Applying to Computer Science at Cambridge

Cambridge University was a pioneer of computer science and continues to lead its development. There are more than 1,000 specialist computing and advanced technology companies and commercial laboratories in the area (known as ‘Silicon Fen'). A number of local firms and start-ups support our teaching and employ our graduates.

Computer science courses are broad and deep – giving skills to create future technology. At Cambridge, all aspects of modern computer science are covered, along with the underlying theory and foundations in economics, law and business. You will also develop practical skills, such as programming (in various languages, eg ML, Java, C/C++, Prolog) and hardware systems (eg chip design using Verilog).

The following tips come from applicants across numerous colleges including Christ’s, Churchill, Emmanuel, Fitzwilliam, Gonville and Caius, King’s, Pembroke, Robinson, St. Catharine’s, St. John’s, and Trinity Hall.

For additional information about applying to Computer Science at Cambridge, please visit:

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Cambridge was prettier, had a better reputation for my course and was easier to get to from London. (Profile 292)

Cambridge has better rep. for computing. (Profile 103)

Cambridge seems to be better for more science-y subjects than Oxford is. Had an open day at each of them and the computing departments I saw seemed to be better equipped than at oxford, but there probably isn't much difference. (Profile 105)

I never considered Oxford. When I was looking for universities rated highly for my subject, both by word of mouth and newspaper league tables, Cambridge consistently came up. (Profile 127)

Cambridge seemed to have the better courses and the colleges looked better to stay in than at Oxford (Profile 101)

Cambridge was ranked as number 1 for computer science so it influenced in my choice. (Profile 454)

Went round it on an Open Day, so it was the only one I really knew about!

On a more 'serious' note, I liked the fact that Churchill was modern - you could actually walk on the grass. :) I thought it would be good for me as Cambridge's CompSci department is gradually moving itself out towards Churchill. The college had a friendly atmosphere. I think that about sums it up (Profile 97)

The Cambridge course appealed to me more (less theory based) (Profile 99)

Do you have any tips in terms of interview preparation? 

Lads be relaxed. Be well rested. 1 nite of rest beforehand is more beneficial than a nite studying just b4 the interview. DON'T study minutes before the interview, the mind can't think of anything else afterwards and tends to focus on what it just learned. Get a friend or family member to go with you, they calm and support you. Do some reading into your subject. Better still find out what books are compulsory reading for undergrads. e.g. 'an introduction to computer science' by Les Goldschlager.

Have a list of 3 or 4 reasons [about] why you want to go to the college. DON’T lie, unless you lie well. Find reasons you believe in. It's much better to find real reasons, you have them, you may just not know it.

STEP 1/2/3 mathematics papers can help you understand the possible level of question you could be asked. - STEP 3 is really hard, don't be put off.

Computer science is mostly pure mathematics so ensure those areas of your maths are well revised - that is what you'll be tested on. (Profile 100)

Well try and get at least one practice interview with someone, just so you get to experience having to make reasonably intelligent and coherent conversation on the spot. If you have relevant work experience then be prepared to discuss what you learnt from it. Expect to be asked some sort of Maths-related question/problem - you can't really revise for this, but remember to take your time and think about it and if you don't understand it, ask the interviewer to explain it more thoroughly. It's better to work it out eventually with help, rather than trying to bluff your way through it! (Profile 97)

What questions were you asked? 

Lots: Questions about proof and reasoning in the "thinking skills" test. Things like doing jigsaws in your head and working out all the possible solutions. 24 x 7 in the general interview. A series of sort-of-mathematical logic questions in the subject interview. (Profile 455)

5 mathematical questions, 1 3D orientation question, and 1 article reading question; I had 1 interview with 2 people, the admissions and the course tutors. I came super prepared with months of studying about computers and guess what happened, they asked me 0 questions about computers, they set me out with 7 logic questions to work out i got 5 out of 7 and needed help with the other 2 until finally I worked them out. The tutors where very friendly and helpful. (Profile 454)

In the first: Resistance, calculus, probability In the second: How does a router work, show me a sort algorithm, how efficient is it? Show me a search algorithm, how efficient is it? How can it be improved? Whats the efficiency of the new one? What programming have you done? How does this work [choosing one of my examples]. What are you most proud of? (Profile 62)

Additional tips for Computer Science interview:

The informal interview was all chit-chat. What would I contribute to the college if i joined. If i could only do 3 things what would they be. e.g. football, rowing and whateva. The interviewer contradicted me at one point and though I was warned of this it hasn't occurred to me until now, that this could have been a test. My response was amicable and I simply explained why I thought I could do something which he said there would not be time for. I also explained how. Think of your own scenarios to practice. Why did I pick Churchill? etc etc. like any uni interview. The formal interview was about my subjects. They asked me my favourite A-level. I replied Maths and explained why. They asked me about the subject specific reading I had done + what I thought. Then the other teacher (there were 2 in the formal interview, 1 in the informal one) gave me the problem. It was testing, but the teacher guided me through whenever I got stuck. The bad news was by this point I was quite tired already and my mind occasionally wandered. (Profile 100)