For many undergraduate courses, the admissions staff decide on whether to make you an offer based only on your UCAS application.  Or there may be a ‘second stage’, such as an admissions test,  interview, or audition.  Find out more in this post.

1. Admissions Tests

Undergraduate admissions tests are common for some subjects, such as law, medical sciences, nursing, teaching, engineering, physics, accounting and maths.  However, a university could choose to set them for any of their courses.

If your course has an admissions test, you may be able to take the test abroad, possibly in your own country.  Make sure to check when the deadline is for registering to take the test, and when the actual test date is.

2. Interviews

Admissions interviews can be in addition to the admissions test or instead of.

Many courses have an interview, but no admissions test. Some have a test, but no interview. Some have both – And many have neither of the two.

Usually, the admissions interview is held on the university campus and the university will expect you to attend if you’re already in the UK or can easily travel to the UK.

However, if you live outside of Europe or if you need a visa to enter the UK, the university is usually able to offer you a telephone or Skype (or similar) interview.

3.  Auditions

If you’re applying for a performance-based course, such as in music or drama, it’s very likely you will have to attend an audition with the university.

An audition is an interview, during which you give a practical demonstration of your skills and abilities.

Again, if it’s not easy for you to attend in person, a recorded or live video audition may be arranged instead.

For video recordings the university will tell you how long the audition should be, on what topic and what file format to send your recording in.

4.  Portfolios

A portfolio is a collection of your creative work.   You need to submit a portfolio, if you’re applying to a course in art or design – or any other subject requiring examples of your work.

Typically a portfolio would include your paintings, photographs, collages, sketches, work samples and so on.

With portfolios, what matters most is not how beautifully presented or perfect your work is. Your skills, abilities and creativity count a lot more.

When working on your portfolio, focus on the quality of your work. Include pieces that show your potential to develop your abilities further during your degree.

Also, make sure the admissions staff would be able to understand what your thinking is behind each piece of work.

Courses will have different requirements for portfolio submissions, make sure to check the requirements for each of your course choices.

5.  Writing Samples

A writing sample is usually an essay or a short story that you have written.  This  could be something that you’ve done in the past or it could be a new piece of work – The university will tell you what they want you to send.

Universities ask for writing samples to see what your writing skills are like:  How well you express yourself, whether you understand structure, how you argue and support your point and how you engage with the information you’ve read.

Whether or not you need to submit writing samples will depend on your course.  They’re common for English literature, but can also be a requirement for some history, philosophy and other courses.


Not all undergraduate courses have a ‘second stage’ as part of the admissions process.

A second stage is called this way because usually the university looks at your UCAS application first.  In most cases, you will only get invited to an interview, admissions test, etc., if your UCAS application meets certain criteria.

However, there are situations when the university will look at your UCAS application only after you’ve attended any ‘second-stage’ event.

Whether your course has a second stage or not, your UCAS application – and in particular your personal statement – is absolutely central to the university’s decision on whether to offer you a place.

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