Computer science is a fast-moving field that brings together disciplines including mathematics, engineering, the natural sciences, psychology and linguistics. Our course provides you with skills highly prized in industry and for research.
Computer Science at Cambridge
Cambridge 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, in areas from chip design to mathematical modelling and AI.
Our course is broad and deep – giving you the skills to create future technology. All aspects of modern computer science are covered, along with the underlying theory and foundations in economics, law and business. You also develop practical skills, such as programming (in various languages, eg OCaml, Java, C/C++, Prolog) and hardware systems (eg chip design).
Facilities and work experience
Our students benefit from the Department’s cutting-edge research and extensive facilities. The purpose-built Department of Computer Science and Technology is packed with the latest technology, advanced lecture theatres and dedicated practical rooms.
Group projects during the course, where small teams of students deliver a product to an external client, ensure relevant industrial experience. Projects often lead to commercialisation, licensing or employment.
Information on tuition fee rates for Computer Science is available on the tuition fees page.
Additional course costs
- All years of study – Strongly recommended: A laptop is pretty much essential. A modern entry-level laptop for around £800 is sufficient, but we would recommend at least half the main drive is dedicated to a bootable Linux system, such as Ubuntu
- Year 1 (Part IA) – Strongly recommended: Copies of core textbooks for Part IA options (students that don’t have their own copies may be disadvantaged) – Estimated cost £150
- Year 2 (Part IB) – Strongly recommended: Copies of core textbooks for Part IB courses (students that don’t have their own copies may be disadvantaged) – Estimated cost £150 – £250
- Year 3 (Part II) – Strongly recommended: Copies of core textbooks for Part II options (students that don’t have their own copies may be disadvantaged), number/costs dependent on options chosen – Estimated cost £150-£250
- Year 4 (Part III) – Strongly recommended: Copies of core textbooks for Part III options (students that don’t have their own copies may be disadvantaged), number/costs dependent on options chosen – Estimated cost £150-£250
It is possible to change from Computer Science to another course at the end of the first year or second year, although in practice students rarely do.
To be able to change course, you need the agreement of your College that any change is in your educational interests, and you must have the necessary background in the subject to which you wish to change – in some cases you may be required to undertake some catch-up work or take up the new course from the start/an earlier year. If you think you may wish to change course, we encourage you to contact a College admissions office for advice. You should also consider if/how changing course may affect any financial support arrangements.
Our graduates’ knowledge and skills embody principles which will outlast today’s technology, making them highly sought after by industry and commerce alike.
Many of our graduates go on to work as programmers and software development professionals, with others pursuing further study and careers in teaching and research. Many have also founded companies or gained employment in software, hardware, the games industry, finance, communications and commerce.
To get an idea of what’s currently on offer to our graduates, visit our Supporters Club
For further Computer Science undergraduate admissions information visit: www.cl.cam.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate.
Computer Science is a particularly competitive course at Cambridge University. Just 1 in every 13 applicants are successful in receiving an offer, so it’s important to ensure your application stands out to Cambridge’s admissions officers.
If you’re thinking of applying for Computer Science or just curious about what it takes to get into one of the most competitive courses at Cambridge, this guide contains everything you need to know – from entry requirements to tips on how to prepare from our specialist admissions tutors.
Don’t forget to check out our other articles on how to get into Cambridge and what to do if you don’t meet Cambridge’s entry requirements!
The Profs’ Computer Science tutors have first-hand experience of the admissions process and what is required to succeed at each stage. Thanks to our expert support, students who work with The Profs are more than three times more likely to receive an offer from Cambridge University. Reach out to our team today to maximise your chances of success.
What is Computer Science at Cambridge like?
Cambridge is ranked as the second best university in the UK for Computer Science. Its undergraduate Computer Science course is both broad and deep and provides students with the skills to create future technology. All aspects of modern Computer Science are covered, underpinned by theory and foundations in other disciplines, including Economics, Law and Business. Students are also able to develop practical skills, such as programming in various languages and hardware systems.
What are the entry requirements for Computer Science?
Computer Science, like all courses at Cambridge, is very competitive. The course requires applicants to achieve excellent grades and show a strong aptitude for Mathematics and other quantitative subjects. The table below shows the entry requirements for Computer Science:
|A Levels||A*A*A overall|
|Scottish/Advanced Highers||A1, A1, A2|
|International Baccalaureate (IB)||40-42 points with 776 at Higher Level|
Note that 81% of entrants from an A Level background achieved at least grades A*A*A* (from 2017-2019). For the same period, the majority of IB entrants achieved at least 43 points overall and/or grades 777 at Higher Level. You should therefore be aiming for at least one grade above the minimum entry requirements for the best chance of receiving an offer.
Worried that you won’t achieve the necessary grades to study Computer Science at Cambridge? The Profs’ A level and IB tutors can help. We have extensive experience helping students excel in their coursework and final exams and achieve the entry grades for this competitive course. Reach out to our team for support.
Which subjects are recommended?
The most important qualification Cambridge looks for is Mathematics A level (or equivalent). This is because Computer Science is heavily mathematical and Cambridge itself finds a strong correlation between students’ Mathematics performance at school-level and their subsequent performance on its Computer Science degree.
Further Mathematics to AS or A level is also highly desirable if this is available to you (96% of successful applicants from 2017-2019 took Further Mathematics). If Further Maths is not offered by your school or you cannot take it for some reason, ensure that your referee mentions this for you. If not, mention this yourself.
An A level Computer Science is not essential, however if it is available at your school, it is recommended (59% of successful applicants from 2017-2019 took Computing). A Level Computer Science covers lots of relevant material and offers you the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the subject before committing to study it at university.
Note that A level ICT (Information and Communications Technology) is considered more vocational in nature by Cambridge and is less desirable than physical Science subjects. For example it’s better to take Maths, Further Maths and Physics (85% of successful applicants from 2017-2019 took Physics), than Maths, Further Maths and ICT.
Which admissions test do you need to take for Computer Science?
All applicants to Computer Science at Cambridge are required to take the TMUA (Test of Mathematics for University Admission). You will need to pre-register for the TMUA by the end of September – two weeks before the Oxbridge application deadline in October. The test takes place in October. Nervous? Ask our amazing TMUA tutors to help you smash the test.
What does the TMUA involve?
The Test of Mathematics for University Admission (TMUA) is an admissions test used by Cambridge (and a handful of other top universities) to assess your mathematical ability – both your subject knowledge and mathematical thinking skills. The test is 2 hours and 30 minutes long and consists of two papers which are taken consecutively.
While the content of the TMUA is based on A level Maths, it is designed to separate out the most competent applicants, so the questions are challenging and require plenty of preparation.
To find out more about the TMUA, including how much it costs to take and how to prepare for the test, read our helpful guide:
What score do you need in the TMUA for Computer Science at Cambridge?
Cambridge does not publish cut-off scores for the TMUA, however there is some data on the average score of offer holders in previous years. See the table below for the most recent average scores of applicants and offer holders on Cambridge’s Computer Science course.
|Average score of applicant||Average score of offer holder|
|Computer Science (2021)||4.7||6.9|
You don’t need to worry about attaining these scores. Our specialist TMUA tutors know exactly what it takes to succeed. Reach out!
What are the fees for Computer Science at Cambridge?
The table below shows the fees for Cambridge’s Computer Science course for both home (UK) and overseas students:
|Student status||Course fees (per year)|
You can find out more information about what fees you will pay can be found on Cambridge’s fee status page. You can also use Cambridge’s fees, funding and financial assistance page to see the funding options available to you.
4 tips on how to get into Computer Science at Cambridge
1. Prepare thoroughly for each stage of the admissions process
When applying to study Computer Science at Cambridge, there are many stages of the admissions process to consider, and you should prepare for each one thoroughly.
- Your grades – preparation for your Computer Science application really starts from the moment you begin your GCSEs and A levels (or equivalent). An excellent academic track record is essential in order to be considered for a place at Cambridge. Your GCSEs should be as high as possible, especially for your quantitative subjects, and you should be aiming for A*A*A in your A levels (or equivalent) as a minimum and A*A*A* for the best chance of an offer.
- Your UCAS application – the first official stage of your Computer Science application is completing your UCAS application online. As well as your grades, this includes your personal statement. This is the first chance you’ll get to showcase your suitability for Computer Science and prove to Cambridge that you are interested and committed to the subject area. Your personal statement needs to stand out from the crowd and be as specific as possible to Computer Science and Cambridge itself. Why are you the perfect fit for this course at Cambridge? Check out our previous article on how to write a winning personal statement.
- Your MyCapp application – the MyCapp is another application form that’s unique to Cambridge which asks for some extra academic and personal information. It also offers the opportunity for you to submit a second personal statement which specific and unique to the Computer Science course at Cambridge University. You should NOT copy/paste your UCAS personal statement into this box; in fact, it would be better to write nothing. You should write directly to Cambridge. Yes, there’s more effort and work involved in writing a whole new statement but the MyCapp is an invaluable chance to stand out and sell yourself as the perfect candidate. A lot of students overlook the MyCapp application and waste or misuse their second personal statement, don’t make the same mistake! Read out previous article on the MyCapp and reach out to our expert admission tutors.
- The admissions test – the TMUA is a challenging admissions test designed to identify the very top applicants to Cambridge’s Computer Science course. It’s important that you prepare for this test just as you would for any other exam. Read our guide on how to prepare for the TMUA for more information on the test and expert tips, or get in touch with our experienced TMUA tutors for one-to-one support.
- The interview – if your UCAS application is impressive enough, you may be invited for an interview at Cambridge. This is your last chance to impress the university and prove that you are an excellent candidate for the course. Oxbridge interviews are like oral admissions tests and there is often even a mark scheme your interviewers will be scoring you against, so it’s important to seek professional help to prepare effectively. We have a guide on completing Oxbridge interviews here.
Need some help with any of the steps above? We have experts for each niche: GCSE tutors, A level tutors, personal statement tutors, TMUA tutors, and interview tutors. We can help you smash each and every step.
Note that all students applying for university in 2023 for courses beginning in 2024 will be required to submit a UCAS personal statement as normal. However, from 2024/25 onwards, there will be changes to the UCAS application process and students will no longer be required to write a personal statement. Instead, all applicants will answer a series of shorter, more tailored questions provided by UCAS.
2. Do wider reading and learning
You might assume that, because Computer Science is a quantitative subject, wider reading does not need to be a priority. However, building up a broad background understanding of issues in Computer Science is very important and is seen as excellent preparation by Cambridge as they are looking for independent learners who are curious and enthusiastic, and will stay dedicated to Computer Science throughout their undergraduate degree.
There are a variety of useful books that you can use to grow your knowledge and deepen your interest in Computer Science, which you can then reference in your personal statement. Some of Cambridge’s recommended readings include:
- The New Turing Omnibus by A. K. Dewdney
- Computational Thinking by Jeannette Wing
- How to think like a mathematician by Kevin Houston
- Purely functional data structures by C. Okasaki
- Principles of database management by W. Lemahieu, S. van den Broucke, and B. Baesens
You can find more recommended readings on Cambridge’s course pages.
You can appear like a keen and dedicated student by referencing a couple of these books to show that you’ve read Cambridge’s suggested reading list. But it’s best if you can go beyond their reading list and demonstrate independent thought by linking one or two of these texts to some more niche texts that you found yourself.
You can also immerse yourself in these subjects through podcasts, open lectures, online courses, documentaries, and reading. Mention your independent study in your personal statement.
3. Demonstrate your mathematical ability and passion for Computer Science
The Computer Science course at Cambridge requires students to have a strong mathematical foundation. The university will therefore be looking for applicants who can demonstrate a strong aptitude for Maths and other quantitative subjects and who go beyond their existing curriculum in the pursuit of further knowledge.
You can demonstrate your mathematical aptitude by taking Further Maths and the MAT, STEP, UK Maths Challenge and/or Maths Olympiad. Alternatively, you could study a Maths MOOC independently or with a teacher and then mention this in your personal statement. Reach out to our expert team for further guidance.
One good place to look for what knowledge Cambridge is particularly looking for is in its Mathematics for the Natural Sciences Workbook, which is produced by its Faculty of Mathematics. All offer holders are strongly encouraged to attempt all of the exercises in this workbook, so looking at it before you apply can give you an advantage earlier in the admissions process. You can also use the university’s CamGuides resources to practise problems that will help you to improve your applied mathematics skills.
Aside from developing your quantitative skills, it’s also important to show Cambridge that you have a passion for Mathematics and Computer Science – especially if you are not studying it at A level (or equivalent). If you have attended any extracurricular clubs or challenges (such as the UK Maths Challenge), make this clear in your personal statement. It is recommended that you learn Python alongside some other coding languages and discuss this in your personal statement. Similarly, if you have used any modern tools, such as command line tools, UNIX tools, or debuggers, coded your own game, or made your own website, this is great evidence of your passion for the subject area.
4. Seek help from a Computer Science expert
Computer Science is one of the most competitive courses at Cambridge, an already competitive university. It requires you to perform well in multiple stages to be in with a chance of securing an offer.
Unfortunately, schools and colleges are oftentimes not equipped to provide specialist Computer Science or Cambridge admissions preparation due to a lack of experience, expertise or resources. As a result, we advise seeking a professional Computer Science or Cambridge admissions tutor to help you through the process.
The Profs’ Computer Science tutors have many years of experience helping students develop their academic profiles, prepare for the TMUA, and excel in the admissions interview. Many of our Cambridge admissions tutors have studied at Cambridge University or worked in Cambridge admissions. If you work with one of The Profs’ tutors, you are over three times more likely to get into Cambridge.
Gain invaluable independent study skills that will prepare you for study at an elite UK university, as well as a deeper and broader understanding of a range of Computer Science fundamentals and more specialised areas. Reach out to our experienced team today to get started.