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Engineering and Science Admissions Test (ESAT)

The ESAT is a new assessment designed to assess students for entry to the University of Cambridge and Imperial College, London. But what does the ESAT involve and how can you prepare for it?

What is the ESAT?

The Engineering and Science Admissions Test (ESAT) is an entrance assessment taken by students applying for most Engineering or Science-based degrees at the University of Cambridge or Imperial College, London. It is one piece of evidence, alongside the interview (at Cambridge), personal statement and predicted grades, used to shortlist candidates and decide who will be offered a place at these universities.

As of 2024, the ESAT has replaced the Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA) and Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA).

What happened to the ENGAA and NSAA?

In 2024, the University of Cambridge announced that it would no longer be using the Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA) and Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA) for applications for entry in 2025.

Instead, the ENGAA and NSAA have been replaced by a single assessment, the Engineering and Science Admissions Test (ESAT). Students applying for most Science or Engineering subjects at Cambridge or Imperial College, London will be required to take the ESAT. The ESAT is divided into several parts, and which parts students take will be determined by the exact degree which they are applying for.

The ESAT will first be used in October 2024 for students applying for 2025 entry.

The ESAT is a multiple-choice exam

What is the test format?

The ESAT is a computer-based assessment which consists of several parts lasting 40 minutes each. Each part is a single multiple-choice test containing 27 questions. Candidates will sit the parts back-to-back on the day of the assessment. Calculators are not allowed.

The full list of parts is:

  • Mathematics 1 (compulsory for all applicants)
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Mathematics 2

Most candidates will take two of the bottom four parts, depending on the degree they are applying for. This means that they take three parts in total (including Mathematics 1), so that the assessment lasts a total of two hours.

Marks are not lost for incorrect answers, so it is well worth attempting all the questions, even if you are not sure.

Taking the ESAT

Exam dates

For the 2024/25 application cycle, there are two sittings of the ESAT.

  1. 15 or 16 October 2024
  2. 7 or 8 January 2025

Cambridge applicants must take the test in the October sitting. Imperial applicants can take it in either the October or January sitting.

How to register for ESAT

You register for the ESAT by creating a Pearson VUE account. You will then need to book a test date at a Pearson VUE test centre – there are hundreds of these around the world.

Registration deadline

If you are sitting the ESAT in October 2024, you will need to register between 1st August and 16th September 2024.

If you are sitting it in January 2025, register between 24th October and 9th December 2024.

Cost

The registration fee is £75 (UK and Ireland) or £130 elsewhere in the world. Financial assistance is available to those in need.

The ESAT is graded between 1.0 and 9.0

What is a good ESAT result and what are the grade boundaries?

Each part of the ESAT is scored individually on a scale of 1.0 (low) to 9.0 (high). Marks are based on the number of correct answers you give and marks are not lost for incorrect answers.

There are no firm grade boundaries or pass/fail scores; however, naturally, a strong performance will improve your chances of acceptance to Cambridge or Imperial. It is important to note that the ESAT is just one factor involved in the offer-making decision, and will be considered alongside the interview (at Cambridge), your predicted grades, reference and personal statement. A good result in the test will not guarantee you a place, nor will a disappointing result rule you out.

However, as Cambridge and Imperial are both highly competitive universities with acceptance rates for STEM subjects of around 15%, it is reasonable to assume that a performance in the top 15% of applicants will strengthen your application, while a performance in the bottom 50% would weaken it.

The TMUA is also scored on the same 1.0-9.0 scale. For the TMUA, a score above 6.5 is usually in the top third of applicants, so a score of 7.0 or above would be considered strong.

How to prepare

The basis of the ESAT is Maths and Science content which is included the school curriculum (A Level in the UK or IB Diploma Programme Higher Level). As the aim of the test is to distinguish between strong Maths and Science students, the content will be at the higher level of the school curriculum. Revising using difficult example questions from across your school syllabus will be a good place to start.

You can read the ESAT specification here to find out what may be asked. We strongly encourage you to review this carefully and consider which areas you are weaker on and which will therefore need more revision.

Use the official practice materials to familiarise yourself with the format of the test and the type of questions asked in the ESAT. Doing this in timed conditions will help you get used to what you will be facing on the day itself.

Finally, it is well worth considering working with an experienced tutor to prepare for the ESAT. A good tutor will have experience preparing students for entry to Cambridge and Imperial, and will be familiar with the NSAA and ENGAA (the ESAT’s predecessors). 1-1 tuition can target the areas you find most difficult and address any weaknesses ahead of the assessment day, optimising your chances of success.

Private tutors for the ESAT (formerly ENGAA and NSAA)

  • Alex H

    Alex H

    Alex is a specialist Maths tutor who works with students from 11+ to Oxbridge level. Additionally, he works with students on their Oxbridge admissions.

  • Samuel

    Samuel

    Samuel is a qualified teacher and highly experienced tutor who specialises in Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Study Skills and 11+ preparation.

  • Greg

    Greg

    Greg specialises in Maths tuition up to Undergraduate level and Physics up to A-level and both the IB Standard Level and Higher Level.

  • Mustafa

    Mustafa

    Mustafa is Mathematics and Entrance Examination tutor who specialises in online teaching. He has worked with Simply Learning Tuition for over three years.

  • Imran

    Imran

    Imran is a Maths specialist, supporting students from Key Stage 3 up to A Level.

  • Ritchard

    Ritchard

    Ritchard is a highly experienced tutor who prepares students from 11+ to A-Levels and IB, in a range of subjects.

  • Luke

    Luke

    Luke specialises in Maths and Physics tuition. He also teaches Economics, Chemistry, Biology and competitive Entrance Exam preparation.

  • Inga

    Inga

    Inga specialises in Chemistry, Maths and Physics. She students from GCSE to A Level and IB.

How to get the test results

Candidates will receive their test results in their Pearson VUE account approximately six weeks after the test date. Your results will automatically be sent to any relevant universities you have applied for via UCAS, so there is no need for you to do anything.

ESAT past papers

There are no past papers published for the ESAT as it is still in its first year of existence. However, past papers for the NSAA and ENGAA are available here and will still be relevant.

There are also specific practice materials available for the ESAT. We strongly encourage practising these in timed conditions in advance of the test. You should also review the ESAT specification carefully to see what can be asked in the assessment.

Frequently asked questions

Which universities require the ESAT?

The ESAT is used by the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London to assess students for entry to a range of Engineering and Science-based degrees.

What is a good score for the ESAT?

The ESAT is graded between 1.0 and 9.0. There is no set pass/fail score and the ESAY is only one factor used in assessing your application. However, as Cambridge and Imperial have acceptance rates of around 15% for Science subjects, it can be assumed that a score in the top 15% of applicants will strengthen your application. This is likely to be a score of above 7.0.

How important is ESAT for Cambridge?

The ESAT is an important part of the application process for Science or Engineering degrees at Cambridge. However, it will be considered alongside other parts of the application, including your personal statement, reference, predicted grades and interview performance. A strong performance in the ESAT will strengthen your application but will not on its own guarantee you a place, while a weak performance will harm your application but will not rule you out.

What is the ESAT exam?

The Engineering and Science Admissions Assessment (ESAT) is an entrance test used by Cambridge and Imperial to assess students for entry to Engineering and Science degrees. In 2024, it replaced the ENGAA and NSAA for students applying for entry in 2025.