Is A-Level Maths *really* your only compulsory subject?

Although lots of other engineering courses ask for Physics and also Further Maths at A-Level, we are looking for a diverse cohort with a wide ranging academic background.  This means that we look on applicants who are taking Maths, Design Technology and Music as favourably as those taking Maths, Physics and Further Maths.

If you can demonstrate (in your personal statement and your interview) that your chosen subjects relate to Design Engineering and are ones that you are passionate about then we will accept you with ‘unconventional’ subjects. This includes non-scientific subjects.

Study your passions and strengths and demonstrate how they relate to Design Engineering.

But are some subjects better than others?

Some subjects are more obviously relevant to Design Engineering than others. These subjects can make your application stronger.
Further Maths, Design Technology and Art will all strengthen your application.
Other relevant subjects include:
Technical subjects - Science subjects (various), Computing and Electronics.
Creative subjects - Design subjects (various), Psychology, Philosophy, Music and Textiles

I'm not studying 'obviously relevant' subjects

If you aren't taking any of the 'obviously relevant' subjects listed above still apply! You just need to sell your non-obvious subject choices. Use your Personal Statement to show how DE fits into your subject choices and to give examples of relevant extra-curricular activities (see section below on what you can do to strengthen your application).

I’m doing an extended project/AS level/STEP/another qualification, will this enhance my application or count towards the academic requirements?

Our offers are not based on UCAS points but specific qualifications, therefore additional qualifications will not exempt you from meeting our A*AA minimum offer.

However, if the additional qualification demonstrates skills and interests that are relevant to Design Engineering, this will strengthen your application.

I’m not predicted A*AA, can I still apply?

If you are not predicted at least AAA then your application will be rejected before the School can read it. 

If you are predicted AAA the other parts of your application will have to be very strong for you to receive an offer.  Our minimum offer is A*AA, so in such instances you would need to perform better than your predicted grades to meet our offer conditions. Please note; equivalent predicted grades such as A*AB would meet our minimum threshold for consideration. However, final grades of A*AB would not be considered to have met our minimum academic entry requirement. 

I have retaken some of my A-Levels/modules, is that ok?

We don’t mind if it takes you longer than the usual two years to achieve your A-Levels. As long as your predicted grades at the time of your application are at least AAA we will view your application on an equal footing with those who have completed their A-Levels in one sitting.

Do you look at my GCSE results?

Other than your English Language grade, we do not look at your GCSE grades.  We look at your predicted grades at A-Level or equivalent.

We may look at the GCSE subjects you have studied, if they are relevant, such as Art or Design Technology.

I speak English as a first language, will I need an English Language qualification?

Yes, you will. All our students need to have a GCSE grade 6 (GCSE B grade, pre 2017) in English Language (or equivalent, see link below).  If you do not have a grade 6, this will not affect whether or not you receive an offer, but you will have to obtain an alternative English language qualification (or retake the GCSE) to meet your offer conditions.

Accepted English Language qualifications can be found here:

Do you accept university foundation year courses?

The only foundation course that we accept is Warwick’s International Foundation Programme in Science and Engineering.

We do not accept other foundation courses and Imperial does not run its own foundation course.

If you have taken a foundation year in Art, this will strengthen your application but you will still need to have met our A-Level, or equivalent, requirements.

UCAS Application

UCAS Applcation

What are you looking for in my personal statement?

Personal statements need to reflect who you are. For example, they can include your interests, achievements and experience.

Some applicants are able to talk about work they have done; others choose to talk about their school or personal design project or perhaps items they have made.  Some will discuss activities they have engaged in. So it is a very personal statement – personal to you.

We are keen to see whether an application is aligned to the type of degree we are offering. Our degree has a mix of design, manufacture, analysis, creativity, innovation and design-engineering. We do not expect students to arrive with all these skills, instead we expect to be able to gauge the level of interest and aptitude from the statement.

The most important thing to put in your Personal Statement is specific examples to back up any claims you have made. Don't just say 'I love designing things', instead, say 'I love designing things such as the balloon rocket car I made and designed for a School competition' etc. (Don't put that specific example though - we'll spot it and know you stole it from here!)

