EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CAMBRIDGE’S NEW PRE-INTERVIEW EXAM
As well as high A Level or IB grades, most courses at Cambridge University also require you to sit a pre-interview test. These will happen on Wednesday 30th October 2019 at 9 am GMT, and can be done at your school, college, or a registered test centre. Centres should be registered by 15th October 2019 at the latest – so check with your school or college that test arrangements have been made.
2019 brings a change to some pre-interview tests – so if you’re applying for an Arts or Humanities degree, there’s a new test on the block, and read on to find out what’s new, how to prepare and how to perform your best.
What is the AHAA?
In a nutshell, the new Arts-Humanities Admissions Assessment, or AHAA, is a pre-interview test consisting of two sections. Section 1 is multiple choice and is identical for every subject, regardless of what Arts or Humanities course you are applying for.
Section 2 has subject-specific questions to choose from and requires an essay response. The advice from Cambridge’s website is to make doubly sure that you answer the appropriate question for your subject in Section 2 – it’s easy to accidentally answer a History and Politics question when you’re applying for a History course!
Each section lasts 1 hour.
What subjects require AHAA?
As of 2019, the subjects that require the AHAA pre-interview are:
Education, History, History and Politics, History and Modern Languages, Anglo Saxon, Norse and Celtic studies, Asian and Middle Eastern studies and Human, Social and Political Sciences.
These courses all now require the AHAA as a pre-interview assessment for undergraduate study – and some courses also require additional tests at interview.
What has changed from before?
Anglo Saxon, Norse and Celtic Studies (ASNC), and Asian and Middle Eastern studies (AMES) now have the AHAA instead of a separate test.
The Education course now has the AHAA, whereas before no test was required.
For courses involving History, the HAA (History Admissions Assessment) has been replaced by the AHAA. The two tests are actually quite similar in format.
History and Modern Languages courses also require the AHAA (instead of HAA) as well as an additional test, the MLL (same as before). This written test occurs on interview day, and the college you apply to will organise everything you need for it. Cambridge stresses that the test is a test of your skills, not your knowledge, and practice papers along with marking criteria can be found on Cambridge’s subject-specific pages: https://www.mml.cam.ac.uk/applying/how
History and Politics used to have the HAA as well, but now requires the AHAA, and the same goes for Human, Social and Political Sciences.
For English, the AHAA is not required but you will need to sit the ELAT as before. The Geography course also still has the GAA, introduced in 2016, and not the AHAA.
Need to Know:
Despite the new name, the AHAA is not dramatically different from the pre-interview tests that came before it. The one thing to watch out for is the way in which Section 2 has questions for all the subjects covered by the AHAA, which means you need to be extra careful that you’re answering the right one – the one for your subject – before you start.
The same goes for preparing – each essay for Section 2 has slightly different instructions and marking criteria, so make sure you know what your examiner is looking for when practicing!
How is the test structured?
The test is divided into 2 sections: 60 minutes of Reading Comprehension (Section 1) and 60 minutes of Critical Response to Text(s) (Section 2). The purpose of the test, according to Cambridge, is to assess your potential to perform well in an academically demanding undergraduate degree course. As such, the test is designed to be challenging and make you think in ways different to school examinations – it’s an exciting opportunity to showcase your skills, think creatively and analytically and, maybe, have a bit of fun!
Section 1 is designed to test your reading skills and ability to read critically, understand the main ideas in texts, analyse detail and grasp the implicit meaning, according to the test specification. This section is multiple choice. There are 4 tasks you have to work through:
Understanding Short Texts: questions in this section are about two short passages (no more than 200 words each) linked by a common theme. The task is designed to test your ability to identify, compare and contrast different features of the texts.
“Multiple-Matching”: this task is based on 4 short extracts on the same theme or from the same source, and you are required to identify the moment in each text where a certain idea is expressed. This section requires the ability to scan texts to locate specific areas, then read these areas in detail.
Understanding Extended Text: this task assesses your ability to understand a longer passage (no more than 1000 words) of academic text: it’s argument and supported claims.
Understanding Extended Text: this task is similar to the third task.
Section 2 is a subject-specific written assessment and asks you to compare and contrast two passages or respond to a stimulus passage. The written responses and the exact nature of the task are subject-specific – for example, if you’re applying for a History course, you’ll be given two passages from historical texts, but for an education course, you’ll have to provide a response to one of four questions.
How is it marked?
In Section 1, all questions are worth one mark. Given that marks aren’t taken away for incorrect answers, it’s worth having a go at all the questions. There are 4 tasks with many subsections to get through, so also don’t forget to keep an eye on the time!
The Section 2 essay is marked more abstractly, according to a set of criteria which can be found on the Cambridge Admissions Test website. https://www.admissionstesting.org/for-test-takers/cambridge-pre-interview-assessments/ The marking criteria differs for every subject and is based around the skills that are required daily in an undergrad course at Cambridge.
Is an essay required for the AHAA?
An essay is required in response to Section 2. Read the subject-specific instructions carefully as they differ per course, but in general, it is often recommended to spend a good 15 minutes planning. Make sure your answer is written in an essay-style, covers all the relevant issues, and constructs an engaging argument. Analytical thinking, direct and clear answer to the question and precise handling of concepts are all qualities that will be valued by the examiner. Remember to check on the Cambridge website the exact criteria required for your subject.
How do I prepare?
The first port of call is the Cambridge Admissions Test website: https://www.admissionstesting.org/for-test-takers/cambridge-pre-interview-assessments/. Here, you can find subject-specific specifications, example questions, break-downs of the exact nature of Section 1 multiple choice questions and the mark scheme for Section 2.
The next step is to practice as much as possible, in both timed conditions and without, and ask your teacher to mark a practice essay for you. Section 1 requires quick comprehension of a range of texts – in the weeks before the test, focus on reading widely and rapidly, and try to do as many practice questions as possible – these can be found on the Cambridge website.
Uni Admissions has a wealth of resources to help you prepare for the essay section – check out our website for courses and articles!
Overall, the AHAA is just another way of synthesising lots of Arts and Humanities exams under one banner. It requires the same skills and examines the same attributes as previous Cambridge pre-interview assessments. Treat it as an opportunity to throw yourself into an academic challenge unlike any other, try your best and have some fun along the way!