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Students in discussion on the lawn outside the TS Eliot Theatre

Applying here: Advice for prospective applicants

Our Schools Liaison and Access Officer has put together some advice for prospective applicants:

Before you apply

Before you apply to Oxford remember:

  • To make a successful application you need to demonstrate a passion for and genuine academic interest in your subject. Make sure that the course we offer is right for you.
  • Check you meet the entry requirements for your course.
  • Check the selection criteria for your course.
  • Check which colleges offer your course.
  • Check the admissions deadline.
  • If you are an international applicant check the additional information about qualifications, language requirements and application arrangements.
  • Entry is competitive, and every year there are not enough places for the number of qualified candidates who apply. On average around 1 in every 5 applicants is offered a place.

Students with additional needs

We welcome applications from students with additional needs and encourage early disclosure on the UCAS application form. Such a declaration will in no way disadvantage or prejudice your application. It will instead enable us to ensure that we are able to put in place any necessary adjustments should you be shortlisted for interview.

Personal statements

Around 80% of the UCAS personal statement should be related to the course you wish to study.

  • The personal statement should provide evidence of your enthusiasm for and interest in the course you have applied for.
  • It should show how your independent wider reading or further study has informed your thinking about the subject. It is vital that you evaluate what you have learned from this.

Around 20% should be about extra-curricular activities and work experience

  • At Oxford no one is admitted because of their extra-curricular activities. However other universities have different policies.
  • If you have taken part in activities that are relevant to your course do mention them, and evaluate how they have informed your thinking. For non-relevant activities evaluate the skills that would be useful to university study.
  • For most courses, work experience is not necessary, but it is particularly valuable for Medicine applicants.

More advice on writing your personal statement.

Admissions tests

  • Most courses require you to take a test before you are invited to interview, it is essential that you make arrangements for these in good time because your application may not be considered if you do not take the required test.
  • If you are applying to study Law you must take the LNAT, please note this is taken earlier than the other tests and you have to register for a particular time slot in advance. The test has a charge but a bursary is available to candidates in receipt of certain state benefits.
  • If you are applying to study Medicine or Biomedical Sciences you must take the BMAT in November (Oxford does not accept the September sitting). The test has different charges depending on when you register for it, a bursary is available to candidates in receipt of certain state benefits.
  • All other tests are organised by the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing and are free of charge. Check the registration and test dates carefully.
  • It is a good idea to download past papers and mark schemes from the CAAT website and department/faculty pages to familiarise yourself with the test format and question style. Completing a few past papers is good preparation but you do not need to learn new material for these tests.

Written work

  • Some courses require you to send in examples of your written work as part of your application, check to find out if this applies to your course.
  • It is very important that you are aware of the written work requirements for your course so that you can submit this by the deadline in November.
  • Your work needs to have been marked by a teacher and each piece needs a cover sheet that has been signed by that teacher and stamped with the school stamp. Do not leave it to the last minute to arrange this!

Interviews

Before the interview

  • Wear whatever you feel comfortable in – there is no dress code.
  • Take copies of and re-read your personal statement and any written work you may have been asked to submit – it might come up in discussion. It’s a good idea to revise the topic the submitted work was on, or any work you mention in your personal statement so that you can talk about it knowledgeably if you completed it a while ago.
  • Don’t let rumours, horror stories or even boasting by other candidates put you off, just focus on doing your personal best.
  • Use the team of student helpers to answer any questions, alleviate your nerves, and to entertain you!
  • There will be a lot of time waiting around, so bring something to do as well as making the most of the social events put on by the student team.

In the interview

  • Be ready to be given unfamiliar material – this may involve an extract of text, a picture, a graph, diagram, table of figures, or even a physical object.
  • Interviews are not a test of taught subject material, but a chance to explore how you think independently about your subject.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, make an informed guess or make suggestions for a starting point.
  • Always vocalise your thoughts—that way the interviewer can see how you come to your conclusions.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewer to repeat or clarify a question, or define a word or concept you are unfamiliar with.
  • Interviews are not a test of a smooth performance – take your time to consider your responses.
  • Finally, if you are asked if you have any questions at the end of your interview, it’s perfectly fine to say no unless you have a question about the course that you haven’t been able to find out elsewhere.

After the interview

  • Don’t worry about whether or not you are asked to attend additional interviews, it doesn’t reflect how well the first interview went.
  • Try not to get stressed out doing post-mortems of your interviews, it’s over now! Whatever the outcome having an interview at Oxford is something to be very proud of.

Further information on interviews at Oxford

Photo: © John Cairns - www.johncairns.co.uk