Your course is different to my other choices, can I submit a separate personal statement?

We do not accept additional personal statements.

We recommend that, without explicitly stating a course title, you include the skills, qualities and experience that you feel are relevant to Design Engineering. These are skills that will make you a strong applicant for any similar or related course.

Do I need to have work experience?

We do not expect our applicants to have professional work experience.  However, it is worth telling us about any relevant volunteering or amateur projects / research you may have participated in.

Do I need to be able to sketch?

Being able to sketch will put you at an advantage, but sketching is a fundamental skill, such as Electronics or Mechanics, that we will be teaching in our First Year to ensure that everyone has the knowledge and skills necessary for the course.

That said, if you drew one quick sketch per week between now and the course start date, you'll find that you improve significantly and will be more comfortable studying the course.

What can I do to improve my application now?

Our course is extremely hands-on so all making is strongly encouraged. Depending on where you live and your family’s financial means there are various activities you may want to explore such as:

  • learning coding online at codeacademy.com (free)
  • developing your maths skills with www.khanacademy.org khanacademy.org (free)
  • building prototypes out of cardboard etc.
  • taking apart broken appliances
  • sketching
  • CAD modelling on a computer
  • laser cutting/ wood working
  • Lego robotics (and the possibly more advanced robotics)
  • 3D printing
  • Online lectures and courses provided by the BBC and universities such as MIT
  • Follow us on Twitter for information on news, events and opportunities related to Design Engineering. Follow @ImperialDE

Check out our YouTube Channel for further inspiration: Design Engineering YouTube Channel

Design Engineering covers a wide range of areas so you should pursue whatever area interests you most – we encourage our applicants to have different strengths and interests.



Do you do interviews?

Yes, we do hold interviews and every successful candidate will have been interviewed.

When will I hear if I have an interview invite?

Interview invites are sent via email.  Please check your spam filters regularly as invites are sometimes lost in them.

The earliest interviews are in December and they are usually completed by early March.  You will be given at least a week’s notice of any interview date.

Do you interview everyone?

No, we only interview the strongest applicants based on their UCAS applications.

What if I can’t make it to an interview?

If you are unable to attend an interview in person (if you live overseas, for example) we will arrange a Skype interview with you.  We do prefer to interview people in person but it will not count against you if this is not possible.

What will happen in the interview?

Pre-interview exercise - Just before your interview, you will be given a pre-interview exercise to work on in a quiet room. Don't worry, this isn't a test!  It's a chance for you to prepare in advance for some of the interview questions. You will be given full details on the day and do not need to prepare in advance. You may be asked to do some sketching to communicate your thoughts, although this is not a test of artistic ability.

During the interview - The interview will test you on your design, technical and mathematics skills as well as your motivation for applying to the subject.  The interview will be largely discussion based, although you will have some paper to work out problems on if you wish. You will have your notes and/or sketches from the pre-interview exercise with you and will be able to refer to them when you want. 

Do I need a portfolio for my interview?

You do not need to bring a portfolio to your interview.  If you have an existing portfolio, you can bring it along with you but we cannot guarantee that you will have time to discuss your portfolio and if you do have the time, it will likely only be 5 minutes maximum.



When will I hear if I have received an offer?

Most offers will be made after mid-January (after the UCAS deadline) and many people won't hear until after all interviews are completed (late-February). You should hear one way or the other by the end of March.

Do you ever make offers below A*AA?

No. A*AA is our minimum offer and we would not make an offer below that.

(NB. If you are taking the SIPCAL, Scottish Highers or if you completed your English A-Levels before 2010, then our offer will reflect that you will not be awarded A*)

Do you ever make offers above A*AA?

Yes. Depending on various factors, including your interview performance, we may make you a higher offer of A*A*A or equivalent.

If I’m doing more than 3 A-Levels will you offer on more than 3 A-Levels?

Our standard offer is A*AA or equivalent. In some circumstances we might make slightly higher offers, but this would be usually involve asking for higher grades on three A-Levels rather than asking for four A-Levels.

