Skip to main content

The end of the Personal Statement?

While students applying for UK undergraduate courses in 2023 are still required to write a Personal Statement, this is changing for future applicants.

UCAS have announced plans to change the Personal Statement from its current format (the 4,000 character essay) to a series of six questions to applicants regarding their suitability for their chosen courses. UCAS confirm that the new format will be introduced no earlier than 2024 for 2025 applicants”.

What are the 6 questions?

While UCAS are still in the process of finalising the exact questions that will feature, and have not yet specified details such as word counts, they have supplied a rough outline of the key areas that the questions will address:

  • Motivation for Course

  • Preparedness for Course

  • Preparation through other experiences

  • Extenuating circumstances

  • Preparedness for study

  • Preferred Learning and Assessment Styles

Oxford and Cambridge Tutors are following these discussions carefully and will update parents and students once we know more.

Why is this change being made?

The reasons UCAS cite for making this change are chiefly to reduce stress on the students applying, and to improve fairness. The questions, for instance, aim to provide greater clarity about which aspects students need to address; students will have a more precise idea of the information that Universities would like from them.

The new format of shorter paragraphs may also prevent students who are not taking essay subjects at A Level from feeling at a disadvantage.

What else is changing for the University admissions process?

Other important developments include changes to some admissions tests for Cambridge and Medicine from 2024 onwards, which we outline in more detail here.

UCAS also plan similarly to create more structured format for the students’ academic references from their teachers, posing three questions to ensure that referees supply the right type of information.

UCAS will also provide ‘entry grade reports for courses, enabling students to search the grade profiles of accepted students over five-year period. This greater transparency about entry requirements, which will be particularly useful in light of recent shifts towards contextual offers, will help students in determining which universities are within reach.

Since these consultations on reforming the UCAS process are ongoing, we will continue to inform our clients of any new developments. For instance, UCAS are also evaluating the possibility of allowing students to write different answers that are tailored towards the different courses they apply to.

What will this mean for future applicants?

Students applying in 2023 (for 2024 entry) will not be affected by these changes to the UCAS admissions process. This change may be implemented for the 2024 (2025 entry) admissions cycle onwards, or may be delayed until 2025 (2026 entry).

UCAS are currently collecting feedback from prospective applicants and parents, enabling you to voice your views about the six questions, the year of implementation and the possible option of multiple answers.

While Universities will be assessing candidates on the basis of the same fundamental criteria, supplying answers in this new format will naturally require a different approach to that of the essay-style Statement. We will accordingly be adapting the Personal Statement support we currently offer for future UK University applicants to reflect these changes when they are introduced, and preparing new guidance resources for students and schools once more information about the questions is released.

Our expectation is that the question format will be less demanding in some respects than the essay Statement, in that students will no longer have to structure a single extended piece of writing. However, we anticipate that there will also be new challenges for the students in identifying what material they should cover for each criterion, and ensuring they prepare relevant and succinct answers. Our tutors will be well-placed to support students in adapting to these altered requirements and in using the new format to their advantage.

Ultimately, this change will not affect how students prepare for their application in terms of their super-curricular activities and reasoned reflection on their choice of course programmes. The questions will continue to expect students show evidence of passion for their subject and motivation for further study. If anything, this academic engagement beyond the school curriculum will only become more important: the question areas place considerable emphasis on ‘preparedness’, with one suggested topic being:

Preparation through other experiences – what else have you done to help you prepare, and why are these experiences useful?

Likewise, students will still have the opportunity to demonstrate strong written communication skills. Structuring their answers cohesively and persuasively, and targeting the precise wording of the questions, will be a valuable way to gain a competitive edge.

— Megan and the Universities Team