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Admissions Feedback 2021-22

Most of these reports have been prepared by the College but they incorporate or refer to departmental and faculty reports where these are available. They are intended to inform those planning applications in the future and also to provide to unsuccessful candidates, their referees, schools and families with an indication as to the most likely reasons they were not selected in this round. The vast majority of our applicants are very talented, with exemplary academic backgrounds. The most common reason for non-selection is simply that it is an exceptionally competitive process. Some more specific indications of what tutors in particular subjects are seeking, and the processes and competition in each area, can be found under each subject header. It is important to remember both that Oxford makes its selection on academic criteria alone, and that interview performance is only one of the elements which tutors take into account when evaluating an application.

If you have been a referee for an unsuccessful candidate, we encourage you to continue to send your students to us, taking into account the comments here regarding any of the subject areas in which they may be interested. You may also wish to consult the pages on specific subjects. Merton's Schools Liaison and Access Officer will be pleased to provide any advice on supporting applications or you may wish to contact the Oxford college linked to your area under the University's Regional Outreach Scheme.

Merton received 663 applications in this admissions round. 102 candidates have been made an offer by the College for 2021 entry, including six open offers. A number of offers were also made to applicants under the recently launched Opportunity Oxford scheme. One offer was also made for deferred 2023 entry.


This year there were 795 applicants across the University for direct entry (an increase of 67 on the previous year) and 12 for deferred entry to study Biochemistry. We had 97 places available for entry next year and made 97 college offers, 11 open offers (where a University place is guaranteed if the conditions are achieved but the College place will be allocated in August) and no offers for deferred entry. The Departmental policy is that conditional offers should normally be set at A*AA at A2-level with the A* in a science or maths, or the equivalent. As in previous years the UCAS forms of all applicants were read and graded centrally, by the Biochemistry Department, prior to short-listing (we aim to shortlist approximately 3 applicants per place); all short-listed applicants were interviewed by two colleges (remotely this year); the applicants were ranked according to their UCAS and both interview grades; and the final decisions were made at a meeting of all College tutors. Of the 807 applicants, 353 applicants were short-listed. Of these, 340 received an overall grade of 4.5 or better out of 7 (with 4 being “worth careful consideration” and 5 being “worth a place if one is available”) and 312 received an overall grade above 5, so being made an offer of a place is a very considerable achievement.

Biochemistry admissions round 2021/2022 – some initial statistics

(excludes applicants who withdrew before interview)

  Access1 Gender APR region School
    Male Female Home EU Overseas State Independent Other2
Number of applicants
All 69 305 498 447 59 297 309 155 339
Shortlisted 55 139 214 264 16 73 188 86 79
Offer 13 46 62 91 4 13 61 32 15
Success rates
Shortlisted 80% 46% 43% 59% 27% 25% 61% 55% 23%
Offer 19% 15% 12% 20% 7% 4% 20% 21% 4%
Number 9/8/A* at GCSE3
All 6.8 8.0 8.3 8.6 not applicable4 6.8 8.1 9.6 6.3
Shortlisted 7.8 9.0 9.2 9.3 not applicable 8.0 9.0 10.0 7.8
Offer 8.4 9.7 9.8 9.8 not applicable 8.8 9.4 10.4 9.6
Number A-levels taken
All 3.1 3.6 3.4 3.3 not applicable 4.0 3.3 3.5 4.1
Shortlisted 3.2 3.6 3.4 3.4 not applicable 4.1 3.3 3.7 4.1
Offer 3.3 3.5 3.5 3.5 not applicable 4.0 3.4 3.7 4.0
Number predicted/achieved A* at A-levels in sciences5
All 1.7 2.4 2.3 2.2 not applicable 2.8 2.1 2.6 2.7
Shortlisted 1.9 2.8 2.6 2.6 not applicable 3.5 2.4 3.2 3.5
Offer 2.8 3.2 3.0 3.0 not applicable 3.6 2.8 3.5 3.6
  State school Independent school
  Male Female Male Female
Total applicants 111 198 66 89
Percentage shortlisted 61% 61% 61% 52%
Percentage offer 21% 19% 26% 16%

1 Band A applicants.
2 Apply Online UK and Apply Online Overseas.
3 For applicants taking six or more GCSEs.
4 Too few applicants taking GCSEs or A-levels to give meaningful numbers.
5 For applicants taking three or more A-levels/pre-U.


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Summary of the 2021/22 University of Oxford Admissions Process for Biology

In the 2021/2022 admissions round there were 684 applications for Biology. This included 7 deferred applications for 2023 entry to the course. There were 137 open applications for Biology, which means that 20% of applicants did not choose a college when they applied. There were 109 places available for 2022 entry to the course, meaning there were 6.3 applications per available place.

After shortlisting, 321 applicants were invited to interview and after interview, 123 applicants received an offer for 2022 course entry. This included 10 Open Offers, where a place is guaranteed if the offer conditions are achieved but the college place will be allocated before the course commences. In addition to this, 1 candidate received a deferred offer for 2023 entry to the course. In total 18% of applicants to Biology received an offer.

Six offer holders have been nominated as Opportunity Oxford candidates.

Total applications Female Applicants Male Applicants Home Applicants EU Applicants Overseas Applicants
684 455 - 66.5% 229 - 33.5% 352 - 51.5% 44 - 6.5% 288 - 42%
Total Applications Total Shortlisted Applicants Total Offers (2022 course entry)
684 321 - 47% 123 - 18%

The standard offer for Biology is A*AA, at A level, including Biology plus Chemistry, Physics or Mathematics and with the A* in a Science or a Mathematics (or equivalent). There was variation in the remaining A level subject(s) taken by A level applicants – some shortlisted applicants held Biology plus two or more of Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics. For other candidates, the third subject included Economics, English Literature, French, Geography, Geology, History, Philosophy, Physical Education, Psychology and Spanish.

Prior to shortlisting, a team of Biology tutors reviewed the applications as a gathered field and made interview recommendations to all other Biology tutors involved in admissions. As part of this assessment, performance at GCSE and equivalent or other qualifications that had already been attained were evaluated, plus school type and the various measures and indicators on the UCAS forms were taken into account. The first choice application college also assessed all applications to their college and made recommendations. All recommendations were then taken to a meeting attended by representatives from all colleges that admit Biologists, and shortlisting decisions were discussed and agreed.

After shortlisting had taken place, some applicants were redistributed to a new college 1 so that all colleges had approximately 3 candidates per available place. All shortlisted candidates were then allocated a second college and again each college had approximately the same number of applicants to consider per available place. All shortlisted applicants were then invited to attend online interviews with each of the two colleges.

Although the content of interviews varies between interviewing panels, all interviewers asked detailed questions about subjects, objects, data or written/graphic material that the interviewees are not expected to recognise or have studied before. Questions arising from the candidate’s Personal Statement were also often posed.

After Biology interviews finished, Biology representatives for all colleges met as a group – at this meeting all decisions relating to interview candidates were agreed and confirmed, including which candidates would receive a Biology Open Offer. The average number of GCSEs taken by Biology applicants was 9.8, and the average of those shortlisted was 10.0.

The average number of 9s, 8s and A*s at GCSE by Biology applicants was 8.0. The average number of 9/8/A*s for shortlisted applicants was 8.8, and for those receiving an offer it was 8.9. All of these numbers include only applicants taking more than 5 GCSEs.



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Summary of Admissions Process for Chemistry, University of Oxford 2021-22


In total 893 (861 last year) applications were received in 2021 for Chemistry. Of these 606 (596 last year) applicants were shortlisted for interviews. In all 202 (195 last year) offers were made, including open offers. To even out the chances of admission between Colleges 62 shortlisted applicants had their first-assigned Colleges reallocated and 45 shortlisted applicants had their second-assigned Colleges reallocated. A further 58 candidates had their second-assigned colleges reallocated after the first interviews.

The school backgrounds of those given offers are as follows:
State school: 102 (50.5%)
Independent school: 57 (28.2%)
Other (including unknown): 43 (21.3%)

The gender breakdown of those given offers is as follows:
Female: 88 (44%)
Male: 114 (56%)

Throughout the process all UCAS forms, contextual information, application and interview grades were easily accessible to all College tutors involved via a web-based database.


In light of the competition for places, the purpose of shortlisting is to provide time, during the December interview window, to guarantee that all shortlisted applicants receive at least two interviews. There was an increase in applications this year, which meant that some applicants who might have been shortlisted in previous years were not shortlisted this year. Shortlisting was performed by the Chemistry Admissions Coordinators and the College tutors in accordance with the stated admissions criteria, based on all available and relevant data: in particular these data include all aspects of the applicant's UCAS form and any further relevant contextual data specific to the application. Each application was graded against agreed descriptors. All recommendations from College tutors to modify the shortlist were submitted, with reasoning, to the Chemistry Admissions Coordinators for scrutiny. The proposed list of all applicants not to be shortlisted was available to all Colleges for a period of 4 days before the shortlist was finalised. A small number of applicants were brought back into contention at the request of a College.

