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FAQs

Q1: Is every one rich and posh?

No, absolutely not! This is the first myth to bust. The majority of Oxford’s UK undergraduates come from state schools. Latest figures (entry 2013) show that, for UK students attending schools or colleges in the UK, 57.4% of places on undergraduate courses went to applicants from the state sector. The same goes for Cambridge: just under two thirds of UK students accepted in 2013 came from state schools (63.3%)

(In fact, the University of Bristol now has a higher proportion of private school entrants than Cambridge, with 59.4 per cent of entrants from state schools in 2012-13, down from 59.9 per cent in 2011-12.The University of St Andrews has highest proportion of private school entrants in Scotland, with just 58.7 per cent of entrants from state schools.)

Furthermore, at both Cambridge and Oxford there is lots of financial support available that doesn’t have to be paid back.

Below is some information specifically about Oxford.

  • For students who started after October 2012, Oxford has the most generous no-strings attached financial support for UK and EU students from the lowest income households.
  • While many universities are offering either fee reductions or bursaries, Oxford provides both.
  • The lowest-income students receive support totalling £10,000 in their first year and over £6,000 in every later year.
  • Oxford centrally spends over £7 million annually on bursaries, in addition to scholarships and bursaries offered by individual colleges.


For more information visit the finance and support pages of Oxford University’s website

Below is some information specifically about Cambridge:

  •  If you are a UK/EU student and your household income is below £42,611 you are likely to be eligible for an annual Cambridge Bursary of up to £3,500 per year if you start in 2012 or later.
  • The Cambridge Bursary is an annual gift from them to you! Provided your eligibility does not change, you could receive a Bursary for the three or four years of your course.
  • The Cambridge Bursary is in addition to any grant or loan for maintenance which you receive from the UK government.
  • The Cambridge Bursary is not a loan. You do not have to pay it back.
  • The application process is simple and straightforward!

Q2 Will taking more A levels improve my  chance of admission?

Most applicants to Oxbridge are studying three or four subjects at A Level. This is enough to show the breadth of an applicant’s interests and their ability to manage a range of differing academic tasks. Both universities  would rather applicants develop deeper knowledge of the subjects most relevant/closest to their chosen course than accumulate additional A Levels. So when each year,  newspaper headlines focus on someone with 7 or 8 A levels who failed to get in you should not be at all surprised.

As has been the case for the last two years, the typical conditional A Level offer for 2013 entry will be A*AA for Cambridge and AAA  for Oxford (or A*AA for some courses, check it out ) . Applicants may be required to achieve the A* in a particular subject, depending on circumstances, and students should choose a combination of AS and A Level subjects which give a good preparation for their selected course at university. Don’t spread yourself too thinly.

To find out even more listen to some Oxford podcasts; Cambridge podcasts they are great.

Q3 Which A levels should I choose?

Some A-levels, or equivalent qualifications, are essential for some undergraduate degree courses at Oxbridge, some are strongly recommended and others are helpful to students as background for their degree course. You can see the full list on the entry requirements  Oxford and Cambridge (P144 in Cambridge prospectus) section of their websites. Once any subject requirements have been met, any other subjects at A-level are acceptable, with the exception of General Studies (and both General Studies and Critical Thinking for Medicine and Biomedical Sciences). They generally recommend that students take those subjects which they enjoy the most and are most likely to achieve the required grades.

Oxbridge’s methods of teaching and learning are strongly academic. As well as tutorials/supervisions and lectures students are required to do a great deal of personal studying, reading and preparing essays. Students may wish to consider which A-levels would best prepare them for this style of learning and demonstrate their academic ability.

Q4 How many A* at GCSE do applicants need?

With the exception of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, there are no GCSE (or equivalent) requirements for entry to Oxbridge. An applicant’s GCSE results are looked at as a performance indicator, but within the context of the school/college performance.

It is generally expected that applicants will have achieved high grades in subjects relevant to their chosen course, and most students who apply have at least four or five As or A*s at GCSE. However, there are always exceptions and one of the strengths of the Oxbridge admissions system is its ability to assess all applicants individually.

If there have been particular difficulties with an applicant’s education it is important that our Admissions Tutors are made aware of these as early in the process as possible. In some cases it may be appropriate for an Extenuating Circumstances Form to be submitted.

Q5 What extra-curricular activities will help my chance of admission?

As our admissions decisions are based on academic criteria (ability and potential), your son’s or daughter’s participation (or not) in specific extra-curricular activities is not taken into account (unless it is relevant to the course they are applying for) and does not affect their chances of being made an offer of a place at Oxbridge.

However, your son or daughter should consider the importance that their other university choices may place on extra-curricular activities when composing their personal statement.

Q6 Will I have chance to socialise?

There is a great social scene at both Universities and it is always surprising how much  students manage to fit in alongside their studies. As well as everything the cities have to offer, there are over hundreds of clubs, societies and groups  to get involved in, as well as a whole range of student-organised entertainment, events and activities throughout term-time.

Students are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities open to them , social as well as academic. Not only are social activities a great way to meet new people, they can also provide a springboard into subsequent careers. Employers value the achievements, experiences and transferable skills that students gain through their involvement in clubs and societies, and look for evidence of these in CVs.

Q7 Will I be able to get a part-time job during term-time?

With the exception of a few opportunities available within the Universities and Colleges (such as working in the College bar, College library or as a student helper during open days), they discourage students from working during term-time for a number of reasons:

  •  terms are short (around eight weeks) and it is important to have an appropriate work-life balance, with sufficient time both to keep up with the academic demands of their course and to give time to take advantage of the social and recreational opportunities available to them. Conversely, there are have long vacations during which they will have the chance to earn some money and get some work experience
  • both universities have  some of the best financial support programmes of any  in the UK to ensure that students can meet the cost of their Oxbridge education without the need to work during term-time.

Q8 What sort of wider reading should I do?

Read, read and read some more: anything related to your subject. Keep a log and record your thoughts, views and responses. This is good preparation for any university course and will be invaluable when you write your personal statement. For more specific advice have a look at Oxford’s suggestions.

Q9 How will I be taught?
There is a mixture of lectures; seminars and classes; practicals, supervisions (Cambridge) tutorials (Oxford) which are very small group tuition, only one or two students; independent research; field trip, study visits and language courses; study abroad for some courses, particularly those that are culture or language based; work experience, particularly for Engineering or Sciences.
Q10 What sort of questions will I be asked at interview?
Here are some examples from Oxford and some videos from Cambridge
Q11 What score do I need to get in admissions test to get an interview?
There is no fixed cut-off score in admissions tests which will guarantee you an interview. The range of marks  depends on the performance and number of all students who apply in that year. Additionally, for all subjects where a test is required, shortlisting is not done only according to the results of the test, but also taking into account GCSE (or equivalent) performance and all relevant information provided on the UCAS application. Cambridge look very closely at AS module scores.
Q12 Which A-level subjects should I choose?
Some A-levels, or equivalent qualifications, are essential for some undergraduate degree courses at Oxbridge, some are strongly recommended and others are helpful to students as background for their degree course. You can see the full list on the entry requirements section of the Oxford website. Oxford say once any subject requirements have been met, any other subjects at A-level are acceptable, with the exception of General Studies (and both General Studies and Critical Thinking for Medicine and Biomedical Sciences). They generally recommend that students take those subjects which they enjoy the most and are most likely to achieve the required grades. Cambridge say AS and A Level (or equivalent) subject choices made in Year 11 can have a major impact on the course options available at university. They add that a significant number of very bright and capable students fail to gain places at top universities because they are not studying the right subjects.When assessing applicants at the University of Cambridge, they consider not only the individual A Level (or equivalent) subjects taken but also the combination of subjects. They generally prefer applicants to have taken certain subjects, or combinations of subjects, because they are more likely to provide an effective preparation for study at the University.Each autumn the University of Cambridge runs practical and informative Saturday afternoon sessions, for Year 11 students. The events, called The Subject Matters, highlight the importance of suitable A Level (or equivalent) subject choices when making an application to a top research led university, and helps students access information to make informed A Level choices.
So, Oxbridge’s methods of teaching and learning are strongly academic. As well as tutorials/supervisions and lectures, students are required to do a great deal of personal studying, reading and preparing essays. So it might be important to consider which A-levels would best prepare you for this style of learning and demonstrate their academic ability.
Q12 How and when do I submit written work for those courses which require it?
If you have any questions about what to send, contact the Tutor for Admissions at the college considering your application (If you’ve made an open application, you will need to wait until you have received an email informing you which college you have been allocated to). College contact details can be found on the website of the relevant college.The deadline for submission of written work is 10 November for Oxford, and each piece must be submitted with a cover sheet. For further details, and to download the cover sheet, please see further guidance on submission of written work at Oxford.

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