Applications, Interviews and Offers
This page contains answers to some of the most common questions the Department of Physics is asked about what we look for in applications, our interviews, and offers.
International applicants should also read our information for international applicants.
Please read our competency standards for Physics.
Information on this page last updated: 4 September 2019
A Level entry requirements
For 2020 entry the minimum entry requirements to study Physics at Imperial College London are to achieve grades of A*A*A in three full A Levels - including A* in Mathematics and A*A in Physics and another subject (excluding General Studies or Critical Thinking). This is the most common offer but we reserve the right to vary the offer in some circumstances, for example where one or more A Levels have been taken a year early. The practical part of any science A-Level must be passed. A grade B or 6 in GCSE English will satisfy the College English language requirements (see below) which all applicants, including native speakers, are required to meet.
A Level subject selection
Mathematics and Physics are compulsory. Most of our applicants sit either three or four A Levels in their final year but the third A grade only needs to be in one additional subject unless specifically stated in your offer. Further Mathematics and Chemistry are the most common third subjects, both of which will be useful to physicists, but we recognise that some applicants will wish to have a broader education and so we place no restriction on the third A Level subject. We do not accept General Studies or Critical Thinking as meeting our entry requirements.
Further Mathematics is not a requirement but we are happy to encourage those who wish to take it either to AS or A Level as our students find that any more challenging mathematical experience they have acquired is helpful to them when they start our courses. We are aware that not all schools are able to offer Further Mathematics but that the Further Mathematics Support Programme is a widely available alternative.
We are often asked whether we require specific A Level Mathematics modules. Again, we set no specific requirements, but are happy to advise applicants that they will find any of the Mechanics modules (M1, M2, M3, M4) particularly useful. Statistics 1 (S1) will also be useful but we can advise that most of the necessary statistics material is taught as part of our degree programmes. Again we are aware that not all schools are able to offer the full range of modules.
Should AS and A Level module grades already achieved be included in applications?
Yes, please provide any AS and A Level module marks that you have already achieved using the facility provided in the UCAS application. As some A-Levels are no longer divided into modules we understand that this information may not be available.
A Levels taken a year early
We often receive applications where at least one A Level (usually Mathematics) has been completed a year early in Year 12. Where an A* in Mathematics has been achieved this will definitely count towards satisfying that condition in our entry requirements. However, we want to be sure that applicants are undertaking a full programme of studies in their final year at school as a lightly loaded year would not be a good preparation for the demands on your time that you will face at university. Thus we may decide to make an offer requiring three A Levels from your final year at school. Each such application is assessed individually. We will not automatically reject an application where an A in Mathematics has been achieved in Year 12 provided all other aspects of the application are strong. Such applicants should plan to resit necessary modules or, if successful at interview, we may consider an offer requiring an A* in Further Mathematics.
Acceptance of AS and A Level resits
We recognise that applicants can occasionally have a one-off bad exam so will not automatically reject applications which show that some modules will be retaken provided all other aspects of the application are strong and, in particular, when the grade is a near miss and only one or two modules are affected. If there are extenuating circumstances to explain your retakes please ask your school to comment in their reference.
The requirements shown for each qualification below are the minimum we will ask for 2020 entry. We assess each application on its individual merits and in some circumstances may make offers that are higher than quoted here. These are the most common qualifications presented by applicants from the UK and the Republic of Ireland. View entry requirements based on the more common international qualifications.
Grade of 7,6,6 are required in three Higher Level subjects including at least 6 in both Mathematics and Physics, and a minimum of 40 points overall. For the English language requirements please see below.
Distinction grades of D2,D2,D3 are required in three principal subjects including D2 in Mathematics and D3 in Physics.
Scottish Advanced Highers
We require an A grade in Mathematics, A in Physics and A in any third subject. A grade of 2 in Standard Grade English Language will satisfy the College English language requirements (see below).
Irish Leaving Certificate
A grades are required in six subjects including A1 in Mathematics and A1 in Physics at higher level and a further 2 subjects with H1 and 2 other subjects with H2. A grade B in English Language in the Irish Junior Certificate will satisfy the College English language requirements (see below).
Additional requirements for MSci Physics with a Year in Abroad (F309)
A grade B/6 at GCSE in a modern European language (French, German, Italian or Spanish) is required, or in an equivalent qualification, such as Scottish Standard Grade. Fluent speakers of these languages are exempt from this requirement but may require to be assessed at the start of the course to confirm their exemption from the language classes.
Additional requirements for BSc Physics and Music Performance (F3W3)
ABRSM Grade 8 with Distinction or an equivalent level in a suitable musical instrument is required, usually achieved by age 15 although this age requirement may be waived for strong applicants. A shortlisting committee meets in November and suitable applicants are invited for audition at the Royal College of Music in December. We will usually hold your Physics interview on the same day. Thus it is advisable to apply early although strong applications received up to 15th January will still be considered and invited for audition in February.
Applicants for this course who do not hold the ABRSM qualification but believe that they have reached an equivalent standard should contact the Physics Admissions Office for advice, letting us know what qualifications you have achieved. Your application will be assessed by the Admissions Tutor in Physics. If all the aspects of your application are strong you will be invited for audition and interview. In the event the Royal College of Music requires more information regarding your music qualifications or your repertoire they will contact you directly.
Applicants need to apply to Imperial College through the UCAS system, addressing physics in your personal statement. If your application is strong for Physics The Admissions Tutor Professor Juliet Pickering will shortlist you for interview. At this stage we will contact you to let you know that your application will be shortlisted for audition and interview. Applicants are not required to send their repertoire to Imperial College. Imperial College, Physics Department will liaise with the RCM to organise your audition/s and interview on the same day. The RCM will contact applicants directly to request a music personal statement outlining the following information:
whether you are an instrumentalist or a composer (and if an instrumentalist, which instrument you play)
when you started playing/composing
any music qualifications you have achieved so far
English language requirements for all applicants
All applicants, including native speakers, are required to hold an accepted English language qualification. For the majority of UK applicants this is satisfied by already holding at least a grade B or 6 in GCSE English Language. Those who have not achieved this or an accepted equivalent qualification will need to take one of the accepted English language tests: a full list of these can be found under here. Results must be received by the College by the 19 July 2019 for students applying in the 2018/19 UCAS cycle.
Selection for interview
Entry to study physics at Imperial is highly competitive and in recent years we have only been able to invite for interview about half of those who apply. In shortlisting candidates for interview we look at all aspects of applications including predicted grades, results already achieved at GCSE and AS Level, personal statement and school reference.
We interview groups of 12 students in term I from Monday 28 October 2019 to Friday 13 December 2019 and term II from the 20 January 2020 to Friday 6 March 2020. We attempt to work through applications roughly in the order received but since in recent years we have received about 1200 applications by mid October it has typically taken us until early February before the majority of suitable October applicants have been interviewed. Applicants who apply from late October until the final UCAS deadline of 15th January 2020 are more likely to be interviewed in February or March. Applicants who meet the 15th January UCAS deadline are guaranteed equal consideration. In recent years we have not been able to consider any late applicants.
There is always a subset of applicants whom we are not able to invite for interview on a first review but we keep on hold for further consideration until all applications have been received. If you have not received an interview invitation or a rejection decision through UCAS then you should assume that your application is still under consideration.
If you are successful in being shortlisted for interview you will be sent a letter of invitation by email usually at least 2 weeks in advance of the interview date, although sometimes we may offer cancellation dates at shorter notice. You are required to confirm your attendance to interview either by email or by phone.
Applicants often ask if we have a dress code for interviews: we set no requirements on this so please dress as you feel comfortable as long it is not too extreme! We also ask that you bring photographic identification with you, for example a passport or any other document that shows your picture.
Applicants are given the opportunity to arrive in the Department by 12:15 pm in which case they will be taken to lunch and given a campus tour by one of our current undergraduate students. This provides an excellent opportunity to ask questions about student life at Imperial and about the course to someone with firsthand experience. The more formal part of the afternoon begins at 2:00pm where applicants meet in groups of 4 with an academic who is a member of our admissions interview team. The first part of the afternoon consists of a short introduction to the Department, our Physics courses and learning activities, with opportunities to ask questions, and a brief tour of the teaching facilities, usually with an opportunity to briefly observe a teaching session in progress. This is followed by individual interviews with the same academic.
The individual interview aims to assess your motivation to study physics and your suitability to undertake a challenging degree programme where strong mathematical skills are required. You can expect to be asked why you want to undertake a physics degree and to back this with evidence – expanding on material you have already introduced in your personal statement is one way to do this . You should be able to discuss with your interviewer anything mentioned in your personal statement – knowing nothing about a book you claim to have read is a pitfall to avoid. You will also be asked some maths and physics questions which can be discussed over pen and paper. Do not worry if you do not know the right answer immediately as your interviewer will help you – we want to see how you are able to think through a problem as part of a discussion.
You will also have an opportunity to ask questions specific to your individual application and to discuss which of our degree programmes is the right one for you.
When will offers be made?
If you do well in your interview we aim to make offers within 4-6 weeks of the interview date, although if you are interviewed in December the Christmas break may cause an additional delay while the College Registry is closed. You will be notified of your offer through UCAS Track. Inevitably there are some applicants whom we are not able to make offers to immediately but whom it is appropriate to hold in a pool until all applications have been received in January and all interviews completed by early March. This is so that we can be fair to all applicants while at the same time not exceeding the number of places we are allowed to offer. We review this pool at regular intervals so that we do not delay offers once it is clear that they can be made and so that we do not keep unsuccessful applicants waiting for long periods once we are sure that an offer cannot be made. The Admissions Tutor’s decision on offers is final.
Where do Original Certificates or Certified copies need to be sent?
For most applicants taking A Levels and IB courses we will be able to confirm your examination results in the summer through UCAS. However, if your offer asks you to send certificates for A levels already completed or you are taking qualifications that cannot be verified through UCAS then you may need to send us original certificates or certified copies duly signed and stamped by your school. These need to be sent to Registry and NOT to the Physics Department. The address to send them to is:
Natural Science Admissions Team, Registry, South Kensington Campus, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK.
Unfortunately Registry does not accept scanned copies or photocopies. If you wish Registry to send the certificates back to your current address, please state this in a cover letter.