In the 2016-17 admissions round Merton received 65 applicants for Physics and Physics and Philosophy, i.e. approximately 8.1 candidates per place. The approximate competition for places in these subjects across Oxford as a whole was 6.4:1 . In all 8 of these candidates were offered a place at Oxford, a success rate of 12% compared to the university-wide average in these subjects of approximately 16%. Further details are given below .
Physics aims to interview approximately 2.5 candidates per place which means that fewer than half of applicants are short-listed for interview. The primary short-listing criterion is performance on the Physics Aptitude Test (PAT), judged by the total mark. The PAT has been run for several years, and is known to be good predictors of future performance at Oxford; in particular performance in the PAT is known to be a better predictor of performance on the degree course than are GCSE results. The PAT is based on a defined syllabus and the contents are checked by school teachers to ensure that they are set at an appropriate level.
In the 2016-17 admissions round all candidates scoring 60 and above on the PAT were shortlisted. A small number of other candidates were added to the shortlist, either because their test scores did not reflect their true ability (such as candidates with medical certificates) or because their application materials show other quite exceptional evidence of excellence.
Test scores are not made available to candidates automatically but can be provided by the College on request. Individual applicants should interpret their scores with reference to the 2016 Physics Aptitude Test Report.
After initial shortlisting, three candidates who had applied to a different college were reallocated to Merton to ensure that each college had approximately the same number of candidates per place, and hence that an applicant's chance of obtaining a place was as far as possible independent of the college handling the application.
The final shortlisted candidates for Physics were given two interviews in Merton on physics and mathematics and at least one other interview at another college; candidates for Physics & Philosophy were given an additional interview in Merton on philosophy. A number of overseas candidates were interviewed by Skype. Decisions to offer a place were based on the performance in the PAT and in the interviews. Of the 22 Merton first-choice candidates interviewed, 7 were offered a place at Merton, and another candidate was offered a place at another college.
Prospective applicants may be interested in the suggestions on how to prepare for the admissions process available on the Physics Department website.