The Colleges then sent letters and/or emails to all applicants, informing them of the outcome of the shortlisting exercise.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, admissions interviews for the University took place remotely this year via Microsoft Teams. The University Admissions Office produced guidance for remote interviews and corresponding advice on their website for applicants.

All shortlisted Chemistry applicants were interviewed remotely over a two-week period in December. The timetable of interviews by subject was readily available on the Undergraduate Admissions website well in advance of the dates.

Each applicant had a first-assigned College. This was either the College to which they applied or a College assigned by the Admissions Office or by the Admissions Coordinator in such a way as to even out the competition for places across Colleges. Each applicant was also assigned a second College by an algorithm in order to equalise across Colleges the interview load per place ratio.

Applicants had at least two interviews at their first-assigned College, and may have also been interviewed by their second-assigned College and other Colleges. Interviews were academic in nature. Applicant performance was judged according to the admissions criteria. The interviews were graded against agreed descriptors.


The Chemistry Department operates various procedures in a coordinated effort to ensure that the strongest applicants are admitted to the University irrespective of College choice. These include transparency of all application grades, interview grades, and UCAS forms amongst all tutors involved with admissions, and a final meeting of tutors at which the strongest unplaced applicants are collectively discussed and final offers, including open offers, are made.

Decisions are deemed to be official at the end of the final meeting. These decisions are then communicated to the respective College offices for dissemination to shortlisted applicants.

Standard offers are stated in the University Prospectus for those taking A-levels, the International Baccalaureate or Advanced Highers. College tutors seek advice from Admissions tutors or the Admissions Office in making other offers.


Feedback, other than decisions, will not automatically be sent out, but applicants may seek feedback from their first-assigned Colleges about any aspect of the admissions process. Feedback will not be sent out until January, once the admissions process is complete. 

Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

In the 2021-22 admissions round the estimated competition for places across Oxford was 4.9:1. Candidates were selected using standard selection criteria.

The majority of candidates who applied were called for interview. Shortlisting decisions are taken by the tutors in each college but any decision to deselect a candidate is checked by tutors in other colleges; the CAAH tutors in all colleges which admit for the subject have access to the application materials of all candidates and are able to call to interview any candidate not called by the first choice college.

All candidates summoned for interview received two interviews by their first choice college. At Merton (as at many other colleges) one of these interviews was with a pair of ancient historians and the other was with a pair of archaeologists. For the Ancient History interview, all candidates were given a short passage (in English) from an Ancient Historical source to read for 15 minutes in advance of the interview. This passage then formed the basis for a discussion in the main part of the interview: we were assessing what candidates found interesting about the passage, how critically they were able to read it, and to what extent we could develop ideas about the text which might be of historical interest. For the Archaeology interview, candidates were presented with a site plan and an image of an archaeological object during the interview, and part of the interview focused upon that material. In neither case was any prior knowledge of the material expected; the interviews were not tests of knowledge, but of candidates’ powers of observation, analysis and enquiry. After the first interviews the CAAH tutors from all colleges which admit for the subject met to compare the entire field, and candidates were ranked on the basis of interview performance, written work and their UCAS application. All candidates still under consideration after the initial round of interviews were given a further Faculty-organised interview. Candidates received at least one additional interview at this second stage in order to enable tutors to compare candidates fully.

Final selection was based upon a combination of all the elements available: candidates’ academic record and predicted grades, UCAS statement and reference, written work, and interview performance. Throughout the process, tutors were looking for clear evidence of enthusiasm for the course, combined with an inquiring mind, analytical skills, intellectual ambition, commitment and motivation.

Departmental Feedback

There were 134 applicants for Classical Archaeology and Ancient History in this year’s admissions round, of whom 90 were female (67%) and 44 were male (33%). There were two applicants for deferred places. We had 18 overseas applicants, the remainder being UK-domiciled. 124 applicants were shortlisted for interview; of the ten applicants not shortlisted for interview, 8 were female, 2 male. We made 27 offers, representing an overall success rate of 20.1%, or an applicant:offer ratio of roughly 5:1. 13 offers went to female candidates, 14 to male candidates.

Candidates’ applications were assessed in line with the published admissions criteria for Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, available here: https://www.classics.ox.ac.uk/admissions-criteria-classical-archaeology-ancient-history. At the shortlisting stage, thirteen candidates were reallocated from their first-choice college; in each case, the ‘exporting’ college had a shortlisted applicant:place ratio of 7:1 or greater and the ‘importing’ college had a shortlisted applicant: place ratio of 4:1 or less.

All 124 shortlisted applicants received two online interviews at their first-choice college on Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 December. A total of 42 applicants received a further central faculty interview on either Friday 10 December or Tuesday 14 December. Of the 27 successful applicants, one received an Open Offer, assigned at the final admissions meeting on Thursday 16 December.

Classics and joint schools


In the 2021-22 admissions round the estimated competition for places across Oxford was 2.4:1 for Classics.

Candidates were selected using standard selection criteria for Classics (and for Modern Languages in the case of Joint School applicants). The majority of candidates who applied were called for interview.

Classics Admission Test results are not published automatically, but candidates may request their test score from Merton.

Interview Process

Each candidate for Classics had two interviews with Merton, each lasting about 30 minutes.

In the interview with tutors in Classical Languages and Literature, questions were asked about the texts which candidates had been reading (whether in the context of their taught syllabus or on their own). We were interested in ascertaining how candidates engaged with and thought about the literary texts, rather than in testing factual recall. For candidates with no previous knowledge of Greek or Latin, we asked about their experience of learning other languages (where appropriate) and what prompted them to embark on learning Greek or Latin at degree level. Our questions for all candidates aimed to find out what they found interesting and exciting about the subject and how well they could develop their ideas.

The other Merton interview was with tutors in Ancient History and Philosophy, and was designed not to probe knowledge in disciplines of which most candidates have no previous experience, but to try to gauge candidates’ aptitude for these subjects. For Ancient History, all candidates were given a short passage (in English) from an Ancient Historical source to read for 15 minutes in advance of the interview. This passage then formed the basis for a discussion: we were assessing what candidates found interesting about the passage, how critically they were able to read it, and to what extent we could develop ideas about the text which might be of historical interest. For Philosophy, all candidates were presented with a very short exercise designed to test their ability to assess, evaluate and criticise arguments, as well as to think through philosophical problems systematically and rigorously.

Candidates applying for Classics Course II also had a short central interview (15 minutes) at the Classics Faculty with members of the Faculty’s language teaching team, where questions were asked based partly on their Language Aptitude Tests.

Candidates for Classics and Modern Languages had a Classics interview lasting about 25 minutes. This was the Languages and Literature interview outlined above. In addition to their Classics interview, candidates for the joint school were also interviewed in their chosen Modern Language. (For further information please consult the relevant Modern Languages section.)

Additional Comments

All candidates are assessed on a broad range of criteria. As well as the interviews themselves, we consider a candidate’s predicted grading, their academic achievements to date (and subjects covered), the personal statement and reference on the UCAS form, the pre-submitted written work, the results of the test scores, and (where appropriate) the feedback from other colleges where candidates are interviewed. We stress that all of these elements in combination form the basis of our difficult decisions, and that underperformance or an excessively good performance at interview is not on its own a decisive factor in them. Interviewers are well aware of the particularly challenging circumstances applicants this year have faced in light of the pandemic and took this into account when assessing applications.

Some candidates attend additional interviews at other colleges. This is part of a broader process to ensure that all candidates are assessed equitably across the entire field. It is one consequence of that process that some candidates may receive an offer of a place from another college instead of their first-choice college. Decisions are not completed until the final admissions meeting after all the candidates have left; when additional interviews are set up, this is to make sure that other colleges to whom candidates have been assigned have a chance to consider them in the context of their own admissions process.

Computer Science

Computer Science and Joint Schools Admissions 2021

Application statistics

In 2021 a total of 1627 UCAS applications were received across the three undergraduate Computer Science degrees, for entry in 2022 or deferred entry. 324 applicants were shortlisted, and 128 were offered places for entry in 2022 or deferred entry. Table 1 shows the breakdown by course applied for at each stage of the admissions process.

Table 1: Number of applicants, shortlisted applicants, and offers made, by course applied for
  Applications Shortlisted Offers
Computer Science 869 145 47
Computer Science and Philosophy 121 38 16
Mathematics and Computer Science 637 141 65

The number of applications for Computer Science and for Mathematics and Computer Science continues to rise, with a slight decrease in applications for Computer Science and Philosophy. Across the three Computer Science degrees, applications have more than doubled since the 2016/17 admissions cycle, but the number of places has not kept pace with this. As a result, many very able applicants were not offered a place.

Of those 1627 applicants,

  • 1559 (95.8%) successfully registered to sit the Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) by the registration deadline, which was at 18:00 GMT on 15 October 2021.
  • 975 applicants (59.9%) offered A-levels.

Applications for deferred entry

22 applicants applied for deferred entry in 2022. Of these, 7 were shortlisted and interviewed. 5 of these were offered places.


  • 344 applicants were female (21.1% of the total).
  • Of the 344 female applicants, 56 were shortlisted and invited to interview, comprising 17.3% of the total shortlisted applicants.
  • 23 shortlisted female applicants were offered places, making up 18% of the total offers.


  • 51% of all applicants were domiciled in the UK; 8.6% were domiciled in the EU; 40.4% were domiciled outside the EU.
  • 49.7% of shortlisted applicants were domiciled in the UK; 7.7% were domiciled in the EU; 42.6% were domiciled outside the EU.
  • 48.4% of students who were offered places were domiciled in the UK; 11.7% were domiciled in the EU; 39.8% were domiciled outside the EU.

Admissions Processes

Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT)

All applicants are expected to sit the Mathematics Admissions Test prior to shortlisting. This year the test was taken on Wednesday 3 November 2021. Of the 1559 applicants who successfully registered to sit the test, 1537 sat it on the day. Most applicants sat it in their school or in another registered test centre.

The 22 applicants who successfully registered for the test but were unable to sit it due to unexpected circumstances beyond their control were considered on the basis of their UCAS form. 4 were invited to interview, and were invited to sit a short MAT-like multiple choice paper via remote invigilation prior to their interviews.

Table 2 gives the mean score by course applied for at each stage of the admissions process.

Table 2: Mean MAT scores of applicants at each stage of the selection process
  All applicants Shortlisted applicants Offer holders
Computer Science 35.2 55.4 61.7
Computer Science and Philosophy 35.6 51.1 52.0
Mathematics and Computer Science 46.9 69.9 74.4


In light of the competition for places, the purpose of shortlisting is to identify those applicants who are most likely to succeed in the rest of the selection process, giving interviewers time to consider each shortlisted applicant carefully. The number of shortlisted applicants was therefore restricted to slightly less than 3 for each quota place.

Shortlisting was performed in accordance with the stated admissions criteria. All applicants are expected to sit the Mathematics Admissions Test prior to shortlisting, including questions designed to assess aptitude for Computer Science. Details of the test and several past papers and specimen papers with solutions can be found online. This year, tutors were guided by the MAT score only, due to GCSE scores being potentially affected by the pandemic. They take into account all information from the UCAS form and any relevant contextual information such as educational background or extenuating circumstances. Shortlisting decisions are reviewed by the subject coordinator in order to ensure consistency between colleges.

Among this year’s 324 shortlisted applicants,

  • 179 (55.2%) had taken five or more GCSEs. Among those candidates, the mean number of GCSEs at grades 9/8/A* was 8.6.
  • 182 (56.2%) offered A-levels:
    • All shortlisted A-level applicants offered A-level Mathematics.
    • 173 (95.1%) offered A-level Further Mathematics.
    • 130 (71.4%) offered A-level Computer Science or Computing.

After shortlisting takes place, if an individual college has an unusually high number of shortlisted applicants per place, that college may opt to reallocate a proportion of those applicants to a college with fewer shortlisted applicants per place (assuming that there exists such a college which is willing to receive the shortlisted applicants). The aim of this process is to increase fairness for applicants by evening out competition across colleges and ensuring that shortlisted applicants’ chances of an offer are not affected by having applied to a heavily oversubscribed college. In December 2021, 13 shortlisted applicants were reallocated via this procedure, and 6 of those applicants were subsequently offered places by the colleges to which they were reallocated.


All shortlisted applicants were invited for interview in mid-December. This year, due to Covid-19, all interviews took place remotely by video call or telephone, often using a shared virtual whiteboard. Each applicant is associated with a first college, either of their choosing, or selected for them in a way that aims to even out the competition for places across the colleges. Each applicant is also associated with a second college chosen randomly with the same aim.

Applicants were interviewed by both their first and second colleges, and a small number were invited to further interviews at a third college. Applicants for joint degrees are typically given separate interviews in the two subjects. In December 2021 most applicants were interviewed twice by their first college and once or more by their second college.

Interviews are academic and subject-focused in nature. The applicant’s performance in each interview is judged according to the admissions criteria, codified on a numeric scale against agreed descriptors, and shared among all tutors involved in admissions, together with the applicants’ UCAS forms and their test results.

Making offers

The colleges use various procedures in a coordinated effort to ensure that the strongest applicants are admitted across the University irrespective of the college considering their application. These include complete transparency of all information gained about each applicant, supported by an online information system, and a final meeting where the strongest unplaced applicants are identified and open offers are agreed. This year, 25.8% of offers made came from a college other than the applicant’s application college, or are open offers (meaning that the applicant is offered a place at Oxford at a college that will be determined in August).

Where an applicant for a joint honours degree has performed strongly in one of their subjects but will not be made an offer for the joint degree, tutors may consider offering them a place for a relevant single honours degree. This year, 6 applicants for joint honours degrees were offered places for single honours courses.

Where an applicant is eligible and would benefit from it, tutors may nominate them for the Opportunity Oxford scheme. This year, 6 applicants were offered places through Opportunity Oxford.

Following the end of the selection process, colleges write to applicants via UCAS with the results of their application. Standard conditions apply to those taking A-levels, the International Baccalaureate or Scottish Highers; for other applicants, tutors will seek advice from the subject coordinator or the college’s admissions tutor in determining a comparable set of conditions.

MAT results and feedback

MAT scores are not released to applicants until the selection process has concluded and they have received their decision. Scores will be sent to applicants via email by the Department of Computer Science in January, shortly after colleges have communicated application outcomes.

Other than the release of MAT scores, feedback to applicants is a matter for individual colleges. Most do not automatically send feedback apart from the decision itself. Applicants may seek feedback from their first college about any aspect of the admissions process, but should wait until the process is complete and they have received their decision before doing so. Details of the procedure for requesting feedback may be found on the University's website.

English and joint schools

Thank you for applying for a place on BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature at University of Oxford. We appreciate the time and effort you put into making an application under the exceptional circumstances caused by COVID-19 pandemic.  We had a high number of applicants for English Language and Literature, with very many good applications, which means that we had to make many difficult decisions. These preliminary figures might help you understand this year’s process. (The figures are preliminary.)

Total number of applicants 917
Interviewed 609
Places offered (including 8 Open Offers) 227
Approximate ratio of applicants to offers 4:1

As you can see, we cannot interview all applicants, so we have to make decisions on whom to shortlist, based on the information on your UCAS form (past and predicted exam results, academic reference and personal statement), your submitted written work, and your result in the ELAT (English Literature Admissions Test). We’re always looking for students with the highest academic potential, from different backgrounds so for UK candidates we also use contextual data, such as school performance and postcode data, as outlined on the Oxford Admissions website.

The ELAT is a 90-minute test in which you wrote an essay responding to passages of literary material on a given theme. The results were released on 11 January 2022 and you can find more information about this on the ELAT webpage.

Applicants who score well in the ELAT, and have good exam results, written work, and references are most likely to be invited for an interview. Special consideration of other factors may mean that those with lower scores in some aspects of their application are invited for interview.

The number of applicants to individual colleges varies from year to year, so some shortlisted candidates are redistributed from the most oversubscribed colleges to those with a lower ratio of candidates to places. Those applicants who make open applications are similarly allocated to the less oversubscribed colleges. After first college interviews, around 60 candidates had additional interviews at a second college, to give them the best chance of receiving an offer.

We know how disappointing it is for applicants, their families, and their schools when despite being well-qualified and submitting a strong application, you don’t receive an offer from us. As you can see, the standard is very high, and each year we are conscious that we do not have room for all applicants with exceptional academic records, and who have excellent potential as students of English Literature.

We thank you for your patience with our application process, and wish you well for the future.

Economics and Management

In the 2021-22 admissions round the estimated competition for places in Economics and Management across Oxford was 18.1:1.

Economics and Management tutors worked together across Oxford to ensure the strongest candidates were admitted. Colleges were set a target number of interviewees to nominate, based on the number of places they had to offer and ensuring that the total number of interviews across Oxford would equate to three per place.

