The test will be taken online, on November 27th, by candidates shortlisted for interview at the following colleges: Gonville & Caius, Peterhouse, Queens’, Robinson, Trinity, Wolfson. Towards the second half of November, candidates shortlisted for interview will receive an invitation to attend interviews and to sit the CSAT, which also automatically registers them for the CSAT. The exact time of the test as well as more information will be provided then.
The test will be administered online by Mercer-Mettl, an established online proctoring company, typically with the help of a camera, microphone and access to the candidate’s screen, being invigilated throughout the test duration. You do not need to preregister yourself. More information about the process will be provided at the time by Mercer-Mettl. Any potential technical difficulties during the test will be delt with by Mercer-Mettl.
You can take the test from home or any other location, provided it is suitable for you to concentrate, meets the minimum technical requirements, and it adheres to any local Covid-19 measures.
You will be emailed a personalized link by Mercer-Mettl in order to take the test, which will activate on November 27th at the time of the test. Please make sure that the email you included with your application to the college is active.
You will be able to try the system (via a demo link) a few days in advance of sitting the test in order to familiarize yourself with the environment. We highly recommend that you go through this trial completely, including uploading of scripts.
Toilet breaks are only on an emergency basis, so please visit the toilet before the test. The test timer does not stop, and any toilet break time and duration will be recorded.
The COVER PAGE of the actual test describes the structure and instructions of the CSAT 2020. The duration will be 3h30, which includes 30 minutes for uploading all scripts. You may not continue to solve questions after 3h00. As with the CSAT 2019, the test contains 13 questions, weighted equally, and your best 6 answers are considered. Most questions have multiple parts, with increasing difficulty (a substitute for the former Section A that you have seen in the Practice[+] sample papers).
The increase in duration does not imply an increase in difficulty. It is in recognition of the fact that Covid-19 has affected school teaching world wide and to help reduce anxiety.
Submitting your scripts
You have 30 minutes at the end of the test, after 3h00, to photograph every page, and to upload them online at a location indicated by Mercer-Mettl. Do not underestimate the duration of this process. The timer will stop after exactly 3h30, with no opportunity or exception to upload afterwards. It’s a good idea to practise taking photos of written papers before the test, and to trial the demo platform that you will be given access to in advance of the test.
Please make sure you read about the CSAT and how it is marked on the CSAT webpage.
Good time management can help you stay efficient and reduce anxiety. Aim for 6 complete questions, rather than more than 6, to reduce the likelyhood of rushing them. At the start, give all 13 questions a quick read, and make a list of about 8 questions in order of preference. Realistically, you can assume you have up to 30 minutes on average per question. If after 10-15 minutes you aren’t making progress then it’s best to switch to the next question in your list; this allows you some time to come back to it later with new ideas. It’s ok to have solved part (a) or part (b) but get stuck at part (c). If you are still stuck without ideas at the last part of the question after about 25 minutes then it’s best to leave it and come back to it later if time permits. At the same time, if you are making progress on the last part of a question then it’s ok to continue beyond 30 minutes; some questions will be quicker than others. It’s good to aim to solve questions fully, but it’s fine if you don’t solve all parts of a question. It’s always more important to be calm rather than anxious or feeling you need to rush.
As you now know, don’t worry if at first CSAT questions seem exotic. Mathematical recipes are not as helpful in the CSAT as in other tests you may have sat. Allow yourself the time to think through the question and explore ideas.
Do not expect to get a perfect score, and know that we don’t expect that either. This is in contrast to other tests you may be familiar with.
How the CSAT is used
Once again, we highly encourage you to read the CSAT webpage first of all, which explains the general scope, how it is marked, why we care only about your reasoning among other things. We want you to succeed, not to catch you out! The first thing to understand is that Cambridge colleges are interested in what you can do, not in what you can’t. There are no “pass” marks for either the interview or the CSAT. The CSAT is used to offer you another chance to shine besides the interview. It is used in conjunction with the interview, and hence you are not expected to ace both of them. Cambridge applicants in the past have indeed been rescued by the CSAT, and went on to obtain great results as undergraduates at Cambridge. At the same time, if the interview goes well, then the college can ignore the CSAT. In other words, the CSAT can only help you. It allows you to show skills of your choosing which are relevant to the course that may not be tested during interviews, in order to decrease the likelyhood that interviews miss out on quality candidates.
Candidates who benefit from extra time for school exams, e.g., due to disabilities, will typically do so here as well. Please make sure to provide evidence of this to the college when you apply.
Questions regarding the application or the course should be addressed to the college you are applying to.
Further questions regarding the invigilation process online should be addressed to Mercer-Mettl after you receive the instructions and trial platform information.
Further questions about the CSAT can be addressed here.
We all wish you the best of luck this year!