The short answer is: yes.
The longer answer is: yes, most of the time. Grades at AS level and GCSE, and predicted grades for A level, are easy ways to compare students from across the country quickly and fairly objectively, and universities therefore use these as the first determinant of acceptance or rejection. For universities that are overwhelmed by applicants, particularly the elite universities, any students whose grades don’t meet the necessary cut offs – who don’t have, say, 6 A* grades at GCSE, or aren’t predicted 3 B grades at A level – will be discarded unless there are some extenuating circumstances. In these cases it is unlikely that the students’ personal statements will be read, but in every other case, the personal statement will be considered by the admissions tutors.
A different longer answer is: yes, sometimes repeatedly. Grade inflation – the increase in the number of candidates with the same high levels of achievement – means that it can be harder to tell candidates, especially elite candidates, apart based on their grades alone. This means that universities will not just read and consider the personal statements of every applicant with sufficient grades, but that they will often re-read them several times, show them to several admissions tutors and consider them seriously and at length.
For courses and universities which interview applicants – mostly medicine and Oxbridge – the answer is: yes, probably again several times. While personal statements are less important as a determinant of entry for courses which feature interviews, they will still be read several times by admissions staff – firstly to decide who to interview, and secondly to inform interviewers about the candidates and guide the interview process. Interviews are likely to be based on personal statements to some degree, and could even be considered an oral expansion on those parts of the personal statement that they interviewer finds most interesting or apposite.
Your personal statement is going to be read, and likely re-read several times, by several different people. It is an integral part of any application, provided that it is supported by sufficient grades. It is therefore vital that you submit a personal statement that is unique, engaging and polished, and represents the best of yourself to admissions tutors. The best way to do this is to use one of our bespoke services; our Editing and Writing services are designed to help you to submit the best personal statement possible.