How to make make an irresistible UCAS application to Oxford or Cambridge, amplifying your chances of success
Oxford/Cambridge UCAS application advice
Now that applications have been submitted for 2023 entry, it’s time for students who would like to apply for Oxford or Cambridge for 2024 entry to start planning their application materials in earnest. The process of applying to Oxbridge is more complex and more demanding than most other UK university applications so it’s important to make an early start and take expert UCAS application advice to ensure that it is as compelling and strong as it possibly can be.
Steve Martin, author of this blog, has years of experience assisting parents to steer and guide their son or daughter through successful applications to UK universities.
Below are some of the key things to consider when preparing an Oxbridge application
1. Why apply to Oxford or Cambridge?
Firstly, a student can only apply to either Oxford or Cambridge and not both. An Oxbridge education is designed for students who are driven to learn in a specific subject area. The ideal Oxbridge candidate will live and breathe their subject. They will be exceptionally bright academically and will be outstanding critical thinkers which means that they are able to objectively analyse and evaluate an argument, theory, or statement to form their own judgement. Oxbridge terms are short and intense and, whilst sport and the arts play a part in university life, academics are the key focus. Both universities work on a collegiate system where students live and study in a particular college and students can either choose to apply to a particular college or apply “open” and be allocated a college.
Choosing your subject and first choice university can be a difficult task, especially if your top choice is Oxford or Cambridge, click here to find out more about the services we offer and how our UCAS application advice can help you through this process.
2. Preparing to apply
Students who are planning to apply to Oxbridge should be thinking of their course choice and preparing their intellectual development from the age of around 14 or 15, perhaps even earlier. Oxbridge students are focused, driven, and precise in their thinking. They understand that a successful application is down to fine margins. A few things that students can do are:
GCSE grades should be all/mostly 8/A* or above.
A-Level grades should be mostly A* and IB should be 40+ points.
Read around the subject from an early age.
Have academic conversations at school and home.
Join your school’s Oxbridge group.
Attend academic lectures live or online.
Use MOOCS to undertake and complete academic courses.
Lead interesting projects beyond the curriculum.
Plan your UCAS application with the help of our expert consultants, click here to get in touch and find out how we can help you plan an irresistible UCAS application.
3. The application process
The application process is quite straightforward. A UCAS application is submitted in the normal way with Oxford or Cambridge as one of the 5 choices. There are a few differences to a “normal” application:
Personal statements should be purely academic in focus.
Entrance testing is likely (not always) to be required.
An interview will be required as a student reaches that stage.
Colleges may ask students to submit marked pieces of academic work.
During the application process you may have some questions, our consultant’s UCAS application advice can help so get in touch by clicking here.
4. The testing and interview process
Testing This is the key area over which students and families have control. Most, but not all, subjects and colleges will require a pre-interview or at-interview academic test to be taken. This is an area often underestimated by families. If the student does not have a suitable teacher at school to work with them then please engage the services of a tutor. The tests are challenging (TSA) and sometimes quirky (ELAT). They need practice and ideally tutor support.
Interviews These are very different in structure at Oxford and Cambridge but very similar in style. At Cambridge, it’s likely that a student will have one or two short (25 minute) interviews (on the same day) with 2 interviewers. The purpose of an interview is to mimic a supervision (individual tutorial) where academic or technical stimulus material is discussed. The format of interviews is very similar at Oxford (where the small group discussion is called a Tutorial), but students may be asked to stay for 2 or 3 nights and be invited to different interviews at different colleges each day. Interviews may happen online rather than face to face.
So, in summary, the Oxbridge application process is highly competitive and highly selective. There are many more well qualified applicants than there are places available and the success of an application is amplified by careful preparation and a thorough understanding of the application process.
For Oxford or Cambridge UCAS application advice on making yourself irresistible and stand out from the crowd, please get in touch using the button below: