Cambridge Announces The ESAT To Replace The NSAA & ENGAA

In 2023, it was announced by the University of Cambridge that many of their established admissions tests would stop being run after the 2023 - 2024 admissions cycle. In January 2024, we have now learned what admissions test will be used for courses such as Medicine, Natural Science, Economics and Engineering.

Last Updated: 18th January 2024

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In 2023, it was announced by the University of Cambridge that many of their established admissions tests would stop being run after the 2023 – 2024 admissions cycle. In January 2024, we have now learned what admissions test will be used for courses such as Medicine, Natural Science, Economics and Engineering. 

A wide variety of updates have been announced by the University of Cambridge and Pearson VUE in relation to admissions tests used throughout the university. In this guide, we will be covering each of the announcements and explaining how it will affect your application. 

How Will You Be Affected? - Students

How Will You Be Affected? - Schools

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What is the ESAT?

The Engineering and Science Admissions Test (ESAT) is the newly announced admissions test to be used by the University of Cambridge to be used on a number of their science and engineering-based course applications. The test will be operated by University Admissions Tests UK (UAT), a brand-new brand created by Pearson VUE. 

The ESAT will be replacing the Natural Sciences Admissions Test (NSAA) and Engineering Admissions Test (ENGAA) to act as the admissions test for the following Cambridge courses:

The ESAT is a computer-based, multiple-choice admissions test that is split across 5 individual assessments, each of which contains 27 multiple-choice questions and lasts 40 minutes. The five assessments available are: 

It is stated that all applicants will be required to sit Mathematics 1. However, no applicants will need to sit all of the 5 assessments, with most applicants needing to sit two of the additional assessments listed above, leading to a total exam length of 120 minutes and 81 questions to answer.

Applicants for most subjects will have to choose between two of these sub-tests, but Engineering applicants must take Mathematics 2 and Physics due to their relevance to the course.  

The full specification for the ESAT has also been released by UAT, which can be found on their website. As it stands, the ESAT specification is very similar to the 2023 NSAA specification, with only a few minor additions and changes. You can learn more about the content of the specification in our ESAT Specification Guide.

The only important specification change to note is that the ESAT will not feature any of the Advanced topics featured in Section 2 of the NSAA (as well as the ENGAA). This means that those preparing for the ESAT should only use Section 1 of the NSAA and ENGAA past papers, as these will be the most accurate to the ESAT. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the basics of the ESAT to help you prepare for this new exam in 2024 and beyond.

When is the ESAT?

These tests are sat back-to-back over the course of one sitting and must be sat by Cambridge applicants between the 15th – 16th of October 2024. Registrations are open between August 1st 2024 and September 16th 2024.

It is stated that the ESAT will not feature negative marking, meaning no points will be deducted for incorrect answers, and there will be no cut-off score or Pass/Fail grade. This was also the case for the NSAA and ENGAA.

The ESAT is being administered by Pearson VUE, but applicants will need to register for their admissions test via the UAT registration portal. Tests will need to be sat at a registered Pearson VUE testing centre, of which there are over 500 available globally.

Does the ESAT Require a Fee?

As with other Pearson VUE admissions tests (including the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) and Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT)), applicants will need to pay a fee to sit the ESAT. This fee is £75 for UK and Republic of Ireland applicants, and £130 for international applicants. Bursaries are available to cover this fee so you may wish to check if you are eligible. 

Is Imperial College London using the ESAT?

Another major announcement made in relation to the ESAT is that applicants for science and engineering courses are Imperial College London will now also be required to sit an admissions test. This will affect applicants for courses within the following departments: 

The ESAT will be replacing the shorter admissions test that was previously required of Imperial Physics applicants (among others). Imperial applicants will have the option to sit the ESAT on the previously stated October 2024 dates, but they will also have the option to sit it between the 7th and 8th of January 2025 if they are not also applying to Cambridge. Registrations are open between the 24th of October and the 9th of December 2024.

How Should I Prepare for the ESAT?

In May 2024, UAT released the first official practice tests for the ESAT, which can be accessed on their official website. These tests use the standardised digital system developed by Pearson VUE, and the test for each subject is available to access individually. 

Only one test has been released officially so far. However, UAT has also provided applicants with past papers for the NSAA and ENGAA as recommended practice materials, so applicants are encouraged to download these as well to support their preparation.  