Candidates were selected for shortlisting using the selection criteria for Economics & Management. All possible information was used for shortlisting and admissions offers. For shortlisting, GCSE scores and A-level predictions (or the equivalent), and TSA scores on Critical Thinking and Problem Solving were weighted most heavily, whilst AS-level scores, personal statements, and TSA essay marks were considered, but weighted more lightly. The target of three candidates for every place available meant that many good candidates were not shortlisted.

After shortlisting, the Degree's Admissions Co-ordinator ran a reallocation exercise across all colleges to ensure that candidates were not disadvantaged by applying to a specific college.

All shortlisted Merton candidates had two interviews in the college, one focusing on the Management aspect of the course and the other on the Economics aspect. Candidates were not expected to have studied either subject at A-level, but to have a good general knowledge, and to demonstrate interest in and enthusiasm for studying both business and the economy, to demonstrate logic and critical thinking, and to communicate clearly and effectively.

For the Economics interview, candidates were asked to use logical reasoning and quantitative skills to work through a problem related to topics in game theory and to broader economic principles. For the Management interview, candidates were set a brief pre-interview reading from a broadsheet that assessed interest in Management and the ability to identify and discuss issues from a general management perspective.

Most candidates were reasonably well-prepared for the interviews, and were able to discuss both Management and Economics topics knowledgeably and fluently. Good candidates were able to revise their arguments to take account of new information, to provide examples and counter-arguments, and to defend their conclusions. Candidates who were less strong did not display in their interviews an ability to analyse businesses and organisations from a managerial perspective, nor a sufficiently keen interest in doing so, or they performed less well in general quantitative analysis and reasoning.

Following the first College interviews, the Admissions Co-ordinator allocated three candidates per college for second college interviews. A number of candidates above the three were also interviewed in second colleges.

TSA results will be available online from early January.

History and joint schools

Admissions Feedback from the Faculty of History

Candidates were selected using standard selection criteria for History and the relevant joint schools.

History aimed to interview 2.5 candidates per place. Shortlisting decisions were based on the History Aptitude Test (HAT) results, taking into account other information provided and, where candidates had studied for GCSEs, GCSE scores contextualised against those awarded to other candidates at the same school in the same year. In the History Joint Schools, the same process was used to select candidates for interview, with additional input from non-history subject tutors, who assessed candidates’ non-history written work where this was submitted.

HAT scores are not made available to candidates automatically but can be provided on request from the Faculty or the College. Candidates who took the test in November 2021 and those intending to take it in the future may wish to look at the marking scheme used, once it has been published.

The number of applicants to particular colleges varies from year to year, so candidates that are judged worthy of an interview are reallocated from the oversubscribed colleges of that year to the undersubscribed colleges. In all colleges, therefore, candidates at interview will have the same chance of being offered a place. Merton was a college with a slightly above-average number of strong candidates in most of the degrees involving History, and so 6 of our History and Joint Schools candidates were reallocated to other colleges (1 History, 3 Ancient and Modern History, 2 History and English) while 2 candidates in History and Politics were reallocated from other colleges to Merton.

Students shortlisted at Merton were interviewed on Teams. One part of each interview centred on their broad historical interests, which had often been indicated in their UCAS personal statements, though the interviews were not restricted to the content of these statements. The longer part of the interview involved more detailed discussion of the historical periods and problems that candidates were currently studying, or had recently studied. Such interviews began by discussing candidates’ submitted written work, but sometimes moved onto related historical questions and topics, or other parts of their syllabus. In both parts, we were looking for evidence of analytical ability, clarity of argument, the ability to support arguments with relevant evidence, intellectual flexibility, and enthusiasm for historical study.

In addition to their History interviews, candidates in the Joint Schools also received an interview in their other chosen subject. (For further information please consult the relevant subject sections.)

Final decisions were made after we had carefully taken into account all the information available to us, not just interview performance. This information included school UCAS references, HAT scores, submitted written work, and predicted or achieved school examination results, and, where available, contextual data including for GCSE results (see above). This year we also took account of information we had been given about educational disruption caused by COVID-19.

We were very impressed by the overall calibre of our applicants this year. In the end we made nine offers to candidates in the main History school and six to candidates in the Joint Schools. Candidates highly placed in the cross-college rankings but not certain to be offered a place at their first-choice college were allocated by the Faculty to other colleges for further interviews. Seven Merton applicants, including one reallocated before interview, were made an offer by other colleges.

Law and Law with Law Studies in Europe

In the 2021-22 admissions round the estimated competition for places across Oxford was 9:1 for Law including LSE.

Candidates were selected using standard selection criteria. Law aims to interview around 2 candidates for every place available.

Law tutors worked together across Oxford to ensure the strongest candidates in the cohort as a whole were admitted into individual colleges. Colleges were able to nominate up to two of their first-choice applicants per available place for interview and then a Faculty Selection Committee identified further candidates to be reallocated to colleges.

The assessment of candidates at the pre-interview stage is based on the following six criteria:

  1. academic performance to date;
  2. predicted and/or achieved grades;
  3. reference;
  4. the LNAT multiple choice test; and
  5. the LNAT essay.

It is important to note that weakness in one of these areas may be compensated by exceptional strength elsewhere, as well as by extenuating circumstances (medical conditions, recent bereavements, etc.). Contextual data is taken into account when making our assessment. 

LNAT results will be emailed to candidates by Pearson Vue in early February 2022.

Given the circumstances, we could not hold an in-person welcome meeting. Instead, we held an online pre-interview meeting to allow the applicants to see who would be interviewing them, to explain the interview process, and to answer any questions. Those who notified us that they would be unable to attend this meeting were able to watch a recording before their interviews started. Interviews started shortly afterwards. Each candidate received two interviews at Merton.

The admissions team at Merton considered the above-mentioned six criteria together with the interview performance when making their final decisions. All decisions are taken carefully and followed strict procedural safeguards to ensure that the best candidates – i.e. those who showed the most potential as a whole – were selected and offered a place. This is a thorough, long and demanding process which – we believe – ensures that those most suited to the particular study approach and system in Oxford are selected. We see many talented and promising candidates each year but are constrained by the number of places we can offer.

In the end, six candidates were offered a college place at Merton for the academic year 2022-23, and one candidate was made an open offer.

Departmental Feedback

This year we received 2046 applications for 229 places, there were approximately 8.9 applications per available place. Almost all of our applicants had unblemished school records and very strong and supportive references.

As part of the university-wide Common Framework for Admissions, introduced a few years ago, the Law Faculty shortlists candidates (college-blind) in consultation with a Faculty Selection Committee (FSC) consisting of representatives from 15 Colleges. Once college blinding is removed, Colleges also have the opportunity to add candidates who were not selected by the FSC to their shortlists. Some candidates are shortlisted to their college of application, and some are reallocated to other colleges for interview. FSC collectively shortlisted approximately 2.5 applicants per place available on the Law course. As a result of this process, each college can interview between 2.5 and 3 applicants per available place. The point of this system is to minimise the extent to which applicants may be prejudiced by their choice of college and to make sure, as far as possible, that all those applicants who are strong enough to merit an interview are in fact interviewed.

Applications are assessed against our criteria for selection, details of which are published on the Faculty website. The assessment of candidates at the pre-interview stage takes account of all information in the  application, including: (1) academic performance to date; (2) predicted grades; (3) reference; (4) the LNAT multiple choice test, and (5) the LNAT essay. LNAT essays are marked college-blind by a pool of markers drawn from all colleges to ensure consistency. Evaluation of shortlisted candidates will also include their performance at interview. Weakness in one of these areas can be compensated by exceptional strength elsewhere, as well as by special circumstances (medical conditions, recent bereavements etc.). Particular attention is paid to any factors identified in the application that may have affected academic performance. The Faculty is also aware that factors such as socio-economic disadvantage and school performance can mean that it is difficult for some students to perform to their full potential before applying to university. Therefore, in accordance with University guidance, we use a range of contextual data to help us to better understand students’ achievements in the context of their individual background. Detailed information on contextualisation is available, published on the University website.

Mathematics and joint schools

Summary of the 2021/22 University of Oxford Admissions Process for the subjects; Mathematics, Mathematics & Statistics, Mathematics & Philosophy, and Mathematics & Computer Science

These data refer to applicants in the “2021/22 cycle” who applied in 2021 for the Oxford course starting in 2022 or in 2023 (deferred entry). All figures in brackets relate to the previous admissions cycle, 2020/21.

Overall Application Statistics

Course Applications Shortlisted Offers
Mathematics 1,877 (1,848) 558 (605) 187 (189)
Mathematics and Statistics 205 (261) 37 (47) 8 (10)
Mathematics and Philosophy 151 (158) 51 (70) 19 (20)
Mathematics and Computer Science 636 (603) 141 (134) 65 (60)
Total 2,869 (2,870) 787 (856) 279 (279)
  • 19.4% of applications made were open applications (19.2%).
  • 33 applicants applied for deferred entry (28). Of these, 9 were interviewed and 4 were offered places.
  • 29.3% of applicants were female (32.5%) and 28.3% of those offered a place are female (29.0%).
  • 1,494 applicants were studying A-levels in the UK (1,469). Of these, 93% were taking Further Mathematics as a full A-level. Of the 101 applicants studying A-levels in the UK who weren’t taking Further Maths as a full A-level, 7 were shortlisted for interview, and fewer than 3 were offered a place.
  • There were 1,168 non-EU international-fee-paying applicants (1,123).

Mathematics Admissions Test

All applicants are expected to sit the Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT), or must seek permission in exceptional circumstances from the subject Admissions Coordinator to be exempted from the test. In 2021 the test date was 3 November. In this cycle, 2,816 applicants successfully registered for and sat the MAT (2,808).

Nine applicants who, due to exceptional circumstances, either failed to register for the test or could not sit the test, were invited to take a separate mathematics test after shortlisting. Others who failed to register or who did not sit the test – and did not have exceptional circumstances – were notified that their application was no longer under consideration.

Details relating to the MAT, including several past and specimen papers, can be found at: www.maths.ox.ac.uk/study-here/undergraduate-study/maths-admissions-test

The average score for Oxford applicants answering questions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 was:

  • 51.1 (57.9) amongst all applicants;
  • 69.5 (75.2) amongst shortlisted applicants;
  • 73.5 (81.7) amongst successful applicants.

The average score for Oxford applicants answering questions 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 was:

  • 46.9 (60.0) amongst all applicants;
  • 69.9 (82.3) amongst shortlisted applicants;
  • 74.3 (87.5) amongst successful applicants.


In light of the competition for places, the purpose of shortlisting is to provide time during the December interview window to interview all shortlisted applicants.

Shortlisting is performed in accordance with the stated admissions criteria on the basis of all currently available and relevant data: in particular these data include an applicant’s score from the MAT, all aspects of the applicant’s UCAS form and any further relevant contextual data specific to the application.

As guidance, the Admissions Coordinator advises college tutors as to an upper threshold score and a lower threshold score. All candidates above the upper threshold were recommended to be shortlisted, and candidates below the lower threshold were recommended not to be shortlisted, except in the case of exceptional circumstances. Around half of the candidates between the two thresholds were shortlisted for interview, resulting in around 3 applicants per place.

Throughout the process all UCAS forms, test scores, contextual information, comments, and interview grades are easily accessible to all college tutors involved with admissions via a web-based database.

College tutors review the UCAS forms and any other information relevant to individual applications, and in light of all information enter their provisional shortlisting decisions in the web-based admissions database. In light of further information a college may reverse the default shortlisting decision, making known the reasons for their decision to the Admissions Coordinator. Provisional shortlisting decisions become final by an agreed deadline unless appealed by another college or the Admissions Coordinator. Letters and/or emails are then sent to candidates informing them of the outcome of the shortlisting exercise.

Interview stage

Each applicant has a first-assigned college, which is either the college to which they applied or, in the case of open applications, a college randomly assigned by the University Admissions Office in such a way as to even out the number of applicants per place across colleges. Each shortlisted applicant is also randomly assigned a second college by an algorithm aiming to equalise across colleges the interview load per place ratio.

In cases where a college is particularly over-subscribed (more than four shortlisted applicants per place), a college must reallocate a fraction of their candidates. These candidates are then assigned at random to other colleges. In this admissions cycle, five candidates were reallocated to a different first college.

In December 2021 all interviews were carried out remotely. Most applicants were given interviews by at least two different colleges (their first- and second-assigned colleges). Applicants may also have been interviewed by other colleges. Applicants to joint degrees typically have separate interviews in the two disciplines.

Interviews are academic in nature. An applicant’s performance is judged according to the admissions criteria and graded on a scale of 1-9 against agreed descriptors. The score and any comments are added to the shared web-based database.


The Admissions Group operates various procedures in a coordinated effort to ensure that the strongest applicants are admitted to the University irrespective of college choice; these include transparency of all test results, interview grades, and UCAS forms amongst all tutors involved with admissions, and a final meeting of tutors at which the strongest unplaced applicants are collectively discussed and open offers are made by the Admissions Group. Around 24% of offers (28%) made in this cycle were either open offers or made by a college other than the first college considering the applicant.

Colleges may make offers conditional on the Opportunity Oxford bridging programme to eligible students who would not otherwise have been admitted. In this cycle, 18 such offers were made for Maths or joint honours courses.

Decisions are deemed to be official at the end of the Group’s final meeting and the shortlisted applications are assigned a final overall grade. These decisions are then conveyed by tutors to their respective college offices for dissemination to shortlisted applicants. The Admissions Group has standard offers for those taking A-levels, the International Baccalaureate or Advanced Highers; college tutors will seek advice from admissions tutors or the Admissions Office in making other offers.


All candidates for Maths, Maths & Statistics, Maths & Philosophy who took the MAT, and who have not withdrawn, will have their MAT score emailed to them automatically by the Admissions Coordinator at the end of the admissions process. Similarly, the Computer Science department will send out MAT scores to Maths & Computer Science applicants.

Other feedback will not automatically be sent out, but applicants may seek feedback from their first-assigned colleges about any aspect of the admissions process. Feedback will not usually be sent out until the new year, once the admissions process is complete.


A100 Medicine - statistics from the 2021 admissions round

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In 2021 we received 1,864 UCAS applications (2,054 in 2020). Of these applicants:

  • 1,786 successfully registered for and sat the BMAT (1,972 in 2020).
  • 186 did not meet our requirements for entry (most often because they were too young, did not explain why they were applying on the basis of re-sits, were only sitting one or two A-level exams after receiving teacher-assessed grades this summer rather than three, or did not possess suitable academic credentials). (164 in 2020)
  • 16 withdrew from the application process before shortlisting.

The data below, unless otherwise stated, refer to the subset of 1,669 applicants (89.5%) who were eligible to apply and had registered for the BMAT (with most of these receiving a score, despite the difficulties experienced with the delivery of the test by CAAT this year) and had not withdrawn their application by the time of shortlisting. 31 eligible applicants applied for deferred entry (44 in 2020). Of these, 5 were shortlisted and interviewed, and 3 received an offer of a place for 2023 (compared to none last year who were offered deferred places for 2022).

  • 61.8% of eligible applicants were female (62% in 2020).
  • 75.3% of eligible applicants offered A-levels.
  • 28% of eligible applicants resided outside the UK; of these, 8% resided inside the EU and 20% outside the EU.
  • 8 graduates submitted eligible applications (3 of these were international applicants).

Overall, approximately 25.7% of applicants who made complete applications were shortlisted (23% in 2020).


The first stage of our shortlisting process has in previous years used a combination of contextualised GCSE performance (for those candidates with GCSE grades) and BMAT score, whereas this year we used a contextualised measure of BMAT performance. Contextual data were used to assess whether an applicant’s BMAT score likely reflected an under- or over-performance within the context of the candidate’s socio-economic and school environment.

This decision was taken (following advice from the University Admissions and Outreach team) in the best interests of widening participation given the absence of a metric which would allow us to compare GCSE performance between schools fairly. Our modelling of shortlisting on the basis of contextualised BMAT had suggested the constitution of our shortlist would not be altered to any systematic disadvantage of already disadvantaged groups compared to ordinary years, and this proved to be the case. BMAT is the only element of an application that is common to all applicants for Medicine and giving as it does a snapshot of ability and aptitude, it is an important selection tool when assessing a large number of extremely well qualified applicants.

We do not ascribe equal weighting to all sections of BMAT. In 2021, weightings were: section 1=40%, section 2=40%, and section 3=20%. In calculating the section 3 score, double weight was ascribed to the ‘Quality of content’ score and single weight given to the ‘Quality of English’ score (with A=5, B=4, C=3, D=2, E=1, and X=0).

A small number of candidates were unable to take the BMAT for COVID-related reasons. A further small number failed to receive results despite completing the test. Some of these received results late, after shortlisting had been completed; two of these had scores that awarded them a place on the shortlist. An even smaller subset of candidates had partial scores as a result of failing to complete the test for technical reasons. Finally, a much larger number of candidates experienced some level of technical trouble during the delivery of the test, but were able to complete it and received complete scores. Where we had received such information pertaining to BMAT via the CAAT special considerations process, it was noted at the appropriate stage of shortlisting.