If you are not confident that you can achieve A*AA as part of four A-Levels you should drop down to three A-Levels. We do not consider AAAA to be 'the same' as A*AA!

A significant number of our successful applicants have only studied 3 A-Levels.

Deferrals and Gap Years

Deferrals and Gap Years

Can I apply now and defer a year?

UPDATED for 2019 entry - Now that the School is established with a full cohort of four years, we are moving in line with the majority of Imperial College London courses and are accepting applications for deferrals.

If you want to apply for deferred entry, you can do this via UCAS. If you do not mention the reasons for applying for deferred entry in your personal statement, we may contact you for more details on what you plan to do with your year out of education.

Maths skills atrophy very quickly when they are not in regular use, therefore you will need to demonstrate strong maths skills in your interview and your school qualifications.

If you plan on spending your gap year working on Design Engineering related projects, we strongly recommend that you apply during your gap year, if possible, as writing about your gap year activities will greatly strengthen your application.

Will taking a gap year count against my application?

Taking a gap year will not necessarily count against your application however, as with many engineering courses, we do have concerns that your maths skills may atrophy over the break.  You should continue doing weekly maths revision throughout the year and you should expect to be rigorously tested at interview.  If you do not maintain your A-Level Maths skills, you may struggle to succeed during your first year.  

It is your responsibility to ensure that you remember and retain all of your A-Level Maths! There are many excellent, free online resources to help you practice, such as KhanAcademy.com 

As well as Maths, there are certain activities you can do in your gap year that will strengthen your application.  If you participate in activities that demonstrate a continuing interest in design or engineering this will count in your favour. You should be sure to include these in your Personal Statement.

NB. Please see our note about deferred applications above.

Mitigating Circumstances

Mitigating Circumstances

There are Mitigating Circumstances affecting my current qualifications, what should I do?

If there are circumstances during your A-Level years that you believe will affect your A-Level performance you must do two things as soon as possible:

  • Firstly, notify your school of these issues.  Your school will notify your exam board/s and it is up to the exam board/s to adjust your grade as you see fit. We cannot assess the impact circumstances have had on your A-Levels.  That can only be done by your school and exam board.
  • Secondly, you need to notify us of these circumstances before your results are released.  We will make a note that of your circumstances on your record.
    As a general rule, we will not accept you with lower results because of mitigating circumstances. Your school and exam board should have already taken those circumstances into account when awarding your grades. However, there are other times when we may consider your application in the light of mitigating circumstances, such as if we have space for ‘near-miss’ candidates on results day or when assessing your interview performance. Such information will also help us support you if you do come to study with us.

Please note, we may request formal proof of your circumstances from you or your school.

Transfers from other courses or universities

Transfers from other courses of universities

I am currently studying at a different university/different course at Imperial, can I transfer to your course?

We do not accept transfers into later years of the course.  If you have studied for a year at another university or course at ICL then you are welcome to apply to start our course from the first year.

You will also have to achieve the equivalent of 60% in a UK degree during your existing year at university

If there are any mitigating circumstances affecting your existing studies, you must raise these with your existing university as we are not in a position to assess the impact of such circumstances on your current studies.

Transferring from another university- to transfer from another university, please apply via UCAS.com. The deadline is January 15th.

Transferring from another ICL course - to transfer from a different department at ICL, please send a one page personal statement to design.engineering@imperial.ac.uk from your ICL email address.  You email should include your full name, current department, your A Level results and your CID number.  Your personal statement should include your motivations for switching courses and any relevant design engineering experience. You will need to ask someone from your current department to email a reference directly to the email above from their ICL email address.

The deadline for ICL applications is the last day of the Easter holidays.

Visiting the School

Visiting the School

Do you run open days?

Unfortunately we are not able to offer individual tours to prospective students, however we have a lot of information on our School web pages for applicants: http://www.imperial.ac.uk/design-engineering/study/meng as well as in this FAQ.

The Dyson School of Design Engineering will be represented at all undergraduate open days. All information regarding open days can be found here: