General guidelines for your Referees

Assessors use all modes of available information to identify the students most suited to Cambridge. One such source is the UCAS reference. Below are some general guidelines which you can provide for your referee if he or she is not used to writing references for Oxbridge applicants.

Predicted Grades and Actual Results

Predicted grades should be clearly stated where relevant. The candidate will have declared all grades achieved so far, and it is helpful if these can be placed within the context of the standard of the college’s teaching and the candidate’s personal background – i.e. are these grades fair to and representative of the candidate?

Specific Comments

Comments on any of the following can be helpful:

  • The student’s technical ability in the subject he or she is applying for;
  • The progress made in each of the student’s subjects and an assessment of the student’s written and verbal skills;
  • The student’s holistic potential;
  • The student’s level of self discipline, maturity, self motivation and commitment;
  • The student’s enthusiasm for the subject;
  • The suitability of the match between the candidate and the course he or she has applied for;
  • The student’s willingness and ability to argue logically and lucidly;
  • The student’s intellectual flexibility;
  • Other interests or activities in which the student has performed outstandingly.

Comparative Ability

We encourage the use of any form of objective ranking, as for instance a student’s class position in appropriate subjects, or comparison with other candidates applying to a comparable university in the same or previous years.

Personal Circumstances

Referees should signal if a student’s academic performance has been adversely effected by personal difficulties. If an applicant's education has been interrupted due to illness, additional information would help to set this properly into context.

No disability of any sort will affect an application, and knowledge of an applicant’s circumstances will help the College to plan appropriate support for the student, both at interview and after admission.