After first-stage shortlisting was completed, all non-shortlisted applicants were reviewed by tutors to identify any candidates whose applications gave them cause to believe that the algorithmic process had underestimated their academic potential; at this stage, special considerations information received from CAAT was available to tutors alongside candidates’ GCSE record and all other information on the UCAS form. The nominations made were taken to a cross-college panel to be discussed further. As a result of this process, 80 additional applicants were added to the shortlist.

It subsequently transpired that two candidates with suitable BMAT scores for shortlisting would be eligible for home fees on the basis of pre-settled status and that one candidate with a suitable BMAT score for shortlisting did possess suitable qualifications to apply, despite appearances, so they were added to the shortlist. Together with the 2 candidates added as a result of high but late BMAT scores, this brought the shortlist to a total of 430 candidates instead of the usual 425.

  • For those shortlisted the mean adjusted BMAT score was 65.8% (68% in 2020).
  • 1 graduate was shortlisted.
  • 35 international fee-status applicants were shortlisted.

Interviews & Offers

Each applicant was interviewed by two colleges: the college of preference, or allocation if an open application was made, and one other randomly assigned by computer so as to equalise as far as possible the strength of the applicant field at each college (as measured by the numerical ranking produced by the shortlisting algorithm). The number of applicants called for interview is usually fixed at around 425, in other words about 2.5 applicants per place available.

Interviewers assessed each candidate against our explicit list of selection criteria. To find out more, read our selection criteria. The composition of interview panels was arranged such that every candidate was interviewed by at least one practising clinician. To get a sense of what interviews are like, watch our demonstration interview with one of our current students and two college tutors, recorded for the 2020 Virtual Open Days.

Following interviews, colleges ranked all the candidates they had seen, on the basis of all information available to them at that time. After disclosure of the candidate rank from the second college, BMAT score and BMAT essays, colleges reviewed their ranking and submitted a final version. On the basis of this final ranking, candidates were provisionally assigned offers at a particular college, with the college the applicant had chosen (or had been allocated to) having first refusal. Admissions decisions were confirmed by correspondence between colleges and the Medical Sciences Office.

Please note that colleges interviewed blind of college of choice (or allocation) and BMAT score.

Colleges made 148 quota offers, 3 deferred offers and 10 open offers (which means the applicant is guaranteed a place at Oxford to study Medicine, but will not be assigned to a college until after A-level results are known).

  • The overall success rate for male applicants was 11% (9.2% in 2020); the overall success rate for female applicants was 8.5% (8% in 2020).
  • For those with an offer of a place, the mean adjusted BMAT score was 68.3%.
  • 1 graduate applicant received an offer of a place (graduates compete with school-leavers for places; there is no separate quota).
  • 8 international fee-status applicants received an offer for 2022.
  • 41% of offers were made by colleges other than the college of preference (or allocation). This compares with 36.3% in 2020. 22.3% of eligible applicants submitted an open application, meaning they did not specify a college of preference on their application and were allocated one.


In 2021, as in 2020, male applicants did slightly better on BMAT than female applicants (mean 55.7% vs 51.4%).

The mean BMAT score was 53%, which rose to 65.8% for those shortlisted and 68.3% for applicants receiving offers.

For the 2020 applicant cohort, the mean number of A* at GCSE for all applicants was 8.2; this rose to 10.2 for those shortlisted and 10.2 also for applicants receiving offers.

For the 2020 applicant cohort, the mean proportion of A* at GCSE was 0.80; this rose to 0.96 for those shortlisted and was 0.96 also for applicants receiving offers.

For the 2020 applicant cohort, the mean number of total GCSE qualifications offered (not including short courses or other GCSE-equivalent qualifications) was 10.1.

A-levels and equivalent qualifications

All A-level applicants must take Chemistry. The table below summarises the distribution of other subject choices amongst applicants this year taking A-levels.

Subject % of applicants % of applicants shortlisted % of applicants placed
Biology  95 97 98
Physics  21 20 20
Mathematics 76 85 85
Further Mathematics  8 14 18

With regard to 'Other subjects', the most popular subjects were Psychology (7.6%), English Literature (4%), History (4%), followed by French (3%), Spanish (3%), Economics (3%) and Geography (2%).

19% of applicants taking A-levels were studying Chemistry plus just one more science or maths subject. This compares with 12% of shortlisted applicants and 10.5% of those offered places.

18% of applicants taking A-levels were studying Chemistry, Biology, Physics AND Mathematics (compared to 26% of shortlisted applicants and 24.8% of applicants offered places).

NB Despite the fact that most applicants offering A-levels tend to take Biology (or Human Biology), this subject is not required at A2 level (or indeed at AS-level). However, do be aware that not having A-level Biology is associated with a greater risk of having difficulty at the early stages of the course (and other medical courses).

60.5% of applicants taking A-levels were doing/had done 3 A-levels, 34% were doing 4 A- levels and approx. 2.2% were doing 5 or more A-levels (though not necessarily all being completed in one academic year).

15.5% of applicants offered alternative qualifications, the most popular of which was the IB (12%), with US qualifications (SAT subject tests/AP tests), Canadian qualifications, the Singaporean SIPCAL, and Scottish Advanced Highers representing the next most popular options. 11.6% of applicants who were shortlisted and 11.8% of applicants with an offer studied for qualifications other than A-levels (including the IB).

School Types

78.8% of applicants attending school in the UK were from state schools (including sixth form and further education colleges), while 21.2% were from independent schools.

The overall success rate in 2021 was 12.1% for state school applicants and 13.5% for independent school applicants.

International applicants

398 applicants identified as international for fee-paying purposes submitted complete applications for 2022 entry. Following shortlisting, which is conducted in line with the quota imposed on the Medical School by the UK Government for the available international places, 35 of these applicants were shortlisted and 8 applicants received an offer for 2022.

[Prospective candidates are reminded that the Medical School is required by the Higher Education Funding Council to limit the number of international (meaning non-UK/ROI in the most recent admissions round) medical students admitted to a maximum of 7.5% across both the standard (A100) and Graduate Entry (A101) courses - see our advice for international applicants

Modern Languages and joint schools

Modern Languages Admissions Feedback Information for Applicants – 2021

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This year, the number of applicants for Modern Languages (and associated Joint Schools) at Oxford rose very slightly this year: 778 as against 754 from last year. Overall figures are as follows:

Total number of applications: 778
Candidates who withdrew or were not invited for interview: 86
Candidates interviewed: 699
Places offered for 2022: 290
Places offered for 2023: 6
Opportunity Oxford Offers: 18
Ratio of applications to offers: 2.628

Applications in 2021
Language Number of applicants
Number interviewed
Number of offers
Celtic 0 (0/0) 0 (0/0) 0 (0/0)
Czech 4 (1/3) 2 (1/1) 1 (1/0)
French 378 (95/283) 339 (87/252) 142 (39/103)
GAI 19 (6/13) 18 (6/12) 5 (2/3)
German 139 (56/83) 134 (52/82) 63 (25/38)
Italian 87 (27/60) 79 (26/53) 37 (11/26)
Modern Greek 9 (5/4) 8 (4/4) 4 (1/3)
Polish 1 (0/1) 1 (0/1) 0 (0/0)
Portuguese 29 (11/18) 27 (11/16) 14 (7/7)
RAI 32 (10/22) 32 (10/22) 16 (5/11)
Russian 30 (16/14) 24 (15/9) 15 (9/6)
Spanish 286 (74/212) 260 (66/194) 74 (22/52)


2.0. General Admissions Criteria

Successful candidates for admission displayed the qualities listed below. The admissions process as a whole is designed to identify which candidates possess them in the greatest measure:

  • Motivation and commitment along with capacity for sustained study of language and literature.
  • Communication: willingness and ability to express ideas clearly and effectively both in writing and orally; ability to listen and to give considered responses.
  • Proven competence in the language(s) as established by schoolwork written in the language(s), by the language test and (in some cases) by oral competence at interview. In the case of beginners, clear evidence of aptitude and potential for language study.
  • While there is no requirement that candidates will have read any literature in the language(s), successful candidates will demonstrate an aptitude and commitment to the study of literature by evidence of their readiness to discuss their reading in English or in the relevant language(s) or by their response to a reading-passage at interview. Assessors will look for evidence of intellectual curiosity and critical engagement.

Selection is competitive and it may well be that a candidate is able to demonstrate these qualities and nonetheless is edged out of contention by a candidate with stronger all-round claims. In applying these criteria, the main concern is to identify proven competence in the language(s) along with future promise and aptitude in literary and cultural studies.

Candidates who display one or more of the above shortcomings may nonetheless be invited for interview if the paper application reveals a clear justification for, or explanation of, the shortcomings and clear alternative evidence of the candidate’s potential.

2.1. Shortlisting

A decision not to shortlist a candidate conforms to current ML guidelines, according to which candidates will normally be invited to interview unless they display at least one of the following shortcomings:

  • results in official examinations, especially GCSE, are not at a sufficiently high level;
  • results predicted for A-level or other impending official examination suggest that the candidate:
    1. is unlikely to succeed in meeting a conditional offer;
    2. the school report contains clear negative aspects relevant to the general admissions criteria;
  • the written work submitted is clearly deficient in respect of the general admissions criteria;
  • test results are a) in the bottom quintile for each of two languages, or b) a test result in the bottom quintile means an application in a single language or joint school or a language with a beginners’ language (except for any language where a LAT score is available) is not viable.

The purpose of reallocation is to give worthwhile candidates the chance of interview. Reallocation is carried out on the faculty MLAD database. Colleges with a higher ratio of candidates to places than the average across all Colleges will automatically be invited to reallocate candidates. Colleges with a lower ratio than the average will be asked to receive candidates. In addition, this year some Colleges signalled particular shortages in certain languages. The coordinators manually reallocated a few candidates in those languages before running the automated reallocation system.

Number of Reallocated students: 62

2.2 Interview Process

Interviews took place on Teams in the second week of December. During the interviews, candidates were given the opportunity to demonstrate their motivation and commitment, and their capacity for the sustained study of language and literature. They were assessed against the published criteria on their overall communication skills and, where appropriate, on their oral competence in the relevant language(s). We know that it is disappointing to candidates and their schools that we are not able to offer places to all of the very able young people we see.

For detailed FMML Selection and Interview Criteria see: https://www.mod- langs.ox.ac.uk/faqs#faq-12

All candidates receive at least two interviews from their First Choice College. All data is shared on the Faculty Admissions Database (MLAD) and Admissions Tutors from other colleges can arrange further interviews, with priority given to colleges on the computer-generated string of ‘lower’ choices.

129 additional interviews were held.

Guide Score:
The Faculty Admissions Database (MLAD) calculates each candidate’s Guide Score by double-weighting the Interview Score and single-weighting all other factors. GCSE score (or its contextualised equivalent) and Composite Score (based on Contextual Data concerning Prior Education, Residential Postcode and Care Status) are then taken into account before Admissions Tutors make a final decision.

The Mark Scheme (for schoolwork and interviews) is as follows:

10 outstanding 80+
9 excellent 79–75
8 very good 74–70
7 good 69–67
6 promising 66–64
5 competent 63–61
4 adequate 60–58
3 poor 57–51
2 weak 50–45
1 very weak 44–

All decisions to offer places to ML candidates (Joint School included) were confirmed at the ML Admissions Final Decisions meeting on Friday 17th December 2021. All colleges involved were represented by their ML Primary Users together with the Co-ordinators from each Joint Schools and from the Opportunity Oxford scheme.
We are grateful to colleges for their help in making the selection process run so smoothly.


The written language tests last half-an-hour and are taken in schools in November. Some candidates were unable to sit the test in schools, and sat it at home with remote invigilation. The test may vary in format from one language to another. The test is designed to test knowledge of basic structures of the foreign language. It is not primarily a test of vocabulary. Each year, tests are vetted by a committee which involves secondary school teachers so that they reflect current teaching aims and practices.

Candidates may be informed of the quintile in which the test score fell, but it is Modern Languages practice not to release the actual test scores since the quintile provides more context for the performance, due to the incomparability across the languages (i.e. French vs. Russian).

Please see below Average Test performance of applicants in 2021:

Statistics for all candidates
  Mean Median
French 6.3 6.5
German 6.4 6.4
Beginners German 5.5 5.6
Spanish 6.7 6.8
Beginners Italian 6.6 6.2
Italian 7.6 7.7
Russian 6.5 7.2
Beginners Russian 8.1 8.8
Portuguese 8.3 9.3
Beginners Portuguese 7.6 8.4
Philosophy 6.0 6.0

Modern Languages does not currently produce graphs of test performance as this might enable the identification of individual students in smaller languages such as Czech and Modern Greek.


In the 2021-22 admissions round the estimated competition for places across Oxford was approximately 1.8:1.

Candidates were selected using standard selection criteria.

The majority of candidates who applied were called for interview. Shortlisting decisions are initially taken by the tutors in each college, but the Music tutors in all colleges which admit for the subject have access to the application materials and are able to call to interview any candidate not called by the first-choice college. Decisions are reviewed by the Faculty Admissions Coordinator in conjunction with the relevant college tutors. Music does not use an aptitude test. However, it does request written work in advance (two essays, one of which should normally be on Music, plus some harmony and counterpoint and/or composition). The written work is double marked centrally within the Faculty and also by the first-choice college tutor. Grades form part of shortlisting discussions and also final decision meetings, alongside a range of other data (including personal statements, references, academic track record and predicted grades where applicable). The Faculty additionally operated a coordinated reallocation procedure, in accordance with the University’s Common Framework for Admissions, designed to ensure that the best candidates stood an equitable chance of being offered an academic place at Oxford, irrespective of their college preference. This meant that candidates from a number of oversubscribed colleges were reallocated to other colleges for interview.

Merton first-choice candidates had at least two interviews lasting approximately 20 minutes each, and candidates were given 30 minutes to prepare material before the start of each interview. The materials consisted of a short piece of writing on music, plus two unseen extracts of music. Candidates were asked to summarise the prose extract, and then discuss some of the critical issues within the text. They were also asked to make some salient observations about the music extracts (though they were not expected to recognise the piece or the composer). Questions tended to focus on matters of texture, form, harmonic structure, articulation, style and affect. There was an opportunity for candidates to ask questions at the end of the interview, although this did not form part of the formal assessment process. Merton interviews were conducted by Dr Brianne Dolce and Dr Sebastian Wedler.

Candidates were also invited to submit a recording of a short recital. These were assessed by Benjamin Nicholas and Dr Brianne Dolce.

Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)

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Admissions statistics

This year the number of applicants was 1994. The number of applicants per place was 8.3. There were 357 open applications and 43 deferred entry applications. There were 873 female and 1121 male applicants. There were 989 home, 301 EU and 704 overseas applicants. 733 applicants were shortlisted and 264 were offered places.

Admissions processes

The selection criteria for PPE are on the course website. The shortlisting criteria are described on the course website as follows:

We only interview those who have a realistic chance of getting in, when judged by past and predicted exam results, school reports, personal statements and the pre-interview test. Applicants who do not take the pre-interview test will not normally be shortlisted for interview.

Colleges are set deselection targets so that across all colleges at least 2.75 applicants per place are shortlisted. When making shortlisting decisions admissions tutors give the following weighting to the various elements of each application.

Information High Medium Low
Pre-Interview Admissions Test Yes    
GCSE (or equivalent) profile Yes    
Predicted (or actual) performance at
A-Level (or equivalent)
UCAS teacher’s reference   Yes  
AS-Level module grades     Yes
UCAS personal statement     Yes

See the PDF version of this feedback for graphs on the GCSE scores, cGCSE scores, and A-Level scores of applicants at different stages.

After colleges have deselected their target number of applicants, some shortlisted applicants are reallocated. They are sent to the college where they will have the best theoretical chance of success, based on where they will be ranked highest within the existing cohort of the college. They are ranked according to a reallocation score which is based on TSA section 1 results and contextualised GCSE data where available. After the reallocation has taken place colleges can choose to rescue deselected applicants.

Interview process

Applicants will normally have at least two interviews at their first college, although some colleges may have a single longer interview. Most colleges will have a minimum of two interviewers per interview. Colleges normally wish to involve tutors from all three subjects, but since there are no specific subject requirements and the content of the interviews is not subject-specific, this is not necessarily the case.

The interview is described on the course website as follows:

The interview is not primarily a test of existing knowledge. It is aimed primarily at assessing the candidate’s potential for future development. Interviewers will be looking for evidence of the candidate’s potential for development in the following four areas:

Understanding: this can be shown in (for example) a candidate’s ability to listen carefully, to analyse problems, to identify the premises and conclusions of arguments, and to express in their own words someone else’s ideas.

Intellectual flexibility: this can be demonstrated by (for example) a candidate’s willingness to consider alternative views, and readiness to respond to problems and criticisms.

Critical thinking and problem-solving: this can be shown in (for example) a candidate’s ability to adopt logical and critical approaches to problems, to critically assess arguments, to identify good and bad reasons for believing a particular claim, to assess relevance, and to think independently.

Communication: this can be shown in (for example) a candidate’s ability to express ideas clearly, to give considered responses to questions, and to address the point under discussion instead of veering off topic.

Colleges assign candidates up to three interview scores. These do not have to be subject-specific. Interviews are marked on a 1-100 scale:

70-100 Excellent A mark above 70 is a strong indicator for admission
65-69 Positive Most candidates admitted will have interview scores above 65.
60-64 Neutral  
50-59 Weak A candidate with interview and test marks consistently below 60 is in a weak position
49 or less Very poor Interview strongly suggests that the candidate is not suitable

After colleges have entered their first interview scores and decisions candidates are ranked according to a post-first interviews score which is based on interview scores, TSA scores, and contextualised GCSE information where available. Colleges then select second interviews using all information available for each candidate.

This year 24 candidates were selected for second interviews. After second interviews have taken place, colleges make their final decisions, based on all information available for each candidate at this stage.

Pre-interview admissions test

TSA results were released on 11 January 2022. They can be accessed via Cambridge Assessment’s Results Online system. The average test performance of applicants at the different stages is set out in the graphs in the PDF version of this feedback.


Report on the Physics Admissions Exercise 2021

Access this information in PDF format

In 2021, Oxford Physics received a total of 1785 applicants for places in Physics or Physics and Philosophy, a decrease of 20 (1.2%) on the 2020 figures. Of these, 1759 applicants were contesting the 200 places available for 2022 admission places, or approximately 9.0 applicants per place, with 26 applicants seeking deferred places.

Of all applicants, 1233 (69.1%) were classified as “UK” applicants (66.4% in 2020), 130 (7.3%) were classified as EU but not UK (8.8 % in 2020), and 422 (23.6%) were classified as non-EU (24.8% in 2020).

Across the collegiate university, Physics aims to interview around 2.5 applicants per place. For this short-listing, we used the results of the Physics Aptitude Test (PAT) as well as all other contextual information to reduce the number of applicants to around 2.5 per place.

In recent years, a contextualised GCSE (cGCSE) score produced by the University has also been used as part of the shortlisting. The cGCSE score was based on the ability to compare GCSE results between applicants from schools that are contextually ‘similar’. However, the circumstances of GCSE grades in 2020 (where they were awarded by teacher assessment rather than external exams) made this less reliable, as differing schools were more or less generous in the teacher-assessed grades awarded.

The PAT has been run for many years, and it is a consistent predictor of future performance at Oxford. The test is set to a defined syllabus and both the content and draft questions are checked by school teachers to ensure that the level is appropriate. Maths and physics elements are mixed together into a single two-hour paper. Each question is separately double blind-marked (markers focus on individual questions to ensure consistency of approach). Further details, including the admissions criteria and sample papers, can be found on the Oxford Physics Admissions website.

When the PAT is written, it is intended to be at a broadly similar difficulty level from year to year, although the actual difficulty of a paper is never known until the exam has been taken. In terms of marks, this year’s PAT was on the harder side, with a mean mark of 43.1% (similar to the 2019 paper with its mean of 41%). The low average mark may, however, also reflect the general disruption to applicants’ educations during the pandemic.

We are extremely grateful to all schools and test centres for hosting applicants for the PAT test. We are also grateful for the yearly advice we receive from schools and teachers on adapting the PAT to changes in school syllabi, and we also expect to continue to make further changes reflecting such advice in subsequent years.

There were a significant number of declared special circumstances, medical certificates or letters drawing attention to adversities in applicants’ personal lives that may have affected performance or ability to participate in the test. These were taken into account in making shortlisting and offer decisions.

The marks applicants achieved on the main PAT test ranged from 4% to 100%, with a mean mark of 43.1% (49.5% in 2020 and 41.5 % in 2019) and a standard deviation of 17.7% (15.9% in 2020 and 16.8 % in 2019). More details are shown in the graph above. The spike at ‘0’ includes applicants who withdrew, applicants who did not register for the PAT test, applicants who had Covid or other special circumstances on the date of the PAT test, and applicants who have to do compulsory military service for whom acceptance is carried over from a previous admissions round.

One notable trend with the PAT continued this year: of the top 100 applicants by PAT mark, only around a quarter of these had all their secondary schooling within the UK educational system (either state or independent sectors).

The principal determinant for shortlisting this year was the C-score. Pre-interview this is identical to the PAT:

C-score pre-interview = PAT mark.

For December 2020 applicants, their GCSEs were taken pre-Covid and were unaffected by the pandemic. This was no longer true in December 2021 and so no cGCSE factor was included this year.

The applying cohort had been the subject of substantial disruption to their education since the pandemic started in March 2020. For UK applicants, this involved school closures in summer term 2020 and the spring term of 2021 and, even when schools were open, frequent closures of year groups or classes due to self-isolation requirements.

Our aim in the admissions process is to take the applicants we judge to have the most ability and potential to benefit from our course and teaching, and to make this decision based on the intrinsic strengths of applicants rather than on the temporary effects of school closures.

Analysis of the distribution of PAT scores by demographic compared to previous years suggested a clear pandemic effect. It was therefore decided to set a higher automatic shortlisting threshold than in previous years, to allow for a higher fraction of shortlisted applicants with PAT scores below the automatic threshold but where application forms showed other evidence of excellence or mitigating circumstances. This automatic threshold was set at 63%.

The 260 applicants with PAT scores equal or higher than 63% were automatically shortlisted for interview, with a further 38 applicants with slightly lower scores also automatically shortlisted after the inclusion of contextual data, giving a total of 298 automatically shortlisted applicants (400 in 2020 and 457 in 2019). Reflecting the huge disruption to normal educational patterns since March 2020, a further 202 applicants (compared to 83 in 2020 and 40 in 2019) were also shortlisted, who were below the automatic thresholds but whose application forms showed other evidence of excellence or mitigating circumstances.

A total of 500 applicants were shortlisted and invited for (remote) interview this year. A key goal of the Oxford admissions process is that the probability of admission should not depend on the applicant's choice of college. Short-listing is therefore followed by a reallocation process, in which applicants are transferred from first-choice colleges with a large ratio of applicants per place, to colleges with a smaller ratio of applicants per place. This aims to ensure that, for each college, the ratio of interviewed first-choice applicants to places is as close as possible to 2.5 to 1. This year 60 applicants were reallocated. Reallocation has been practised by the University for many years, assuring that all strong applicants have the same chance of obtaining places at Oxford, although possibly not at their first-choice college. Reallocation is not an indicator of the strength or weakness of an applicant – this year reallocated applicants had PAT scores varying from around 40% to 89%.

Every short-listed applicant has two interviews given by a first-choice college and one given by a randomly allocated second-choice college. Each interview is marked out of 10 based on the academic judgement of the interviewing tutors. The scale is such that a mark of 6 broadly corresponds to ‘acceptable’; 7 corresponds to ‘good’; and an average interview mark of 8 or higher will almost certainly result in an offer. Approximately 1% of interviews are scored as ‘10’.

Applicants are assessed based on the totality of information about the applicant with no one interview, by itself, decisive. While the majority of accepted applicants have three good interviews (at least as viewed by the interviewers), around 70 accepted applicants had one interview which scored less than a 7, while several accepted applicants had one interview scored below 6. It is very hard for applicants to assess their own interview performance and extremely common for applicants to think good interviews have gone badly.

For applicants offered a place, the average interview mark this year was 7.95 (7.92 in 2020). We would like to express our particular gratitude this year for the hard work of both applicants’ parents (for applicants interviewing from home) and teachers and IT staff of applicants’ schools (for those interviewing from school) for their work in facilitating the interviews and making appropriate spaces available.

After the interviews, the three interview marks are combined into a single score (out of 100). To guide admitting tutors, an overall ranking was produced based on the post-interview C-score:

Post-Interview C-score = (PAT mark out of 100) + 2 x (Interviews out of 100)

This ranking is for guidance only; all applicants are assessed individually based on their C-scores, PAT scores, interview results, and all information on the UCAS form, including contextual information, and then compared centrally against all applicants applying to Oxford Physics. It is extremely rare for applicants ranked in the top 100 not to receive an offer and there are typically around ten offers made each year to applicants ranked below 250.

To ensure that the strongest applicants obtain places, all colleges have access to information on all applicants through a central database, and colleges are actively encouraged to flag up strong applicants they will be unable to offer a place to themselves. As a result, 24 applicants were offered a place at a college that had not interviewed them at all, either as first or second college.

Ultimately, 212 offers were made for entry in 2022. These include 12 open offers, in which a college is not specified at the time of the offer. These are designed to cover the anticipated withdrawal rate of applicants who are made an offer and subsequently either decline the offer or fail to make the offer conditions. The offers include 13 offers made for Physics and Philosophy. A further 6 deferred offers were made for entry into Physics in 2023.

Every year there are applicants that we would have liked to have offered places to, but are unable to do so because of the finite capacity of the course. We also know that every year we turn down applicants who, in the end, turn out to be stronger than some of the applicants we do offer places to. We wish all applicants enjoyment and understanding in their future pursuits of physics.