Due to similarities that can be between these exams and the ESAT, including the subjects of the different assessments and the multiple-choice format, the final format of the ESAT is close enough to the NSAA and ENGAA to make using these resources beneficial for ESAT preparation. 

While various elements of the testing format are different to the older exams (the ESAT is computer-based, runs for less time and has more questions per sub-test), utilising NSAA and ENGAA practice resources is still advisable as the question formats and required knowledge are almost identical. Good NSAA and ENGAA materials include question banks, courses and workbooks. 

At UniAdmissions, we have developed our ESAT Programme, which offers dedicated, tailored support for the ESAT. This support is also available within the relevant Oxbridge Programmes, including our Natural Sciences Programme and Engineering Programme.

How Is The ESAT Scored?

The ESAT will be scored on a scale between 1 and 9, with 1 being the lowest score and 9 being the highest. Raw marks are determined by the number of answers and applicant gets correct, so 1 correct answer is worth 1 mark. These raw marks are then converted into the scale between 1 and 9.

This scoring system is basically identical to the NSAA and ENGAA scoring systems, which used a 1.0 – 9.0 scaling system for final scores. Also like the NSAA and ENGAA, the ESAT doesn’t have negative scoring, so applicants will not be deducted marks for incorrect answers. There isn’t a pass-or-fail score for applicants to meet, so the aim will just be to get as many answers correct as possible. 

When Are ESAT Results Released?

Cambridge has stated that results for the ESAT will be released around 6 weeks after the testing period, meaning applications should expect results in late November, around the same time that Cambridge interviews will begin to be offered. 

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Is Cambridge Still Using the TMUA in 2024?

Another announcement made by the University of Cambridge is that the Test of Mathematics for University Admissions (TMUA) will once again be run in 2024. The TMUA was previously on the list of admissions tests to be scrapped, alongside the NSAA, ENGAA and BMAT. However, this decision has been reversed and applicants for Computer Science and Economics at Cambridge will be required to sit the TMUA in 2024. 

The TMUA is also being run by UAT and a few minor changes have been made to the specification and testing process:

TMUA Specification Changes 2024

For the TMUA Specification in 2024, there are three major changes to be aware of, all relating to Paper 1:

When is the TMUA 2024?

While we don’t know why the TMUA has been kept, we do know that the test will now be administered by Pearson Vue alongside the ESAT. The TMUA will now be sat in a similar timeframe as the ESAT (16th – 17th October, 8th – 9th January), have the same registration process and require the same fee (£75 – £130). 

Applicants will also need to sit the TMUA via the standardised Pearson VUE computer testing programme as opposed to the previous paper-based sittings. 

Is Imperial College London using the TMUA?

As with the ESAT, Imperial applicants who aren’t applying to Cambridge will have the option to sit the TMUA between the 7th – 9th of January 2025

How Should I Prepare for the TMUA?

As it currently stands, no major changes have been made to the TMUA test format, so all currently available TMUA preparation materials should remain relevant to your studies. However, you will need to be aware that any questions relating to Measures will no longer be relevant and any past papers will not feature questions for Ratio & Proportions or Units. 

While past papers are still a good option for preparation, a new practice test using the official testing programme has been made available, so applicants should be sure to use this to get to grips with the new testing format. 

Is Cambridge Using the UCAT in 2024?

The final major announcement made by Cambridge in relation to admissions tests is that their medicine applicants will be required to sit the UCAT in 2024. Cambridge, along with 7 other universities, previously utilised the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) until it was announced to be removed by Cambridge Assessments Admissions Testing in 2023. 

Since the end of the BMAT was announced, medical schools have slowly been announcing their move over to the UCAT as their admissions test of choice for applicants. University College London (UCL), Imperial College London and Brighton & Sussex Medical School have all already announced their move to the UCAT, but Oxford and Cambridge were the two universities that people we most unsure of to move to the UCAT.

With all of these changes now announced, there should now be few surprises left for 2024 university applicants. This year, applicants will be facing a variety of admissions test changes alongside changes to the UCAS application process that will affect the Personal Statement format. 

These changes will be hard to navigate, but we at UniAdmissions are always dedicated to providing the most up-to-date support for both our students and the readers of our articles. As always, we will be following the situation closely and be ready to update our programmes and report on new developments as they are announced. Thank you for reading and good luck with your application!

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