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How to Impress Admissions Officers

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated March 5, 2016 Updated March 5, 2016

This article is sponsored by Cambridge English.

Universities and colleges are looking for more than excellent academic scores. At top universities, most applicants will have high test scores, so admissions decisions are often based on other criteria.

One of the most important factors is your communication skills. Some students think that academic subject knowledge is everything. But actually, knowledge and communication are completely connected. You need to come up with big ideas and be able to explain them clearly too.

Most universities require students to prove their English language ability by taking an approved test. By taking a focused academic English exam you will develop the right kind of skills to do well in your personal statement, admissions tests and interview.

1) Create the right impression in your personal statement 
admissions personal statement

Students who take academic English language exams, such as Cambridge English: Advanced, learn how to use persuasive language to make compelling written arguments. These skills are essential when creating a stand-out personal statement.

The personal statement is a “mini-essay”, which uses full sentences and paragraphs rather than bullet points. The most effective statements are:

  • Well-structured: Make sure the main points are arranged in a logical order and your argument flows well.
  • Well-evidenced: Include evidence of your achievements to support the points you make.
  • Error-free: Make sure there are no mistakes in spelling, punctuation, grammar or sentence construction.
  • Compelling: Use a positive, confident and mature tone, and don’t be afraid to let your personality and enthusiasm for your subject come through. The very best statements are the ones that move the reader.

2) Learn the right skills to do well in admissions tests 

Many universities and colleges require applicants to take admissions tests. In the UK, over half of all universities have admissions tests in at least one subject. At the University of Oxford, for example, over 90% of applicants take an admissions test.[1] In the US, over 1.8 million students take the ACT exam and over 1.6 million students take the SAT college entrance exam.[2]

Admissions tests are designed to test students’ critical reading and essay writing skills. By taking an academic English language exam you will develop the skills you need for admissions tests, such as:

  • Scanning texts for relevant information  
  • Understanding the main topics and ideas in complex texts
  • Reading quickly enough to cope with the demands of an academic test
  • Writing essays with a good organizational structure
  • Selecting the most relevant ideas and representing them clearly and briefly
  • Presenting arguments and supporting conclusions.[3]

3) Impress the interviewer 

Students who take academic English language exams also learn how to discuss abstract concepts and keep up a conversation with a good degree of fluency. These skills are essential at the interview stage.

The interview is not a test of English, but it cannot be taken with the help of an interpreter and therefore good communication skills are needed. You can impress the interviewer by:

  • Listening carefully: Think about why a question is being asked and what the interviewer wants to know.
  • Being confident: If you do not understand something, don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to explain the question or speak more slowly.
  • Showing clarity of thought: Give your opinions and argue your point logically.
  • Expressing yourself clearly: Avoid slang, use professional language, be positive and enthusiastic.

This article was originally published in October 2015 . It was last updated in March 2016

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