick which questions to do, as they will all seem more foreign and tricky. It is definitely worth setting five minutes aside to fully absorb all of the questions, and work out which ones you will have the best solution for. Remember, some questions may immediately appear to be appealing, but will actually become far more intricate and complex as they continue. Take a moment to fully understand what the questions are asking, before you decide which ones to answer. 
  4. When answering the questions, if you are running out of time, don’t panic and write nothing. You want to show the examiner that you understand the mathematical skills required to complete the question, even if you don’t finish. I would recommend sketching a method that you would use to answer the question, if you do not have time to fully write out a solution.
  5. Remember, the examiner is not just looking for perfect solutions, but coherent and well understood mathematical reasoning. It is likely that you will have high order polynomials, bizarre functions, and combinatoric problems to deal with in this section, and the examiner is looking to see how you adapt to a foreign mathematical problem


The most important thing? Don’t panic. Although the CSAT is a time-pressured test, and you’ll be understandably nervous because you’ll be at interview, if you panic you won’t be able to think clearly, and you’ll sabotage your own chances. As long as you stay calm and think clearly, you’ll be able to show off your skills.